Madison Avenue Evangelists and Apollosite Converts

Dale Smelser
Zion, Illinois

It is imperative that we preach the saving gospel to as many people as we can reach. Purportedly this is the aim behind the present phenomena popularly called "Campaigns for Christ," but one sometimes gets the impression that they are really intended to advertise the "Church of Christ," or "Us," more than Christ. The campaigns often come out as simply Madison Avenue Evangelism.

I feel as if "We" are being emphasized more than Christ when the will of Christ is forgotten and several congregations function as an organic unit under men exercising more responsibility than one group of elders over a single congregation of Christ, the largest functioning organization in the New Testament. Such occurs when a committee plans the campaign for several churches which then comply.

When we glory in the large crowds, entertained by a choir preceding the congregational singing, the service of Christ has been forgotten. If several congregations can meet and utilize a choir (usually called a "chorus"), one congregation can do the same; thus logically choirs have crept into groups calling themselves churches of Christ. In some they have done so in fact.

Then there is the preaching and the preacher. Much of the preaching done is undoubtedly good. So is much that Billy Graham says. However in both cases it is evident that the preacher has a superficial appreciation of the gospel and church of Christ. Need this surprise us? After all, Apollos was an eloquent, scripture-filled preacher of the Lord who had to be taught more accurately (Acts 18:24-27). The difference between Apollos and today's "dynamic" evangelists is that he accepted the instruction and could therefore be useful to the Lord.

Consider the talented Jimmy Allen by way of illustrating that a shallow understanding exists. The December 1966 issue of the "Harding College Bulletin" tells "The Story of Jimmy Allen." While there are some good statements in the article about how one is brought to Christ', other statements overshadow any scriptural concept. One declares, "Harding's atmosphere converted him, and he's been preaching ever since." Another speaks of, "The new life he found at Harding."

It has been evident to the astute observer that what he has been doing is according to what he found at Harding rather than what can be found in the New Testament and now it has been inadvertently admitted.

Of his youth before conversion the article says, "He was, admittedly, as wild as a buck." There is the suspicion here that someone has an inordinate admiration for such a life. Paul did not consider his condition before conversion flippantly. Though sincere, he regretted his mistakes. Of a person who is sorry for past mistakes and has repented, "ungodly" or "irreverent" seem better ways to describe the kind of life indicated.

All totaled, isn't it evident that the full gospel power is not being delivered in today's "campaigns?" But what of all the converts? Truth with continued and full application is the only thing that makes and keeps people Christians. Remember those in Ephesus where Apollos had preached? Paul had to correct their impressions and they had to obey accordingly (Acts 19:1-5). I believe we have there a parallel to the converts in modern "Campaigns for Christ," even though the need for correction may lie in different areas. As for the preachers, Apollos was demonstrably more humble and sincere than today's get- it- done- no-matter-how-big-time-exalted-preachers.

March 1967