Dr. Albert Mohler yesterday released an interview in Thinking in Public with Frances FitzGerald who has just recently released a book on the evangelical movement. At one point in the interview, around minute marker 48 through 52 or so, he made these statements particularly as it has reference to the South though I would see a lot of this in reference to all of the U.S. and indeed other parts of the world too:
Revivalism…really doesn’t fit the cultural moment anymore as it once did….The changes in the cultural context are massive….There is no easy evangelism in that sense now. It’s very tough….t’s a very different missiological environment. It’s going to take a whole different set of skills….It won’t work to simply do the old things….Revivalism was a specific cultural moment.
Now, there is some degree of insight in the way he connected revivalism with certain cultural circumstances. Indeed, there is something powerful to realize that, under God’s providence, we Christinas are facing an enormously difficult task in evangelizing the lost. Mohler did indicate, speaking of his own call as a seminary president, that we need to see an army of pastors unleashed who will do ministry and in innovative ways. There is significant encouragement to recognize both the seriousness of our time and to realize we Christians still have a call to evangelize.
This being said, I would only feel compelled to caution by noting that in a fallen world, there is a sense that evangelism is never easy. Perhaps that is what Mohler is referring to by saying that there is “no easy evangelism in that sense.” (emphasis mine) One can question much of the fruit of the “revivalism” and wonder if for some it was an erection of the kind of cultural Christianity that is not really synonymous with Biblical Christianity. Yet, it is appropriate as I already noted that in God’s providence, the flow of favor to the gospel does go up and down sometimes, even notable within the Scriptures itself. I would only add to the discussions that as a dispensationalist it is often suggested that the church and the world will become increasingly hostile to Christianity leading up to the Lord’s return.
Additionally, we should be also cautious (and I speak from the fundamentalistic side of my faith) when he states that old ministry methods can’t be used today. Without getting into a wholesale debate about how church ministry should be done, caution is warranted in using this language. I find it helpful to see that the essence of church ministry, the kind of things in Acts 2:42, are still relevant. Perhaps new technological tools can aid us in doing those things. But, we must be very careful in how much innovation (by borrowing from the lost world) we engage in. I wouldn’t say for sure that I am saying anything different than Dr. Mohler on this point, but I only feel compelled to caution on this too.
It should be no surprise that we are in an era (again) where evangelism is not easy. Yet, we can and must seek to do it. In the Lord, we can see souls still come to Christ even against the secularizing and anti-Biblical culture and age. That is what we all have a duty to pursue as Christians.