Memphis Belle

Pre-Evangelism?
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What is pre-evangelism,
and
Why is pre-evangelism so important?

What is pre-evangelism? Pre-evangelism is preaching a message to the unconverted & unsaved people of the world which they can understand and will lead them first and foremost into the knowledge that God exists, created all things, and is in ultimate control of all things.

When a person has been brought to understand these things--then and only then is he or she really ready to receive the gospel of Christ, the gospel of Salvation. As Paul brought out in I Corinthians 2:9-12, the gospel, the things of God, are not discernable or understood by the uncalled, unconverted people of the world.

As Jesus pointed out in John 6:44, it is God the Father who calls an individual, bringing them to Christ. But when John 6:44 is added to other Scriptures dealing with the same subject, you'll soon see that God tends to call those who have come to believe he exists and subsequently desire to have a relationship with him. But the more knowledgeable a person is in this world's system of education, especially in the theory of evolution, the less he or she is going to believe that God even exists. Thus, these more educated individuals will never call out to God or Jesus to come into them and form a relationship with them. They have thus been deceived by this world's godless educational system, which has been cleverly put together under the guiding hand of Satan himself. Thus straight-forward evangelism may not work as well with the more educated of this world.

How a person is brought to the knowledge that God exists and is in control is what pre-evangelism is all about. Prophecy, both fulfilled and ones that are in the process of being fulfilled, prove God's existence and the veracity of his Word beyond a doubt. So do well researched books proving Creation verses evolution. These subjects, properly presented, often bring about a change in an unconverted person's attitude toward God--replacing skepticism with genuine belief. Then when a person has reached this point, if he so desires, God will often extend the "call" talked about in John 6:44. As Pastor J. Mark Martin of Calvary Community Church of Phoenix, Arizona brought out in a sermon, God is not going to call a person who is skeptical and thus doesn't want to be called. He said it would be like a young guy asking a girl to marry him whom he knew hated him. That would be stupid. God isn't stupid. He calls those who want him, knowing he exists, knowing he created all things and ultimately controls all things.

The main thrust of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong was prophetic teaching and creation vs. evolution teaching, geared to an unconverted unsaved world audience. He was the undisputed master of pre-evangelism. Let's try to have it in our hearts to possess the humility to learn from him in this essential area, which will help us bring the more educated people of the world to Christ in far greater numbers than we ever have before. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God, was one of the most successful radio and television evangelists to ever go over the airwaves. Jesus used him to create a revival in a small insignificant old covenant Sabbatarian Christian Church. The Plain Truth Magazine and printed literature of that church enjoyed some of the widest circulation among the unconverted people of the western world and the United States of any Christian evangelistic group going. Although he had major doctrinal errors in the area of not properly understanding the new covenant, so did the old covenant Christian Church the Lord was using him to revive. If the Lord was indeed using him to create a revival in an old covenant Christian Church, which then turned into another Christian Church, then it was only natural the Lord couldn't let him understand what they didn't understand. The revival had to be created first, and that is exactly what the Lord did through him. Hindsight is 20/20, isn't it now. But we can't ignore his success. It is well worth looking at this success to see if we can learn something from it that we're missing. His intent was to follow Jesus Christ where Jesus was leading him, and to preach the "gospel of the kingdom of God" to a sinsick world before Jesus Christ's 2nd coming. His intent was to follow the instruction of Jesus in Matthew 24:14. That's O.K. as far as it goes. Now we should ask ourselves, "What is there about his preaching of "this gospel of the kingdom" that made his message so dynamic and attract so much attention among the unchurched and unconverted?"

