In the last 100 years, the church in North America had so many evangelism strategies, so much money devoted to evangelistic staff, and so many books focused on evangelism. On my shelves alone I have over 30 books dealing directly with evangelism. Some of these are fantastic (i.e. David Watson's I Believe in Evangelism or George Hunter III's The Celtic Way of Evangelism), some are a waste of time. Some people fit into these same categories, as do some strategies.
And yet, with all this emphasis in the last 1,200 months, the church in North America is stagnating. We don't hear reports that echo the great revivals of the 18th or 19th centuries. We don't hear of whole towns or cities being cut to the heart and transformed. Across the general scope of the church we don't see increasing numbers of people coming to know Jesus.
What are we missing today? Here's my guess, after reading through the book of Acts:
1:5 "in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
1:8 "when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people everywhere."
2:4 "and everyone present was filled with the Holy Sp
irit and began speaking in other languages as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability."
2:17 "In the last days, God said, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people."
2:38 "Each of you must turn from your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. They you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
4:8 "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them…"
4:31 "After this prayer, the building where they were meeting shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. And they preached God's message with boldness."
5:32 "We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him."
6:3 "select seven men who are well respected and full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom."
6:5 "Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), "
6:10 "none of them was able to stand against the wisdom and Spirit by which Stephen spoke."
7:51 "You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? But your ancestors did, and so do you!"
7:55 "But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily upward into heaven and saw the glory of God…"
8:15 "As soon as they arrived they prayed for these new Christians to receive the Holy Spirit."
8:17 "Peter and John laid their hands upon these new believers, and they received the Holy Spirit."
8:29 "The Holy Spirit said to Philip, 'Go over and walk along beside the carriage…"
8:30 "The Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away…"
9:17 "Ananias laid hands on Saul and said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you may get your sight back and be filled with the Holy Spirit.'"
9:31 "The church grew in strength and numbers. The believers were walling in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit."
10:19 "The Holy Spirit said to Peter…"
10:44 "Eve as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who had heard the message. The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon Gentiles too."
11:12 "The Holy Spirit told me to go…"
11:16 "Then I thought of the Lord's words when he said, '… you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'"
11:24 "Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And large numbers of people were brought to the Lord."
11:28 "Agabas stood up in one of the meetings to predict by the Spirit that a great famine was coming…"
13:2 "One day as these men were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work I have for them.'"
13:4 "So Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit."
13:9 "Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit."
13:52 "And the believers will filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit."
15:8 "God, who knows people's hearts, confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he gave him to us."
15:28 "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…"
16:6 "because the Holy Spirit had told them not to go into the province of Asia at that time."
16:7 "but again the Spirit of Jesus did not let them go. So instead they went on through Mysia to the city of Troas. Then Paul had a vision…"
19:2 "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?
19:6 "Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them…"
19:21 "Afterwards, Paul felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to go over to Macedonia and Achaia…"
20:22 "Now I am going to Jerusalem, drawn there irresistably by the Holy Spirit… the Holy Spirit has told me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead."
20:28 "his church- over whom the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders."
21:4 "These believers prophesied through the Holy Spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem."
21:11 "The Holy Spirit declares…"
Steph! Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I’m really feeling convicted (by the Holy Spirit I think!) about the Holy Spirit! I personally need to seek, trust, rely and respond more and more to the Spirit. We have this treasure in jars of clay…
totally agree, ken! it’s interesting that the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life has somehow declined as a dominant teaching in the North American Church. I’ve been a Christian for 12 years but it wasn’t until university that i really learned or understood what it meant to live a Spirit-filled life moment by moment.
a guy said something once that really stuck in my head. that as Christians, our greatest strength is that the Spirit of the living God lives inside of us. yet our greatest weakness is that we don’t tap into that power. so true.