Evangelism

1 August 2016
Mark Keown

Evangelism

by | Aug 1, 2016

Evangelism does not seem to be widely practised in the church today. Perhaps this is because it’s not well understood. Perhaps poor teaching has left a residue of suspicion or even fear. This |Note explains what evangelism is, and challenges all of us to be involved.

stained glass

The Christian gospel is a wonderful thing. Christ has come, sent from God, and shown us who God is with his life of sacrificial service. He died on a cross for our sins. He rose, overcoming death, and is Lord of all. He invites us to be a part of his great mission to renew this world. This good news about Jesus is to be shared by God’s people throughout the world. We call this evangelism; sharing the euangelion, the good news. All a person has to do in response to hearing this message is to believe that Jesus is saviour and Lord. When they do, they receive salvation as a gift, receive the Spirit, and are welcomed into God’s family to experience eternal life.

However, a person cannot know this extraordinary privilege unless someone tells them the good news so that they can respond. Consequently, one of our central purposes as a Christian to take up the challenge of sharing the message of Christ to others. Some Christians with a gift and call to share Christ do this as their vocation – these are the evangelists whose task it is to devote themselves to the ministry of sharing Christ, and to equip others for the task. All other Christians, as they go about their various vocational callings, are also called to take every opportunity to share Christ.

Verbally articulating the gospel is central to evangelism. This can happen in any situation, whether a formal gathering like a church service, or in a conversation at home, at work, or in a social situation. As we are called to give witness to Christ, so we must take the responsibility to be equipped – knowing the gospel and understanding how to go about it.

Evangelism cannot be limited to merely verbal communication. Sharing Christ is something we do with our whole lives. We are to embody the virtues of the gospel as we relate to others, whoever they may be; such things as holiness, kindness, goodness, patience, respect, gentleness, humility, and supremely, love. We are called to share Christ by continuing his ministry of compassionate service to others – caring for the poor and marginalized, healing, restoring, and being the friend of sinners.

Evangelism is about hospitality. Essential to evangelism is invitation. Jesus’ Great Banquet parable speaks of a God who invites the world to a great feast. A servant is sent out inviting all humanity to the feast. We are called to serve in this way, and invite people to join God in his great restoration project.

Evangelism is a team activity. Certainly, evangelism includes inviting people into a personal relationship with God. However, it is more. It is inviting people to be a part of a people, God’s family, the church. All humanity is invited – the gospel is a radical vision of people of every race, age, men and women, rich and poor, together as one. We become part of God’s vision of a world united in Christ.

It's Your Move

Central to evangelism is the art of good conversation. Conversation is about sharing our lives with others not merely to convert them, but to genuinely know them and show them Christ’s love. We are to engage with others recognizing that they are made in the image of God and God created them for relationship with him. We are to make the most of every opportunity, and share Christ with wisdom and words that are full of grace and seasoned with salt.

We are assured by Jesus that as we share his gospel with others, he is present empowering the words, seeking to draw people to him. We cannot guarantee another person’s response. That is up to them. Our call is to be faithful to our call to share Jesus.

Evangelism then is a central task for all Christians. It is a supreme challenge, especially where Christianity is maligned and resisted. We may be persecuted. We may suffer. Yet, our reward is great. It is also a privilege to be honoured by the God of the universe to be called to be his ambassadors to the world. May we do it well.


Resources

Books:

What’s God Up To On Planet Earth?: A No Strings Attached Explanation of the Christian Message by Mark Keown

Finding the Forgotten God: Credible Faith for a Seclular Age by Ron Hay

The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire by Alan Kreider

Websites:

All Together NZ – alltogether.co.nz
Long Story Short – longstoryshort.co
Alpha NZ – www.alpha.org.nz
Tandem Ministries – www.tandem.org.nz
OAC Ministries Outreach and Church Ministries – www.oac.org.nz
EENZ Evangelism Explosion Ministries New Zealand – www.ee.org.nz
TSCF Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship NZ – www.tscf.org.nz
Promise Keepers NZ – www.promisekeepers.org.nz
Scripture Union NZ – www.sunz.org.nz
Gospel Outreach GO Kiwi – gospel-outreach.org/nz
Global Outreach Day – www.globaloutreachday.com

 

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Mark Keown
Author: Mark Keown

Mark Keown is Professor of New Testament Studies at Laidlaw College in Auckland. He is the author of What’s God Up To On Planet Earth? (Castle) and The Missing Imperative (Paternoster, forthcoming).

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1 Comment

  1. Nicole Evans

    Hi Mark,

    I read your article about evangelism, and to be honest, was shocked at how ‘off’ it was. Yes it is a central task for all Christians and yes it can be a challenge, but evangelism is not at all the vague concept you describe here.

