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.

Fumbling the Gospel


I would prefer not to start the week with a rant, but this one has been stewing in me for some time, and unless I get it out, it will only nag at me further.

Please read this post today, even if you’re not up for an in-your-face message. And while much of this is aimed at charismatics, it applies to everyone. Because it’s not just charismatics who are missing the point.

I write this today because my heart is just sick with the way we are presenting the Gospel to the lost. I’m writing because our teens are not getting the proper indoctrination into the Faith. I’m writing because I am tired of fellow charismatics who treat the Holy Spirit like a cudgel. I’m writing because a lot of people who “asked Jesus into their heart” are going to hell.

The pastor of my former church linked from Facebook to the following video:

This video, as labeled, purports to show healing revival going on at Disneyland. A group of Christians wanted to pray for strangers at the park. My response: Great! Go for it!

But then the uh-ohs start. You can find one between 40-50 seconds in. Another comes at 4:07-4:20.

There’s a move in some charismatic churches into what has been deemed “power evangelism.” For those not familiar with the term, it involves using the charismata to evangelize people. This includes healing encounters and speaking words of knowledge and prophecy to the lost.

I want to state upfront that I believe power evangelism can be a remarkable tool to lead people to Christ.

But there’s a big “IF” attached to that statement. And part of that if shows at the 4:07 mark.

Power evangelism works if power encounters with the Holy Spirit are immediately followed with the truth of God’s word, the presentation of the Gospel, repentance, and a completely changed life. In that way, people who have genuine power encounters with the Holy Spirit are not just affected by the power encounter, but by the reality of who Jesus is as presented in the Gospel.

When I hear people claiming to be born again because they asked Jesus into their heart, it riles me. Not because Jesus doesn’t dwell in the believer, but because the whole idea of asking Jesus into one’s heart has no biblical basis for salvation.

Paul Washer provides an eloquent counter to this unbiblical concept. I encourage you heartily to watch the whole video. It’s worth it:

Entire churches are dedicated to equipping their youth for power evangelism (such as this well-known example). And while on the surface that sounds awesome, I have enormous reservations.

My key reservation is the same concern shared by Paul Washer: We evangelicals and charismatics no longer understand what the Gospel is. And we don’t understand it because the people who are supposed to be transmitting the truth of the eternal Gospel of Jesus Christ have fallen down on the job, distracted by prosperity teachings, comfort, the American Dream, fun, entertainment, self-help, and even, sad to say, power encounters with the Holy Spirit (the why of which I’ll explain later on).

I think it would be safe to say that the average teen in a charismatic church who may be receiving encouragement to do power evangelism can’t articulate what the real Gospel is. In fact, knowing what I know of youth ministry today, I doubt that most teens in evangelical or charismatic churches could lay out a basic plan of salvation with a half dozen Bible verses in support.

And that’s a crime.

Say a youth group decides to go out and do prophetic prayer ministry at a mall filled with lost people. A few scenarios exist:

1. Teen prays a prophetic word over someone. Person blows them off and walks away. Result: That person may stay lost because they have not heard the Gospel.

2. Teen prays a prophetic word over someone. Person listens, is touched by the prayer, but walks away. Result: That person may stay lost because they have not heard the Gospel.

3. Teen prays a prophetic word over someone. Person listens, is touched, and asks what next to do. Person is told to ask Jesus into his/her heart. Result: That person may stay lost because they have not heard the Gospel.

4. Teen prays a prophetic word over someone. Person listens, is touched, and asks what next to do. Person is told to ask Jesus into his/her heart. That person manages to retain enough interest in the experience to look into it further and, hopefully, stumbles across someone someday who actually explains the real Gospel to them. Result: That person may truly get saved and develop a love relationship with Jesus.

Numbers 1 through 3 are a complete loss, in my opinion, while 4 is the equivalent of fumbling the football and hoping your side recovers the loose pigskin—except in this gridiron classic, there’s not just one team playing against you, but hundreds, if not thousands.

Chances are, these mallwalkers who do bite may taste the fruits of heaven, end up calling themselves Christians, and fall into that netherworld of religiosity dominated by what I call “antiwitnesses.”

Too cynical? Well, I’m not done yet…

If the teens on this prophetic outreach can’t articulate the Gospel, can we be sure they even know what it is? And if they don’t know what it is, then are they truly saved themselves? And if all this is in question, what spirit is driving their power evangelism? Yikes!

(If you think I’m just charismatic bashing, then you’ll have to argue with well-known charismatics Andrew Strom and Derek Prince on these same issues. And for evangelicals, see “10 Reasons to Not Ask Jesus into Your Heart.”)

Youth ministry in this country is in a full-on freefall if we look at its ultimate results. Surveys by many of the most respected Christian pollsters and organizations repeatedly show that the majority of our supposedly born-again young people go into college as Christians and come out as unbelievers. George Barna paints an even bleaker picture, wherein only 0.5% of those ages 18-23 hold what is considered to be a traditional Christian worldview. No matter how you may want to slice and dice Barna’s figure, it’s a tragedy.

Those heartwrenching numbers exist solely because we in the Church today are not instructing our young people in the faith. They don’t know the Gospel. If they did, they wouldn’t be falling away in droves.

