I am grateful for Trevin Wax’s blog post “I Weep for Miley.” And I want to tell you why: it joins a genre of Christian literature that is rare but appropriate—the cultural lamentation.
There is plenty of Christian writing (and teaching) in which the writer (or teacher) laments his or her own failings. And there is lots of cultural criticism to be found on any given day in the Christian precincts of the twitterverse or blogosphere. All this can be done well or poorly.
But what makes the lamentation distinct as a form of criticism is that it more obviously exposes the writer's heart posture to be one of love. The writer hurts, mourns, even weeps because a person or a people whom the writer loves are destroying themselves with folly and sin. Beholding such sin, the writer cannot help but say, “Oh, please, no, don’t! God, help! Friends, why would you…”
America is not the new Israel, nor is any other nation to be equated with the people of God. But I think there is a place for the Christian citizens of a nation to behold the self-destructive forces of sin at work in their nation and then to weep, just as one might weep for a non-Christian parent. Our nations—at least the better ones—have reared, protected, and provided for us in our growth into adulthood (see Acts 17:26-27). We are rightly affectionate for them.
These are the people who came to our birthday party at age 7, and played on our soccer team at age 11, and showed up with us for freshman orientation at college, and sat in the cubicle next to us in the office. They have built our streets and watched our borders. These are our friends and guardians.
So there should be something inside of every Christian that mourns for these friends when we see them hurting themselves by rejecting Christ and believing the lies that lead to death.
“Ah, a people loaded with guilt,” the Old Testament prophets would say.
And David: “I weep because your laws are not kept.”
Jesus, too: “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how I long to gather you as a mother gathers her chicks.”
Yes, the unteachable and the self-righteous will always reject our lamentations because a lamentation involves moral evaluation, and moral evaluation defiles the temple of the sacred self.
Yet everyone laments something. Even that most holy priest of the sacred self, Walt Whitman, offers a wonderful specimen of the genre in his poem, “I Sit and Look Out”:
I sit and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all oppression and shame;
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men, at anguish with themselves, remorseful after deeds done;
I see, in low life, the mother misused by her children, dying, neglected, gaunt, desperate;
I see the wife misused by her husband—I see the treacherous seducer of young women;
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love, attempted to be hid—I see these sights on the earth;
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny—I see martyrs and prisoners;
I observe a famine at sea—I observe the sailors casting lots who shall be kill’d, to preserve the lives of the rest;
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like;
All these—All the meanness and agony without end, I sitting, look out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.
In certain respects, Whitman’s conclusion is appropriate. Meanness and agony should leave us dumbfounded. In other respects, the Christian knows that God alone is the one before whom we are utterly silent, and that we do have something to say in the face of evils committed or endured:
Oh, my fellow citizens, look to Christ!
Look to him for healing from your woe,
and for pardon from your guilt!
How my heart aches because you will not look but choose death!
We just released a new interview with Russell Moore on religious liberty and ethics. In it, Dever and Moore discusses Moore's new role, rap, relevance, and why "it's even worse than it appears, but it's alright."
Yes, that is a Grateful Dead quotation. A 9Marks first, if I'm not mistaken. What more reason do you need to listen?
InterVarsity’s “New World Gospel Presentation” is an evangelism outline “designed to lead others to make a decision for Jesus Christ and join his mission to heal the world.” As of today there are training materials on their website, Vimeo and YouTube. Additionally, they have developed a free app (iOS and Android) to help illustrate the main points of the presentation during a gospel conversation.
ENGAGING THE “FOUR WORLDS”
The presentation is built on the premise that most people ache for a better world. The outline works through the paradigm of a world, using four worlds to communicate the biblical story. These four worlds are the four points for the conversation. Like many other presentations, they aim to frame redemptive history in their main points:
World 1: The world and all that’s in it was designed for good.
World 2: We—and the world—were damaged by evil.
World 3: Jesus came to restore the world and everything in it to what God intended.
World 4: Jesus invites us to join him and his community to heal the world.
InterVarsity ambitiously attempts to pull off the evangelistic version of a hat-trick with this presentation. They aim to listen to people’s stories (especially their scars and wounds), frame them within the context of the Bible’s story, and clearly communicate how Jesus answers their aches and pains. All of this they do while aiming to be faithful, winsome, compelling, clear, and understandable. Do they pull it off?
In communicating the first two worlds they do a fairly good job showing the divine design for creation and the problem we brought through human rebellion. “This better world really did exist,” they say, “and was designed for flourishing and intimacy with God. However, we rejected God, put ourselves in the place of God and as a result damaged the world.”
Yet here we see the good and the bad of contextualization. The good is seen in how they unpack words like idolatry with the helpful phrase “putting ourselves in the place of God.” The bad is in what they do not say. After all, why is it a problem that we put ourselves in God’s place? Is it bad simply because it wrecks our world or because it breaks his law, lies about his glory, and earns his just wrath? In an attempt to simplify the presentation many crucial questions go unanswered.
