The Cure for Disillusionment in Evangelism

“We had come to take it for granted that good organization and efficient technique, backed by a routine of prayers, was itself sufficient to guarantee results. We felt that there was an almost magical potency in the special meeting, the special choir and soloist, and the special preacher. We felt convinced that the thing that would always bring life into a dead church, or a dead town, was an intensive evangelistic mission. With the top of our minds, many of us still think that, or profess to think it. We tell each other that it is so, and make our plans on this basis. But with the bottom of our minds, in our heart of hearts, we have grown discouraged, and disillusioned, and apprehensive. Once we thought that well-planned evangelism was sure to succeed, but now we find ourselves afraid each time that it is going to fail, as it has failed so often before. Yet we are afraid to admit our fears to ourselves, for we do not know what to make of a situation in which our planned evangelism fails. So we repress our fears, and our disillusionment becomes a paralysing neurosis, and our evangelistic practice becomes a jaded and half-hearted routine. Basically, the trouble is our unconfessed doubts as to the worth whileness of what we are doing.

Why have we these doubts? Because we have been disillusioned. How have we been disillusioned? By the repeated failure of the evangelistic techniques in which we once reposed such confidence. What is the cure of our disillusionment? First, we must admit that we were silly ever to think that any evangelistic technique, however skillful, could of itself guarantee conversions; second, we must recognize that, because man’s heart is impervious to the word of God, it is no cause for surprise if at any time our evangelism fails to result in conversions; third, we must remember that the terms of our calling are that we should be faithful, not that we should be successful; fourth, we must learn to rest all our hopes of fruit in evangelism upon the omnipotent grace of God. For God does what man cannot do. God works by His Spirit through His Word in the hearts of sinful men to bring them to repentance and faith. Faith is a gift of God.”

-J.I. Packer Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

“The Sovereignty of God in Grace Gives Us Our Only Hope of Success in Evangelism”

“Some fear that belief in the sovereign grace of God leads to the conclusion that evangelism is pointless, since God will save His elect anyway, whether they hear the gospel or not. This, as we have seen, is a false conclusion based on a false assumption. But now we must go further, and point out that the truth is just the opposite. So far from making evangelism pointless, the sovereignty of God in grace is the one thing that prevents evangelism from being pointless. For it creates the possibility – indeed, the certainty – that evangelism will be fruitful. Apart from it, there is not even a possibility of evangelism being fruitful. Were it not for the sovereign grace of God, evangelism would be the most futile and useless enterprise that the world has ever seen, and there would be no more complete waste of time under the sun than to preach the Christian gospel.”

-J.I. Packer Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

“We, Who Would Speak for Christ”

“What is needed is this: that we, who would speak for Christ, should pray constantly that God will put and keep in our hearts a sense of His greatness and glory, and of the joy of fellowship with Him, and of the dreadfulness of spending time and eternity without Him; and then that God will enable us to speak honestly, straightforwardly, and just as we feel about these matters. Then we shall be really natural in presenting the gospel – and really serious too.”

-J.I. Packer Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

Evangelism as a Natural Thing

“It is a tragic and ugly thing when Christians lack desire, and are actually reluctant, to share the precious knowledge that they have with others whose need of it is just as great as their own. It was natural for Andrew, when he found the Messiah, to go off and tell his brother Simon, and for Phillip to hurry to break the good news to his friend Nathanael. They did not need to be told to do this; they did it naturally and spontaneously, just as one would naturally and spontaneously share with one’s family and friends any other piece of news that vitally affected them. There is something very wrong with us if we do not ourselves find it natural to act in this way : let us be quite clear about that.”

-J.I. Packer Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God