5 Convictions About Evangelism in Canada

The Canadian Church has largely lost its zeal for evangelism. Most churches have plateaued or are in decline. Most churches have settled for evangelistic barrenness or low levels of fruitfulness. We need to climb out of the weeds of status quo stagnation and ecclesial business as usual. There are no silver bullets for missional inertia. We can lament and repent. We also need to seek God and agitate for a new day of Gospel fruitfulness. Here are five convictions about evangelism for you to ideate on and pray over.

We need to recenter on Jesus and His Gospel

A church planter and his family visited several churches in his community, prior to launching the new work. He wanted to meet other believers, and leaders and gain support for the new work. As he sat in multiple worship gatherings he was struck by a recurrent phenomenon. The Bible was not handled well, and the Gospel was not clearly communicated. Sadly, this is a widespread phenomenon, played out in faith communities across Canada. We need to return to the Gospel.

Paul called the amnesiac Corinthians back to the Gospel:

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 

1 Corinthians 15:1-4

Paul calls them back to first things first. We need to remind ourselves that we never graduate from the truth & beauty & power of the Gospel. The Gospel is the prescription for all the ills, dysfunctions, compromises, and challenges that the Corinthians were mired in. Paul calls them back to the very heart of the Gospel. Paul prescribes a Gospel recalibration. Whether you are doing the work of an evangelist as a congregational leader, a youth worker or an itinerant evangelist Paul invites us to recenter around Jesus and his Gospel.

We need more than a theological recalibration around the person and work of Christ. We need an existential communitarian re-centering around Jesus—a Jesus-centered spiritual renewal that reenergizes the people of God and thus fuels the missional impulse.

Reflecting on the early church, Hirsch writes,

“The desperate prayer-soaked human clinging to Jesus, the reliance on His Spirit, and the distillation of the Gospel message into the simple, uncluttered message of Jesus as Lord and Savior is what catalyzed the missional potencies inherent in the people of God.”[1]

Bill Easum joins Hirsch’s cheerleading section regarding the specificity and necessity of a Jesus-centered vibrant spirituality:

“ Jesus must be at the center of our passion, not some generic notion of God.”[2]

We need to rediscover evangelism by ignition

Evangelism must be evangelism by fire.

John Wesley was one of God’s choice fire starters who sparked a Gospel movement. Secular historians tell us that England avoided a bloody revolution like the bloody French Revolution for one reason. England experienced a great Evangelical Awakening under the Wesleys and Whitefield. John Wesley was…

“Guarding the holy fire…He was himself a flame going up and down the land, lighting candles such as, by God’s grace, would never be put out; and as one reads the colossal Journal one gets the impression of this flame, never waning, never smoky, darting from point to point, lighting up the whole kingdom, till in due course it burnt out the body it inhabited.” [3]

Wesley was a movement leader and anointed evangelist with a grand vision. He wanted to spread Scriptural holiness across the land. Wesley was described by biographer Arthur Skevington Wood, as The Burning Heart. 

Wesley exercised remarkable leadership—but the principle applies to all, Gospel ministry involves stewarding and guarding the sacred flame.

My dad was converted under the ministry of Maynard James, a church-planting apostolic evangelist. Maynard’s biographer labelled him, A Man On Fire. Luis Palau’s memoir is A Life On Fire.  Wesley, James, and Palau are all defined as evangelists set alight with an otherworldly flame.

F.F. Bruce described early Christianity as The Spreading Flame. The Jesus movement was populated by men and women ignited with holy fire. They burned with passion for Jesus. As gospel torchbearers, they were consumed with making Jesus known. Passion pulsated through the primitive Jesus movement.

Evangelism is not about the right plays, programs, tactics, or techniques. Declaring and demonstrating the Good News of Jesus and his kingdom must be marked by fire. If we want to see the Gospel spread like wildfire we need Jesus ambassadors and Gospel communicators who burn. Who echo Jeremiah: 

“But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”[4]

Let’s make William Booth’s hymn our anthem!

“God of Elijah, hear our cry:
Send the fire!
To make us fit to live or die,
Send the fire!
To burn up every trace of sin,
To bring the light and glory in,
The revolution now begin,
Send the fire”

We need to reframe evangelism as Encounter

Our historic evangelism paradigms involved telling and selling tidy presentations of tight freeze-dried propositions. The late Stan Grenz advocated a “post-rationalistic gospel.” He contended that “We must make room for the concept of ‘mystery’—as a reminder that the fundamental reality of God transcends human rationality.” Grenz argued that the heart of Christianity is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and that an experience of Jesus is recounted by propositional categorization. However, “propositions—have a second order of importance—our goal in proclaiming the Gospel should not merely be to bring others to affirm a list of correct propositions.” 

