A Survey Of Evangelism In America -- By: W. Glyn Evans

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 014:3 (Summer 1971)
Article: A Survey Of Evangelism In America
Author: W. Glyn Evans

A Survey Of Evangelism In America

W. Glyn Evans, A.M.*

Mass evangelism is particularly an American phenomenon, if by mass evangelism we mean using means on a large scale. Interestingly, America produced no mass evangelists until Finney, and he began his career not as a mass evangelist but as a revivalist. I draw a distinction between these terms because of an essential difference in function between them.

A mass evangelist is basically a promoter. True enough, he promotes the most valuable commodity in the world—the gospel—but he cannot be distinguished (except for his product) from any other promoter of large scale enterprises. To that extent he uses appealing advertising, a convenient and comfortable place of assembly, a committee to make advance arrangements, a budget, and a follow up committee to handle the new converts. I don’t mean to imply that spiritual forces are not at work in such enterprises which are over and beyond the merely human. I mean only that mechanical means occupy a large part of the effort of such evangelists, indeed distinguish them, even though I readily admit that great and immense good may come through such efforts.

The revivalist, on the other hand, does not rely upon mechanical means for his success but seems endued with a power which is irrepressible. This power is manifest mostly in preaching but not necessarily. Sometimes the revivalist’s part in a prayer meeting, or even his physical presence in a group of people is sufficient to communicate spiritual power strong enough to cause the bystanders to cry to God for mercy. A revivalist seems to be successful in persuading people largely through invisible means, whereas the evangelist succeeds by both the visible and the invisible means. The efforts of a revivalist eventuate in revival, whereas the efforts of an evangelist result in individual conversions.

Having arbitrarily distinguished between the two kinds of agents in American mass evangelism, I would like to suggest that early American evangelism was of the revivalistic type, while later American evangelism (specifically after 1830) has followed the evangelistic type.

Edwards And The Colonialists

The first giant in American evangelism was Jonathan Edwards

*Pastor of South Shore Baptist Church, Hingham, Massachusetts. Assistant Professor of Practical Theology in the Graduate School of Wheaton College, 1963–1971.

(1703–1758) who arrived on the scene in a happy arrangement of circumstances as far as evangelism is concerned. Edwards began his work in New York and later moved to New England at a time when the Holy Spirit was choosing to make deep and lasting ...

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