That None Should Perish - Ed Silvoso
The argument continues about whether Christians should evangelise or simply witness to their friends. These two are considered to be quite different, as if street evangelists have no friends and are incapable of making friends with anybody. Jeremy Myers considers evangelism to be embarrassing and says, 'make friends with people of other faiths, don't evangelise them, that would be disastrous.'
Why does evangelism have such a bad reputation? It is no doubt because we fail to bring down the spiritual forces that control our towns and cities. Our seed falls on stoney ground. Our words fall on deaf ears. Our evangelism comes across as being threatening or offensive if it lacks Holy Spirit anointing. Resistencia is a South American city where prisoners were volunteered to serve as soldiers during a war. They prayed to San La Murte - the Saint of Death - who would give them a peaceful death, rather than being tortured to death at the hands of the Indians. The cult of the Saint of Death lingered until the end of the 20th century, right up to the night when the high priestess of San La Murte died in a mysterious fire which destroyed only her bed and the statue of San La Murte in another room. The powers of darkness had been broken by the power of prayer.
To break such powers requires a great deal of prayer and a great deal of reconciliation among Christians. Christians are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. We influence spiritual activity. By falling out with eachother, or being bitterly divided over trivial doctrines, we give the powers of evil permission to build strongholds in the heavenly realms. First we need to remove the strongholds in our own minds. A local Methodist church in Sheffield wanted evangelism but not of other reiligions - what gospel are we preaching? If you can get to Heaven by being a good muslim or a good hindu, Christ died for nothing. This is one stronghold Christians have in their minds. Another is the reluctance to believe in miracles of healing, as many of us were taught to that these signs were only to authenticate the apostles or the gift of prophecy was there to enable the Bible to be completed. Another is the difficulty of believing that God will work practical miracles in people's lives. At a recent Empower meeting in Sheffield City Centre, someone was praying for the local businesses to be successful and for the schools to have sufficient funding. I wanted the prayers to become more spiritual. But to Ed Silvoso, that is how we should pray. God very often reveals himself to unbelievers by meeting their felt need. I have often asked people, 'Are you saved?' and been told, 'he saved me many a time.' Not the kind of salvation from sin and eternal punishment I have in mind but this is very often how faith in Christ begins. The God who has saved me many a time becomes relevant to my life. 60% of English people believe in God. Perhaps a similar number believe in life on other planets. But I believe if there was life on other planets it would be a billion light years away and we couldn't do much about it. God seems to be a billion light years away. Minor miracles bring him down to Earth. You don't have to seek Jesus, Jesus is seeking you. The shepherd is searching for the sheep. But if God meets a serious need in your life, your heart might overflow with gratitude, you might easily respond.
Some Christians find it difficult to pray like this. I remember, as a young Christian, telling someone I was praying for God to change the world. 'The Great Commission was to preach the gospel, not to change the world, we never will.' I was also taught that the prayer of a righteous man is heard so the prayer of an unrighteous man is never heard. There was one exception, that is the prayer of the unrighteous man for salvation. Praying for political things, such as more money for schools, is very difficult in a church where most people vote Conservative. Perhaps, at thie Empower meeting, they'd say the loudest Amen to prayers for Sheffield's businesses to prosper. I would pray for people to become Christians first, then good things would happen. I need to have more faith for God to work practical miracles.
Many British organisations have tried to bring churches together for large scale evangelistic mission. I was personally involved in Billy Graham's Mission England in the 1980s and Operation Mobilization's Love United Kingdom Evangelism in the 1990s. Neither had the same impact as Ed Silvoso and his teams. None of this is due to a greater openness in that part of South America - the number of Christians in Resistencia had been only 1.5%. The amount of prayer in our mission activities is inadequate. There were 600 prayer groups in Resistencia. Each ministered to a different part of the city and wrote down people's prayer requests in a book. It was possible to pray for everyone in the city by name and call on them afterwards to praise God for the answers. This enabled God to reveal himself to people with healing and practical miracles. It also drove back the forces of evil controlling the city. There were huge efforts to bring church leaders together, especially as the churches in Resistencia were very divided. 62 churches had resulted from 61 splits. Church leaders apologised for their divisions, held candles together and took communion together. Only then could they set up 600 prayer cells. Only after the prayer cells could they organise big evangelistic meetings. Then it became possible to take gospels to every house in the city without a sense of embarrassment or a fear of failure. Then it became possible to hire a big sports stadium for an evangelistic meeting and to actually expect thousands of people to turn up.
Some English churches try to follow the patten of the South American churches. If we could divide our church into little house groups across the city, what a revolution that would cause. They would double in size every six months, just like they did in South America. This is the application of a formula without understanding the principles behind the formula - that we've got to be one with eachother in love, of one heart and soul, like they were in the New Testament, that we've got to push back the powers of darkness in our neighbour's lives through prayer.
Unlike some of the other authors in this series, Ed Silvoso doesn't dislike being a professional minister or want to leave the established church. He does not say anything against it. While there are serious limitations to some church structures and they could be improved in many ways, it's more important to understand the principles behind people like Richard Jacobson and Jeremy Myers. The most important principles of the church are to have that love and unity that binds Christians together, to foster that spirit of reconciliation, to form close personal relationships that support new Christians and to pray together until the forces of evil over our cities have been defeated. Jeremy Myers believed that a house church could have serious problems. Selling the church building and simply replacing it with house churches won't do.