I’m not too keen on the title of this book, though I understand the context in which it was chosen, but I do love the author unequivocally. Elly Achok Olare and his brother Barnabas are two wonderful men, former students of mine whom I taught in the Pastors’ Theological Course in Nairobi, Kenya. I think of them as fourth wave Calvinists.
Let me explain, taking my life into my hands because I am bound to inadvertently leave some of the most important names and institutions out in this suggestive summary . . . the first wave consisted of such individuals and institutions as Dr. Lloyd-Jones, Louis Berkhof, Westminster and Calvin Seminaries, William Hendriksen, Arthur Pink, Lorraine Boettner, the Sovereign Grace Union, G.C. Berkouwer, the Evangelical Library, the Free Grace Record, I.B. Davies, Kenneth Macrae, R.A. Finlayson, W.J. Grier, Adam Loughridge, Principal John Macleod, the Puritan Conference, the Inter-Varsity Press and so on.
The second wave consisted of such men and institutions as the Banner of Truth, Iain Murray, J.I. Packer, Erroll Hulse, Reformation Today, the Carey Conference, Ernest Reisinger, the Evangelical Movement of Wales, the Bible Rally movement, the South Wales Bible College, Reformed Seminary Jackson, Jay Green, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing company, the B.E.C., Morton Smith, Evangelical Press, the Pensacola Conference, the Aberystwyth Conference.
The third wave consisted of those affected by those kinds of men and movements as the above – though some were born out of due time and came by reading the Bible and prayer alone. They are my contemporaries: Stuart Olyott, Sinclair Ferguson, Conrad Mbewe, Paul Helm, Al Martin, Joel Beeke, Donald Macleod, Ted Donnelly, Douglas Macmillan, Walter Chantry, Peter Masters, John MacArthur, Keith Underhill, Brian Ellis, David Kingdon, Baruch Maoz, Irfon Hughes, Jay Adams, Derek Thomas, Iain D. Campbell, Alistair Begg, Andrew Davies, Day One, Christian Focus, London Seminary, and Evangelical Times.
The fourth wave are the people to whom such men as the above have preached, who have learned the whole counsel of God from these institutions and people, whose books and magazines they have read, whose websites they have visited. Many attend those particular conferences in the USA and the UK where such men are the preachers. At the American Banner of Truth conference this year over one hundred young ministers came for the first time.
Gratifyingly, Hell’s Best Revealed Secret comes from this new wave of Reformation men that God has raised up, and the first-time author of this particular book lives in Kenya. The book chronicles the revolution that took place in the life of the writer, Elly Achok Olare, when he grasped the height and depth of the grace of God in saving sinners. It is a testimony to the great change that he has experienced.
He has called it Hell’s Best Revealed Secret (published 2014 by Gospel Missions Agency Church – Kenya, P.O.Box 956 50102 Mumias, Kenya, 90 pages, ISBN 979 9966 07 051 7). This is partly because of the phrase of the evangelist Ray Comfort ‘Hell’s Best Kept Secret’.
By this Comfort is referring to the disappearance of the Law of God from evangelical preaching. Without the Law there cannot be knowledge of sin; for where there is no Law, sin is not imputed. Without the ten commandments there can be no genuine conviction of sin, and if there is no genuine conviction of sin, there can be no genuine repentance. Multitudes who supposedly repented never had an idea of what they were repenting. Sinners had no awareness of how sinful they were in the sight of God. Hell did what it could to hide this message of God’s law from sinners, but Elly declares that hell also released a deadly gift to the churches of Christ and that is the invitation system.
Mumias, where his congregation is found, is overwhelmingly Muslim and he and his congregation have suffered harassment and the burning down of two of their buildings. He is also surrounded by Protestant congregations where the invitation system, or altar call, is a dominant part of every Sunday evangelistic service and he is facing fierce hostility for this book.
The big conference they organise and his preaching contain solemn warnings of the unbiblical nature of calling people to walk to the front and repeat a prayer put on their lips by a ‘counsellor’ and then receive the assurance that henceforth all is eternally well between themselves and God. This calm and reasoned book is full of the passion and desire for the glory of God, and Elly adds this:
This is one of the hardest things I have had to do in my life. I am going to be attacking a system which I gloried in for close to 17 years as a crusade speaker.