In world three we learn, that
Instead of leaving us in our brokenness God sends Jesus to be like us, to die on the cross and to rise from the dead. In this Jesus identifies with us, owns our judgment we deserve for damaging the world, and releases his power to restore the world for better.
Again, all of these statements are true but they are dangerously reductionistic. How does Jesus become like us? After all, we are the ones who messed everything up (see world 2). Did he contribute to this? Why did he have to die on the cross? How does this intersect with how I have “damaged” the world?
The fourth world is the invitation to join Jesus and his community in healing the world. In order to do this we must do three things:
(1) Identify with Jesus; believe that his death and resurrection broke the corruption in the world and in our hearts.
(2) Own our responsibility for the damage and the scarring in this world.
(3) Overcome by choosing to follow Jesus. Jesus does not leave us alone; he gives us himself, the Holy Spirit, and his people to go together and follow people.
These things are not untrue but they are, in my view, unclear. Following Jesus is reduced to becoming a conduit of healing. If we have not explained who God is, what sin is, and how the reconciliation is exclusively achieved through the cross of Christ, then we are not being totally forthright. At some point Christians have to agree that the gospel has irreducible components. These categories need to be developed and explained; they cannot be glossed over and certainly cannot be replaced with vague phrases like becoming “a conduit of healing.”
Another point that I found troubling in reviewing the material was the sheer lack of Bible. The videos I reviewed were curiously devoid of any mention of Scripture, even in passing. Yet the Bible should feature prominently in our evangelism. After all, it is the word of Christ that brings faith (Rom. 10:17).
What’s my bottom line?
I appreciate and even applaud the four worlds, the drawings, and the goal of listening to people’s stories in order to show how they fit within the big picture of God’s story. However, in setting out to do this, we must exercise great care about what we say, not just how we say it.
While it’s set in the Bible’s storyline, the New World Gospel Presentation is so user-friendly that it is simply not Christian enough. I would imagine that Roman Catholics and even Mormons could use this material within their doctrinal framework without violating their convictions. While helpful in some points, the New World Gospel Presentation simply lacks the main ingredients of the gospel. I would not recommend this program for use in your church.
 http://evangelism.intervarsity.org/how/gospel-outline/new-world-gospel-presentation; accessed 8/5/13.
Erik Raymond is the pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Nebraska.
Every Christian should know the gospel and be able to present it to others (1 Pet. 3:15). Now, our circumstances, personalities, and gifts will vary hugely. Nonetheless, if you are a follower of Jesus, you should know the central message of Christianity, and be able to articulate it faithfully and clearly. Two Ways to Live by Matthias Media is an excellent resource to help you do just that.
Two Ways to Live summarizes the message of Christianity in six steps, following the logic and storyline of the Bible.
- God, the loving ruler and creator. God made the world and made mankind to rule under him.
- Humanity in rebellion. This world is not the way it should be because all people have rebelled against God.
- God won’t let people keep on rebelling forever. God is good and will call all people to account. The punishment for our rebellion is death and judgment.
- Jesus, the Man who dies for rebels. Because of his love, God sent his Son Jesus Christ to offer his life on the cross, taking our punishment and bringing us forgiveness.
- Jesus, the risen ruler. God accepted Jesus’ death as full payment for our sins, and raised him from the dead to prove it. Jesus now reigns and will one day return to judge the world.
- The two ways to live. We can continue living our way, rejecting God’s rule and running life our way, or we can live in God’s new way, submitting to Christ and relying on his death and resurrection.
First, this is an excellent gospel presentation. Most importantly, it is faithful to Scripture. This is the good news of Jesus Christ, as foretold by the Old Testament and proclaimed by the New.
Second, it’s easy to remember. It is two points longer than the “God, Man, Christ, Response” outline that I’m most familiar with. But the additional points are simply an expansion on Man (points 2 and 3) and Christ (points 4 and 5). In a culture resistant to the idea of sin and judgment, it’s good to give a little more time to the reality and consequence of our rebellion. And given how easily we can treat the resurrection as an afterthought, it’s helpful to have a separate discussion of its significance, both in our salvation and in the coming judgment.
Third, as people are increasingly illiterate when it comes to the Bible, Two Ways to Live presents the gospel in language and ideas that are understandable. By talking about God as king, sin as rebellion, judgment as being cut off from God’s goodness and punished by God, repentance and faith as submitting and relying, Two Ways to Live presents the gospel without using too many Christian-y terms, but without watering it down either.
So the content of TWTL is faithful and useful. Even more useful, there are three categories of resources that go with it:
- Training Christians to share the gospel. Two Ways to Live: Know and Share the Gospel is a seven-week course (with a Leader’s Manual, Workbooks, and DVDs) designed to train Christians in sharing the gospel. What I appreciated about it is that it doesn’t just train students to give rote presentations, but to use it as a framework for presenting the gospel thoughtfully in various situations.