I had the privilege of teaching and training at an Advance Evangelism Conference in Ottawa. We had 50 pastors out for training, 100 people out for a whole day Saturday equipping where I was joined by Maxime Cauchon. Message Canada’s Francophone Advance Ambassador.  The Friday evening—was a night of worship, teaching, and impartation. A young man who randomly signed up on Eventbrite got saved. He didn’t think that we would connect so he relayed a message through a local leader, “Tell Bill Hogg I had a wonderful experience.” However, we did connect. He was radiant and is being discipled by a local leader.

On the Friday evening, a woman who was paralyzed down her left side was healed. Loads came forward for an impartation of the Holy Spirit. On the Saturday afternoon there was also deliverance ministry in the parking lot. I spoke at a new church plant and seven people responded for salvation, including a woman who came to church for the very first time. Lots of people came forward for prayer ministry. After I returned home, I was told that a woman I prayed for who had been in chronic pain for ten years was totally healed. God is good!

As I have reflected on the Ottawa experience there are elements that need to be in place to catalyze evangelism. Neighbors Church, Eglise Pentecostiste El Shaddai (a Congolese Assemblies of God Congregation), and One Way Ministries were anchor partners. We also enjoyed participation and support from the International House of Prayer leadership. Neighbors Church and El Shaddai were bought in and had participation from their respective flocks. Pastors came as eager participants. There was prayer, worship, prayer ministry, prophecy, space and time for impartation, Gospel-centered instruction, and evangelism activation. It was a joy to see people interacting in small groups in three different languages: English, French, and Spanish.

In addition to all of this, the attendees encountered God! This is mission-critical. Our evangelism must flow from encounter!

The evangelism equipping took place in a spiritually hot environment. Loads of believers who gathered for equipping encountered the LORD. This cannot be understated. Michael Green famously defined evangelism in one word: “overflow.” Evangelism involves God’s people encountering the Holy Spirit and out of the overflow of fullness and power inviting others to encounter Jesus. 

We need to reclaim and release the E’s

I had the privilege of joining leaders from across the planet at Lausanne III, in Cape Town. We convened around the theme, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” My time in South Africa was heart-stirring and life-changing. God spoke a life-altering word to me. I experienced divine redirection.

I stuck around afterward to go on a safari. This was a beautiful gift from a generous friend and his wife. I enjoyed amazing animal encounters. I connected with other Canadian leaders, decompressed, and reflected on the Congress. I was part of a quest- to see the Big Five: lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhino.

I enjoyed riding shotgun and chatting with our driver, Jupp. I constantly scanned our surroundings for the first sighting of wildlife. On one of our forays into Kruger National Park, Jupp slammed on the brakes and shouted, “Wild dogs. Wild dogs!” I quizzed him about his enthusiasm. He explained that wild dog sightings are rare. He claimed there were only a few hundred left on the planet. These canids are an endangered species with a steadily declining population.

On a memorable night ride, we had a stand-off with an imposing rhino. In the inky darkness, the huge beast blocked our progress. Would he charge our vehicle? My friend, Carson Pue, slipped and his forearm struck a metal bar on our truck. This agitated the road-blocking rhino. I thought, “Awesome!  We’re about to be rammed by a rhino!” He shook his head and stamped on the ground. A plume of dust rose. He shook his head again and then trotted off into the bush. Collision averted!

The white rhino is deemed near threatened due to habitat loss and poaching. Black rhinos are a critically endangered species.

As a small boy, I was enamoured with the World Wildlife Fund.  The WWF was committed to raising awareness of and taking steps to preserve and protect endangered species. Today, its work has broadened to include restoring habitats as well as reversing wildlife decline. The wild dogs, which are one of the world’s most endangered mammals, we spotted on the road, the magnificent rhinos we encountered on safari, and a variety of other creatures are the focus of WWF’s work.

However, there is another species that is critically endangered.

We need to address this with Gospel urgency.

We need an ecclesial WWF to address this missional deficiency.

In North America’s gospel ecosystem, the evangelist is an endangered and threatened species.

Across Canada, the evangelist is a rarity.  We need to reclaim the evangelist!

The Body of Christ in Canada has done a splendid job in sidelining, stifling, muting, and marginalizing the evangelist. We need a divine reversal! I long to see a new generation of Holy Spirit-empowered evangelists fuelled with a passion for Jesus declaring the gospel with bold humility from coast to coast. I want to pour my life into raising up Spirit-filled men and women who will herald, share, shout, and gossip the Gospel across Canada, ‘Merica, and beyond!

