Bible Evangelism in Relation to the Mass Media of Communication

Bible Evangelism in Relation to the Mass Media of Communication (Conclusion)

Mass evangelism has proved definitely depend­able. The Old Testament stresses its value in a hun­dred places. The New Testa­ment repeats its lessons throughout the ministry of Christ and the Acts of the Apostles."

GLENN L. SHAFER, evangelist. 

Mass evangelism has proved definitely depend­able. The Old Testament stresses its value in a hun­dred places. The New Testa­ment repeats its lessons throughout the ministry of Christ and the Acts of the Apostles."

In the Old Testament, illustrations of mass evangelism are legion. All the proph­ets dealt with the multitudes and delivered burning messages to great concourses of people—the only effective way, at that time, of reaching any considerable number. But distances had not grown shorter then as they have in this day of jet travel. Groups were kept to the confines of geographically designated areas, and within these areas the prophets preached, and did an adequate coverage of the then-known territory.

At Shechem, Joshua admonished the children of Israel to follow the Lord in a manner that potently pointed forward to the thunderous rebukes that were given in the nineteenth century A.D. by Spirit-filled evangelists. The methods were ex­tremely similar, though they spanned mil­lenniums of time.

At Mount Carmel, Elijah felt he was all alone, yet he gave the crowd an appeal that is timeless; it has reached down through the years. "If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him" (1 Kings 18:21).

This challenge that Elijah hurled to the throng is not out of date. It has been the basis of all the evangelistic appeals made to all the people through all the methods known to man. It is the cry of the modern evangelist. The burden of Elijah's heart as he felt his aloneness reaches down to us today and often the evangelist feels that he is the only one who is impelled to pay serv­ice to God in the sea of humanity. This experience of Elijah has probably strength­ened and encouraged the hearts of religious champions who have read this account from the time of Christ unto this very day.

Ezra propounded the law to the Jews, and they turned from their ways. Moses, Joshua, Nehemiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Eze­kiel, Hosea—all were prophets who dealt with the multitudes and utilized to the max­imum the prevailing methods of mass com­munication. Jonah, though reluctant at first, sounded the evangelistic cry to the city of Nineveh and his coverage must have been total, for we are told that the entire city turned from their wicked ways and the city was saved (Jonah 3:10).

The Old Testament records the work­ings of one of the greatest evangelists, Heze­kiah, whose evangelizing transformed the whole nation of Judah (2 Kings 18). This must be the inward desire of every man of God who goes forth to proclaim the mes­sage by whatever means.

Hezekiah "put God first." This is the true requirement for revival, and there can be no revival with individual or group un­til that individual or that group desires to put spiritual interests before physical or material interests. This is also the first pre­requisite for the promoter of revival—the evangelist. This one precept would do away with many of the criticisms we have previ­ously mentioned. And without this personal revival of the individual evangelist, he will not prevail, whatever the methods and coverage.

"It will be all in vain for us to emulate the apostolic methods in our day if we have lost the apostolic message. Evangelism without words, with­out a message, is a contradiction. . . . Missionary boards rightly emphasize the highest physical and intellectual qualifications for candidates, but even more strongly insist that they be spiritually quali­fied. Only spiritual men are a real acquisition and reinforcement in the conduct of a spiritual enterprise................... Not until a man's life has been transformed by the power of the message he goes to pre­sent, is he ready to endure the hardship and to be faced with the adversity which is sure to be his ex­perience." 2

New Testament Evangelism

In the New Testament there is no ques­tion as to the first and foremost evangelist. John the Baptist filled the country with his cry of repentance and salvation (Matt. 3:1­5). We might decry his methods as we look upon them from the vantage ground of the twentieth century. They might even seem archaic in comparison with the large "mass meetings" of the Old Testament evange­lists, but apparently he knew what he was doing. The important thing to remember about the Baptist is that he had a message. This is most important in any age or geo­graphical situation. We might say that an­other prime prerequisite (we mentioned that of individual, personal revival, or ded­ication) is that there must be a message. This is the foremost point that we can learn, from a theoretical point of view, from the evangelizing of John the Baptist. People came to hear him. Perhaps this is the lack in the religious atmosphere of today. We have to hunt for the people; they came out to hear John. He had a Sav­iour to proclaim; should we proclaim any­thing less?

Jesus, our greatest example, led the way in the preparation of laymen and the out­line for the personal work of the visitation program (Luke 10:1-16). In Winning Men, T. T. Stone advocates the personal touch. In several chapters of this book he stresses individual relationship, "table talk," per­sonal testimony, and individual effort. All of these were Jesus' ways of dealing with men.

We might ask, "What have these to do with 'mass work'?" Inestimable is the in­fluence that a church on fire for God can exert. We have the example of the early apostolic church, which went "everywhere' preaching Jesus. "The presentation of the Christian faith in a world significantly shaped by mass media of communication is a task that concerns the whole church." The individual evangelist is concerned with reaching the masses, but he cannot do it by himself. And it is only as the individ­ual Christian activates himself in service that the theory of the gospel message is go­ing to be seen permeating the conscious­ness of the world by demonstration.

It might be well to state here that re­gardless of the high degree of coverage that has been achieved by twentieth-century mass media, and its tremendous influence upon individuals, and despite the empathy that might be achieved between the pre­senter and the listening audience by a com­munication medium, yet there never has been achieved the height of impact that is the result of personal communication in­volving a "relationship" of persons, be that a related community or an individual as opposed to several thousands of individuals watching one man, say, on television.'

This bears out the fact that above and beyond all the media that have been per­fected, the spoken word is the ultimate, and as such, every serious evangelist will make use of this medium in conjunction with the utilization of other media.

"The Apostle Paul stands forth as God's prototype for the whole Christian church." It is thrilling to read of the evan­gelistic tours of Paul. It is only as we use the entire scope of our imagination that we can come near to the realization of what this man actually did. The word evangelis­tic is not used in the Bible, but what could be more patently evangelistic than the cov­erage of this man. It is monumental when we think of the communication tools with which he had to work. If we have previously listed as prerequisites for an evangelist those of dedication and message, the study of the evangelical Paul would definitely force us to place compulsion on the list too. He had a sense of compulsion that even communicates itself to us today after a pe­riod of more than 1,900 years. We can un­derstand that it was this driving compul­sion that was the communicative agent that made his work a success.

Paul says "The love of Christ constrain­eth us" (2 Cor. 5:14), and this is what is gained from a study of the passages of Paul­ine scripture outlining his missionary

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GLENN L. SHAFER, evangelist. 

December 1963

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