Can Evangelism Become an Idol?

1. Evangelism is the end that justifies the means.

I once had a friend in college who thought a great strategy for sharing Christ was to go to a public place with a friend and pretend to share the gospel with that friend for the first time in a way that others around could hear it. The friend was instructed to “play along.”

Some people might call it evangelism; truthfully, it’s called deception.

We can be guilty of this on a corporate level too. I have no better way to illustrate this point than to turn to the modern worship gathering. I’m all for doing things right and with quality, but somewhere along the way our worship bands were replaced with rock concerts.

Let me be clear, worship music doesn’t have specific musical notes, beats, rhythms or tones, so don’t hear me saying that we can only worship to hymns. The problem is not the music itself, it’s the spectacle.

Once, while at a collegiate conference, the worship session began, and with that came lasers and smoke. My friend standing next to me leaned over and said, “How did the early church worship without lasers and smoke?!” Good question.

If you ask people from churches with this type of worship model about why they spend money on things like lasers, fog machines and state of the art stage lighting, many will point to evangelism one way or another. Many have mission statements that they can point to that say they exist to attract people to Christ. Therefore, if a professional rock show is what it takes, so be it.

Evangelistic opportunities have become the spiritual tax write-off of evangelicals. Have an event, any event, present “the Gospel” at said event, and turn any trip to Six Flags or an all-night party into “EVANGELISM,” like magic.

Perhaps some of these events have their proper place in a church, but when they become the centerpiece of the work of the church and take up the majority of a staff member’s time planning, that should be a signal that all is not well.

2. Evangelism is emphasized to the exclusion of discipleship.

No doubt the Billy Graham era of evangelism that was ushered in after WWII brought many great things, most notably, a relationship with Jesus to countless numbers of people.

I’m very thankful for this time period, and for the work of evangelists like Billy Graham. But I think it was during that time we experienced a shift in our collective understanding of the Christian life.

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Shane Blackshear lives with his wife Kate and their new baby in Austin, TX. Shane blogs about faith and the church at and hosts a podcast called Seminary Dropout in which he interviews Christian authors, leaders and thinkers.