I want to invest my life in raising up, training, encouraging, releasing, connecting, mentoring, and multiplying evangelists to spread the gospel across North America. Will you join me? Will you make room for the evangelists in your sphere? Will you step up and identify, embrace, encourage, resource, and release evangelists? Will you be part of God’s reclamation and preservation project?

Evangelists are heralds and harvesters who have a uniquely catalytic role under the anointing of the Holy Spirit to elevate evangelism in the local church. Canada needs more evangelists! By God’s grace, we need to elevate and multiply the gift of the evangelist.

This is an acute contextual issue in Canada, but certainly not a unique missional phenomenon. My friend, Alan Hirsch, confirms Canada’s displacement of the evangelist and asserts that this is a North American phenomenon. The evangelist is not only muffled and marginalized from coast to coast above the 49th Parallel; but from sea to shining sea South of the Forty Ninth. If you scan my native Scotland, evangelists are few and far between. This violates Jesus’ design for his Church and His dream for missional engagement.

The church to her detriment has largely organized herself around two gifts, shepherd and teacher. This has resulted in a cerebral and internally focused expression of the faith lacking in missional potency. Lausanne Three was culpable in this regard. We had plenary sessions, workshops, and breakouts on global missiological issues. We had expositions from Ephesians served up from the main stage. The organizers made a genius move to have all the delegates gather around tables for small group interaction and Bible study. However, in the (mis)treatment of Ephesians, there was a glaring sin of omission.

There was no attempt to unpack and apply the missional implications of these verses:

7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it[a] says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.” 9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers.

Ephesians 4:7-11

The five gifts of Jesus were summarily ignored at Cape Town 2010.  APEST is foundational for the healthy functioning of a Jesus community and its spiritual vitality and missional potency. Ephesians offers us Paul’s constitutional ecclesiology and the fivefold ministry given by Jesus to his church is foundational for the functioning and flourishing of the church.

The ascended triumphant Christ as Conqueror has the capacity to bestow gifts on his people, and he has done so! Jesus has given his church the gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher. These can be characterized as sodalic and modalic leadership gifts.

Not only does Ephesians 4:1-16 point us to a dynamic manifestation of ecclesia, but it implies that there can be no lasting effectiveness to the church’s mission without the fully functioning ministry that Jesus has once-for-all “given” (v.7) to his people. We are called to be the fullness of Jesus in the world, and according to Paul’s logic in Ephesians 4:1-16, we achieve this not through the two-fold shepherd-teacher model of ministry and leadership that we have become used to, but through this fivefold, equipping approach.[5]

There is a pernicious problem that has plagued contemporary Western and North American church life, namely the elevation of shepherds and teachers and the concomitant sidelining and suppression of the APE gifts. For example, Stott comments,

“I sometimes urge my charismatic friends—some of whom seem to me to be preoccupied with the less important gifts, to remember Paul’s dictum “earnestly to desire the higher gifts,”[6] and to consider whether these are not the teaching gifts. It is teaching, which builds up the church.[7] It is teachers who are needed most.”[8]

Here the late evangelical statesman expresses this persistent imbalance. Nowhere in Scripture is teaching elevated above any other spiritual gift. Indeed, Stott, woefully, if not willfully, ignores the apostolic exhortation:

“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.”[9]

Furthermore, the exaltation of the teacher fosters a cerebral faith that downplays or dismisses the revelatory and activating capacities of the prophetic. This can lead to an evangelical faith that is, according to Lloyd Jones,

“perfectly orthodox, and perfectly useless.”[10]

If the teacher gift is elevated to Stott’s singular prominence, the church becomes a lecture theater. This is in no way to diminish the priority of expounding, attending to, and obeying Scripture. Jesus deemed obedience to his teaching as one of the marks of authentic discipleship.[11]

We need teachers and we certainly need shepherds. Shepherds are nurturers and protectors who are concerned with reconciliation and relational and spiritual health. They demonstrate spiritual and holistic care and a heart for unity. They can be understood as “…pastors, or soul healers (who), help us work through past hurts and pursue wholeness, not just individually but in the context of community.”[12] Shepherds tend or take care of the sheep; they cultivate community, build team, and function out of relational authority.[13]

It may be argued, contrary to Stott’s assertions that, in light of the apostle being listed first in all the lists of gifts and ministries[14] it is the most important. Not because of an elevated status, as if apostolic leadership sits atop a charismatic hierarchy, but because of its foundational nature. The church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”[15]