- Evangelistic resources to give away. Two Ways to Live booklets come in many varieties: for adults, for children, in digital formats (CD-ROM, iPhone app, web), and in various translations (Chinese, French, Japanese, Spanish). There is also a Two Ways to Live booklet in Bible study format that allows a seeker to open a Bible and walk through the presentation interactively. All these are excellent.
- Longer evangelistic Bible studies. The Essential Jesus presents the life of Jesus through the Gospel of Luke, and then explains it using Two Ways to Live. This would be great to give to someone who has never read the Bible before. There is also a longer children’s book, Gumtree Gully by Kel Richards, which presents Two Ways to Live as a children’s parable. Two Ways to Live is also simple enough so that any church could easily develop a 6-week study through it in order to train members in evangelism. (See, for example, Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s Two Ways to Live Core Seminar.)
In other words, there is no shortage of ways you can use this in your discipleship and your evangelism.
Bottom line? Use Two Ways to Live! We want to be prepared to give the reason for the hope that we have to anyone who asks. Two Ways To Live is a great place to start.
Geoff Chang is an associate pastor of Hinson Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon.
The Story is a gospel presentation tool designed by SpreadTruth.com. It is a popular tool for sharing the gospel; half a million people have viewed the gospel presentation online and The Story ESV Bible was published by Crossway in 2013. The Story can be accessed online (at http://viewthestory.com) through an app or via traditional printed tracts.
But is it any good? Well, leave it to us here at 9Marks to criticize the way other people share the gospel. I’ll discuss a few strengths and a few eyebrow-raising issues, then give a bottom line.
1. Biblical theology. The Story begins at creation and works its way through to the consummation of all things. This is a very good thing. The gospel is a message that comes to us with a context. The Story does a great job with that context.
2. Penal substitution. The Story gets the heart of the gospel right: on the cross Jesus bore our guilt and the wrath that our sin deserved. A lot of gospel presentations develop “alligator arms” at this point, so it’s nice to see that clearly presented.
1. Visuals. This is the least important quibble, but the pages of the online version of The Story switch back and forth between visual styles in a way that is distracting. Sometimes the colors and bright and the font is crisp, at other points it feels gothic and grim in a way that doesn’t aesthetically connect with what came before it. Just a small peeve, but it feels like a missed opportunity to create something that is visually arresting.
2. Soft-pedaling condemnation. The way The Story talks about the consequences of sin is less than the full truth. The ultimate consequence of sin, it says, is “eternal separation from a loving God, in terrible misery and unhappiness.” And it refers to hell as a “painful separation.” That’s just not good enough. The Bible teaches that sinners aren’t merely separated from God; they are under his wrath. I fear that by soft-pedaling condemnation, The Story’s presentation of the gospel sells God’s holiness short.
While I’m grateful that The Story gets the heart of the gospel right and frames the gospel in the biblical narrative, I won’t be switching over to use it. Instead, I’d recommend Jesus. Who, Why… So What? or Two Ways to Live. Both of those resources do a better job communicating the gospel with sharp edges intact.
Mike McKinley is the senior pastor of Sterling Park Baptist Church in Sterling, Virginia, and is the author, most recently, of The Devil Made Me Do It (Good Book Company, 2013).
Is evangelism an individual sport or a team sport? Really, it’s both.
Think of fishing. There are times you might saunter down to the dock by your lonesome, dangle your feet off the side, and cast in a line. But ask the men on an ocean trawler what it takes to haul a ton of wriggling mackerel out of writhing seawaters. They desperately need one another.
The fishing analogy does not say everything we would want to say about the relationship between evangelism and the local church, but it’s biblical, and it’s a start. Jesus told the disciples to follow him, that he would make them fishers of men, and then he sent them out two by two to preach that people should repent (Mark 1:17; 6:7, 13). Like fishermen on a trawler, we need the church to do the work of evangelism.
Yet there’s a bigger picture to see in relating evangelism and the church. Think of the first chapters of Acts, where the apostles proclaimed the resurrection, and behind them was the church, living together and sharing everything in common, “praising God and enjoying the favor of the people” (2:47; also 5:13). Somehow, the life of the church, sitting there as a backdrop to the proclamation of the gospel, served as a witness to the gospel. It caused many in Jerusalem to view the saints with favor, and it seemed to lead to more conversions.
Was it these early days in Jerusalem that Peter had in mind when he later described the church as a people, a priesthood, and a nation “that you may declare the praises of him” who called us out of darkness, and to live such good lives that pagans would see our good deeds “and glorify God” (1 Peter 2:9, 12)?
In both the early chapters of Acts and 1 Peter 2, one gets the feel of the church as a beehive, a buzzing ball of honey-making sweetness, swarming with the comings and going of busy worker bees. The hive is essential to the individual bee’s work, and part of the work. What might all this say about the relationship between evangelism and a church?
No analogy goes all the way and captures everything. Let’s see if we might sum up the relationship between the church and evangelism in the Bible in four systematic statements, and then ask what practical lessons follow for churches.
