The Three Marks of Genuine Power Evangelism


In my previous post, “Fumbling the Gospel,” I noted that many charismatic churches are using what is known as “power evangelism” to reach the lost. Power evangelism employs the Holy Spirit-given charismatic gifts to heal and speak words of knowledge and prophecy into the lives of people who do not know Jesus.

I fully support power evangelism done by genuine believers who can fully articulate the Gospel. Whether that’s the case in what passes for power evangelism in some sectors of the Church today is the question and the gist of my previous post.

Today, I feel compelled to add one more point to that post.

When you closely examine the “gospel” that many churches in America preach today, it is not the real Gospel. In too many cases, it fails to emphasize three core principles of the real thing:

1. Conviction of sin in the presence of a holy God

When the prophet Isaiah had a vision of God, notice his response:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
—Isaiah 6:1-5

In the presence of a God called “Holy, Holy, Holy,” Isaiah, though called to be a prophet of God, immediately was undone by his own sinfulness in the presence of supreme holiness. As Isaiah stared into the reflecting mirror of God’s holiness, he saw a creature of his worst nightmares staring back. And he cried out in his guilt for being a sinful man.

The Bible notes that Isaiah is not alone:

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…
—Romans 3:23

2. The death of self at the cross

The Apostle Paul writes of the one thing of which he must speak boldly:

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
—Galatians 6:14-15

All the world’s religions, save for Christianity, are little more than rules that no one can fully abide by. Each of us has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, no matter how many religious rules we try to keep. Only Jesus Christ perfectly kept the rules of God, and so being perfect, He took our place of punishment on the cross and served as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. As one popular Christian song states, “The cross has said it all.”

Paul said earlier in that same letter to the Church in Galatia:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
—Galatians 2:20

If people don’t make it to the cross, then they never die to self. And if they never die to self, then they are not new creations. Because the only kind of Christian that God can fully use is the one who has died to the self that was the old man and been born again into Christ.

3. Genuine repentance

Sadly, the portrait of Jesus often sold to people today is of the weepy-eyed sort who loves infants and little lambs. Yes, that side of Jesus is real. Yet He had another side that too many churches fail to promote as part of the whole Gospel:

There were some present at that very time who told [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
—Luke 13:1-5

Jesus called John the Baptist the greatest of the prophets. What was John’s message?

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
—Matthew 3:1-2

Shortly after being baptized by John, Jesus began His own public ministry. His message?

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
—Matthew 4:17

After Pentecost, when Jesus had been resurrected, had ascended into heaven, and the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the disciples who had followed Jesus, they had something to tell the world. That message?

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
—Acts 2:38-39

Do you think repentance is a big deal to God?

That last verse I quoted, Acts 2:38-39, is preceded by the Holy Spirit falling in power on the followers of Jesus at Pentecost. Those indwelt by the Spirit spoke in tongues and exhibited the power of the Holy Spirit’s gifts, the charismata. That power was so stunning that 3,000 people watching the events of that day surrendered their lives to Jesus. Talk about power evangelism!

But what immediately preceded verses 38-39 is a telling response by the crowd of unbelieving onlookers to the words of Peter concerning the truth of Jesus and the power they had seen wrought in that gathering place by the Holy Spirit:

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
—Acts 2:37

This is not a simple question but a desperate one, the same kind of angst-filled reply that burned in the heart of Isaiah when confronted with the holiness of God and the true nature of his state before that holy God. It’s the conviction of sin.

When the Holy Spirit touches sinful people, He ALWAYS brings conviction of sin because He is HOLY, HOLY, HOLY. Prostrate before the Lord in repentanceEvery great revival of the last 300 years of recorded history has been marked by conviction of sin, people fleeing to the cross, and genuine repentance. The First and Second Great Awakenings, the Welsh Revival, the Azusa Street Revival—when Christians (especially charismatics) start talking about the Holy Spirit in revival, the results always lead to conviction, the cross, and repentance. ALWAYS.

So when I’m told about power evangelism supposedly being done in the power of the Holy Spirit, if I don’t hear about people coming to conviction, dying at the cross, and genuinely repenting of their dark sins in the light of the purity of the Holy Spirit, then I have got to wonder. Without those three essentials occurring in the lives of people touched by some sort of powerful spirit, I wonder just what spirit they received. Is it possible they are being influenced by a spirit who is not the Holy Spirit of God?

Real power evangelism done through the genuine power of the real Holy Spirit will convict people of their sins, drive them to the cross, and lead them to repentance. The Bible tells us this, and the great revivals of history add their own yes and amen.

If you are doing power evangelism and conviction of sin, dying to self at the cross, and repentance are not immediately following people’s power encounters, then stop what you are doing and ask yourself if you are truly ministering the genuine Holy Spirit to people.

We have got to stop being ignorant of the truths of God. This is simple stuff, but people are not using even basic biblical discernment to understand these truths. It’s just another example of how a lack of understanding of the words of the Bible leads to all manner of error. Better to know the Bible inside and out before one attempts anything resembling power evangelism.

