We continue to look at the marks of a healthy church that are seldom emphasized today. Using 9 Marks of a Healthy Church as our guide, we’ve examined expository preaching, biblical theology, the gospel, and a Biblical understanding of conversion. Today, we’ll look at the next mark: a biblical understanding of evangelism.
Five Things Often Confused as Evangelism
Evangelism is something that all believers are to do. It is not something where church members can sit back and let the paid ministers do alone; the call in the Great Commission is for all believers to go and make disciples! However, there is sometimes confusion as to what evangelism is. Dever provides five common things that are often mistaken for evangelism (130-137):
- Evangelism is not an imposition– Some see evangelism as imposing their beliefs on others. Therefore they refrain. However, when we evangelize, we are simply telling others the good news of the gospel. We can’t make anyone believe, we simply communicate the message in love.
- Evangelism isn’t necessarily your personal testimony– How God has worked in our lives to save us could certainly include the contents of the gospel, but sometimes it may not. If one shares how God has changed them without getting into the specifics of sin, conviction, the cross, and resurrection, etc. then the contents of the gospel have not been communicated. Personal testimonies can be very helpful, but at some point, we must get to the objective truths of the Gospel.
- Evangelism isn’t social action or political involvement– These things certainly have their place and will be affected by our new birth, but they are human solutions to human problems. Ultimately, we need to get to the deeper issue that feeds all the symptomatic problems that we see going on in our world.
- Evangelism isn’t apologetics– Again, there is certainly a place for apologetics, but it isn’t necessarily sharing the contents of the gospel (although it could).
- Finally, we must not confuse the results of evangelism with evangelism. As one preacher said, “To ‘evangelize’…does not mean to win converts…but simply to announce the good news, irrespective of the results” (135). We certainly hope to see God powerfully move in a person’s heart and save them! However, if you share with someone and they reject the gospel, you have done the work of evangelism. Keep being faithful to share the good news! We won’t be held accountable for the results, but we will be held accountable for our faithfulness. Dever states:
Imagine the guilt some Christians feel because they’ve shared the gospel for thirty years with a particular person who hasn’t come to know Christ. They may feel that it must somehow be their fault. But the biblical teaching is that conversions do not come merely by our evangelistic proficiencies, just as resistance to the Gospel is not merely a reflection of our evangelistic failures. Evangelism is not fundamentally a matter of our methods but of our faithfulness in proclamation (136).
Six Principles of Sharing the Gospel
In a previous post, we discussed the content of the gospel that we believe and share with others. Dever provides six principles that are helpful to remember as we share the good news (126-130):
- Tell people with honesty that if they repent and believe they will be saved–but it will be costly.
- Tell people with urgency that if they repent and believe they will be saved, but the time is short.
- Tell people with joy that if they repent and believe the Good News, they will be saved. However difficult it may be, it is all worth it!
- Use the Bible.
- Realize that the lives of individual Christians and of the church as a whole are a central part of evangelism.
- Remember to pray.
Sometimes you might have the opportunity to present all the basic concepts of the gospel in one setting. Oftentimes, you will have the opportunity to share in a relational context over the course of time. Look for opportunities as they come through life situations to bring up these biblical truths. And, don’t forget the words of Colossians 4:5-6, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”