When the pioneers were opening up farming land in the USA, they recognized they had many barriers to remove, and much preparation was needed, before they could reap a harvest. Trees and rocks had to be cleared from the land, as there was no use trying to sow seed for a crop on land that already had vegetation. Once the land was cleared, seed still could not be sown without adequate preparation. Plowing and fertilizing first had to be completed.
In Matthew 13:3-23, Jesus tells the parable of the sower and the seed. In this parable, we read that the seed only brought forth fruit when it fell into good ground, where it "brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixty fold, some thirty fold (Matthew 13:8).
Jesus was teaching that seed will not germinate or grow to maturity when it falls upon unprepared soil. The farmer certainly did not plan to sow seed in thorns or on shallow or rocky soil, as he had prepared the ground to plant it with good seed. Good seed grows well, and matures and bears fruit only in prepared soil.
Of course, the parable is an analogy for evangelism and illustrates that the Gospel (seed) will only grow to maturity and harvest (salvation) if the hearers (the soil) understand, believe, and accept the message.
However, there are many difficulties in evangelism today. Most who attend evangelistic meetings (or who attend church) have some sort of church background. Very few real unbelievers will come to a church meeting. The drop-out rate in regard to those who respond at evangelistic meetings is quite large, although real, lasting conversions do occur. Many commitments made at crusades are rededications, or shallow commitments that don't last. Very few lasting conversions of true unbelievers occur at such rallies.
As well as noting these observations, we need to understand some changes that have occurred in society. Years ago, most people automatically sent their children to Sunday School or to church. Today, this does not automatically occur. Many people, whose ancestors were involved in church, have nothing to do with Christianity today. Years ago, prayer, Bible reading, and the teaching of creation were allowed in public schools. Today, most public schools do not allow any of these activities even to be mentioned. In Australia years ago, I noticed that when students were offered a Gideon New Testament they all took one; yet today, most refuse when it is offered to them. Years ago, when an evangelist came to town for a big tent rally or something similar, the whole community was interested to a greater-or-lesser extent. Today, much of the community shows little or no interest in such rallies.
Many of those who are actively involved in church outreach programs or evangelistic rallies are aware of the above problems and trends, but do not understand the underlying reasons for these negative attitudes.
It is also true that the major emphasis in these evangelistic meetings is on sin, the need for repentance, and the necessity of accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of one's life. Without a doubt this is the power and central message of the Gospel. But why is it that most of the responses from this approach at today's meetings are really from those with church backgrounds, while very few real "outsiders" are reached?
What has happened to change society? Why doesn't evangelism work today like it did on the day of Pentecost? Why do the generations of young people today seem to be immune to the message of sin and repentance? What has caused the change?
We must realize that our culture has shifted from Christian to non-Christian. In other words, when we preach the Gospel to people today, we must recognize that they have either no knowledge of Biblical Christianity, of sin, of who God is, or that Christianity has been actively opposed and denied by those who have taught them, even subtly questioned by church leaders.
Today, whole generations have been brainwashed into believing that man evolved over millions of years, just as they believe the animals did. They have been indoctrinated into believing that man is just an animal, and that there is no purpose or meaning to life. They have been instructed to accept the lie that their opinions can decide rules or truth. They have been brought up to believe that man is basically good, and one day will provide his own salvation from this struggle for life and death in which he is trapped.
The present generation, by and large, has no concept of sin, no understanding of God's law, and thus no understanding of what it means to have an Absolute Authority. They are like the Greeks in Paul's day. When Paul preached to the Greeks about the resurrection, they said, "What will this babbler say?... He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: Because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection" (Acts 17:18). This message was foolishness to them. This fits with what Paul states in I Corinthians 1:23, "But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness."
When Peter preached the message of the resurrection on the day of Pentecost, there were thousands of conversions. However, Peter was preaching to those who already had the background knowledge of sin and the God of creation. Their "stumbling block" was accepting Jesus as the Messiah. However, when Paul preached to the Greeks, he was preaching to those who did not have any background knowledge of sin or of creation. The Greeks believed in evolution—the gods evolved; man evolved. They had no concept of the Creator God of the Bible. Salvation was "foolishness" to them.
How did Paul deal with those who did not have the background understanding to receive the message of salvation? (Acts 17:23,24). Paul emphasized first that God was the Creator to counteract the wrong foundational beliefs they had. He then went on to preach about the resurrection, and a few believed. The reason he did not get the same response as Peter is that he was dealing with outright pagans, whereas Peter wasn't. Paul had to get the Greeks to change their total world view from the foundation up. He had to get rid of barriers and prepare the ground. Peter, however, was dealing with prepared ground—he just had to get them to accept the "seed" that he was sowing.
Because of the teaching of evolution, an increasing number of people are just like the Greeks. The ground is not prepared. It is cluttered by the rocks of uniformitarian geology and the trees of evolutionary biology. Just like the pioneers of old, we need to "clear the land" and "prepare the ground" before the seed can be planted. This is called "pioneer evangelism" or "creation evangelism."
Sadly, most churches know nothing of "creation evangelism," as they don't understand what evolution has done to the minds of people. Most churches still use evangelistic methods that assume there is plenty of prepared ground in society. Yes, there is some prepared ground still there, but there is an increasing amount of unprepared ground. If the church does not supplement its ministry with "creation evangelism," this whole nation could become a totally pagan nation, as generations come through that have no background knowledge of God at all.
ICR is such a plowing, pre-evangelistic ministry. We research and provide materials so Christians can plow the ground and preach the Gospel so it will be understood. In today's evolutionary world, every Christian needs to be involved in "creation evangelism;" every Christian needs to be a "pioneer evangelist."