27 thoughts on “The Three Marks of Genuine Power Evangelism

  1. Sulan

    Very good, Dan, and very much needed.

    I have served God for a long time, and the Holy Spirit continues to convict me and bringing me to areas of repentance in my life. It is an on-going growing ever closer to my Lord, as He changes me.

  2. Sulan

    One other thing, this reminds me of the churches who advertise a ‘revival’ to begin on a certain day, and run for a certain length of time. Always makes me wonder if the Holy Spirit knows He is supposed to show up. JMO

  3. Hi Dan,

    I agree with you to a point. God is holy, conviction of sin vital, dying to self essential, repentance crucial. However, there are some issues here.

    In Luke 17:11-19, we see Jesus healing ten leapers but only one returns to worship Jesus. Are we to take this apparent success in healing but apparent failure in the nine recognising and worship Christ as evidence of Jesus operating by another spirit. By no means!

    Healings and miracles, though a sign that the kingdom is near is no more a guarentee of salvation than it was for the Israelites who saw plenty but many remained consistently unfaithful. This should not necesssarily be taken as a failure of the person working in the power of the Spirit (ie Moses). It may the case, as you argue, that the people do not know how to express the gospel and that must be remiedied but nor does Scripture lead us to believe that you can always judge the faithfulness of the ‘power evangelist’ by the apparent results and that works both ways.

    Thank you for your article – it’s very stimulating and a necessary critique of some of the issues raised by the videos you posted but my appeal is don’t go further than Scripture in your correction,


    • Matt,

      One could make a strong case for a pre-Church argument to explain Luke 17:11-19. Also see John 16:7-8 for the role of the Spirit in conviction. It is the Holy Spirit who works justification within people, and that justification must be accompanied by conviction of sin.

    • paul

      Hi the reality of the ten lepers bro, is all were healed but only the who repented ( turned back to Christ) was made whole, I often think of that meaning 9 had leprosy taken away, but had it taken away and had his body rebuilt to.

      I’m a gospel preaching evangelist and to me this guy makes sense not issues to question, there are too many keyboard warriors as it is. I think he wasn’t lifting signs and wonders up as proof of anointing but more the fact that genuine conversion and salvation will follow genuine preaching.

      Preach the gospel and the gospel happens, it’s a fact, bless you

  4. …Dan, I used Isaiah 6 as my mediation this AM. One thing that struck me that I had missed before: Isaiah sees his lips as unclean. God’s spokesman for the day sees the very instrument of his ministry as his “sinspot”. How many speakers/preachers of our day start out their ministries with a crucifixion of their lip pride?

  5. David

    I was pondering the motivation of the evangelist. I can’t help but feel that an overwhelming love of others has to be a great part of the motivation of anyone seeking to evangelize. But what I’ve mostly seen is a sports-minded competition to rack up ‘jewels in the crown’.

    Compassion for the lost (NOT pity) needs to be a hallmark of evangelism.

    • David,

      Your association between love and evangelism points out the problem with follow-up. If you truly care about the people you’re evangelizing, you’ll also carve out the time to see that they are properly discipled, even if that leaves you alone to do the job.

      Now who’s a taker?

  6. Chris E

    Dan –

    Have you ever read the JI Packer book “Signs of the Spirit” ? In the first chapter of the book he deals with the Holy Spirit being used as a source of :

    – Power
    – Performance
    – Purity
    – Presentation (revelation)

    And points out both the biblical truths behind each strand, and the faults in the way in which each strand is articulated [usually as a result of being articulated separately from Scripture or the Gospel].

    His comments on ‘Power’ mirror yours.

  7. Cary


    Thanks for your posts. I appreciate your regular emphasis on the need for the church to be more evangelistic and in these last 2 posts bringing up the problem of how we often do a poor job of presenting the gospel. And as a charismatic, I heartily agree that all too often the emphasis is on seeking personal experience or encounter that focuses on self instead of the true work of the Spirit which will point us toward Jesus and the Father and outward toward others giving us the compassion for the lost that David notes above. I think that big issue is that we have made Christianity therapeutic. As you emphasize our core problem is sin, but even in the church we often don’t want to face that. We use passive language like brokenness, addiction, and having problems. I know. I use it, too. But instead of facing our true issue directly, that is our own sin and rebellion against God, we focus on the effects of sin. Only when we see our core sin problem clearly can we die to ourselves and truly repent by throwing ourselves on the mercy of Jesus. As Tim Keller puts it, we can only be truly humbled when we recognize how much we have been forgiven. Or better yet, as Jesus tells us, “… he who has been forgiven little, loves little. Luke 7:47b

    Blessings to you

  8. Lone

    may the Lord bring a lot of people to find this post
    – and understand it

    slowly, after soooo many years, I start to learn, that He already works your question out the same moment you ask it

    I believe it ll be so.
    bless You Dan

  9. Normandie

    Dan, we just sailed into a town where there’s internet access. Your blog is always one of the first I visit. Such good thoughts. Michael and I used them as a springboard for some of our intercession last night because we want to be vehicles for the Lord’s love to the lost around us. Among the cruisers out here, there aren’t many churches or many evangelizing, but we so often feel as if we’re the least and the last. Please pray, would you, that the Lord will give us clean lips and godly character and love so strong that those around us ask questions and want to know the Lord we serve?