1. Evangelism Points to God, Not to the Church
If you were trying to convince someone to join your club, you would point to all the benefits of the club: the fun members have with one another, the annual table tennis tournament, and so forth. This is not how it works with evangelism and the church.
Evangelism points to God, not to the church. That’s the first statement.
Paul tells the Corinthians that Christ had given him (and them) a “ministry of reconciliation” and a “a message of reconciliation.” He (and they) were “Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” And this message of reconciliation is simple: “Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:18-21).
The evangelist’s good news is not, “Be reconciled to other people,” even though the good news will lead to being so reconciled. Rather, the evangelist’s good news is how a person can be reconciled to God. Everything else flows from this.
2. The Church is One Outcome of Evangelism
By the same token, the first hoped for outcome of evangelism is reconciliation with God. But there is a second hoped for outcome: reconciliation with the people of God, the church.
If your doctrine of conversion is missing the corporate element, it’s missing an essential piece of the whole. A covenant head must have a covenant people. Our corporate unity in Christ is not just an implication of conversion, it’s part of the very thing. Being reconciled to God’s people is distinct from but inseparable from being reconciled to God (see my “The Corporate Component of Conversion”).
All this is put on display wonderfully in Ephesians 2. Verses 1 to 10 explain forgiveness and our vertical reconciliation with God: “By grace you have been saved.” Verses 11 to 22 then present the horizontal: “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (v. 14). Notice that the activity of verse 14 is in the past tense. Christ has already made Jew and Gentile one. It’s what they are because God has done it, and God did it in precisely the same place he accomplished the vertical reconciliation—in the cross of Christ (see also Eph. 4:1-6).
In short, we are saved into a people.
The early chapters of Acts demonstrate what this looks like in practice: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:41; see also 2:47; 4:4; 6:7). People trust in Christ and are added to “the number” of the church in Jerusalem. They are counted. Their name gets added. If they had had cameras, a photo no doubt would have gone into the church directory!
The converted life is congregationally shaped. Christians belong in churches, and so this is where the evangelist will send people.
3. Evangelism is the Work of the Church
Third, evangelism is the work of the church. Once a person is reconciled to God and (therefore) to God’s people, he or she gains a new job: sharing the gospel with others. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” said Jesus (Mark 1:17; also, Matt. 28:19). Every Christian and church member, in other words, is charged with sharing the gospel (see Timothy Beougher, “Must Every Christian Evangelize?”).
The first chapters of Acts emphasize the preaching of the Apostles, but when persecution broke out in Jerusalem and the church scattered, “Those who had been scattered preached the gospel wherever they went” (Acts 8:4).
Local churches exist to worship God and share the good news of Jesus Christ. This is why the teachers teach and the members learn. In fact, Jesus gives the so-called evangelists, pastors, and teachers to the church to equip them to do ministry (Eph. 4:11f), a ministry that surely includes evangelism.
We work together to haul in the fish.
4. The Church Is an Apologetic in Evangelism
The life of a converted people, grouped together in congregations, should also commend the gospel that saved them. “Gospel doctrine,” Ray Ortlund has written, “creates a gospel culture.” And that culture, embodied in our churches, should be attractive to outsiders, at least to some (see 2 Cor. 2:15-16).
This brings us back to the picture of the church as a humming, honey-filled beehive. We see this in Acts and 1 Peter 2. We also see it in Matthew 5, when Jesus talks about the church being salt and light (vv. 13-16). And it’s remarkably pictured in John 13, where Jesus observes, “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (vv. 34-35).
Our good deeds toward outsiders and our love for our fellow church members points neighbors and colleagues to Jesus!
All that to say, the local church is an apologetic in evangelism. The life of the church argues for the gospel. Believers living with one another testifies to the power of God in salvation. As we sit under the preaching of God’s Word week after week, and as the Spirit conforms us to the image of the Son little by little, we exemplify what the gospel can do to us as individuals and as a people.
Slowly, we are becoming the new humanity, following after the one who is the firstborn of the new creation (Col. 1:15). And this new humanity serves as a wonderful backdrop or billboard in our evangelism. It offers a contrast culture to the cultures of this world.
What are some practical lessons we can take from these four systematic principles? Often, pastors try to strengthen a church’s evangelistic ministry by exhorting people to share the gospel. Surely that’s one piece. But it’s also critical to grow the church as a contrast culture, which acts as this attractive backdrop for evangelism.
1) Evangelism should lead to baptism and membership. Churches should not evangelize and then leave new converts out on their own. Nor should they evangelize, baptize, and then, maybe, someday, get around to bringing someone into church membership. Except for exceptional circumstances (e.g., Ethiopian eunuch), churches should do what the church in Jerusalem did: baptize people into their number (Acts 2:41). Baptism, after all, is the corporate and authorized sign by which a church formally affirms a person as a believer. That affirmation should then be protected and nurtured by the ongoing oversight given through membership and the Lord’s Supper. We don’t leave new hatchlings outside of the nest, but bring them inside.
