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The Role Of Evangelism In Church Growth In Esan East District Of Assemblies Of God Nigeria


The greatest commandment of the Lord is preaching the gospel all over the world.

It is the duty of all Christians to preach the gospel to the world. If we are negligent about it, we may lose God’s blessings. When we study the way Jesus preached the gospel, we see that He personally met people individually and called them to become His disciples. Those who met Jesus personally became evangelists themselves, proclaimed God’s Word, and expanded the church. Jesus built the church so that it would do His work after He left this earth. Therefore, it is the mission of the church to go out and preach the gospel. To carry out this mission the author’s church held Evangelism Mobilization Day, through which every church member could participate in evangelism and realize the importance of training. With the example of Assemblies of God church members, this project shows the role of evangelism in church growth.




1.1    Background of the Study   

The primary task of Christians in the world is to go into the world in order to preach the Goodnews to all creatures, a command which was given by Jesus Christ. (Mark 16: 15-16). In relation to evangelism in Africa and the entire world, it seems likely that many Christians have neglected their roles in the society. It seems that the attention of many Christians is now directed towards fulfilling their own will to the detriment of the Gospel.

There is no denying the fact that by reading the “signs of the times” the Christian Church in Africa and the developing world develops its unique self-understanding in response to the challenges posed by Africa’s Socio-economic, political and cultural context. Whether we construe the character of this response as “message” or as “mission,” the crucial point lies in the fact that the Church’s relevance and credibility depend on how effectively it addresses the prevailing social context in Africa and the entire developing world. The Church in Africa has the option of either preaching a Gospel which responds to the structural challenges of a continent which to many is marginalized or the African Christians will find themselves sinking with the unfulfilled hopes of Africans. If the Church in Africa neglects this African context, certainly she stands the chance of risking the loss of the Church’s relevance and credibility. (Orobabor 2000: 160-168).


In the midst of the present level of development in Africa and the entire world, there is the urgent need for evangelism and re-evangelisation of people with a view to bringing forth a Church that is growing at a reasonable speed. Here, we assert that apart from the non-Christians being brought to the true knowledge of God through Jesus Christ, professed Christians need to be re-focussed to their calling as evangelizers.

In this work therefore, we have examined such issues as the definition of evangelism, Jesus the visible sign of the world, the works of the Apostles, the spread of the Goodnews, Evangelism and the Church, who sends? the challenges facing evangelisation, and the implication of evangelism on Church growth. It is envisaged that this work will stimulate further research as far as the issue of evangelism and Church growth is concerned.


1.2    Statement of the Problem  

In these days of rapidly changing and highly advanced civilizations, people seem to enjoy affluence and happiness but inwardly they have lots of troubles and are struggling with distress. The explosive population surge has made the earth crowded. It is a tragedy that 75% of the world’s population is non-Christian and people wander around and feel left out even among a crowd. What is more deplorable is that it is not easy to maintain intimate and meaningful relationships with others. Therefore, a sudden encounter with a stranger makes one fear because he might be a threat to his own life and dignity.

This is a problem in evangelism. Shunning away from evangelistic conversation can be understood as another aspect of this social phenomenon. However, Jesus and His disciples effectively preached the gospel to the crowds and to individuals with all the problems of their day. Jesus and his disciples placed the same amount of importance both on preaching the gospel to the crowd and preaching the gospel to individuals. We should not neglect any of the methods Jesus and his disciples used in their day. The characteristics and advantages of preaching the gospel to individuals are that evangelists get to meet with the individuals face to face and thus develop a more intimate relationship with them. Preaching the gospel to individuals has been found to be more effective than preaching to the crowds in leading people to the Lord and contributes more to church growth in the long run.

The author has witnessed this phenomenon as a minister in his own church. All sorts of efforts, such as church retreats, door-to-door evangelism, evangelizing the poor by helping them out, and gospel preaching through letters, have been found to be far less efficient ways of church growth than evangelism. That is why the author has concluded that evangelism (preaching the gospel face to face) is a more effective method for church growth.

