True evangelism is going to get people convicted of sin and get them grateful to God – and draw them into a community of believers. The problem we as believers face is that we don’t act like these things go together. And this contributes to the problems that exist in the church today.
Here is what I am not about to say: I am not about to say that there is no value in personal evangelism or open-air preaching. I am not saying you ought not to declare the Gospel, and also never to be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that is in you. Evangelism is necessary and important. But Evangelism that saves people to a solitary life of independent Bible reading and no connection to other believers, no way to mature in the faith, no accountability to Elders and to other people who love them and Christ is a recipe for failure – and a model found no where in the New Testament.
When Peter evangelized the Jews in Jerusalem at Pentecost, he did not save them to some kind of smug and solitary lifestyle. Peter preached to them so that the following things must happen:
• Those evangelized must repent and be baptized be baptized into the family of God. Look: there is nothing magical or metaphysical about baptism. It is utterly right to say that the thief on the cross was saved and entered into the kingdom of God without even a mere sprinkle, let alone a proper full-body submersion in water. But unless you are evangelizing on death row just before someone is executed, your message ought to be Peter’s message: repent and be baptized. Get added to the assembly of God’s people – not in theory, or in your head, but into a real body of local believers. If Christ’s commands are commands and not requests, you yourself ought to belong to a local church, and the goal of your actions ought to be to add people to a local church. Getting a confession of sin from people without turning them over to local elders and pastors for the care of their soul is spiritual malpractice.
• Those evangelized must be devoted to the apostles' teaching. I guess I don’t understand how any activity is called “evangelism” or can pose as “obedience” when what it does is cause people to be accountable to no one and set up for failure rather than success. Think about this: if you hire somebody at work, you don’t tell them, “well, thanks for you application: we accept you! Now you set your own schedule, you define your own work, you tell me when you’re successful and when you’re slacking off.” The very least you do for someone new to a job is to train them in the basics and give them a schedule so they know when and where they need to show up. We can’t expect someone who knows nothing about Jesus or the Bible to do self-service discipleship.
• Those evangelized must be devoted to corporate worship. Acts tells us those Peter evangelized did this: “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.” That is: they spent time together making God the most important thing. It also says they were “together and [had] all things in common -- They were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”
Look: that’s a commitment to other people bigger than an intellectual commitment to the idea that God has an invisible church of truly-saved people which (you hope) you are adding people to. It means that in some way Christ dying for you doesn’t simply give you a right to call God “Father”: it gives you a role in a family, a place in a close community where we ought to be willing to suffer for and suffer with each other through the challenges in Life. It paints a picture of worship which is greater than the temple, a kind of worship which is both in Spirit and in Truth.