“Mass evangelism has been permitted by the Devil to keep the Church from practicing the biblical ideal of community evangelism,” a British bishop asserted. That is pretty strong language. One wonders about the biblical undergirding and the historical support for this sweeping statement.

In some evangelical circles, the idea of mass evangelism is encountering resistance that, though not as disparaging as the bishop’s, runs all the way from cool indifference to hot opposition. “Count on the mass evangelism campaign only for its psychological impact,” advises Pablo Pretiz:

In some places a united campaign has proved to be a milestone in evangelical advance (e.g. the Hicks’ campaign in Buenos Aires). But in cities where united efforts have repeatedly been made … [such] campaigns may be a waste of energy. People who respond may get “inoculated” against further contact with the Gospel and opportunities for really integrating them into evangelical churches may be lost [In Depth, July 17, 1973, p. 29].

Although Pretiz admits that crusade evangelism has scored some real breakthroughs, he says that it “may be a waste of energy” in some situations, it may inoculate people “against further contact with the Gospel” in others, and it may fail in its goal, church growth—“integrating [the converts] into evangelical churches.”

So what do we do?

All too often when we reject mass evangelism we make new plans, set new goals, establish new priorities—but we don’t win souls! As a substitute for mass evangelism some recommend charismatic renewal. Others go for church-growth workshops. Some turn to graphs and charts. To others the only answer is home Bible classes. But we don’t plant churches!

All these things are valid. I myself am involved in almost ...

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