Patrick McIntire gives us a brief sketch of the history of evangelism from the Awakenings to the present time. He dedicates this book to two recent and popular evangelists, Charles Finney and Billy Graham.
McIntire clearly identifies major flaws in both the popular methods and means used in modern evangelism. He takes specific aim at the “sinner’s prayer” concept and does a rather good job of identifying its errors. He fingers some recent popular evangelists as prime suspects for fostering and perpetuating this error. He specifically cites a 1990 crusade in the United States in which 600 decisions were recorded; three months later not one could be found who were continuing in their faith. He cites others who professed faith while continuing in their sinful lifestyle practices. McIntire does document some of Billy Graham’s thoughts and position which were very insightful, including the idea of conception, gestation and birth in the process of becoming a Christian.
Here is a quote that sums up McIntire’s basic premise, “evangelical Christianity is facing its biggest challenge since the fourth century. Most protestants call the time from Constantine until Luther ‘the dark ages’ because saving faith was not taught correctly. America is entering its own dark age. It’s time for another reformation.”
One major weakness of this book, in my view, is McIntire’s handling of water baptism in general and immersion in particular. He goes to great length to state his views on baptism, while at the same time claiming that it is not his intention to reduce salvation to water baptism. However, he splatters considerable ink on the issue. Another issue that I wish he had enlarged on is the direct witness of the Spirit. My Wesleyan thinking patterns convince me that the direct Witness of the Spirit is the only bulwark that will stem this downward spiral.
His yardstick of salvation is pretty good, although he hedges a little on a clear conscience. However, he does assert that it is a possibility, stating that saints can have a clean conscience. His chronicle of well-known Christians who struggled for a rather lengthy period of time before they were confident of their personal salvation should be good information for those who have yet to resolve all the issues in their own life.
If you are among those who instinctively know that something is terribly askew in the American Church, you may read this book to your profit. If you are relatively satisfied with life as it is, spend your time on something else.