I was talking to a church leader the other day about why they quit doing public evangelism, which reached tens of thousands of people and led many to the Lord and made many join the church. The main reason was that they had even higher expectations on the fruits the street evangelism would bring, and there was even a demanding pressure centrally from the denomination that basically was never satisfied. 25 years of this created a weariness and bitterness which in turned spawned a backlash, making the church quit public evangelism altogether.
The church leader said to me that there are people in the congregation who used to be very skilled in leading people to Christ but that now want nothing to do with street evangelism. They’ll still share the Gospel if they get the opportunity, but they hardly ever get the opportunity. Their anxiety caused by not meeting expectations was cured by lowering expectations to almost zero, and so many of them blamed street evangelism for not being fruitful enough while living a life that from an evangelistic standpoint is close to fruitless.
The emotional pain from almost being forced to share the Gospel with promises for a revival that never came is strong, and understandable. But it’s not a reason for letting people go to hell. As strong as our emotional dislike for an action may be, if the Bible commands it we should do it. As we recognise this and pray for strength to do it, God can heal our emotional scars.
I’ve argued before that the Bible describes public evangelism as something for all Christians, not just apostles and evangelists, and thus churches in the book of Acts evangelised publicly as a body. Furthermore, the Bible clearly teaches that evangelism is a good thing and that all believers should be ready to share the faith and lead others to the Lord. It doesn’t make much sense then to actively hide Jesus in public rather than going out there being loud and proud.
In terms of fruitfulness, public evangelism is actually very effective. Not only do you reach hundreds if not thousands of people with the Gospel if you do it weekly, public evangelism also trains disciples so that they get more equipped to witness in a private setting. So arguing that private evangelism is more effective isn’t a valid counter argument – even if it were, private evangelism is highly improved by the training public evangelism provides.
So since public evangelism is fruitful, and Jesus wants us to evangelise fruitfully, we are disobedient to Jesus if we don’t do it as local churches. Jesus commands us to preach from the rooftops and make disciples of all nations, we don’t choose to follow that based on emotion. Saying “No, Lord” is a self-contradiction.