Elly describes hell’s revealed secret in the Invitation System thus;
They will print posters to advertise the evangelistic meetings. Such posters will bear the image of the preacher – sometimes with a brief testimony that God has mightily used the evangelist in performing miracles. Many a time, images of crippled people carrying their crutches or wheel chairs after being healed will be displayed to increase the appeal. On the poster a famous singer or band will be advertised so that those who do not desire to come because of the miracle working preacher will be lured by the popular singer or the group.
Church members will be taught on the tactics of ‘soul winning’ before attending the crusade. One of the most common tactics is to tell the church members that when the preacher calls for hands to be lifted they should be the first to lift their hands in order to encourage the sinners to lift theirs also (in psychology this is called the ‘herding instinct’) and when those professing they have become Christians are asked to get out of their seats and walk to the podium, it would be incumbent upon the same church members to initiate such a walk so that the timid sinner can be encouraged to follow suit. It is more like the animal world – such as the great wildebeest migration across the Mara river in Kenya. There is nervous reluctance, the herds stand on the bank, but when one wildebeest makes the jump the rest will follow suit at the exact spot the first one crossed the river. This is the psychology employed to get the timid masses to come forward and ‘receive Jesus’” (op cit pp. 1&2).
Most crusades are timed to end as the sun sets. This is to take advantage of the cover of darkness so that the people who feel like getting up and going to the front may not feel embarrassed, since no one is seeing them. Over and above that but even during day time such psychological tactics like saying, ‘everybody close your eyes’ will be used in the service. This is to ensure that those being urged to come forward may feel that no one is looking at them. The first step having been secured with every eye closed (probably under cover of darkness) the second step is put into place. With a soft, somber and emotional voice carried melodiously over notes of soft music, the preacher asks those who want to make a commitment to Jesus to lift up their hands. There will follow a protracted encouragement, prodding and appealing to them all not to be ashamed of the Lord. Then closed eyes will be urged upon everyone (“they need not worry, no one is watching them”) .
When sufficient hands have gone up, ushers and counsellors will be instructed to stand next to lifted hands. Then they will be told to walk forward and the ushers will be at hand to prod them along. At the same time such appeals as ‘Jesus came all the way from heaven for you, can you not walk a few meters for Him?’ will be pressed upon the sinners present. Such a guilt trip often works and at times it is buttressed with statements like this, ‘if you take the first step, my friend, then Jesus will take the rest.’ I have seen meetings where the crowds are asked to clap for the hesitating sinner, applauding his ‘bravery.’ This is done to make the sinner feel he is a champion if he makes the move. In other meetings people are urged to get out of their seats before they all count three and so all shout out, ‘ONE, TWO, THREE’ and then the congregation is told to applaud as some people beat the count and come forward (pp. 2&3).
These are some of the horrors of the crudities of the invitation system as witnessed and practised for many years by the author.
Elly then tells his readers where such a system came from: the philosophy and system of thought of Charles G. Finney. The author proceeds to ask some fundamental biblical questions: What actually is coming to Christ? Have men and women the ability – utterly unaided by God – to come to Christ? No. Man is dead in sin and at enmity towards God. How then does man come to God? It is by the Father drawing him, making him willing, giving him a new birth which is a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit.
Hell’s most feared message is the gospel of the righteousness of God. Readers are urged to repent and believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ. All this careful exegesis takes the majority of the book, the next nine brief chapters.
Finally in the ultimate chapter seven reasons are given by Elly for rejecting the Invitation System.
1. It is unbiblical.
2. Its failure rate is incurable.
3. It obscures the gospel of God’s amazing grace.
4. It inoculates people against the true gospel.
5. It produces tares
6. It brings shame and dishonour on the name of Christ.
7. Christ can build his church without it.
Well done Elly Achok Olare for your perceptive book. It is next to Iain Murray’s booklet The Invitation System (Banner of Truth), and W.R.Downing’s booklet, Why We Dont Use the Invitation System (Altar Call) (Firstlove Publications) on my shelf.