Mr. Armstrong boldly proclaimed and preached what he thought was "this gospel of the kingdom", firmly believing all those whom God wasn't presently calling to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ--the vast majority of mankind alive today--would have their opportunity for salvation in Christ at the time of the Great White Throne Judgment if they died, or in the Millennium if they lived through the Tribulation. (As I have said elsewhere, this question about the destiny of the "unsaved dead" and the major Bible resurrections needs to be researched and studied more thoroughly by all. If he was right in this area, we need to change that part of our approach to preaching the gospel.) But what was it that grabbed people's attention and kept them interested in the message? It was a religious message, and almost everybody I know in the unconverted outside world wants absolutely nothing to do with a religious message. Part of the success in getting people's attention was that he was preaching what he thought was "this gospel of the kingdom" as a witness and proclamation--not necessarily as a call to join or give your heart to the Lord (which really turns people off). What he had discovered was that the more educated unconverted, unsaved people of the world need to be pre-evangelized before you can ever attempt to evangelize them. Then those that show a keen interest beyond the point of pre-evangelizing, you evangelize. We have been missing the first step to evangelizing in the western educated world. Mr. Armstrong wasn't. He absorbed the unpopular teachings of a small old covenant Christian Church and mushroomed the small group that he was ministering to (19 people, one congregation) into a revival of old covenant Christians which was 150,000 members strong, whose pre-evangelizing gospel message then went out and spanned the globe! What do people hear from evangelists now? "If you don't accept Jesus in your lifetime you're going to burn in everburning hellfire! How to win friends and influence people! And if we're wrong about that statement, double, triple shame on us. People could listen to Mr. Armstrong's message without feeling threatened or boxed in. They didn't feel pressured. Many listened and gave enough attention to what he was saying to actually learn something about what the Bible said. That's far more than the rest of Christianity has been able to do with this group of humanity.

So what about the success of Herbert Armstrong's radio/T.V./printed evangelism? What made him so successful in getting the unsaved world's attention? For one thing, he focussed his message on the part of the gospel Jesus described in Matthew 24 which describes end-time world conditions--war, famines, disease epidemics. These are attention-getting topics. He made his audience look at where the world was heading--gave them a dose of physical reality in two major areas:

  1. The danger of high-tech global world war.
  2. The danger of famine due to overpopulation and insufficient agricultural resources to feed the hungry growing population of the world.

He then pointed to the future reign of Jesus Christ and the resurrected saints over the world in the Millennium as the only solution to these "unsolvable problems" that mankind is about to face. Mr. Herbert Armstrong spoke to the world on their own understanding level and he did it in a dynamic way. He was an advertising man and an expert at marketing information.

Now where was Herbert Armstrong wrong in his concept of "this gospel of the kingdom"? His concept fit Matthew 24 perfectly. But the gospel preached by Paul and evangelical Christians for almost 2,000 years was and is the "gospel of Christ." Matthew 24:14 is a very real responsibility and commission for the end-time body of Christ. Upon close examination, you'll find that what Jesus termed as "this gospel of the kingdom" includes both aspects, the one Herbert W. Armstrong preached and which Jesus described in Matthew 24, and the aspect Paul and evangelical Christians preach, which Jesus described in Matthew 25. Matthew 24 is a highlight of the prophetic 2nd coming events leading up to the Millennial rule of Jesus, and by inference includes all the 2nd coming and Millennial prophecies, Old Testament and New. Matthew 25 is a highlight of the gospel of Christ, and by inference includes all the epistles of Paul, Peter, and John which themselves describe the gospel of Christ in fine detail. Mr. Armstrong's version consisted only of the Matthew 24 part, and evangelical Christianity's version of "this gospel of the kingdom" consisted only of the Matthew 25 part. What's wrong here? Are we missing something? Herbert Armstrong was. We all know that. But are we missing what he had right??? When you discover you may not be correct in your understanding of something you are preaching, do you continue preaching that, or do you stop and do some heavy research? Come on people, let's examine ourselves. Time is short, and many people need reaching before Jesus returns. As Jesus said clearly in Matthew 24:14, he wants them all reached! That's a tall order that demands that we re-tune our approach where needed to reach the right group of people with the right harvesting tool.

A third area where Mr. Armstrong was correct: Satan and the demon world have this world by the gonads, plain and simple. This is not God's world right now. God definitely owns the world, but he has permitted Satan to rule over it, unseen by mankind. 95 percent or more of mankind is directly or indirectly under Satan's influence in one way or another. The kingdoms of this world belong to Satan. In Matthew 4 we see that Satan offered them to Jesus if he would bow down to him. Jesus never corrected Satan saying, "No, you're wrong, these kingdoms are not yours to give." For the time being the kingdoms of the world are Satan's to do with as he pleases. Some few people are directly under Satan's influence, but most are indirectly under it. These people are not called, converted, born-again, or anything that comes close to it--thus they all are under Satan's invisible but very real authority and control. Jesus is coming to end all of that (read Matthew 24, Revelation 19, and Revelation 20:1-3,7-10.)