“God had only one son and He made that Son a missionary.” 2 Jesus thought highly of evangelism and understood it correctly. C. E. Autrey said, “evangelism is in the center of the gospel preaching of Christ. By successfully preaching the gospel to his first disciple, Andrew, Jesus showed him how to present the gospel to his brother Simon and bring him to Jesus.

What did Jesus preach to Andrew? He preached the gospel from heaven. What is the gospel from heaven? In Luke 19: 10, Jesus spoke of the purpose of his coming to the earth. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (The New International Version is used to quote the Bible passages in the study.) Mark 10:45 also says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” He was clearly aware of the purpose God had in sending Him to the earth, believed it, and witnessed about it. Jesus clearly declared himself as Messiah to Andrew. Andrew firmly believed that and became the first individual evangelist.

According to the New Testament, Andrew is the first evangelist of those who met Jesus on the earth (John 1:41). Andrew, on the other hand, had heard what John the Baptist had said before he followed Jesus. It can be found in John 1:29, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” After Jesus was baptized and went up out of the water, John the Baptist clearly listened to the voice from heaven that said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” and John saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove on Jesus. After that, Andrew personally met Jesus and accepted him as his Messiah.

What was it that Andrew was eager to do right after he met Jesus? The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah.”

He personally preached the gospel to another individual. 4 He brought his brother Peter to Jesus and Peter became one of Jesus’ disciples (John 1 :42). Peter was Jesus’ topnotch disciple, who disowned Jesus three times in the middle of the courtyard while Jesus was being accused before Pilate. Later, on the day of Pentecost, however, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, addressed the crowd, and led about three thousand to accept his message and get baptized. The number grew to about five thousand and more people were added to their number daily and this greatly helped expand the church of Jerusalem. This is a good example of church growth made possible through evangelism. Jesus showed Andrew and then Andrew witnessed to Peter.

This gives us a lesson that evangelism may seem like a little yeast or a mustard seed but that it has the potential to greatly expand the Lord’s kingdom. A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough and a mustard seed, though it is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when it grows, is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches. These examples might suggest the expansion of God’s kingdom and the church growth through evangelism. All these metaphors are used to reveal what Jesus did on the cross. When we believe that Jesus died on the cross to forgive our sin and was resurrected with the work of Holy Spirit, we are saved. This is the gospel. The evangelist should deliver this simple truth to individuals. Since only Christ is our gospel, we need to preach that Jesus Christ, who is the perfect God and perfect man, is the only Savior of mankind. Thus, Calvin said that every fallen human being should seek salvation in Christ the Lord. In Acts 4: 12, the apostle Peter said, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Jesus Christ is our only salvation and gospel.

1.3 Objective of the Study

The main objective of the study is to ascertain the following phenomenon in the Assemblies of God, and find solutions to them.

  1. Whether Evangelism really has become unpopular in Assemblies of God
  2. Find out whether Churches are growing quantitatively based on the effort of the believers in evangelism or people are just moving from one church to the other.
  3. How to revive the zeal of believers to embark on effective Evangelism


1.4 Significance of the Study

This study is significant because, though much has been written on Evangelism in general, this study focuses on the individual evangelism in the Assemblies of God in the Nigerian milieu in particular. Moreover, the study intends to add to the already existing works on the trend of evangelistic history, growth strategies and contributions to the church’s expansion process in Nigeria. Beside, the study may provide a form of scientific information which could aid in further research works on the topic in future.



1.5 Methodology

The methodology used for this research is the survey method. It was used to gather in­formation from respondents per their opinions on evangelism and its impact on church growth.  Both qualitative and quantitative methods were used. One hundred questioners were sent out to various churches in the district. Interviews were conducted for both the congregation and the Pastors of different Pentecostal/Assemblies of God in the Esan East District, in Edo state Metropolis, espe­cially in the Assemblies of God Churches (AOGC).  Questionnaires were sent to students of the School of Theology and Missions of the Central University College to ascertain their views on the topic as Pastors and future labourers of Christ. The Systematic Random Sampling method was used in connection with the Churches and members who were interviewed.


