The Curse of Mass Evangelistic Crusades
What is directly being attacked here is the concept that Christians can be mass produced through a series of meetings or perhaps even through a single meeting. This concept is the general rule of mass evangelistic crusades, if it is not the rule with no exceptions altogether. Such crusades are among the greatest oppositions to faithful Biblical evangelism, to people actually obtaining a saving interest in Christ, and the problems involved in such crusades are also practiced in other alleged revival meetings, other venues, and even in weekly church services, especially those of mega-churches.
I am not talking here about any and all efforts to evangelize many people; I am talking about trying to do this quickly through a mass evangelism crusade, which is virtually certain to lead to very sloppy and compromised evangelism that is counterproductive to faithful Biblical evangelism.
I remember once talking to a guy who was my nextdoor neighbor at the time about Christ. He told me that he had just recently “got saved” at a local church’s evangelistic campaign. When I asked what he meant by that he explained how he had a certain serious illness and had been seeking healing. He explained that the people from the church who counseled him explained that the first thing he needed to do was “give himself to Jesus.” And so he said that is what he then did. As I tried to talk to him about what sin, repentance, and faith in Jesus actually are, he admitted that he was an adulterer who had committed adultery and he was still not even sorry about that (at all, in any form). Yet this man had been labeled as “a salvation” in this church’s evangelistic crusade.
I remember meeting another man who told me that he had recently “got saved.” When I asked what he meant he told me something like “well, I came to the front of the church and I got saved.” He was dumbfounded and didn’t have any further elaboration. When we talked some about what Biblical salvation actually is he admitted he hadn’t heard that and he saw that what had happened at the church wasn’t getting saved, even though he surely had been counted as a statistic by the church as someone who had “gotten saved” there.
It is not hard for people with both influence and money to gather a large crowd for a mass crusade. You don’t need God with you to do that! When you have a lot of money to rent a big auditorium or stadium or some other massive venue, and you also have tons of money to advertise it, you can get plenty of people to come. And that is especially true if you have a famous person speaking and/or singing at the event, a lot of excitement about the event generated through previous events in other cities, promises of healing and prosperity, a carnival-like atmosphere of fun (which is how Jack Hyles, who was talked about in the IFB message we recently did, got tens of thousands to his church to lead in the “1-2-3 repeat after me” sinner’s prayer.), and/or you have a lot of people in an area just grasping for some sense of purpose and something to hope for (and there are always many like this in poor countries and/or in crisis circumstances).
Many mass crusade evangelists like Benny Hinn, Morris Cerullo, Rodney Howard-Browne, and Reinhard Bonnke will attach Jesus Christ to promises of healing and prosperity. Combined with the mass excitement which they generate through secular (perhaps demonic) methods, is it any wonder that these people get millions of “decisions for Christ” at their mass evangelistic crusades? Whether or not they use Biblical language, their overall counsel is unbiblical and deceptive. People who are desperate for hope or want a sense of community will repeat a prayer to “accept Christ” when induced to do so by a charismatic sounding salesman and false evangelist speaker even when they don’t imply that healing and prosperity will follow this. And how much much more when you do make such an implication? And how much more will people do something like come to the people and say a sinner’s prayer when you have the starpower of someone like Billy Graham to persuade people to comply with an altar call and/or sinner’s prayer (BTW: Billy Graham literally has a star on the Hollywood walk of fame- he got that star because he was a friend of the world and the world loves its own)? This mass crusade evangelism has of course then been very successful (for its corrupt ends) all over the world- and especially in poorer nations where there is desperation for some type of hope; and where the starpower of American or European evangelists holds extra weight.