Instead, we teach kids who may not know the Gospel how to do power evangelism. Then they go around trumpeting how they’re going to “whack people up with the Holy Spirit.”

Frankly, I’d like to “whack up” whatever heretical “teacher” ever taught someone to talk about the blessed Holy Spirit in such a crass, demeaning way. Godless people speak that way about the members of the Trinity, not those who are indwelt by the genuine Holy Spirit. And for another thing, the Holy Spirit exists to relentlessly point to Jesus, not to Himself. Again, if we don’t know that, we don’t know the Gospel.

Are you mad yet at the foolishness that passes for discipleship and ministry today?

You don’t give a howitzer to a baby, no matter how much they may scream for it. The early Church did not let people go off spiritually half-cocked like we do today. Maturity was lauded and immaturity criticized.

We MUST instruct the immature in the basics of the faith. Any 13-year-old kid who was raised in a church MUST be able to espouse basic doctrine, including the core of the Gospel,  in a coherent way. When I was that age, I had to study my Lutheran catechism for hours, do personal Bible study on basic doctrine, and sit through a one-hour, two-on-one  grilling on tough issues of the faith by the pastor and youth worker before I was considered an adult member of the church.

We have GOT to get back to that kind of intensive discipleship or this will be the terminal generation of the Church. God will not forever excuse the kind of educational folly we’re practicing in all too many churches before He takes decisive action.

In a bit of sychronicity, I happened to stumble across a likeminded post over at iMonk’s blog, “Higher Things: A New Model of Youth Ministry.” It reads like a breath of fresh air, even if it’s again the Lutherans doing it right. I’m just glad SOMEONE takes ministry to the next generation seriously. Much more power to ’em.

But as for the rest of us, we’re atrocious at turning our young people into mature Christians. Atrocious. Too many distractions knock us off the core, foundational doctrines.

Power evangelism is incredible when it’s in the hands of people who know the Gospel, can articulate it, and know how to discern good from evil. But that simply is not our young people today.

If we want to undermine the Church in America even more, let’s keep being stupid about discipleship. But God help us then on Judgment Day.

Banking on God: Theology, Part 3


I’d not intended on writing a third post on theology in my “Banking on God” series, but a combination of events convinced me I need to say more.

Today in church, we had a visiting evangelist from Ghana in Africa. He regularly comes to our church because we help his missions organization minister in the countries of Liberia, Ghana, and Togo. He’s a gentle, self-effacing, native-born African who always has a powerful word to speak to us Americans, especially how we must bring Jesus to Africans and also address their extreme poverty.

As I listened to him speak, he drove home a truth that can’t be ignored. And while I already knew of the situation he detailed, I never saw how critical it was until yesterday morning.

Islam continues to swallow the northern half of Africa, with more and more countries becoming majority/exclusively Muslim each year. Poverty, Christianity, and Islam in AfricaPart of the reason for Islam’s growth in Africa is that “evangelists” for Islam have learned what Christian missionaries knew for years: people are more willing to embrace your message if you help meet their physical needs.

To this end, Muslims are building schools, hospitals, wells, orphanages, electrical generators, and mosques at record pace. And they’re doing so backed by the money we pay for oil. With a barrel of oil over $100, it doesn’t take a genius to see where this is heading. The Saudis funnel massive amounts of money to Islamic “missions” programs, and the leaders of those programs go into villages loaded full of cash they lavishly spend to help poor people out of crippling poverty.

This evangelist told us that this is a very difficult issue to overcome, especially when Christians cannot muster the same outpouring of largess. Worse, he told us that many projects by a number of Christian ministries in his area have stalled due to a lack of funds.

Part of his work is to help new converts find work because so many people are stuck in grinding poverty. His organization equips people to start businesses and find careers because the need is so great and so practical. His hope is that the Christians in the countries he ministers to will leverage their new businesses to make local churches self-supporting. But they are not there yet.

Sadly, as Christian efforts break even or stall, the continued flood of cash by Muslim organizations is perpetuating Islam’s tsunami through Northern and Central Africa.

I heard this and, I’ll tell you, it just made me sick to my stomach. Truly.

I don’t want to think that the reins we keep on our wealth here in the American Church are so tight that millions will go to a Christless eternity for our stinginess. And while some may argue that money is not the reason for people going to hell, surely a lack of benevolence on our part contributes to that outcome. The starving African should not come to the Christian and be turned away for lack of funds—only to find comfort in the arms of wealthy Islam.

Are we ready for that kind of apologetic? Isn’t it sad to think that Christians, who once built the vast majority of hospitals, schools, and orphanages around the world are being rapidly outspent in those same areas by Muslims?

In an age when rational Western Christians have largely dismissed signs and wonders evangelistic techniques, we either need to re-evaluate our anti-supernatural position in light of Islam’s outpouring of cash or exceed that benevolence with our greater giving. If we can’t compete monetarily, we better have something a whole lot better to offer people, something that meets their physical need right where they are.

As the Bible notes,

But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”
—Acts 3:6

That’s something Islam can’t possibly hope to match.


Banking On God: Series Compendium