When people looked at the world around them and then at what Mr. Armstrong preached about this evil world, and it being Satan's and not God's right now, many could identify with that. They could understand that and the physical knowledge of Jesus Christ's 2nd coming to end all of that. Mr. Herbert Armstrong was correct in that area. But we are still missing something which he was aware of, and even evangelical Christians are aware of. He knew that people who do not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them do not understand "the things of God." As Paul stated in I Corinthians 2:9-12, man knows the things of man by the spirit of man which dwells in him. Man only knows the things of God by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in him. Read I Corinthians 2 for yourself. Let it sink in. Christianity has been busy preaching something to the unconverted world that they cannot understand!!! Mr. Herbert Armstrong never attempted to do that. By Jesus' own description of Matthew 24-25, the part of the gospel of the kingdom the world can understand must accompany the gospel of Christ--the part they don't possess a mind to understand!!! Mr. Herbert Armstrong was a master at what Mr. Tkach Jr. termed as pre-evangelizing the unconverted. He was a master at preparing people to receive the gospel of Christ. But he stopped short of ever giving them the gospel of Christ. That was his error. People must be made ready to accept Christ by telling them things they can comprehend, not telling them things they cannot yet understand. Preaching the gospel of Christ to unconverted people is like taking a deaf person to a concert or a blind person to an art gallery full of beautiful paintings.

SO WHAT MAKES ME SO SURE MR. HERBERT W. ARMSTRONG HAD SOMETHING SO RIGHT THAT WE OTHER CHRISTIANS ARE ALL MISSING IN OUR "GOSPEL" APPROACH TOWARD THE MORE EDUCATED UNCONVERTED OF THIS WORLD?

The following are some timely quotes taken from Fred Heeren's masterful work (vol. 1) "SHOW ME GOD, What the Message from Space Is Telling Us About God." (Wonders that witness, vol. 1). Mr. Heeren uses scientist's own admissions and statements to prove God's existence and Divine Creationism. Mr. Heeren totally backs up my statements about Mr. Armstrong being on the right track as far as his insight and ability to market God's Word to the unconverted world in general--to create a belief in God based on fact and not fancy. I have taken key quotes from Mr. Heeren to prove my point, just as he did from skeptical scientists to prove his points. So incorporate what follows into what I said about what I think is wrong with the approach we're taking in preaching the "gospel" to the educated world.

"Getting on the same wavelength of many people today means recognizing that they may have a higher regard for science than for preaching [cf. I Corinthians 2:9-12: the unconverted mind does not understand the things of God.] And they're more interested in self-improvement and in expanding their perspective of spirituality than in narrowing their views into denominational categories." Pp. 19-20.

"Getting on the same wavelength of many people today means that we recognize that they are skeptical about the Bible's claims." P.20.

Just to interject some interesting facts about Mr. Armstrong, he answered the skeptic's questions with hard-hitting articles in the Plain Truth Magazine about Bible prophecy--fulfilled and unfulfilled--and how true science disproved evolutionary theory. High School and college professors learned to hate the Plain Truth Magazine because of students who would bring in some of these hard-hitting articles which disproving evolutionary theory, because they had no good answers to counter with. Half of "this gospel of the kingdom" (Matthew 24:14) is found in Matthew 24--the prophetic half that the unconverted can understand.

"The idea that our adult acquaintances will become Christians when we invite them to Church, that they just need to be exposed to the gospel by hearing our pastor, is an idea that is questionable…" "Society has moved on while Christians have remained stuck in the rut of their own little enclaves, some using overly-emotional preaching styles…" "Money spent on evangelistic outreach, of course, goes to reaching an almost exclusively Christian audience. Christian T.V. [in many but not all cases] originally founded for the purpose of spreading the gospel, now has as its purpose the hawking of "Jesus Junk." P.20.

"Christian T.V. is now direct response marketing in its purest form. Those unbelievers who do catch a glimpse of "Christianity" while switching stations are more firmly convinced that the Christian faith is indeed irrational. It's for unthinking herd-followers." P.21.

"Tuning into skeptics

Jesus consistently filled his teachings with common things easily understood by his hearers, beginning with their earthly concerns, not His heavenly ones. To farmers and fishermen He spoke of seeds and fishing nets. To the Samaritan woman at the well, He spoke of water…" "In each case Jesus was ready to address the specific concerns of His hearers." P.13.

