Recently I have had to reconsider the approach to urban evangelism, because of invitations for campaigns in two metropolitan areas.
Many of the things a mass evangelism campaign would have going for it in a smaller or medium-large city are absent in the largest cities. No personality (excepting Billy Graham) has the same drawing power he would have in a smaller place; publicity is fantastically more expensive, yet less effective in creating awareness; the campaign tends to get lost in a myriad of events, both religious and secular, competing for people’s time and interest; costs of organizing are greater, yet the supporting Christian community is a smaller percentage of the total population.
After much thought and prayer three conclusions came to us:
1. The immensely multiplied problems of big-city evangelism must not make us back off from tackling it, if God so leads (God’s Word to Jehoshaphat in Second Chronicles 20:15 turned up in a morning Bible reading during the period we were considering the invitation: “Fear not, and be not dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s”).
2. Evangelism in the big city forces us to take seriously those basics that undergird New Testament evangelism. An evangelistic campaign in a smaller community might appear to “get by” lacking the power of the Holy Spirit, united prayer, the witnessing laity, the caring fellowship, if given enough personality, money, and organization; but such factors would be much less likely to give the appearance of “success” in metropolitan areas.
3. The courage and imagination with which we venture on urban evangelism may well determine the future effectiveness of all our evangelism; the raw need that shrieks at us in the large city puts ...1
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