2) Teach members to integrate their lives with one another. In order to strengthen a church’s apologetic power, members should constantly be reminded through the teaching of the word and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper that we are one body (e.g. 1 Cor. 10:16-17; 1 Cor. 12). Hardly a Sunday should go by when members are not reminded to build relationships with one another so that they might encourage, build up, strengthen, speak truth, warn, and love one another (e.g. Rom. 12:9-13; Eph. 4:11-32). They should be exhorted to show hospitality (Rom. 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9). All this creates an attractive witness for the gospel.
3) Teach members to sacrifice for one another. Even more specifically, Christians should think about how they might better sacrifice for one another, financially and otherwise (e.g. Acts 2:42-46; 2 Cor. 8-9; 1 Peter 4:10). In a consumeristic nation, especially, the example of shared generosity among believers presents a powerful contrast culture. Remember, Jesus told Christians to love one another as he has loved us (John 13:34)—a sacrificial love if there ever was one.
4) Practice church discipline. Christian hypocrites and heretics in our midst compromise the witness of the church. When the church members in a community are known as liars, backbiters, and adulterers, that church’s evangelistic work will not go so well. That’s not to say that a church should discipline every saint who still struggles with sinning in their midst. Then there would be no church left. Rather, churches should confront and discipline unrepentant sin. This serves, ironically, to evangelize the unrepentant member (see 1 Cor. 5:4), as well as a church’s city more broadly (see 1 Cor. 5:1-2).
5) Equip members to share the gospel. Church leaders should look for various ways to make sure every member can explain the basics of the faith. This can be done from the pulpit, the Sunday School classroom, the membership interview, and elsewhere (see Kevin McKay, “Overcoming Objections to Evangelism”).
6) Encourage members to live lives that bless outsiders. Church members, hopefully, are known as kind, friendly, and quick to lend a hand. We should be quick to jump in with a rake to help clear the neighbor’s leaves, quick to offer help to an office-mate, quick to defend a victim of abuse, quick to work hard at preserving the jobs of hard-working employees in difficult times, quick to bless in all sorts of ways. Good deeds should adorn our evangelistic words.
7) Invite people into formal and informal gatherings of the church. Countless stories could be given of how non-believers heard the gospel and then watched the church in motion, both in formal or informal gatherings, and then came to faith. The church’s life together compelled them. It pointed to something they had never known in their family, school, or workplace. In other words, inviting outsiders into the life of the church surely must constitute one part of our evangelism.
8) Set the example in evangelism. Wherever a church’s elders are known for their evangelism, you can expect to find an evangelistic church. Where the elders don’t, you won’t.
9) Feature evangelism and conversion stories. Church leaders should pepper stories of evangelistic encounters into their sermons and lessions. Church members should share prayer requests for evangelistic opportunities. Baptismal candidates should be given the chance to share their conversion experience. Things like these all help to make evangelism a "normal" part of the Christian life and the church experience.
10) Brag about your church. The apostle Paul sometimes boasted about his churches as a way of boasting about Christ (see 2 Cor. 9:2; 2 Thes. 1:4; cf. Phil. 2:16). Christians, likewise, should look for ways to speak positively and gratefully—not obnoxiously or pridefully—about their churches around non-Christian friends. When a colleague asks about the weekend, mention how your church gave your wife a wonderful baby shower. Mention something encouraging the preacher said on Sunday. Mention the work your congregation is doing at the shelter when the subject of homelessness comes up. Doing this well, no doubt, takes practice.
Rightly relating church and evangelism in our understanding and practice requires more than exhorting people to evangelize. It requires attending to matters of polity and governance, membership and discipline. It requires building a healthy church that sits under God’s preached Word, and knows what God has tasked the church to do.
It requires godly leaders who teach and set the example. And it requires members who love Jesus and increasingly can’t help but sing the praises of him who brought them from death to life—inside and outside the church building.
Jonathan Leeman, an elder of Capitol Hill Baptist Church and the editorial director of 9Marks, is the author of several books on the local church. You can follow him on Twitter.
Does the Bible require every Christian to evangelize? How we answer this question will radically impact the shape of pastoral ministry and daily discipleship, so it’s imperative to answer it correctly.
ANSWERING TWO COMMON ARGUMENTS
The scriptural answer is “yes.” But I have encountered two main reasons for why some argue the answer is “no.”
1. The Great Commission was only given to the apostles and therefore does not apply to us today.
First, some argue that the Great Commission was only given to the apostles and therefore does not apply to us today. While it is true that contextually the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) was given to the apostles, it was not only for the apostles. The command “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” certainly includes the command to make disciples. D.A. Carson notes that the Great Commission does not record Jesus saying to the apostles, “. . . teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, except for this commandment to make disciples. Keep their grubby hands off that one, since it belongs only to you, my dear apostles.”
