When we look at the Bible, into the ministry of Jesus as described in the four gospels and the mission of the early church as described in book of Acts, what we are able to see is that mass evangelism was mainly achieved through what can be called power evangelism, evangelism that is accompanied by a revelation of God’s power and intervention.
Jesus for example is described by Peter as a man accredited by God to men by miracles, wonders, and signs. Jesus mainly attracted listeners and followers through his miracles, wonders, and signs, and the spread of the news of those events through word of mouth. He then accompanied that with the ministry of the Word, through which the numbers of listeners tended to decrease rather than increase, as it is the example of that John 6. Conclusively, Jesus was interested not in having and keeping many listeners but in making disciples.
In the early church although there are two great sermons of Peter in Acts 2 and Acts 3, we can see they are preceded by events where God’s power and activity was revealed. In Acts 2 it was the coming of the Holy Spirit and the speaking in tongues where the Jews could hear the disciples speaking in foreign tongues declaring the wonders of God. This is a different kind of gift of spiritual tongue from the one we are more used to nowadays, and it is a sign to unbelievers as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 14:22 “tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers.”
In Acts 3, the sermon of Peter is preceded by the healing of the crippled beggar near the temple gate. Through this coupling of signs and the proclamation of the word that can be called power evangelism, in Acts 2, three thousand souls where added, and in Acts 3, around two thousand more were added. The same thing Paul testifies in 1 Thessalonians 1:5 when he says “our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”
In the last century, there has been a Pentecostal movement that has seen the number of churches and members multiply greatly through an emphasis on the Holy Spirit, its gifts, and the manifestation of the power of God. The beginning of the Pentecostal movement is normally traced back to the Azuza Street Revival that started in Los Angeles in 1906.
This movement grew initially in US and then throughout the world especially in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. It is estimated that everyday 35 thousand new people join Pentecostal churches worldwide, and that of the world’s two billion Christians, more than a quarter are now Pentecostals – 26.7% in 2011 (according to Pew Research), up from only 6% back in 1980.
Meanwhile the majority of the churches and believers still live ignoring the Holy Spirit and God’s power. Jesus did say, “whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do.”
Members are challenged to live not ignoring the Holy Spirit but rather recognizing and loving the Holy Spirit, learning to depend, be sensitive to him and listen to him, seek and receive the diverse gifts of the Holy Spirit and grow in them through practice and continuous training, and also impart spiritual gifts to other members. May we learn to receive the authority from above and to use it so the era of mass evangelism may open up one day sooner.