All such mass crusades, and all evangelism which implies that the new birth in Christ is a quick transaction, and can be accomplished as a quick transaction, there is an irresponsibility in this to the max and is trafficking in men’s souls in a way that makes slavery itself seem only mildly cruel! I mentioned on the last video how at the Asbury meetings one of the preachers preaching on the campus actually told his audience “we’re all going to repent in a minute” and how that is as foolish as saying “we’re all going to join the Army in a minute” or even better “we’re all going to be led out to be crucified in a minute.” Only someone with a shallow understanding of repentance who had no care to have God’s authority vindicated, no care for righteousness to prevail in man, and no care that people would actually reconcile with God on His righteous and holy terms would ever say something like “we’re all going to repent in a minute.” And that is the spirit of virtually every, or altogether every mass crusade evangelistic campaign, as well as much else that happens under the label of Christian evangelism. Such robs God of the worship He is due and treats people like cattle to be led off to slaughter in the name of their own statistics, reputation, and likely their pocketbooks and ministry budgets too (since so many foolishly give based on reported statistics).
The Christianity which we practice and proclaim to others should be consistent with what the Apostles of Christ preached in the first century. People who believed the message that the Apostles preached inevitably exposed themselves to peril at both the hands of the Romans and of the Jews who rejected Christ. You could not come to Christ in the first century without knowingly exposing yourself to such peril and understanding that you really might die as a result of being a faithful Christian- or at least be rejected by loved ones, imprisoned, and/or shamed by society to the point where you might wish you had died instead. You would have been acknowledging your own life as condemned in owning your sin for what it is according to God’s verdict and regarding your life as not your own anymore that you might indeed live unto God through Jesus Christ (identifying with a man crucified for being utterly at odds with the world’s values). This identification would involve a renunciation of all sinful pleasures; and therewith a renunciation of the corrupt values of the world and all of its vainglory. Your life would have been dead to these things so that you might follow Christ according to the truth of His Word in hopes of inheriting His kingdom and reigning with Him when He comes to take His great power to Himself and reigns (see Revelation 11:15-19). True repentance before God would have met an utter change of direction and the principal intention of your life in accordance with these things (in terms of what you turned from and what you turned to). This turning in and of itself would have to involve agony, not to mention the agony and tribulation which would inevitably follow if you were to faithfully follow this way. And though the enmity against Christ in the world does not always present the same immediate dangers to many of us for now as it did in the first century (certainly not all of us- yet there are plenty of places on earth at this very moment where it is illegal and/or blatantly dangerous to be a faithful Christian), the enmity in the world against Christ has surely not diminished! And these are especially perilous times in a spiritual sense since that enmity now abounds in groups labeled as Christian who have a form of godliness while denying the power thereof (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
So hopefully this isn’t news to you, but those who have conducted mass evangelistic crusades, those who defend them, and those who think that they have come to Christ in such crusades surely need to hear this: The principles just talked about regarding first century Christianity have never changed.
Isaiah 53:3: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”
How do you reconcile this with how He is coming back in glory to reign? The Christ-rejecting world will be mortified when He does come back to reign; and tribulation should be expected for anyone living as a faithful Christian until then (see Revelation 1:4-9).
I’ve heard a story about missionaries who went to a tribe in New Guinea. This tribe had never heard of Jesus Christ and knew nothing about the Bible. Though that is so, consider in what I am about to share about that most people, even most in the United States and other countries where most claim to be Christians, don’t really know the Bible well at all and have little concept of the attributes of God and how His salvation offered in Jesus Christ is intended to practically work. So these missionaries, after they had learned this tribe’s language and thought it was a good time to begin teaching them, actually taught them the Old Testament for two months before they ever even mentioned Jesus Christ. The people had been eager to listen and expectant of an important message (like many who go evangelistic meetings are), yet the teaching of the Old Testament caused them to become very sober in a way they hadn’t been before; and it caused them to recognize that God was right to be angry with them for their sin and to send them to hell (they actually feared that God might come any day and destroy them for their sin like He did to Sodom and Gomorrah). The members of this tribe were so concerned and distressed that they stopped eating and sleeping regularly. Only by the end of the 3rd month of teaching (two teachings a day, five days a week) was the blood atonement which Jesus made on the cross taught and explained. At that point, they understood and many believed in Christ unto life. But at that point, they were more than just hungry and expectant, they were sober and utterly broken. They could then (and only then) properly recognize and esteem Christ’s redeeming death for them and submit to Christ’s rightful claim on their life from the heart. If the missionaries had just tried to “get them saved” with one or a few sermons and a “1, 2, 3, repeat after me” prayer then probably a similar amount would have said the prayer, come to the altar, filled out the decision card, etc. Yet they would have remained carnal idolaters who had no heart to follow Jesus by walking in the light of God’s Word. And they thus would have remained on the highway to hell. Is the difference not obvious?
