An excerpt from an interview in Christianity Today that appeared in 1980.
Q: You and I met in 1966, I believe, to discuss the projected Berlin World Congress on Evangelism. You declined to be either a participant or observer. You were also, I think, the only minister of a major church in London that did not cooperate in the Graham Crusades? What kept you on the sidelines?
A: This is a very vital and difficult matter. I have always believed that nothing but a revival–a visitation of the Holy Spirit, in distinction from an evangelistic campaign–can deal with the situation of the church and of the world. The Welsh Presbyterian church had roots in the great 18th-century evangelical revival, when the power of the Spirit of God came upon preachers and churches, and large numbers were converted. I have never been happy about organized campaigns. In the 1820s a very subtle and unfortunate change took place, especially in the United States, from Azahel Nettleton’s emphasis on revival to Charles G. Finney’s on evangelism. There are two positions. When things were not going well, the old approach was for ministers and deacons to call a day of fasting and prayer and to plead with God to visit them with power. Today’s alternative is an evangelistic campaign: ministers ask, ‘whom shall we get as evangelist?’ Then they organize and ask God’s blessing on this. I belong to the old school.
Q: What specific reservations do you have about modern evangelism as such?
A: I am unhappy about organized campaigns and even more about the invitation system of calling people forward. Mark you, I consider Billy Graham an utterly honest, sincere, and genuine man. He, in fact, asked me in 1963 to be chairman of the first Congress on Evangelism, then projected for Rome, not Berlin. I said I’d make a bargain: if he would stop the general sponsorship of his campaigns– stop having liberals and Roman Catholics on the platform and drop the invitation system (altar calls), I would whole-heartedly support him and chair the congress. We talked for three hours, but he didn’t accept these conditions.
I just can’t subscribe to the idea that either congresses or campaigns really deal with the situation. The facts, I feel, substantiate my point of view: in spite of all that has been done in the last 20 or 25 years, the spiritual situation has deteriorated rather than improved. I am convinced that nothing can avail but churches and ministers on their knees in total dependence on God. As long as you go on organizing, people will not fall on their knees and implore God to come and heal them. It seems to me that the campaign approach trusts ultimately in techniques rather in the power of the Spirit. Graham certainly preaches the Gospel. I would never criticize him on that score. What I have criticized, for example, is that in the Glasgow campaign he had John Sutherland Bonnell address the ministers’ meets. I challenged that. Graham replied, ‘You know, I have more fellowship with John Sutherland Bonnell than with many evangelical ministers.’ I replied, ‘Now it may be that Bonnell is a nicer chap than Lloyd-Jones—I’ll not argue that. But real fellowship is something else: I can genuinely fellowship only with someone who holds the same basic truths that I do.