"When Paul preached to the people of Athens, he started by quoting some of their own poets. He referred to the statements of respected writers of Greek culture in order to show a logical contradiction between these commonsense truths [of the Bible] and their metaphysical beliefs. First he quoted Epimenides: "For in him we live and move and have our being," and then Cleanthes in his Hymn to Zeus: "We are his offspring" (Acts 17:28). "Since we are God's offspring," Paul argued, "we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone--an image made by man's design and skill." (v.29). Before launching into his argument, once again, the evangelist was prepared to start talking about the views of his listeners.

"One of the chief needs for the witnessing Christian today is to be prepared to reach skeptics. As this millennium draws to a close, American Christians are increasingly encountering people who lack even the most basic beliefs about the God of the Bible. Pastors, Bible study leaders, missionaries and concerned friends are often hard pressed to know how to begin to present the gospel to them." P.14, para. 2-3.

During the late 1960's the Plain Truth Magazine had such hard-hitting articles which scientifically tore apart evolutionary theory that High School science teachers learned to hate and dread the magazine. Many, including myself, came into a firm belief in the Bible and the literal existence of God because these hard-hitting articles successfully made a case for creation and tore apart evolutionary theory. The Plain Truth Magazine itself was a masterful magazine of pre-evangelism, and within its pages offered, free of charge, booklets and books that pre-evangelized to its worldly audience to an even greater extent. The Plain Truth successfully fulfilled its role, when we understand what that role was--pre-evangelism--proving God's very existence to a skeptical world. Its role never was to convey the gospel of Christ to either the world or to other Christians. That is not the purpose of pre-evangelism. Since Mr. Armstrong didn't really understand the gospel of Christ, he used this tool of pre-evangelism to bring 150,000 people to the doorstep of the Worldwide Church of God instead of into a knowledge of the gospel of Christ, which would have brought them into a fuller relationship with Jesus Christ. But Jesus didn't inspire him to do this. He just inspired him to develop the tool of pre-evangelism to one of the highest levels this tool has ever been developed to. Now if we're smart, we'll study the man Jesus used to develop this tool and study his techniques. Pre-evangelism and the gospel of Christ (evangelism) can be blended. As a matter of fact, that is what Jesus did in his discourse given in Matthew 24 and 25. First, you prove to the skeptical mind that God exists, and is in total control of world events (prophecy and fulfilled prophecy), then you present Jesus through the gospel of Christ (Romans 1-8 is an ideal group of Scriptures that does this).

"Parents, youth leaders, Bible study leaders, and pastors need to get ready to tackle the scientific problems raised by the schools and by the media. Gaining an understanding of the bare evidence in science actually gives Christians the opportunity to turn the situation completely around: the Christian can raise far greater problems from science for unbelievers than unbelievers can raise for Christians…"p.19.

"At no time in modern history has the average westerner been so lacking in the foundational knowledge of the God of the Bible, the events the Bible describes, and of Jesus' place in history. We are in much the same situation as the 1st century Church, needing to educate in order to witness."p.21. "Getting on the same wavelength of people today often means that we recognize that they lack the foundation for belief that past generations had."

And that is what pre-evangelism is all about, providing the foundation for belief. What many theologians forget is that the Bible has contained within its' pages the foundation for its' own verification. Check out Isaiah 40 and 41 where God challenges the skeptic. Look at how God himself challenges the skeptic to prove himself against God and his proofs for the Bible's veracity. God demands Bible skeptics to come up with better proofs than he does through fulfilled prophecy. The Bible is chock full of fulfilled, historically verifiable prophecies--some of which lead right up to Jesus Christ's 2nd coming. It can't just be coincidence that half of Jesus Christ's description of "this gospel of the kingdom" mentioned in Matthew 24:14 was the Matthew 24 prophecy of his 2nd coming. Jesus himself said "this gospel of the kingdom" would be preached to a very wide audience--the entire world! And then the end [of this age of Satan and man] would come. The "gospel" we evangelical Christians try to reach the world with--the gospel of Christ--is not geared for this worldwide audience all by itself. Jesus in his Matthew 24-25 discourse clearly shows that "this gospel of the kingdom" must be geared to this worldwide audience by containing 1) a physical/prophetic description of His 2nd coming along with the world events leading up to it, and 2) a description of the gospel of Christ--what it means to be a Christian--Matthew 25.