    Did you know your definition of evangelism is at variance with the rest of the scholarly world?

    For example, the 2300 theologians and church leaders who attended the Lausanne conferences on evangelism in 1974 and who formulated what is now known as The Lausanne Covenant. In it, they say: “To evangelise is to spread the Good News [i.e. the gospel] that Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and that as the reigning Lord He now offers the forgiveness of sins and the liberating gift of the Spirit to all who repent and believe. Our Christian presence in the world is indispensable to evangelism, and so is that kind of dialogue whose purpose is to listen sensitively in order to understand. But evangelism itself is the proclamation of the historical, biblical Christ, as Saviour and Lord, with a view to persuading people to come to Him personally and so be reconciled to God. In issuing the gospel invitation, we have no liberty to conceal the cost of discipleship. Jesus still calls all who would follow Him to deny themselves, take up their cross, and identify themselves with His new community. The results of evangelism include obedience to Christ, incorporation into His Church, and responsible service in the world.”

    Or, in a nutshell, evangelism is sharing the words of the gospel to invite a person to know Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Displaying the fruits of the spirit, joining the church community, serving and loving others etc. are results of a life submitted to Christ, but not evangelism itself.

    The Lausanne Covenant is a declaration agreed upon by more than 2,300 delegates during the 1974 congress. The delegates were scholars and Christians leaders. The Congress was chaired by Billy Graham. Those who attended agreed to be more intentional about world evangelisation. Since then, the Covenant has challenged churches and Christian organisations to work together to make Jesus Christ known throughout the world. Fifteen years later in July 1989, the more than 3,000 participants in the second International Congress on World Evangelisation (Lausanne II) in Manila, Philippines, produced another important document, the Manila Manifesto. For more information on this please Google “Manila Manifesto 1989.”

    I’m sad to say that I feel the contradicting statements, vague definitions and lack of tangible solutions in your article have only added to the ‘bad teaching’ you alluded to in your introduction. This is such a shame with evangelism in the shocking state (as you are clearly aware) it is in today.

    Please read my words in the spirit they are intended: out of a desire to be rid of the confusion and fear that surround this central Christian duty for the sake of those who are perishing.

    Thank you for your time.
    Nicole.

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1 Comment

  1. Nicole Evans

    Hi Mark,

    I read your article about evangelism, and to be honest, was shocked at how ‘off’ it was. Yes it is a central task for all Christians and yes it can be a challenge, but evangelism is not at all the vague concept you describe here.

    Did you know your definition of evangelism is at variance with the rest of the scholarly world?

    For example, the 2300 theologians and church leaders who attended the Lausanne conferences on evangelism in 1974 and who formulated what is now known as The Lausanne Covenant. In it, they say: “To evangelise is to spread the Good News [i.e. the gospel] that Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and that as the reigning Lord He now offers the forgiveness of sins and the liberating gift of the Spirit to all who repent and believe. Our Christian presence in the world is indispensable to evangelism, and so is that kind of dialogue whose purpose is to listen sensitively in order to understand. But evangelism itself is the proclamation of the historical, biblical Christ, as Saviour and Lord, with a view to persuading people to come to Him personally and so be reconciled to God. In issuing the gospel invitation, we have no liberty to conceal the cost of discipleship. Jesus still calls all who would follow Him to deny themselves, take up their cross, and identify themselves with His new community. The results of evangelism include obedience to Christ, incorporation into His Church, and responsible service in the world.”

    Or, in a nutshell, evangelism is sharing the words of the gospel to invite a person to know Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Displaying the fruits of the spirit, joining the church community, serving and loving others etc. are results of a life submitted to Christ, but not evangelism itself.

    The Lausanne Covenant is a declaration agreed upon by more than 2,300 delegates during the 1974 congress. The delegates were scholars and Christians leaders. The Congress was chaired by Billy Graham. Those who attended agreed to be more intentional about world evangelisation. Since then, the Covenant has challenged churches and Christian organisations to work together to make Jesus Christ known throughout the world. Fifteen years later in July 1989, the more than 3,000 participants in the second International Congress on World Evangelisation (Lausanne II) in Manila, Philippines, produced another important document, the Manila Manifesto. For more information on this please Google “Manila Manifesto 1989.”

    I’m sad to say that I feel the contradicting statements, vague definitions and lack of tangible solutions in your article have only added to the ‘bad teaching’ you alluded to in your introduction. This is such a shame with evangelism in the shocking state (as you are clearly aware) it is in today.

    Please read my words in the spirit they are intended: out of a desire to be rid of the confusion and fear that surround this central Christian duty for the sake of those who are perishing.

    Thank you for your time.
    Nicole.

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