1.6 Research Questions

  1. Has Evangelism really become unpopular in Assemblies of God?
  2. Are Churches growing quantitatively based on the effort of believers in evangelism?
  3. How can the zeal of believers to embark on effective Evangelism be revived?


1.6 Delimitation

Due to the fact that getting to all the Churches in the state can prove to be an impossible task, the study was conducted as a case study of Assemblies of God Churches sampled in the Esan East District in Edo state to find out evangelistic activities in these churches. The scheduled interviews were conducted with about six pastors in the district. Questionnaires were sent to members of AOG in the Esan East District .


1.7 Limitation

  1. Availability of time of the pastors to grant interviews
  2. Limited time span for the interview did not allow for comparison with what is prevalent in other cities and towns outside Edo state.
  3. Retrieving questionnaire



An overview of all the literature consulted is that although some past and contemporary scholars have written at length on Evangelism in general, on the other hand, there is scanty work done specifically on Evangelism, especially from among the Nigerian academia. Literature examined delineates various views on the topic. Some writers concentrated on evangelism in the apostolic era, others wrote on it in the Protestants and revivalists periods, while some scholars wrote their observations on evangelism in Nigeria in the colonial period, whereas others focused on Pentecostal/charismatic period and contemporary times. Some Nigerian writers, such as Dag Heward-Mills, Samuel D. Agyeman-Duah, Bishop Charles Agyin-Asare and others have written on Evangelism from the Nigerian perspective.


In The Soul Winner, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, terms soul winning as “that most royal employment”. He argued that the most important work of every Christian is the saving of souls, and that it is to be desired more than any other work. His emphasis is that the increase of the kingdom is more to be desired than the growth of a clan. To the author, if the church is not increasing in membership, then the prayers of the people and their preaching may not be the most powerful of to win the lost.  Some of the important topics Spurgeon dealt with in the Soul Winner are:

  • What is it to win a soul?
  • God-ward and Man-ward qualities for soul winning.
  • How to win souls for Christ and
  • Saving souls: Our One Business.

In chapter eight, Spurgeon emphasized that for one to win a soul; the soul winner must be full of the love of God and be sure of his/ her salvation before attempting to witness to somebody about Christ. To him, the passion and the urgency of the evangelist must not be to call people to abstain from wrong-doing, but to repent and turn to God for the regeneration of their spirit. The preaching of the gospel must end up in men renouncing their sins and running to Christ for pardon. One may agree with Spurgeon on the points raised concerning the urgency of preaching the gospel for the salvation of the unsaved. If there is to be regeneration of the sinner it will be by the preaching of the gospel for the remission of sins and receiving of the ‘new life’ in Christ. This is what guarantees true repentance and salvation that leads to the growing of any church.  Though Spurgeon, somehow talks about evangelism, he does not specifically mention why evangelism has become unpopular among charismatic Christians.


In The Evangelism Mandate (Recovering the Centrality of Gospel Preaching), Larsen states that; “every Christian should be an evangelist in this sense, and indeed there is mounting evidence of evangelistic resurgence around the world”. Quoting T.R Glover he agreed that witnessing is the whole work of the church in the whole world throughout the whole age. The book has three divisions.  The first part deals with Salvation from Sin, the second part deals with how one is sent to Preach, and the third part deals with the Strategy for Evangelism. Larsen treats the Priority of Evangelism in part 1 (Salvation from Sin) which included the Theology of Conversion and the Psychology of Conversion.  He asserts that every list of Christian priorities must include evangelism, stressing that the chief end of every man is to know God and glorify Him. The means by which all men will know God is through the preaching of the Gospel by those who have been saved. Just as the Lord said to His covenant children ‘You are my witnesses’, (Isaiah 43:10) so must the Christians be. According to Larsen, every true conversion must lead one to faith in Christ Jesus who brings salvation to all men. Therefore any man who is truly converted will seek for God in the assembly of His people.