Breen categorizes fivefold ministry[16] as pioneers and settlers. Pioneers are the apostles, prophets, and evangelists who:

“enjoy change…love breakthroughs and are always looking for the next frontier to explore and tame.” “In contrast, settlers, who are the pastors and teachers are committed to continuity, stability and conservation.”[17]

Both pioneers and settlers are required. The pioneers blaze new trails and establish new works and settlers are required to build on and stabilize the pioneering work to create something that is lasting.  If a ministry moved from stability to ossification, a pioneer or sodalic leader is required to re-establish fresh missional imagination, impulse, and engagement. The apostolic vision of gospel expansion is called for in reviving the missionary heart of an ossified body of people. Paul expresses this gospel pioneer spirit.[18]

We need to recapture the more generative and adaptive gifts of apostle, prophet, and evangelist. We certainly need the role of apostolic leadership in sparking Gospel advance and missional movement. The Church of Jesus must identify, affirm, and release apostolic leadership to fulfill her mission of making disciples and multiplication. Hirsch comments:

“Quite simply, a missional church needs missional leadership, and it is going to take more than the traditional pastor-teacher mode of leadership to pull this off.” [19]

We must reclaim the evangelist—a sorely neglected gift. We must repent of stifling, suffocating, and silencing the evangelists in our midst. There is affirmation of apostolic leadership, even in some camps where the gifting has been rebranded as entrepreneurial or more readily affirmed as breakthrough leadership or network leader. Pentecostals and charismatics have long cherished the revelatory capacities of the prophet. Some tribes honor the prophet’s advocacy of the poor, downtrodden, and marginalized and applaud the call for social justice in the face of systemic evil and corruption.

I want to see five-fold ministries function and APEST leadership flourish. My friend, the most bodacious Brent Trask referred to these gifts as jewels in the crown of King Jesus. I love that metaphor—the gifts are not an end in themselves or for the self-actualization of the leader. They are jewels to beautify and honor King Jesus. As I survey the ecclesial landscape, there is a jewel missing. There is a gaping hole in the King’s crown. We need to rectify that. To honor the King—we must reclaim the evangelist.

Evangelists are recruiters who love the Gospel, love sharing good news, and love lost people. Cole claims, “The evangelistic gifting is the recruiting engine of the church.”[20] They embody “contagious compassion,” [21] especially for those “without hope and without God in the world.”[22]

Evangelists have a heart for those far from God. Evangelists are “storytellers”[23] not because they are raconteurs, although evangelists are frequently great at storytelling. The heart of an evangelist is fixed on and stirred by the story of God and sharing it with broken people in a broken world.

“An evangelist is a person with a special gift from the Holy Spirit to announce the Good News. Methods may differ according to the evangelist’s opportunity and calling, but the central truth remains: an evangelist has been called and especially equipped by God to declare the gospel to those who have not accepted it, with the goal of challenging them to turn to Christ in repentance and faith.”[24] 

The evangelist carries a burden.

“It isn’t a stewardship of the evangelistic gift; it is a stewardship of the Good News itself that compels the true evangelist.”[25]

Evangelists are people persons in a unique way with a unique attractiveness or winsomeness. Cole remarks,

“When others encounter an evangelist, they feel loved, and that tends to make them open to the gospel message. Though no two evangelists are exactly alike, I have yet to meet one who isn’t great with people and most at home in the midst of others.”[26]

We need ongoing encouragement and equipping in evangelism

If we are going to fan the flames of evangelism and see elevated evangelism mojo and intentionality; it won’t happen by accident. We need to spur one another on in Jesus Luke 19:10 mission. If we are going to experience increased fruitfulness in evangelism, we need to encourage and equip God’s people to be good-news people who share Good News. We need to provide resources and training so that leaders can do the work of evangelists and everyday Christians can share their stories and The Jesus Story.  We need constant encouragement and cheering on in evangelism to move towards God’s dream of the whole Church taking the whole Gospel to the whole world.  

Why not join me at the upcoming Advance Evangelists Summit in Calgary? It promises to be a rich time of inspiration, worship, equipping, activation, networking, connecting, and impartation. I look forward to life-giving conversations, praying together, enjoying great food, fellowship, and experiencing fresh fire for evangelism.

I am thrilled that my friend, Alan Hirsch is joining us. Known for his innovative approach to mission and thought leadership, Alan is a highly sought-after movement strategist for leaders, churches, and denominations across the Western world. He is the author of numerous award-winning books including The Forgotten Ways, 5Q, Re-Jesus, The Shaping of Things to Come, and The Permanent Revolution.

