The changing face of evangelism
Evangelists, with numbers dwindling, stick to Scripture
while adapting to new methodologies
By John W. Kennedy
Evangelism in America in 2008 doesn’t conjure up images of
Billy Sunday, or even Billy Graham. Like a lot of other popular forms of mass
communication — movie musicals, TV Westerns and competing city
newspapers, to name a few — crusade evangelists aren’t as prevalent or
widely known as before.
The era when a crusade could pack a city stadium with tens
of thousands of people eager to hear an evangelist preach and a robed choir
sing seems almost nostalgic. It’s not due to any lack of worthy successors to
Billy Graham. Rather, societal expectations, schedules and priorities have
With more urban commuters and a plethora of interactive
technological alternatives contending for free time, fewer Americans appear
willing to soak in biblical wisdom for a couple of hours three or four evenings
But savvy evangelists who have survived the culture shift
are tailoring their outreaches for a new generation. While sticking to
scriptural truths, they have reinvented their methodology. Instead of being a
general revivalist, many are specializing in a certain area, such as baptism in
the Holy Spirit or youth ministry. Others are cooperating with compassion
ministries or other parachurch organizations in conducting outreaches as a way
to broaden their appeal.
Additional adjustments are noticeable. Rather than
crisscross the entire country, evangelists are likelier to focus on geographic
regions. And many are serving as husband-and-wife teams.
“Our Fellowship was founded on revival and crusades,” says
Marshall Windsor, national evangelists representative for the Assemblies of God
in Springfield, Mo. “But we’re on different turf today. We have to adapt with
The Assemblies of God and other fellowships saw their
numbers of evangelists decline over the past two decades.
Because mainstream society has grown more pluralistic and
cynical, itinerant evangelists are finding fewer opportunities to minister in
public venues such as a city park or high school auditorium.
Many local congregations have changed as well. Fewer
churches are holding Sunday evening services, which has curtailed the typical
four-night consecutive evening revival meetings of the past. Likewise, Sunday
morning services typically are shorter than a generation ago, leaving less time
for evangelists to make a presentation.
“Gone are the days when a church camp meeting was a big
event in town,” says Windsor, 46.
Still, evangelists fill vital complementary and
supplementary roles in meeting the spiritual needs of a local church, according
to Randy Hurst, Assemblies of God commissioner on evangelism.
“An evangelist supplements by providing a particular
specialty that may not be the local pastor’s strength, such as teaching on
Spirit baptism,” Hurst says. “The evangelist complements by teaching the people
from a second voice that confirms what the pastor has been sharing with them.”
On the other hand, the position of “staff evangelist” is
growing among AG churches. The role allows an ordained evangelist to
occasionally teach and train those in the local congregation while still
focusing on reaching those outside the church. Usually staff evangelists
receive an office, health insurance and small stipend in conjunction with the
Greg and Robyn Hubbard have been staff evangelists at Glad
Tidings AG in Reading, Pa., since 1999. One week a month they preach services,
spearhead outreaches and do evangelism training at the church. The rest of the
time they are on the road — including leading church teams on
overseas missions trips.
“After 22 years of ministry as an evangelist that has
included church revivals, over 130 youth camps and ministry around the world,
the passion of our hearts continues to be reaching the lost, seeing believers
baptized in the Holy Spirit and to see each church ignited with a fresh
vision,” says Greg, 49. “Staying current with the culture is key.”
Gayle A. Brostowski, 44, has been staff evangelist at Green
Ridge AG in Scranton, Pa., since 1994. While she is scheduled for revival
crusades or Sunday services in the Northeast or mid-Atlantic states for 47
weeks of the year, Brostowski is grateful to have a local church link.
“It provides a covering and accountability,” says
Brostowski, who is single. “It also allows me to function in a pastoral role
through hospital visitation or occasionally teaching a Wednesday evening Bible
study when I’m home.”
Tim and Rochelle Enloe, based in Wichita, Kan., have
traveled throughout the nation and to 30 foreign countries with their teaching
and music ministry. For 15 years, for 50 weeks annually, the Enloes have
focused on connecting listeners with the Holy Spirit’s power.
“Today’s culture is so unchristianized in its desires,” says
Tim, 37. “Postmoderns are looking for experience and wanting something that
will have a long-term impact in their life. The message of Spirit baptism fills
As with many evangelists’ wives, Rochelle Enloe acts as a
crucial ministry partner. She is the administrator, and shares in speaking,
authoring books, and music and prayer ministry.
Some evangelists still find favor at tax-supported institutions.
Wayne Northup conducts high-energy choices-based assemblies in high schools.
After much good-natured humor, Northup in the final few minutes talks about the
rebellion of his teenage years that included abusing illegal drugs. Although
not allowed to speak about Jesus during the daytime presentations, Northup
wraps up his appearance with a quick pitch for students to return in the
evening to hear about how his personal faith helps him in life. About 40
percent customarily return for the evening session. Last year he addressed
100,000 students across the nation.
“We hit the pain in the schools,” says the 33-year-old
Northup, who is assisted by his wife, Kristi. “I’ve had students come up to me
weeping about being diagnosed with cancer. They have written me gut-wrenching
letters talking about the family cycle of alcoholism.”
Northup has embraced technology through his ministry Web
site, MySpace account and photo-laden blog as a way to connect with the youth
he’s trying to reach.
The Enloes jumped on the modern technology bandwagon early,
opening their ministry Internet site in 1996.
People from around the world have accessed the free ministry
materials available on the site. In fact, many biblically based house groups in
countries where church buildings are scarce or forbidden burn a compact disc of
sermons from the site. The groups play the materials in a DVD player as a
teaching aid during the church service because they don’t have a pastor.
“The Web is a great tool,” Enloe says.
Windsor’s national office provides a Web site
(http://evangelists.ag.org) to help educate, mentor and connect evangelists.
The site’s main feature is a searchable directory of AG evangelists. Windsor is
exploring the option of overseeing one-week schools for evangelists, offering
mentoring and internships in conjunction with AG colleges and Bible schools.
“Evangelists can have a tremendous place in teaching,
training and equipping the church,” Windsor says. “They can take the fear out
of sharing faith and being the witness the Lord wants us to be.”
Youth specialist Northup, who also conducts summer camps,
weekend conventions and a Mardi Gras outreach, has started a school for
evangelists at the church where he serves as missionary evangelist, Oaks
Fellowship in Red Oak, Texas. Graduates of Bible colleges or Master’s
Commission ministries attend the school in an effort to find their evangelism
“The model is changing and we’re living in a specialty
world,” Northup says. “We’re shifting away from the old way of simply calling
up pastors in the district and seeing if they have a time for you to speak.”
Still, Windsor notes that a recent survey conducted by his
office of more than 5,000 pastors shows that local ministers are largely
supportive of the role of evangelists. The study shows that 37 percent of AG
pastors invite an evangelist to their church annually while another 32 percent
have an evangelist come twice or more per year. Only 7 percent of AG pastors
never have evangelists hold meetings.
“There still is a demand for old-time Pentecostal
revivalists to help round out a church’s ministry,” Windsor says. “God is still
calling men and women into a ministry where He alone guides and provides.”
Hurst says evangelists provide teaching and exhortation that
motivates churchgoers in areas such as helping them mature in Christ and being
motivated for personal evangelism — which all Christians are called to
“The most critical issue in evangelism today is the
credibility of the messenger,” Hurst says. “If people in our churches are not
living godly lives, blameless before the world, the credibility of their
JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of Today’s Pentecostal
Evangel and blogs at Midlife Musings (jkennedy.agblogger.org).
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