What had Jesus commanded the apostles? Among many other things, he commanded them to preach the gospel to the whole creation. So this command of Jesus given to the apostles also applies to every believer today. In addition, should we try to limit Jesus’ promise “I am with you always, to the end of the age,” as only applying to the apostles, or does it apply to us today? Certainly it applies to us today!
2. Since only some people have the “gift of evangelism,” not everyone is obligated to witness.
Second, some claim that since only some people have the “gift of evangelism,” not everyone is obligated to witness. Space prohibits a full discussion on the topic of “the gift of evangelism,” but a few observations are in order.
First, evangelism is not recorded in the common spiritual gifts listings in Scripture; instead, the office of evangelist is mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. Some (myself included) question whether “evangelism” should be seen as a distinct spiritual gift, such as giving, serving, and so on.
In addition, even if evangelism is a spiritual gift, it is also a command for all believers, just like giving, serving, and so on. Not having “the gift of evangelism” does not excuse a believer from his or her call to share Christ with others.
FOUR BIBLICAL REASONS WHY EVERY CHRISTIAN SHOULD EVANGELIZE
Does Scripture mandate that every believer should evangelize? I argue “yes,” for the following four reasons.
1. The commands to witness are given to all followers of Christ
First, the commands to witness are given to all followers of Christ. Acts 1:8, for example, reads, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” This verse gives a command from the risen Lord to all his followers. As John Stott argues, “We can no more restrict the command to witness than we can restrict the promise of the Spirit.”
In writing to the Corinthian believers, Paul maintained,
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Cor. 5:18-20)
It’s not only apostles that have the ministry of reconciliation and the role of Christ’s ambassadors—all believers do! Other verses that reflect on this ministry of witness for all believers include Matthew 5:14-16, 1 Peter 3:15, Philippians 2:14-16, Colossians 4:5-6 and 1 Peter 2:9.
2. The example of “ordinary believers” in the early church
Second, consider the example of “ordinary believers” in the early church. As we follow the storyline of the early church it is obvious that the apostles sought to evangelize and disciple others. But we see ordinary believers sharing the gospel as well.
Following the stoning of Stephen we read in Acts 8:1, “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” And what did those ordinary believers do? Acts 8:4 tells us: “Now those who were scattered went about preaching (euangelizomenoi) the word.” They went about sharing the gospel with others.
Noted historian Kenneth Scott Latourette makes this observation about the spread of the gospel:
The chief agents in the expansion of Christianity appear not to have been those who made it a profession or a major part of their occupation, but men and women who earned their livelihood in some purely secular manner and spoke of their faith to those whom they met in this natural fashion.
3. The stewardship the gospel imposes on us.
Third, consider the stewardship the gospel imposes on us. Jesus reminds us, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). We have been given no greater gift than the gospel, and we have no greater stewardship than to share that message of good news with others. Paul expresses it well in 2 Corinthians 5:14: “for the love of Christ controls us.”
4. The “work of ministry” in Ephesians 4.
Finally, consider what Paul calls “the work of ministry” in Ephesians 4. In this chapter Paul notes different offices in the church (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers). He declares part of the reason God “gifts” the church with such leaders is so they will “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12). And we should certainly include evangelism in “the work of ministry.”
Ephesians 4 raises a challenge for pastors: Are we training our people to do evangelism? Are we setting an example for them in our own personal evangelism? Some people run from the idea of evangelism because they assume it means they must be obnoxious and pushy. There are many approaches to sharing the gospel. The only fixed method is the message: telling others about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
LEAD BY EXHORTATION AND ESPECIALLY EXAMPLE
Pastors, we can say to our people with confidence, “you are called to be a witness for Christ in both word and deed.” As leaders, let us challenge other believers not only with our exhortations but also with our example. And let us take great confidence in the gospel, “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16).
Tim Beougher has served as the Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism and Associate Dean of the Billy Graham School at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary since 1996. He is the author of numerous works, including Richard Baxter and Conversion (Christian Focus, 2007) and Overcoming Walls to Witnessing (BGEA, 1993).
 D.A. Carson, “Ongoing Imperative for World Mission,” in The Great Commission: Evangelicals and the History of World Missions, edited by Martin I. Klauber and Scott M. Manetsch (Broadman & Holman, 2008), 179.
 John R.W. Stott, Our Guilty Silence (Inter-Varsity Press, 1967), 58.
 While the context of 1 Peter 3:15 is what can be called “passive evangelism” (responding to a question that an unbeliever asks), this command is clearly given to all believers “to be ready” to answer when asked.
 Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of the Expansion of Christianity (Harper & Brothers, 1937), 1:116.
 Among the many helpful resources for personal evangelism, I highly recommend: Will Metzger, Tell the Truth; Mark Dever, The Gospel & Personal Evangelism; and J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.
