Vision Magazine, no 16, July - August 1976
Evangelise or Die
When I was away 1 read part of a book called: "Look Out! The Penteeostali are coming!" It is written by someone who is not Pentecostal or involved in the Charismatic Movement: it is a scholarly work, despite its somewhat arresting title, and is an examination, an assessment, a review, of the work of the Charismatic Renewal in South America. I'm going to read to you some facts from that Renewal which I am incorporating into the Chapter on the Power of the Holy Spirit in my book, which I have just finished writing
In Latin America, where there is a nation-wide and largely inter-church emphasis on the need to be filled with the Spirit, there is, as a result, one of the dramatic success stories of modern missions. In the year 1900 there were about fifty thousand Protestant Christians in Latin America, In the 1930s the number had reached one million, and in this decade it is past the twenty million mark. The annual growth rate of ten percent is three times that of the general population increase — and their population growth is one of the highest in the world. At this rate of increase it is estimated that by the year 2000 the number of Protestant Christians will reach one hundred million.
The emphasis on witnessing, and winning people to Christ, and the other manifestations of the Spirit make it read like the 29th Chapter of Acts!
It isn't only about speaking in tongues. People who are not involved in the Charismatic Renewal seem to think that this is what the Charismatic Renewal is all about, and that it stands or falls on this point as far as they are concerned. Unfortunately there are those people involved in the Charismatic Renewal who, by their foolish act ions give reason for people to have that point of view and make that criticism. But I think by and large those people are a minority.
The very important thing that comes out of this informed study of the Charismatic Renewal in South America is that it leads people to witnessing for Christ, for that is what Jesus said would be the hall-mark of having received the Holy Spirit. "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses/' (Acts 1:8). That is, you will tell others what you know, what you have found, what you have seen, of Me; that is, of course, Christ.
I was most interested in continuing to read this book, to see what evangelism meant to these people, and how these remarkable figures are made a reality. What happens in principle is this. We think of people coining to the Church as being evangelism, but not so in the setting I am referring to. There, evangelism is the Church going to the people. We are the Church, The building is quite unimportant by comparison. The Church is those who are joined to Christ. If you are joined to Christ, if I am joined to Christ, we are living stones of the Church. And in this setting about which I'm speaking, the Church goes out to the people, We go out to where the sinners are. I mean, the people who are not believing on Christ. Of course, those who are believing on Christ are sinners too, but they're believing on Christ for forgiveness. And so, before the worship hour, shall we say on a Lord's Day, the Church goes out in groups.
If I understand the book aright we would be divided up into something like a good half dozen groups or more, and we go out to some pre-arranged street corner where the people are, some suburb — where the people are, some shop, where the people are. And the members of our group witness to the other people about Jesus, telling them what Jesus has done for us. They lay emphasis on the new members of the Church also witnessing. The fact it might be done in
 Vision Magazine, no 16, July - August 1976
an imperfect way is not a reason why it should not be done. And so some new Christian will get up and say what Jesus means to him. The other members of the Church infiltrate into the people, getting alongside them, witnessing person-to-person, bringing them in, inviting them to return with them to the Church Service. Then they move on to another street corner, and continue with their witnessing and contacting and bringing people with them. And this goes on with each of the groups, each part of the Church which has gone out to where the people are. And then they begin to converge on the building where they meet. And so they return ultimately with their enquirers, and then they worship. The Church evangelises by going out to the people, and bringing the people back.
The second part of the witnessing was an interesting development of the elder-younger relationship, whereby the enquirer is given an older brother who is a more experienced Christian person. And that Christian person will shepherd the enquirer. He will stay with him as far as the worship is concerned, and when the worship is over, he goes home with him to meet other members of the family and witness to them. And then the shepherd will make sure that the person he is tutoring and shepherding comes next time. He will call for him and bring him. And so the enquirer, the newcomer, is brought into the faith and the fellowship, and he soon becomes someone who, when the Church goes out subsequently, is the one who stands up and tells the other people what Jesus now means to him.
I was much taken with its simplicity and its directness arid its effective reality. A truly evangelistic church looks out and goes out. A dying church looks in and stay sin.
What application has this got for us? We at the Healing Ministry have now been meeting and ministering for nigh sixteen years. Dr. Womble says in his letter just received he's never spoken to such a big congregation assembled in the interests of the healing ministry. But that might be the devil breathing down our neck, because, at an earlier time, when it cost something to stand up and be counted that you were involved in the healing ministry, and we were criticised not a little by the regular church people who resented this new development, when we were criticised - in degree persecuted, I have a feeling we were more genuinely evangelistic. We were on our metal. We prayed, and fasted, and we were so concerned to enable other people to be blessed that we made it our business to bring them with us. Now, we are respectable. We're not criticised these days and in a sense that's something to be glad about, that we are increasingly accepted, by our fellow Church members. But, as a companion to that, we have become by comparison, lethargic and inward-looking and content and that is why we do not grow.
That, of course, has been the story of Christianity, as a whole. To begin with, there's a tremendous expression of the Christian truths. The Church goes out to where the people are. They witness about Jesus, they bring the people in; there's tremendous growth. Not infrequently it's a despised minority that is doing this. There's no one but God to depend on. And then time goes by and circumstances change. Because of its very success, the Church becomes soft; evangelism peters out. And then we say, God has changed, He doesn't do things these days; the Gifts of the Spirit are not for us and so on. And the Church goes into a decline. There's no reason, as far as God is concerned, why it should, because He wants continual revival. God is the same, yesterday, today and for ever (Hebrews 13:8). It will depend whether or not they continue in this way.
I believe, and I've been meditating on this in my time away, that we, myself, first of all, but you no less than me, need to think through these things as they concern us today. We are static. We're not evangelistic. We come, and we are content, but we're not going out to the people bringing them in and we are
 Vision Magazine, no 16, July - August 1976
not looking after people when they do come. And if we are not growing, we are dying
And so, dear friends, I believe we have here some things that we must most earnestly think about. It's helpful to know what happens in other places, and so I've shared with you this stimulating illustration from Latin America. In small degree we have done that ourselves, but we do not do it now. If we are going to be growing, not only here, but wherever we are in Church life — what has been said is no respecter of persons or denominations or countries :it doesn't matter whether it concerns the Healing Ministry or our wider church life — if we are going to genuinely grow, so that the Kingdom of God is extended, so the Shepherd finds the lost sheep, so there is joy in heaven over those who repent, we must meditate on these things, so that a book could be written about us, "Look Out! The Christians are Coming!" It's GROW, or PERISH! We will do it because we have to, yet we will choose to.
Canon Jim Glenn on, and Anglican minister, is well known through the ministry of the Healing Service, St. Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney. This article is based on an address given at the Healing Service.
© Southern Cross College, 2004, by permission.