The expression “in-depth” indicates the opposite of superficial, passing and limited. While the Evangelism-in-Depth movement is multi-dimensional, the dimension of depth is basic to all the others. “Depth” has to do both with the believer’s spiritual life and with the theological understanding of the foundations of evangelization. It refers also to the extent or breadth of the program and to the use of all available methods and resources to accomplish the task.
The first experiment in Evangelism-in-Depth occurred in Nicaragua in 1960. In subsequent years similar programs took place in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela, Bolivia and the Dominican Republic. This last effort ended in April, 1966. Evangelism-in-Depth will begin in Peru early in 1967, and Colombia is making preparations for 1968. The story of the early movements is described in: the book, EVANGELISM IN DEPTH. This book has kindled the evangelistic flame in more than 50 countries outside of Latin America. No doubt this is just the beginning, for Evangelism-in-Depth has all the characteristics of a living organism that has just begun to develop.
Evangelism-in-Depth is not just a program nor is it limited to certain methods. It is an all-inclusive strategy whereby all churches use all available resources to reaching an entire country with the whole Gospel of Christ.
Evangelism-in-Depth is a philosophy of evangelism that correlates all propositions, principles, objectives, etc. into a logical relationship. This philosophy is implemented by a program of evangelistic activities based on previous experiments, and under local leadership tries to match all available resources with the needs and opportunities of the local situation. Moreover, Evangelism-in-Depth creates an atmosphere of optimism, a positive attitude that stimulates creativity, courage, and enthusiasm. This attitude becomes the collective experience of all God’s people, an experience that must be shared to be fully appreciated.
The Program of EvangelismCinCDepth
The program of Evangelism-in-Depth is a series of continuous, successive and alternate phases of evangelistic and teaching activities held simultaneously in all the cooperating churches. Everything centers around the local church but within the framework of its denominational structure and in full recognition of its responsibility toward the total body of Christ. The program is united inasmuch as all the churches work together; it is also simultaneous because each church works in its own territory at the same time as the others. The formal program generally lasts a year.
The main phases of the program are as follows:
1. Organization of prayer cells throughout the country
Since the objective is to engage every believer in a prayer cell, a goal is set to have a prayer cell for every five believers in the total evangelical community. Each church organizes its own prayer cells, these continue throughout the year’s effort and even beyond.
2. Training every believer in soul winning
The idea is to train not just a few key laymen but to mobilize the entire church: children, young people, adults. Usually the pastor himself teaches the basic course of twelve lessons at whatever service has the largest attendance. Sometimes the training classes alternate with house-to-house visitation.
5. HouseCtoChouse visitation in the church’s immediate and adjacent areas as designated by the coordinators
The purpose of this visitation is not simply to give out literature or even to invite people to the church. The main purpose is to give an evangelistic witness in every home. Results depend on the receptivity of the neighborhood, and on the number and perseverance of the, callers. In one city, the members of a small church visited over 9,000 homes and found hundreds of people interested in the Gospel. In every such effort thousands of people accept the Lord right in their homes.
4. Special efforts
The objective during this phase is to reach every person within his own social structure: in jails, hospitals, military barracks, universities, schools, factories, public places, etc. Special activities are planned to reach children, young people, women, professional and business men, government employees, industrial workers, etc. Every available means is utilized: literature, moving pictures, clubs, suppers, contests, congresses, conferences, literacy programs, etc.
5. Evangelistic meetings
Usually there are four types of special evangelistic meetings during the year: a) a congregational campaign held simultaneously in each participating church; b) a united city-wide campaign, usually in a public place; c) a regional or state campaign, conducted in the country’s chief cities; and finally, d) a national campaign in the capital city, with people coming from all over the country, that culminates with a colorful, impressive parade. Other meetings such as the Youth Congress, the Women’s Congress and children’s rallies are not primarily for evangelistic purposes but nonetheless produce a tremendous evangelistic impact.
This phase does not begin at the end of the program but concomitant with all aspects of the movement. It handles follow-up and related work. New believers are incorporated into the program immediately. Churches and denominations receive advice about applying the principles and, strategy of Evangelism-in-Depth in continuous and long-range programs.
Projections of Evangelism-in-Depth
Although the statistical results of this movement may be quite impressive, its importance is measured by other criteria which usually are not evident in a statistical analysis, and which affect the life and work of a church for many years. I shall mention only a few.
1. A church gains a new vitality because during this year of Evangelism-in-Depth more conversions occur than in any other year in the entire history of Christian work in that country.
2. Evangelism-in-Depth provides a framework in which foreign missionary societies can use its resources in a partnership program that contributes directly to the growth and development of the national church.
3. Local leaders emerge in and from the coordinated evangelistic efforts.
4. In its responsibility for mobilizing believers, the local church gains experience and retains the tools to continue in-depth evangelism.
5. Denominational leaders experience deeper understanding of their function and responsibility concerning needs, objectives, and long-range planning.
In short, Evangelism-in-Depth, as a philosophy of evangelism, affirms that the responsibility for evangelization rests upon the whole church; that the objective of evangelization takes in every person of an entire nation; and that in order to fulfill this mission, we must use all the resources God has given His church. But remember that Evangelism-in-Depth is not just a theory: it is a very real part of the history of Christian churches in seven Latin American nations and in other parts of the world. To God be the glory!