Pastor Ron E. Thompson: Life Out of Death
Many years ago, my wife and I visited Yellowstone National Park. What a magnificent sight it was to behold. But much of the park’s beauty had been burnt black from earlier forest fires. However, upon closer inspection, we noticed here and there shoots of greenery poking through the charred landscape. I recalled Jesus’ words “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce
many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives” (John 12:24 NLT). As I reminisce over sixty years of ministry, some of it in full-time evangelism, I realize that an evolution in evangelistic methodology has occurred.
Evangelism in Colonial times was conducted in public gatherings of the masses. Evangelists such as Jonathan Edwards, Billy Sunday, and D.L. Moody were familiar figures. The evangelist we most remember today is Billy
Graham. His grandson, Will Graham, continues his grandfather’s legacy of crusade evangelism at this time. Church crusades that used to last into weeks and months have been replaced by either a weekend or less of services. Other popular evangelistic systems include Friendship Evangelism, The Jesus Movement, Evangelism Explosion, and Church Growth Institutes.
When we question statisticians who study trends, they say that during the last twenty years there has been a lull in evangelism among evangelicals. Why so? (1) For some, evangelism has become too mechanical, more like a sales pitch. (2) Some Christians have no confidence in the Gospel. (3) Others have replaced evangelism with social justice. (4) People have lost their compassion for the lost. (5) There is a fear of not having answers to
questions people raise that they cannot answer. And unless something changes, some feel that evangelism will die, like the seed planted in the ground.
Some years ago, I learned about a young pastor in Mexico whose church was exploding with conversion growth that had reached twelve hundred members in just two years. They planted twenty-five new churches in that same time-period. I invited some pastor friends to go with me to Mexico where a friendly Mexican missionary, evangelist, author, and composer greeted us, Juan M. Isais. He explained that the ideology behind the growth of this remarkable church was through a ministry called Evangelism in Depth (EID).
Evangelism in Depth principles were pioneered in the 1960s by R. Kenneth Strachan, a missionary with the Latin American Mission. Juan, a forty-year missionary with the LatinAmerica Mission of Mexico, refined Strachan’s principles. Other nations have used EID ideology under different names. In Africa it was known as New Life for All. In Vietnam it appeared as Evangelism Deep and Wide. Our American team called it First Love Renewal, and we tailored the ministry also to include children, using music principles, calling it the CIA Band (Christians in Action). The team is still going strong, running now under the original name of EID. Juan was promoted to Heaven in 2002. Stan Fousha, president of the board, now directs this ministry from Clearfield, Utah.
EID continues to have an impact in Latin America, Africa, India, Nepal, the Philippines, and the United States. Here are some encouraging statistics I have received from EID covering a period of four years: EID has recorded 145,069 people in attendance, 33,210 people saved, 254 churches planted, and 577 EID workers trained. In 2017, I published a book, still available on Amazon, entitled Hurricane Evangelism. It is the complete seminar on EID including study questions – perfect for groups. If you will use that book and apply its principles, you will have the ability to evangelize in your own individual way.
Evangelism will naturally flow out of your relationship with Christ. You will learn that there are no failures in evangelism because the Holy Spirit does the work. He is the evangelist: you are the glove into which God inserts His power. God liberates us from guilt and fear in evangelism and prepares our audience for us.
God taught me a great spiritual lesson through my association with EID. Despite what the pollsters and researchers predict, methods may change but evangelism is not dead! A sovereign God is still in control and fulfilling His perfect will in everything that happens, from the fall of a raindrop to the lull in evangelism. He reminds us of His wonderful providence: “He [God] chose us in advance, and He makes everything work out according to His plan” (Eph. 1:11 NLT).
The apostle Paul suffered persecution, imprisonment, and trials, but testified to the saints from a Philippian prison: “I want you to know that everything that has happened to me here has to spread the Good News” (Phil. 1:12 NLT). We still see the spiritual fruit God gives us through the seed of His Word that we plant. Beloved, use whatever method God gives you. Do not argue. Just plant! I Col. 3:5 NLT asks: “Who is Apollos? Who is Paul?”
I would add to that: What is a Billy Graham Crusade? What is Evangelism Explosion? What is Evangelism in Depth? The answer to these questions is: “We are only Gods servants through whom you [and others] believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us.” Beloved, how is God leading you in His field that is already white unto harvest?