Someone might say “people now don’t have the time to listen.” And that has to do with my point. Though I’m not saying you have to teach everyone for 3 months before they are ready to authentically come to Christ, you do however have to be willing to take time with people to share the Gospel with them in a way which addresses their misconceptions about God, their Biblical ignorance, and their obstacles to true repentance and faithfully following Jesus Christ. Not everyone is even willing to listen to careful, detailed Biblical instruction which takes such things into account and seeks to remedy such things, but there is nothing you can do about that. Not even the most faithful evangelists can help everyone. You are going to make things worse in several ways by compromising truth and cutting corners to try to reach people. That is one reason why mass evangelism is neither practical nor a good idea.
You might say “I don’t have the time myself to teach people like this.” And that also has to do with my point. Don’t be an evangelist then! If someone doesn’t have the time to faithfully deal with people rather than try to mass produce Christians in mass evangelistic crusades then they evidently care more about their own glory and their own lifestyle than being a faithful evangelist for Christ. They shouldn’t evangelize at all then. Better to just go try to be a secular rock star or comedian or actor if you want to feel good about yourself, be loved by masses of people, and go all over the country or all over the world to be able to perform before big audiences. At least then you’d not be a major hindrance to the cause of Christ and not make things harder for those who actually seek to evangelize faithfully for the glory of God (involves man being reconciled to God on God’s own terms through Jesus Christ). This sequence of rebukes from Jesus to the Scribes and Pharisees apply so well to the mass crusade evangelist.
Matthew 23:12-15: “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte (i.e. to make a convert), and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.”
If you look at the few Bible examples which people might use to somehow try to justify massive evangelistic crusades, there are some obvious major differences in these from mass crusade evangelism as it is known now.
Acts chapter 2 and 3: The thousands who came to Christ in these instances were Jews, many of which had seen Jesus Christ in the flesh and were there when He was crucified. They had seen His miracles, heard Him preach, and (above all) they had a Biblical understanding of the implications of the authority of the Messiah/Christ and what it means to believe in Him. They had seen or heard firsthand of how the veil of the temple was torn in two when Jesus died and of all the terror which was associated with that moment. They were also at this very time viewing the miracles done in His name, by men whom they had known were His disciples, which were confirming His resurrection and its implications that He is their rightful King whom they had not properly received and been involved in crucifying. And consider this: There could very well have been hundreds of thousands of Jewish men in Jerusalem at that time, since all Jewish men were required to come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover (which Christ was crucified during), the Feast of Pentecost (which was the Feast happening during Acts chapters 2 and 3), and the Feast of Tabernacles. And in spite of all of that, there were only 5,000 to 8,000 won to Jesus Christ during this time (and that’s depending on whether Acts 4:4 is saying that 5,000 believed in Christ after Peter’s sermon in Acts chapter 3 in addition to the 3,000 from the Acts chapter 2 sermon or whether Acts 4:4 is describing the aggregate number of Christ’s disciples in Jerusalem at that point). But whether the number is 5,000 or 8,000, either would be considered very disappointing to many who believe in mass evangelistic crusades anyways! And that should make any honest person suspicious that the revered mass evangelistic crusade evangelists seem to have found a secret to leading men to Christ that even Jesus’ Apostles couldn’t even come close to matching, even in the most ripe, favorable circumstance which they preached in.
