Monthly Article March 2013 – Perhaps not so ‘Evangelical’ after all?

by Phil Robinson 

The word ‘evangelical’ has been used in many ways to describe different churches over the years. When we see ‘evangelical’ in a church’s name this normally means that the Christians there are pretty sound in their theology and are actually eager to evangelise—to preach the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the unsaved. Recently I was involved in a creation meeting in a church which had ‘Evangelical’ in its name—I was not the speaker, but was there to help out. I found out on arrival that the man who had organised the meeting, though he attended the church and had been allowed to use the main auditorium that evening, did not have the full approval of the leaders. In fact, they were running their normal prayer meeting in an adjacent room instead! While the speaker was giving his presentation, I decided to speak to two of the elders who were standing by the front door of the church listening to what was being said through loud speakers. 

During our conversation one of the elders told me that he didn’t think that the creation-evolution issue was relevant, and although he was surprised by how many people came to a midweek meeting on the topic, he said he had never been challenged on the issue before. Initially I was surprised at this, but not after I asked him my next question. I asked them what type of outreach programme the Church had, when was the last time they actually engaged people on the street, or when had they last engaged in any personal evangelism (remember the definition earlier: Preaching the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the unsaved)? Their answer was simple, “Oh, we don’t do that here.” (1) I have left a space of a couple of lines for you to dwell on how sad a statement that is. 

How sad that two elders of an ‘Evangelical Church’ admitted that they don’t get involved in evangelism at any level. I must confess that I went off on a bit of a sermon after that answer! But how could I say nothing? I reminded them about the Great Commission given to all believers by Jesus (in Matthew 28:16-20). Then I asked how they could either know or say that the creation-evolution issue was irrelevant if they don’t witness to people and find out where they really are at—and what kind of questions they are asking?  

Let me illustrate this point from the experience of people who are actively involved in evangelism. I recall reading an edition of The Master and the Multitude (2) which is the magazine of the Open-Air Mission in the UK. Published by people who are on the street every day preaching the Gospel to a world lost in sin. In this small 16-page magazine, which mostly comprises testimonies from speakers who engage in open air work, I counted six occasions where evangelists were directly challenged on the issues of evolution or asked a question about something in the opening chapters of Genesis. Questions like, ‘Where did Cain get his wife?’ and statements like ‘Darwin’s killed god, mate!’ and that Jesus was a myth because evolution was correct. Whether it is Open Air Mission, other organisations, or people on an individual level that directly engage with the unsaved, they will testify how often the topic of creation-evolution comes up in some way.

Real life examples

I have a couple of examples from my own Christian walk (and I sincerely hope that you do too, or that you soon will!), two of which I’d like to share with you. Both incidents happened while I was doing Beach Missions (3) in Tramore, Ireland. The first involved two elderly gentlemen, both in their 70s. A lady from the team had started to engage them in conversation and, shortly afterwards, called me over. Of all the questions they could have asked me, it was “Has carbon dating disproved the bible?”(4) I gave them an explanation as to why it had not, and one of the booklets on Carbon dating. The second conversation I had was the day afterwards. We had finished doing a story with the children and it began to rain very heavily, so we pulled up the tarpaulin that the children had been sitting on and everyone just stood under it—we, the children and their parents—sheltering in the rain. I turned to the gentleman beside me, and asked him what he thought of the bible story we had just taught the children. He replied that he was a scientist and an atheist. He worked as a biochemist in England and used evolution as an excuse to discount the bible’s explanation of origins and thus everything else that followed. Praise God that He brought that man all the way from England to stand under a smelly tarpaulin sheltering from the rain, on a beach on the southern coast of Ireland, where he was challenged on his evolutionist beliefs. He was presented with the Gospel and even took some literature.

Application

So what does all this mean? People often see creation-evolution as a side issue, and don’t see the relevance. But those who think along such lines are obviously not engaging the western world with the gospel—if they were, they would realise that evolution is an attempt to explain everything without any appeal to the supernatural. Evolution makes a nonsense of death being the punishment for sin (as it would always have been present), and without the historical entrance of sin (and death), people are not sinful (logically) and do not need a Saviour. This is a spiritual battle and evolution is being used to blind the eyes of unbelievers—all those mentioned in this short article plus the many more that you know. 

So Christian, what should you take from this and what is your duty? Then Jesus came to them and said (Matthew 28:18-20), “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them inthe name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Be encouraged (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) that “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” And finally (1 Peter 3:15), “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Now get on with it!

References and Notes:

1 - I am not saying that individuals in that church, such as the man who organised the meeting, do not engage in evangelism, but that this was a church where a concerted effort was not being made to engage with the unsaved. 

2 - July–September issue, 2009. See also the recent CMI article by OAC’s General Secretary, Andy Banton, <creation.com/creation-among-the-crowds>.

3 - United Beach Missions is a Christian organisation which runs week long missions on beaches around the UK and Ireland

4 - See chapter 4 of Creation Answers Book. Also at: <creation.com/images/pdfs/cabook/chapter4.pdf>.