The more I study God’s word and the more I seek to know Him more, the more I am so burdened for the church in America. We have become so man centered and so activity focused in our churches that we have all but left the glorious gospel of God behind or set the gospel up on a shelf for all to admire from a distance only to be shadowed by “bigger and more important things.”
A False Conversion
Over twenty years ago I went through the motions of repeating a prayer from a pastor as I walked a long isle. Like a magic mantra, I repeated the words of my preacher, was baptized shortly after, and was told subsequently that I was saved. I had no understanding of sin, repentance, the holiness of God, the justice of God or my condition as a sinner. I was told to simply repeat a prayer. While it was an emotional experience it was not one that was wrought by the Spirit of God through repentance and faith. I am so grateful that my God did later save me. He transformed my heart of stone to a heart of flesh and my faith is not in a decision. My faith is not even in my faith. My faith is an ongoing faith in the person and work of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And that faith is a precious gift from my God – the God that for most of my life I lived in horrendous rebellion. Despite that hellish rebellion, He saved me. That my friend is amazing grace.
Looking back over my life I realize just how dangerous and frankly how blasphemous this type of gospel presentation is. For one thing, no human being can tell me that I am saved and born again. I get so fired up when I see “pastors” ask those in their congregations (and those glued to the TV) to repeat a three sentence prayer and then (as I sit there with my jaw on the ground) hear him utter the words, “my friends, if you prayed that simple prayer you are now born again.” Not once was repentance even mentioned. Not once was the gospel proclaimed. As I sat there watching this debacle of a “sermon” I came to the haunting conclusion that these “gospel presentations” are basically the exact same thing the majority of the American church hears each week.
A Return to the True Gospel
We desperately need to return to the true Gospel of God – the gospel that “is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.” (Romans 1:16) The cross of Christ is the core of everything. It must begin with the gospel, our lives must be lived through the power of the Gospel and our lives will end in the glory of the gospel. We need a reformation in the American church today… a reformation that will clean up the watered down teachings of “boys trying to be men of God” and return to the proclamation of the full gospel. The gospel that offends, breaks the stony hearts of sinners and converts the souls of men. The true Gospel is not about a decision. The true gospel is about proclaiming all of the truths of Scripture, not just one verse. It’s about not being afraid to offend. It’s about standing boldly to the truths that Christ is “the way and the truth and the life” and that “no one comes to the Father but through Him”. It’s about a correct understanding that God nailed His Son to that tree so that He would be just and the justifier of sinners. (Isaiah 53) It’s about the correct understanding that Jesus took the full wrath of God on Himself on that cross… the wrath of God that believers deserve as the worst of sinners. The wrath that unbelievers will one day endure forever if they do not embrace the Savior.
I could go on and on about the Gospel of God. The gospel can never be exhausted. We will never come to the end of the glorious truths of the gospel. We will never understand the depth of love, mercy and grace in the gospel. The gospel can never be preached too much. The Christian life is the gospel-centered life. And sadly, we rarely hear the gospel, and if we do, it’s either doctrinally off the wall or so watered down that it is no longer the Gospel of God. Professing believers sit week after week hearing sermons filled with man centered “how-to’s” and five steps to financial success and rarely hear the glorious doctrines of Scripture that surround our King of kings and Lord of lords. Have we forgotten that any and all of the application parts of God’s Word are absolutely impossible for the unregenerate to follow. They are foreign to them. And frankly, any true Christian who does not rely fully on the grace of God in Christ through the Spirit to walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh is only headed down a path of frustration and failure. The cross is central to everything!
In the humbling experiences I have been blessed to have sharing the Gospel with people, I have come to a sobering conclusion. Almost everyone I have talked to is convinced they are Christians and that they are saved. They are convinced that they are heaven-bound. While many people who do not proclaim to be Christians trust in their own merit to work their way to heaven, the sad thing is the professing Christians I run into while witnessing put their trust in a decision they made. In fact, I had one gentleman eloquently tell me that he’d “already done that” referring to that one time act of “accepting Christ”. He had his Jesus trophy from years past that has since been put on a shelf collecting dust hidden behind “more important” things in this life. How terribly sad. How terribly sad that this is a prime example of what decisional evangelism creates… false converts.
Making a Decision: It Impact on Evangelism
I’ve also been shocked to hear what the teachings of decisional evangelism have done to the witnessing technique itself. Instead of proclaiming the gospel and being faithful to the full counsel of Scripture relying wholly on the Holy Spirit for the conversion of the soul, the decisional witnessing technique simply demands a decision on the spot. The formula for success to the decisional evangelist is quite simple: 1) have the person repeat a quick statement such as the “four spiritual laws” and 2) write your name in the back of a Bible. Frankly, it doesn’t seem to matter if the person understands a thing they are reciting as long as you get a decision. A decision is the meter for success. And even worse, the decisional evangelist will then boldly proclaim to the person that they are now born again. It’s as if they have some kind of holy ability to deem someone saved. I’m sorry, but I would never presume to tell someone they are saved. We save no one! That is solely the glorious job of the Holy Spirit. We are called to be faithful witnesses but the job of saving souls is God’s and God’s alone. Have we forgotten that the miracle of transforming a dead soul to one born from above can only be the miraculous work of God and for His glory alone?
The emphasis in decisional evangelism is often one of speed as well. I hear it all the time… “this will only take five minutes of your time.” No my friend, it will take all of your life! Paul Washer states it correctly when he says that the true test of conversion is “has God so worked a miracle in your soul that the sin you once loved you now hate.” Why are we so quick to just speedily go through a quick gospel presentation, have the person repeat a prayer and then in some holy manner mark the person as born again. It’s as if we have a cattle line and must move down the line quickly to be able to report back on a tally for the day. This is the gospel we are talking about here, not some survey. I’m convinced that if I go out to evangelize and I have the opportunity to speak to someone for several hours on the glories of the gospel to bring that person to contrition and watch God break them to pieces through the Word of God and bring them to faith and repentance it is worth every millisecond of time and should never be rushed. I refuse to be a stumbling block to someone’s salvation or create a false convert – something I was myself for many years.
Decisional Regeneration: False Teaching
Decisional evangelism and the false teachings of the so called “decisional regeneration” is dangerous, blasphemous and is a false gospel. It amazes me that the church today is more concerned about numbers than the true God-glorifying conversion of dead souls. It amazes me that the church today continues to shelf the gospel as if it’s only something needed once in a person’s life and never to be gloried in again. The church in America pulls out the gospel from the shelf once a year at Easter thinking that they just might need to proclaim it then since they know they’ll have unbelievers show up that Sunday. After all, the gospel is only useful for unbelievers right? Sadly, that seems to be the mindset today. It amazes me that we have taken the most precious news that can fall on human ears (both the unregenerate and regenerate ears) and twist it beyond recognition oftentimes for our own prideful advantage. We all need to fall on our knees and cry out to our Eternal Father who is strong to save to bring us to a continual repentance in how we handle His Word. We should all tremble at His Word! (Isaiah 66:2)