As I pointed out earlier, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong's version of the gospel was shallow, only half there, for it only contained the Matthew 24 part. Modern evangelical Christianity's version is incomprehensible to the wide world's unconverted masses because it is aimed at Christians--and as Paul states in I Corinthians 2:9-12, unconverted mankind is incapable of understanding "the things of God", which the gospel of Christ most certainly is!

Look at it this way: The Matthew 24 section of "this gospel of the kingdom" is the outer wrapper--it is the outer wrapper or mailer envelope for delivering the gospel of Christ. Mr. Herbert Armstrong had the mailer envelope in tact and was faithfully delivering it to the world--the World Tomorrow/Kingdom of God message and all--but the mailer was empty of its' intended material--the gospel of Christ! Mr. Armstrong was way ahead of his time in understanding and successfully using the delivery package, the mailer. He was used by Jesus to discover what that mailer was and to successfully use it, so we could all see how it worked. That is basically all he was called to do. The by-product of that effort raised up a whole Revival of old covenant Christians starting from a congregation only 19 members strong. This revival ended up in its heyday with about 150,000 followers, many of whom had the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, as evidenced by the fruit of their lives. (So before condemning Mr. Armstrong for the errors he had, and saying he may not have been a Christian by our concepts of what makes a Christian, look at the clear evidence of the Holy Spirit--and that well over one third of the Worldwide Church of God followed Mr. Tkach Sr. into the new covenant, something never heard of in all of Christian history.) That's how we know that Jesus was indeed using Mr. Armstrong, even though he offended the daylights out of most of us evangelical Christians. So Mr. Armstrong was way ahead of his time as to how to deliver the message, but he lacked proper understanding of what the inner message was. Christianity through the apostle Paul's epistles has had this core message for almost 2,000 years, but has lacked the delivery medium, the delivery package. "This gospel of the kingdom" is the outer delivery package and the inner message combined. Matthew 24 and 25 was a brief synopsis given by Jesus describing what the end-time gospel message to the wide world would be comprised of. It is by no means the entire message, it is a brief description of the message. By inference Matthew 24 refers to all the 2nd coming/Millennial kingdom-age prophecies found in both Old ad New Testaments. By inference Matthew 25 refers to all the gospel of Christ Scriptures found in Paul's, Peter's and John's epistles in the New Testament. Mr. Herbert Armstrong had one section right and mainstream Christianity has had the other for millennia. Interesting that Jesus would reveal this "combination message package" at the time of the end of man's age when discerning people can begin to detect elements of the Matthew 24 scenario starting to bud forth in earnest. So now we have taken a good look at what pre-evangelism is and also a good look at the founder of a Christian Church who was a master at pre-evangelism. Even if we have a hard time liking him because of his treatment of the rest of Christianity, we can certainly learn something valuable from what he knew and how the Lord used him. We would be extremely short-sighted to not take a good hard look at both Mr. Armstrong and how he pre-evangelized the world.

Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong's message generated huge interest amongst the unchurched and unsaved, but he never used this pre-evangelism message as a lead-in to presenting the gospel of Christ. Why? Because he sincerely didn't possess an accurate understanding of what the gospel of Christ was. When you fully realize what Jesus called him to do, you'll understand why Jesus never gave him, nor intended him to understand that knowledge. Will we, who've possessed knowledge of what this precious gospel of Christ is for almost 2,000 years miss the opportunity of the millennium by not recognizing what the mailer package is for? It is for delivering that precious gospel message Jesus would have us deliver to the unsaved world. I honestly think, if Jesus resides in us, that we can put aside our hurt and anger at how Mr. Armstrong treated the rest of us Christians when we realize what it was that Jesus was using him to give us. We have to look beyond the human frailties of the ones Jesus uses to accomplish his will. Each Christian leader He works through has his own function and purpose in the Lord. We've been too guilty in the past of focussing on the leaders the Lord places over us--focussing on their human frailties--and not what the Lord is doing through them.

Realize, that almost any properly explained expository study on second coming/Millennial kingdom-age prophecies can be good pre-evangelism harvesting tools. The fields are white for harvest, just like Jesus told us they would be. Paul said we are Ambassadors for Christ, representing both Jesus and the Kingdom of God, our heavenly country from above. Pre-evangelism is one of our key harvesting tools which the Lord has given us, and this tool is mostly unused in the very parts of the world where it could prove most effective, in the technological, knowledge rich nations of the world. The Lord used Mr. Armstrong to give us a superb example of how to use the tool. He also inspired Fred Hereen to describe the tool for us.

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