You can pre-order them now, and they should be available within a few weeks. Both are on sale for about 20% off for a limited time.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Logos, it's a Bible research plaftorm that is known for its massive (and growing!) electronic libraries. Especially if ever you use any of our books in teaching prep, Logos is a nice platform because everything is searchable, you can use it on a tablet, and you can download the reading software for free.
Many thanks to Logos, and happy reading.
Our churches love to see conversions and hear the testimonies. But why don’t they want to share the gospel?
Here are three common objections to evangelize I’ve heard people offer, and some guidance for helping our people overcome them.
1. I don’t know what to say.
Objection 1: “I don’t know what to say.” People object because they don’t know the gospel well enough to share it. No one in your church may actually verbalize this objection, but they may feel it. They do their best by inviting friends to church and praying for them.
What’s the solution? We can instill confidence in our members by making sure that they understand it, and teaching them to explain it.
In the church that I pastor, we ask every person who wants to join the church to explain the gospel. This helps to ensure a regenerate membership, but is also how we begin training our members for evangelism. Some members struggle through explaining the gospel, and that struggle prompts them to listen more closely on Sunday mornings, or to read a book like What Is The Gospel? by Greg Gilbert.
Others share the gospel clearly, and I simply respond to their explanation with something like: “Praise God. You have a good understanding of the gospel. I’d encourage you to look and pray for more opportunities to share it with others.”
Another way that we can meet this objection is to use every sermon to share the gospel with non-Christians, and this catechizes our congregation in the gospel. I want to preach gospel truths throughout the message, but I also want them to hear the gospel packaged in a way that can easily be reproduced in a minute or two.
If there’s anything that Christians should be able to explain, it’s the gospel. If we do not clearly preach the gospel on Sunday, then how can we expect our people to preach it during the week?
2. I don’t want to.
Objection 2 is a quiet “I don’t want to.” This is another one that is often felt than verbalized. In our church, we try to address this in the preaching, discipling relationships, and prayer.
- We preach the realities of heaven and hell along with the temporary nature of this world. Against that backdrop, truths like forgiveness become more treasured and celebrated.
- We ask each other about how we are obeying God’s command to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
- And finally we pray regularly that the Spirit would create a culture of evangelism in our church.
In these ways, we’re exhorting one another and asking the Spirit to fix our minds and hearts on eternity, and to see people from this perspective.
3. I don’t know what to do.
Objection 3 is an honest “I don’t know what to do.” Some members know the gospel well and want to share it. Yet they’re so given to thinking of a program or system that will make evangelism happen that they find themselves frustrated by their lack of evangelism. They don’t evangelize because they don’t have the time to create a new event. Or in churches like ours, they can’t find the programs that will do it for them.
But the church body is God’s program for evangelism. Jesus said that people would know that we are His disciples by the way that we love one another (John 13:34-35).
So we tell our members to reach out to their unbelieving friends by living as faithful church members who love one another in Christ, and then inviting those friends to be a part of their lives. The Spirit uses this to make the gospel heard.
A friend who had served as a missionary in central Asia among Muslims told me that his team had discovered the silver bullet in converting Muslims: prolonged exposure to the Bible and prolonged exposure to Christians. That principle works everywhere, because God works through his Word and his people.
By his grace we have seen a young man raised as an atheist begin to open up to Christianity because of the marriages he saw in the church, and later come to faith. We’ve seen a young man raised in a Christian home realize that he was not a Christian because he saw members of our church committed to living holy lives together in a way that he wasn’t. As Francis Schaeffer once said, Christianity is an individual matter but it’s not individualistic. By inviting people to witness the corporate life of the church, non-Christians get a better picture of the gospel itself.
The power of the corporate witness of the church doesn’t completely replace the personal aspect of evangelism. If anything, it serves to overcome the specific hurdle of not knowing how to begin the conversation. Evangelistic conversations often spring from the attractive apologetic of the Christian life. When our lives embody sound doctrine, they help make sense of what’s good and right in the world the same way that the doctrine of sin makes sense of everything that is wrong with the world.
It’s not just new Christians who want to share their faith. It’s Christians growing in their knowledge and love for the gospel together who want to be more than just spectators—and so they speak.
 Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There (InterVarsity Press, 1998), 176.
Kevin McKay is the senior pastor of Grace Harbor Church in Providence, Rhode Island.
What do you need in order to do evangelism? The ingredients aren’t many. You need the evangel, the good news of Jesus Christ. You need an evangelist, someone to herald that good news. And there’s one more thing: you need an audience—at least one person who hasn’t yet believed the gospel.
For many pastors, this last one is the hard part. In a week crammed with preaching preparation, meetings, counseling, administration, hospital visits, and late night calls for help, not to mention caring for his own soul and family, how is a preacher to find time for sharing the good news with unbelievers?