In the part 2 Larsen dealing with the Sent to Preach traced the ancestry of evangelistic preaching form the Old Testament through the Gospels to the Acts of the Apostles and agrees with Carlyle when he asked:

How did Christianity rise and spread? Was it by institutions and establishments and well-arranged systems of mechanism? No! It arose by mystic depths of Man’s soul; and was spread by the preaching of the “Word of life”, by simple, altogether natural and individual efforts; and flew, like fire, from heart to heart…” (As cited in “Signs of the Times” in Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, 1949).


If Christianity grew through individual effort, then the Church of today can grow through the effort of ordinary people who are daring and passionate in sharing their faith with non believers. In part 3 Larsen deals with the Strategy for Evangelism stressing in chapter 10, the role and place of the Holy Spirit in every evangelistic endeavour. He emphasises that the Holy Spirit is the one who convicts one of sin which leads to repentance and conversion. Without the Holy Spirit, no one can win anybody to Christ. The Holy Spirit gives the power for witness and performs the miracle of regeneration in the heart of a person. To him, just as the Holy Spirit enabled the early church to evangelise and grew the Church, so the evangelist of today should be full of the Holy Spirit in order to be an effective soul-winner.


On evangelism, he states that it has been an essential component of Christian service. Larsen agrees with Stanley Jones that the vast majority of Christians are not committed to evangelism. One may agree with Larsen when he states that; “the days when we conducted seminars in personal soul-winning have faded, and the books such as L.R. Scarborough’s With Christ after the Lost or R. A. Torrey’s How to bring Men to Christ or John R. Rice’s The Soul Winners Fire are not as popular now as they once were”. In Nigeria, it is doubtful of many Christians or pastors have read Heward-Mills’ book: Win the Lost at all Cost. The lost of interest in evangelism is echoed by Osborn (1963.ed, 94) that while the traditional churches are losing members, a sect was growing consistently due to their emphasis on evangelism.


In Evangelism and Missions (2007), Dag Heward-Mills’ passion for souls and the drive for soul winning and church planting are seen through it. Stressing the importance of evangelism, Heward-Mills reiterates what Torreys and others said earlier. He concludes that any church that lacks the passion of evangelism is losing its focus and core mandate. To him, every Christian has been called first and foremost to be an instrument through which God can reconcile the world unto Himself. Being passionate about Soul winning, Heward Mills challenges pastors to be seriously involved in soul winning if they want their churches to grow.    In the second chapter of the book, he emphasized on the need to focus on Evangelism for Church growth as he states; “A good pastor is the one who seeks and saves the lost and the ultimate goal of every minister is to win the lost to Christ” (Heward-Mills, 2007, 9).  Thus, basing his belief on the Scriptures of 1 Timothy 1:15 which says “Christ Jesus came to the world to save those who are sinners”


Heward-Mills is of the opinion that many pastors are just polishing “old coins” instead of looking out for “new ones”. This is evident in the movement of people from one church to the other without real conversion. He points out that there is a vast field of harvest that is ripe; Christians should therefore move into action and stop dealing with those who are already save in the church. One may agree with him entirely on his call on the church to emphasize on evangelism (going out of the church to win souls) as the right direction, but then we should not lose sight of the fact that there are so many people in the church who are still not born-again. Though Heward-Mills dealt with evangelism in general, he seems to have touched more on evangelism from a Nigerian theologian’s perspective.


In Evangelism Crusade Planning & Church Planting, though Bishop Agyin-Asare’s concentration is on using crusades to win souls for Christ, the crucial importance of evangelism in church planting is not left out in the book. He treats the topic by saying that the best way to start a church is with new believers that one has won through evangelism, and has assembled them into a bible study or cell group. He furthermore states that the group can mature, and transformed into a church through ongoing process of evangelism. Moreover, without losing sight of the diversities of evangelism’s approaches, with much buoyancy, Agyin-Asare asserts that other forms of evangelism that boost church planting include house-to-house witnessing, community dawn preaching, marketplace evangelism, street preaching, social service and many others. Though he sees the internet and the mass media as good tools for evangelism, he remarks the challenges associated with it when it comes to congregating the people to form a church.


