Next summer we will be hosting the Amplify North American Evangelism Conference from June 25-26 at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL. Amplify has become the largest annual evangelism conference in North America and one that I am thrilled to host.
Next year’s theme will be “Preoccupied with Love” and will feature key leaders today such as CJ Rhodes, Alan Hirsch, Colin Smith, Trillia Newbell, Jenny Yang, James Choung, Sam Owusu, and more. Below I speak with Bill Hogg, one our presenters, about his thoughts on evangelism and prayer today.
Ed: It’s hard to deny that we are living in challenging times culturally. The church’s influence is fading, and we are struggling to find answers to some hard questions. What’s your take on the health of the church today, especially as it relates to our witness?
Bill: These are wild, weird, and wonderful days. Life in the homeland is turbulent with bipartisan vitriol, economic disparity, immigration, refugees, and growing xenophobia, gun violence, and deepening racial division to name but a few issues that call for a gospel response.
We can celebrate a few bright spots, especially in church planting. I’m encouraged that in Quebec—the least-reached chunk of real estate in all of the Americas—that churches are being planted, the gospel is being announced and lost people are encountering Jesus.
However, we do need to wake up to our challenging times.
In Canada, there seems to be a collective loss of nerve when it comes to making much of Jesus. Canadians need to recover apostolic confidence in the gospel and step up and speak up with bold humility.
You mention that the church’s influence is fading, that’s not entirely a bad thing. The New Testament church, and the church down through the ages, has exercised the greatest redemptive influence from the margins, not when she is intent on pursuing political power.
In the U.S., it seems that evangelicals have not grasped this lesson or learned from the failed experiments of the religious right in decades past. The gospel can be subverted by partisan political agendas and this tarnishes our witness. Paul could say:
Brothers and sisters think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are. (1 Cor. 1:26-28)
We need to equip people for witness. We know most believers won’t speak up for Jesus or share his good news in this calendar year. Most believers won’t have a significant spiritual conversation.
We can’t simply lament this or exhort people into winsome witness. We need to help and inspire and resource Christians to be salt and light. That’s why conferences like Amplify 2019 are significant. I think that every church planter and pastor needs to figure out a game plan to train their people to become good news people.
We need to empower and release God’s people to share their redemption stories. We used to call this sharing your testimony. We need to help God’s people tell the story of God. God’s big dream is the whole church––not just the keeners and the evangelists–– taking the whole gospel to the whole world.
Ed: Evangelism has especially fallen on hard times. It seems that everything else—even good things like discipleship—has overwhelmed our passion for sharing the love of Jesus with others. What does evangelism look like today, and how can we begin to develop a passion for showing and sharing the love of Jesus on a daily basis?
Bill: It’s easy to let evangelism take a back seat. Many churches are content shuffling sheep and luring switchers to their fold rather than catching Jesus’ Luke 15 burden for lost sheep and pursuing and penetrating lostness. On the whole, we have lost the lostness of the lost. Evangelism by and large is not a passion. It is an afterthought or a hiccup rather than the heartbeat of most churches.
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SOURCE: Christianity Today, Ed Stetzer