The Road to Emmaus

"And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus...Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him....And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." Luke 24:13-27

Every effective minister of God has to have at least two road experiences. The first is when God changes the direction of his life on the road to Damascus, the second is when God changes the direction of his ministry on the road to Emmaus. Two great 20th century evangelists were given revelations that something was wrong with modern evangelism. Dawson Trotman repented of his ways, while Bill Bright adapted his theology.

Dawson Trotman

Dawson Trotman started out as a typical 20th century Christian. At age 14, he made what was considered a profession of faith when he joined the Presbyterian Church in Lomita, California. He exhibited no change in his sinful lifestyle, being a habitual liar and thief.

At a Christian Endeavor meeting, a guest speaker illustrated God's offer of salvation by offering a gold watch to anyone who would accept it. Trotman jumped up and the speaker led him to a supposed second commitment to the Lord. He continued to lie and steal. He hated himself for doing it, but seemed powerless to stop. He started to smoke, get drunk, and use profanity. Whenever he'd get in trouble, he'd call on God, but as soon as the storm passed, he'd return to his sinful ways. But then, in 1926, God saved him. Now, for the first time in his life, he had the workings of the Holy Spirit and was able by the power of God to overcome sin. He was born again, and the whole town knew it.

He started witnessing to anyone and everyone. According to one of his friends, he would pick up hitchhikers and, "within two minutes he would be witnessing, and everyone he picked up accepted Christ in the car." 1 Trotman asked God to give him at least one soul a week. After a dry spell, he started a part time job managing a miniature golf course. "This answered his prayer, for in order to bring in business he would invite a group of high schoolers in for a free game of starters. Afterward he presented the Gospel to them and easily got enough decisions to catch up on his quota. But though decisions increased, something did not seem right. Dawson withdrew his request for one soul a week until God should lead him to ask again. God never did." 2

Trotman's "Road to Emmaus"

Trotman led countless people to "decisions" that meant little or nothing. Here, he describes in his own words, what caused him to see the rotten fruit of modern evangelism.

"One day, years ago, I was driving along in my little Model-T-Ford and saw a young man walking down the street. I stopped and picked him up. As he got into the car he swore....I reached in my pocket and said, Lad, read this."


He looked up at me and said, "Haven't I seen you somewhere before? ...We figured out that we had met the year before on the same road...He had accepted Jesus Christ as his savior..A year later there was no more evidence of the new birth and the new creature in this boy than if he had never heard of Jesus Christ." 3

Trotman knew inside himself that most of these "decisions" were not pleasing to God. Within a short time he would admit a serious mistake."The hit-and-run evangelism he and others had practiced for years, resulted only in the "survival of the fittest," he now condemned as dead wrong." 4

He was beginning to realize that "decisions" were useless without true conversion. He didn't state it that way, for he was a 20th century evangelist. But no other interpretation explains his reluctance to lead people in a "decision" after his "road to emmaus" revelation. Trotman believed it was impossible for saved people to lose their salvation, so why was he reluctant to "lead them to Christ," even knowing most would not "survive." (A euphemism for leading a victorious Christian life.) Isn't avoiding Hell the main thing?

Trotman's Own Conversion

When Trotman was 14, he had made a "decision for Christ" that bore rotten fruit. When he was a senior in High School, he made another "decision for Christ" that bore rotten fruit. Both these "decisions" did nothing more than point out his need of a savior. After getting drunk graduation night, he wrote in his journal,"It's just not in me to do right...I'm a loser." 5

But God enrolled Trotman in another school. The law was a schoolmaster, leading him to Christ. (Galatians 3:24) Falling deeper into sin, he learned just how lost he was. Finally, after a 6 year struggle of faith, God saved him.

His first two professions of faith resulted in absolutely no change in his ability to resist sin , and he had no evidence of the Holy Spirit within. But modern theology prevented him from understanding the Bible truth that these two "decisions" were merely signs on the road of illumination, or as Billy Graham would say, a stage of gestation, 6 and not the point where he was born again.

Trotman was shackled with modern theology, but it wouldn't prevent him from taking corrective measures. Even though he didn't publicly acknowledge that most 20th century conversions were spurious, he came up with a "follow-up" program that assured that illuminated sinners would have every opportunity to be saved in God's sovereignty. (This was the same solution Billy Graham decided on.)

"You can lead a man to Christ in a couple of minutes to a couple of hours, but it takes twenty weeks to a couple of years to adequately follow him up." 7 By the time Trotman started the Navigators, he learned from experience to never lead a person in a "decision" unless he was prepared to adequately "follow him up." 8

Bill Bright's "Road to Emmaus"

Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade For Christ, was in several ways, the most effective evangelist of the 20th century. Not since Charles Finney has one man's theology so completely influenced the spread of the Gospel. Like Finney in the 19th century, Bill Bright not only preached to thousands, but more importantly for maximum growth, instructed countless saints how to witness effectively.

But after almost a half century of service to God, he realized the vast majority of the people who "got saved" through his ministry acted no differently than heathen. I remember the day in 1997 I heard him discuss on his radio program the idea that the "lifestyles of born-again Christians are virtually indistinguishable from those of nonbelievers." 9

He said essentially that the saying of a "salvation prayer" didn't assure that a person would exhibit the Christian life. I thought he was at a crossroad in his approach to evangelism.

I put down the saw I was holding and steadied the sheet of plywood I was cutting so as to hear every syllable. I hoped he was about to confess remorse for his part in the scandal of modern evangelism. But unfortunately, he blamed this tragedy on a lack of "sanctification" in the Church and assumed no responsibility for spurious conversions.

Instead of coming to the effective solution proposed by Dawson Trotman, and to a lesser extent, Billy Graham, (don't lead someone in a "decision" unless you are willing to "follow him up," thus giving illuminated sinners opportunity to get "saved" in God's sovereignty,) Bright came up with a theologically appealing excuse for someone to "get saved" a second time. His new theology acknowledged that most modern "decisions" had no power to change people, so he suggested they get "filled with the Holy Spirit." In order to do this, people needed to repent and yield control of their lives to Jesus Christ.

The reinstitution of repentance and giving Jesus Christ Lordship over one's life was a welcome step backward to the pre-20th century understanding of salvation. "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." Acts 2:38

This was a tacit acknowledgment that modern evangelism, by eliminating repentance and yielding control of one's life to God as signs of salvation, had stripped "decisions" of any real meaning other than a "legal position" divorced from experiential reality. But instead of saying that most modern "conversions" were spurious, Bright suggested that the evidence of salvation was only available if someone were "filled with the Holy Spirit" as a second act of grace. This enabled him to offer millions of "carnal Christians" who had said meaningless "salvation prayers," a second chance to get saved, without telling them they were lost.

This was similar to the Faustian bargain Billy Graham made when he emphasized follow up without leveling with the thousands of people who came to the altar about the possibility they were only illuminated, or in a stage of gestation, 6 even after saying a formula "salvation prayer."

Graham took care of the problem by making sure the seekers were followed-up until God saved them. Bright offered them a second chance to get saved.

Go To The Chapter, Modern Theology

1 Pg 37, Daws, Betty Lee Skinner, Paperback
2 Pg 56, Ibid
3 Pg 40-41, Born To Reproduce, Dawson Trotman Tract
4 Pg 70, Ibid
5 Pg 26, Daws, Betty Lee Skinner, Paperback
6 Pg 251 Billy Graham, John Pollock 1966 Paperback
7 Pg 70 Daws, Betty Lee Skinner Navpress Paperback
8 Pg 117, Ibid
9 Pg 205 Red Sky In The Morning, Bill Bright


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