I am delighted that Becky Pippert will be fanning the flames of evangelism at the Summit. Global conference speaker, evangelist, and author of eleven books. Becky’s worldwide best-selling book, Out of the Saltshaker & into the World established Becky as a leading expert on personal evangelism. Becky is in demand internationally to speak on living life as an effective witness for Christ. Her latest book, Stay Salt, is the fruit of decades of experience in evangelism around the world.

We will hear from  Kyle Harnett, Daniel Im, Sarah Hunter, Raphael Anzenberger, Maxime Cauchon, Finu Iype, Travis Halownia, and Roger Helland. And—there will be loads of time and space to hear from each other and encourage one another in the pursuit of Jesus and his mission.

There are breakouts where we will not only learn from leading practitioners but also learn from each other. Breakouts include Reclaiming Church Planting as a Missionary Enterprise; Cultivating an Evangelism Culture in the Local Church; Reaching and Discipling the Next Generation; Activating Your people in Evangelism; The soul of the Evangelist; Evangelistic Preaching and Communication; Continuous Fire on the Altar; Good News For the Poor and Street Level Ministry.

We want to encourage leaders on the journey of Deep Change to cultivate cultures of evangelism. To support that we will be launching learning communities out of the Advance Summit. I am thrilled that Alan Hirsch, Rich Robinson (Movement Leaders Collective), and Paul Williams (Message Canada) will serve and support these learning communities as mentors, guides, and facilitators. We want to serve ministry leaders and pastoral teams in turning up the evangelism heat in their constituencies and congregations.

We will also be launching the Advance Canadian Evangelists Network as an affiliate and expression of the Global Network of Evangelists.

If you are an evangelist or stirred to do the work of an evangelist, please join me in Calgary. If you have a heart for evangelism and want fresh encouragement in sharing and declaring the good news join us at the Summit!

Let’s fan the flame!

Dr. Bill Hogg Is Message Canada’s National Director. Bill’s passion is communicating the good news of Jesus, igniting the fires of evangelism, encouraging and equipping God’s people to share the gospel.

Bill is a published author and former radio talk show host and has served as a pastor, professor, evangelist, and a movie extra! He was involved in pioneer evangelism in his native Scotland, developing Youth for Christ in his role as National Evangelist. He has been involved in assessing, coaching, training, and supporting church planters for several years. Bill is part of the SEND Institute Missiologists Council. He also serves on the Church Planting Canada leadership team. His doctoral research focused on the missional renewal of the church.

[1] Ibid, p.86

[2] Easum, Second Resurrection, p.36

[3] Bonamy, Dobree, John Wesley (1933), 96-97. Cited by Arthur Skevington Wood, The Burning Heart -John Wesley: Evangelist, Bethany House Publishers, Minnesota, 1978,68.

[4] Jeremiah 20:9

[5] J.R. Woodward, Creating A Missional Culture, (Downers Grove: VP/Praxis, 2012), 13.

[6] 1 Corinthians 12:31

[7] Here Stott ignores Scriptures that prophecy builds up the church – see 1 Corinthians 14:3 where Paul contends for, in a context of charismatic excess, not the prohibition of prophecy which strengthens and builds up – but its pursuit (1 Cor.14: 39) – he also makes a case that a message in tongues with an interpretation has the same fortifying effect as a prophetic utterance (1 Cor.14: 5).

[8] John R.W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians, (Downers Grove: IVP, 1986), 164.

[9] 1 Corinthians 14:1

[10] R.T. Kendall, Holy Fire, (Lake Mary: Charisma House, 2014), 73.

[11] See Matthew 7:24-29 & John 8:31

[12] Ibid., 151.

[13] Ibid., 194-195.

[14] See 1 Corinthians 12:28ff and Ephesians 4:11

[15] Ephesians 2:20

[16] Ephesians 4:11-12

[17] Mike Breen & Walt Kallestad, Passionate Church, (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2005), 150.

[18] Romans 15:20

[19] JR, Woodward, Creating A Missional Culture, (Downers Grove: IVP/Praxis, 2012), 113.

[20] Cole, Primal Fire, 184.

[21] Ibid., 175ff.

[22] Ephesians 2:12

[23] Woodward, Creating A Missional Culture, 143.

[24] Billy Graham, A Biblical Standard for Evangelists, (Minneapolis: Worldwide Publications, 1984), 6.

[25] Cole, Primal Fire, 178.

[26] Ibid., 179.

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