Furthermore, his awareness of most Christians’ difficulties in undertaking evangelism has led him to give insightful tips on one-on-one evangelism and systematic presentation of the gospel to unbelievers, in order to help both neophytes and veteran soul-winners to effectively engage in the act. Though Bishop Agyin-Asare does not specifically devote the entire book on evangelism, his chapter on it is invaluable information on the subject, and therefore confirms the core importance of evangelism in church planting and in its growth.


In A Call to Effective evangelism, being alarmed of contemporary Christians’ preoccupation with their personal prosperity, breakthroughs and miracles, Agyeman-Duah asserts that peoples’ focus are shifted away from carrying out the salvation message that Jesus Christ has entrusted to all christians by way of effective evangelism.

Without losing sight of the numerous distractions that modern day christians are faced with on daily bases, Agyeman-Duah advocates that christians must make conscious efforts in an urgent manner to carry out the command of Jesus Christ if we ever plan to do anything for Him and His kingdom, for procrastination will make us to lose our heavenly blessings attached to obeying the great commission in Matthew 28:19.

In a scholarly manner, Agyeman-Duah has divided his book into eleven chapters. The first chapter deals with soul-winning. He has carefully defined what evangelism is about, the qualities of the soul-winner, meditative questions and the types of evangelism. In the second chapter, Agyeman-Duah’s awareness of shallow Christians, has led him to deal with how to become a world-class Christian. The third chapter talk about how to guide a conversation toward Jesus. In the chapter, his knowledge of peoples’ inability to lead conversation that will finally bring people to Christ led him to treat a step by step approach that will help Christians or soul-winners to arrive at that objective. In the chapter four, he alerts Christians on possible hindrances or barriers in witnessing. Chapter five gives seven reasons why Christians should devote themselves to evangelism. He emphasizes that the Christian’s life-motto is: “one way! One job” that is, the one way is Jesus, and the one job is soul-winning. He enumerates the various reasons and the Christian blessings that are associated with one’s devotion to evangelism. In chapter six, he gives very crucial practical tips in evangelism that will help soul-winners to convert unbelievers to Christ with ease. Four techniques of presenting the Gospel are illustrated in the chapter seven in order to help the soul-winner to lead people to Christ in 20-30 minutes, so as to avoid boredom.


In the chapter eight, Agyeman-Duah alerts soul-winners of some questions and excuses that they are likely to face in the course of evangelism, but then he provides some ways to handle them. To enable the soul-winner to help the new believer to become sure of his or her salvation, he treats assurance of salvation goal in chapter nine. The last but one chapter concentrates on how to establish new-believer in basic Christian doctrines through follow-up. And finally, in the eleventh chapter, Agyeman-Duah carefully leads the soul-winner to a proper understanding of Jesus’ example of a discipleship ministry. It is clearly observed that among all the literatures consulted from local writers, it is Agyeman-Duah who systematically teaches the soul-winner how to win souls for Christ without sweat through evangelism. His approach to the topic clearly shows his passion for the lost. He also sees evangelism as the key to effective church growth.

1.9 Organization of the Work:

The first chapter focuses on the background of the study: the introduction, the statement of the problem, the objective, the relevance of the study, methodology and hypothesis, the scope and the limitations. The second chapter dealt with the New Testament meaning of evangelism, overview on Biblical foundations for evangelism, the approaches of some Nigerian Pentecostal and Assemblies of God on evangelism. Moreover, the role of Evangelism in church growth, the role of the Holy Spirit in Evangelism, Follow-up and Discipleship are examined in this chapter. In the third chapter, the methodology adopted for the study is presented and the fourth chapter discusses the findings and data analysis. Chapter five presents the summary, conclusion and recommendation.


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