  10. Dan: So when I’m told about power evangelism supposedly being done in the power of the Holy Spirit, if I don’t hear about people coming to conviction, dying at the cross, and genuinely repenting of their dark sins in the light of the purity of the Holy Spirit, then I have got to wonder.

    Dan, please stop being so modest and share with us all your marvelous power evangelism experiences (in which you get it right). I want to hear details and lots of them. With your expertise, you must have had plenty of experience in this area, expert enough to lecture everybody else about it, with plenty of stories and examples of what you have done personally. I am sure you have stories about sinners falling to the ground before your feet wailing and mourning under conviction, begging God for mercy, like out of a Wesley revival or like a scene at Cane Ridge. Tell us about the sick and lame being healed when you laid hands on them and prayed.

    I really, really want to hear about what you have seen and heard.

    • Oengus,

      I play drums on our worship team. I’m a decent drummer. Not star-caliber, and I’d probably starve if I had to make a living playing drums, but I know enough to play.

      I also can spot superb drumming and lousy drumming when I hear them. I know when a drummer has talent but no restraint, too, so that he overplays a song and ruins it. In other words, I don’t have to be a superstar to know good and bad.

      I’m a passable evangelist. The abilities God has given me have worked better in the teaching realm than in the evangelizing realm. That said, I have been used of God to lead people to Christ.

      Anytime anyone comes to Christ, it’s a power encounter. Whether the charismata enter into that is up to God’s use of that encounter. God has blessed me with several word gifts, most of which I have used for the edification of fellow believers. I can’t say that God has seen fit to use me for healing or miracles, but I always hold out that possibility that He will.

      In my own life, I can only think of one time where I was directly involved in helping lead another person to Christ when God employed a word gift through me. So no, my own track record can’t be cited as the perfect example of power evangelism at work. I continue to pray that God will use me in whatever way, “power” evangelism or “regular” evangelism, that He sees fit. And yes, this year I have come under conviction that I am not doing enough work as an evangelist as I have let other worldly concerns keep me from devoting more time to that function.

      The fact that I am not on the cutting edge of evangelism does not mean that I have no ability to speak to how it may be done correctly. Most Christians who have been around for a while know how to witness effectively and how to royally mess things up. My post here addresses the need to do evangelism correctly and to avoid royally messing it up. Everyone will mess up an encounter or two. It happens. But lousy preparation, teaching, and an understanding of who God is and how He works will ensure failure 9 times out of 10. And a person can do as much damage as he can do good.

      I will also add that I have long said here that I believe the charismata are not as prevalent (in the way of of “turn them on, turn them off”) as some charismatics believe. You know we disagree on this. Those who expect every encounter to be a power encounter may end up manufacturing a result, which is not going to help anyone. I also think there’s a lack of humility involved when someone announces that he and his crew are going to “whack people up” with the Holy Spirit. Do you not agree?

  11. Lone

    I m sorry for the sour comment of Moon.

    It wasn t about ‘what is happening now, or who does it better ‘. Appereantly, NOBODY does, YET.
    The whole point is, that – soon – it WILL happen

  12. BoPeep

    For 34 years I never witnessed a miracle. One night in Iowa, I heard the voice of GOD, just like
    Jonah. HE said, “GO TO WASHINGTON, D.C.!” There was a Pastor there who received the Holy
    Ghost baptism by the laying on of hands. A newborn baby had a serious heart defect. This Pastor
    rushed to the hospital, asking the surgeons if he could say one sentence, and they might take
    another x-ray, since the first x-ray showed a large hole in the baby’s heart. The Pastor’s words
    were: “FATHER, give this baby a NEW heart in JESUS name!” The second x-ray showed a new
    heart! No surgery needed! Hearing that story, I said to myself, “These people are either very true,
    or very crooked! There can be no INBETWEEN! I attended a 6 am Saturday morning meeting, and
    GOD in Jesus gave a woman a new body part! I was terrible in my UNbelief by laughing inside
    and thinking, “Surely these people don’t think GOD is going to give this woman a new organ to
    speak with!” That’s exactly what HE did, and I was the first to hear her talk, later, in the ladies
    room. I repented of all my UNbelief, and it was like stepping over a threshold–from NOTHING in
    GOD’s might, to many miracles of great power! I was dead for 3 hours on my wedding day, and
    JESUS raised me from the dead with no brain damage! Alleluia! In Matthew 10:5 & 8, JESUS
    commands to “RAISE THE DEAD” but I think, because of Satan, no one ever dares to say GOD’s
    Word, or consider trying. I refused to believe in an evil, invisible being, but when I knew I was
    wrong, GOD allowed Satan to appear to me while working at the State Department, and he’s very
    real! LOVE in Christ Jesus to you all!

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