Jonah with the Ninevites in Jonah chapter 3: Anyone who would point to this to defend mass evangelistic crusades is only proving how opposite the cheering, raucous environments at the mass evangelistic crusades are in comparison to the genuine repentance displayed by the Ninevites when Jonah went through Nineveh preaching. Jonah didn’t rent a building, he had no advertising, he had no entertainment, he didn’t make altar calls, he didn’t have decision cards, he didn’t resort to hype nor hypnotic methods, and he didn’t offer to wrap things up nice and neat through a sinner’s prayer (likewise with the Apostles in Acts; and totally unlike the mass evangelistic crusade evangelists). He only had a message of judgment which he delivered on foot, after having been spewed out of the belly of a sea creature who swallowed him up for his previous disobedience. Jesus used the example of the Ninevites when He spoke of true repentance which God accepts. If people were to fear God and repent like the Ninevites at a mass evangelistic crusade, and the typical mass evangelistic crusade props were not present to create smoke and mirrors to make it look like such had happened, then I would concede that such was an exception to this rebuke.
Matthew 12:38-41: “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.”
Jonah Chapter 3: “And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.”
Can you imagine Jonah using music, dimming the lights, using hype, smooth talking or any form of emotional manipulation, altar calls, and/or enticing people into saying the sinner’s prayer as he went through Nineveh preaching what God told him to preach? Then don’t do such things or be involved in such things either! It is not wrong to challenge people to confess Christ and to stand for Him in a public way, but this should be connected to being baptized as His disciple who is committed to obeying all of His instruction. Whenever possible, baptism should be connected with membership in a church that is seeking to be under the authority of God’s Word. It is better for a meeting to end with no new converts to report, and no great accomplishments to report at all, than to extract professions of Christ, and other notable decisions related to Christ, by such methods. Much might have been accomplished in God’s eyes at the meeting anyways; and that’s all that ultimately matters. One key accomplishment in every meeting should be that those who held the meeting stayed faithful, kept the lines where they ought to be, and felt no need to impress anyone by manipulating things to impress others or feel better about themselves. Those who evangelize shouldn’t be uncomfortable faithfully testifying the truth to people and exhorting them to walk in it- and then leaving them to deal with God about what they’ve heard. God’s servants have a key place in the equation of the preparation of Christ’s bride, but there is much more to the equation than that. The faithful and wise servant of Christ understands this, seeks to faithfully do their part, and to keep their hands off of the rest.
Is God seeing your repentance and faith in Christ by your works? Don’t think any “decision for Christ” or any experience will substitute for that, whether such was in relation to a mass evangelistic crusade or not. You’ve got to flee the darkness and walk in the light. But if you’re not looking to God’s Word diligently for guidance on that, you will walk in darkness somehow, you’ll be Christ’s enemy, and prove to be such in a shameful way when the conflict between the darkness and Christ comes to the surface (like the men whom Judas led to Jesus to betray Him). And BTW: Judas was more successful than many faithful evangelists by the standards of those who partake of and/or justify mass evangelistic crusades. Judas did bring more people to Jesus than many who hold the Biblical lines in their evangelism ever bring to Him- but Judas did not bring them to Jesus in truth and righteousness.
Unconditional eternal security/Once Saved Always Saved is the normal belief and implication involved in the mindset of mass crusade evangelists. They typically make the beginning of the Christian race out to be the end, even though they don’t faithfully lead people to the beginning either!
1 Kings 20:11b: “Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off.”
Hebrews 12:1-2: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race (i. e. Agon- the source of the English word agony) that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
If you really believe that you turned to the Lord during a mass evangelistic crusade or some other evangelistic outreach which didn’t really expose your sin and call you to utterly forsake it in order to turn to turn to Jesus Christ to be His disciple- or which in anyway sought to mass produce Christians by an altar call, sinner’s prayer, decision cards, or something along those lines then perhaps you turned to the Lord in truth in spite of the unfaithful environment you were in. Even in that best case scenario, you still have a race to run and a fight to to triumph in! Entering the Christian race is in truth entering into a war unto blood where one must take up their cross daily, with sin renounced and forsaken from the heart, and with anything and everything related to their life surrendered to do what is necessary to walk in the truth of Christ’s Word.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
For some, distancing themselves from mass evangelistic crusades, renouncing support for them, and taking the perhaps unpopular (in relation to their own social circles) stance of rebuking them are acts of self-denial and carrying their cross which are necessary to be faithful to Christ and should be attended to speedily.
Jeremiah 48:10 is appropriate to cite to close this message. “Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood.”
Reach brother Aaron at: [email protected]