In one sense, this is a good and necessary tension. When he answers a call to the pastorate, a minister kind of moves from the front line of evangelism back to the supply camp. No longer just a soldier in hand-to-hand combat, his priority now is to act like a general: his work involves strategizing, equipping, and delegating (see Eph. 4:12). The hope is that by training evangelists, teaching on evangelism, and proclaiming the gospel each week to the gathered church, the pastor’s evangelistic ministry multiplies rather than diminishes. This is good and right, and pastors shouldn’t feel guilty for prioritizing their unique, God-given role to care for the sheep and train them up in ministry. A pastor isn’t an evangelism hog but an evangelism enabler.
But this doesn’t mean that his personal evangelistic ministry should vanish into thin air. Paul instructed the young pastor Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). Even the greatest general is still a soldier at heart. A pastor must never become so comfortable teaching others how to evangelize that his own zeal for sharing the gospel evaporates from simmering too long on the back burner. Pastors who are zealous for evangelism tend to have congregations that are zealous, while pastors who seldom evangelize just might find that their congregations are similarly disinclined.
FIVE WAYS FOR A PASTOR TO CULTIVATE EVANGELISM
How then can a pastor cultivate opportunities for evangelism? Since I need as much growth in this area as the next guy, I contacted a bunch of pastor friends to ask how they prioritize evangelism in their busy schedules. Based on their responses, here are five suggestions:
1. Be Creative
First, be creative. To meet more unbelievers, you’ve got to be willing to think outside the box. One pastor in a small town told me that he and his elders often do their elder meetings in lawn chairs on his front yard. They’re willing to sacrifice efficiency for the opportunity to chat with neighbors who might walk by—and they were thrilled when someone came over wanting to talk about Kabbalah. It was an instant opportunity for the gospel.
Others mentioned leveraging hobbies or errands as ways to maximize evangelistic opportunities. Rather than shooting hoops with Christian buddies, one might find a group of local businessmen to play with, opening the door for new friendships. A preacher from the Arabian Peninsula said that family time at the local pool is one of the best ways to make friendships with those in his community.
Creativity also comes in useful when trying to turn an otherwise mundane conversation with a clerk, neighbor, or restaurant server toward spiritual matters. If someone is chatting about the news, sports, or even the weather, there’s usually an opening to present a relevant truth about God or our fallen world that can lead to deeper discussion. For this, of course, we need not only creative thinking but Spirit-wrought boldness and love to overcome fear of man and share Christ even when it’s awkward to do so.
2. Be Consistent
Second, be consistent. Are you willing to forsake variety and eat at the same restaurant over and over again in order to get to know its staff? For years now, my own pastor has modeled this consistency for the sake of the gospel, so much so that we joke about him being the chaplain of the modest diner where every server knows his name and comes to him with spiritual questions.
Another friend told of the fruit that he enjoyed from visiting the same dry cleaner week after week and praying for opportunities to speak about Christ with the staff. Eventually one of the employees visited his church, joined a Bible study with some of the women there, and recently made a profession of faith in Jesus.
3. Be Conscious
Third, be conscious. We need to pray for awareness of the lost that surround us. A seminary student in England noted that when he’s conscious of how many people—most likely unbelievers—are sitting near him on the train, he’ll open his Bible and read it conspicuously. Conversations about God often ensue.
On this note, it’s worth being conscious of the usefulness of the pastor’s title. So many conversations begin with, “What do you do for a living?” Answering “I’m a Christian pastor” might feel like a liability, so instead use it as an asset. For example, I’ve tried to include some version of this follow-up phrase. I say something like, “I’m a pastor-in-training at a church. And so I love hearing from all sorts of people about their thoughts on God, spirituality, and who Jesus is.”
And don’t forget how you as a pastor can serve unbelievers in your community in “pastor-specific” ways, which almost always contain ripe evangelistic opportunities. A neighbor’s relative passes away? Offer to preach the funeral.
4. Be Collaborative
Fourth, be collaborative. Find ways to participate in the evangelism your congregation is already doing in the workplace and the community. One pastor mentioned how some businesspeople in his church formed a “God investigation group” that met regularly during lunch at the office, and invited him to attend from time to time to build relationships. Your hospitality ministry is a great way to conspire with fellow believers for evangelism. Host a barbecue, dessert, or game night, and tell all the church members you invite to bring along a few non-Christian friends.
5. Be Committed
Fifth, be committed. No pastor should adopt all of the specific ideas suggested above—that’s not the point. The point is that an under-shepherd’s ministry should resemble that of the Great Shepherd, who came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). The pastor’s unique calling and schedule certainly make this challenging, though we should also admit that often our own laziness and selfishness keep us from evangelism more than tricky circumstances.
STUDY AND SAVOR THE GOSPEL
So, pastor, what would a commitment to evangelism look like in your weekly routine? For starters, let me encourage you to pray regularly for opportunities. Get accountability in this area. Be aware of your tendencies to shrink away.
But most of all, study and savor the gospel. “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all…” (2 Cor. 5:14). Treasuring the precious message of Christ and knowing its power in our own lives is the best antidote to evangelistic atrophy.
Matt Merker is a pastoral assistant at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC.