“… They continued to preach the gospel.” Acts 14:7
Over the next few months, in the newsletter, I will be commenting on and leading us through an excellent book on evangelism – “Evangelism; How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus” by J. Mack Stiles. This outstanding concise book will help you to better understand both how to share the gospel and how evangelism works best in the context of the local church.
This book opens with the basic question of, “What is evangelism?” Christians have many different ideas of what evangelism is, but for most Christians evangelism is something reserved for a professional. People often associate evangelism with large, focused events led by famous people featuring a big show and an emotional invitation at the end. Some people associate evangelism with pressured and choreographed calls at the end of a church service.
Stiles, correctly, gives a much simpler definition of evangelism: Evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade. Teaching the gospel can come in many forms – preaching, digital communication, one-on-one personal communication, family interactions, and more. The gospel is the good news message that leads us to salvation and is not shared in a neutral or disinterested way. When we teach the gospel to others it’s always with the desire to see that person be convicted of these truths and believe. Often teaching is not associated with evangelism, but right knowledge about God and our own sinful situation is the ground of true belief. No one can believe in a Jesus they do not understand.
It is necessary that every Christian be able to concisely explain the gospel. If you can’t express the gospel in clear concise terms, you may not really understand it. An accurate and concise explanation of the gospel is not too little or too much. An explanation that is too small leaves out essential aspects of the gospel. An explanation that is too big adds more than is necessary to pass from death to life, and can be very confusing to a person that knows little or nothing about Jesus.
The basic gospel message answers these four basic questions:
God — Who is God?
Humanity — Why are we broken sinners?
Christ — What did Jesus Christ do?
Response — How can we get back to God?
God: God is the Creator of the world and all life in it. He is holy, loving, just, and merciful. God will one day judge the sin of the world according to His perfect justice.
Humanity: People are made in the image of God. Human beings are valuable and amazing creatures created, male and female, with inherent worth, dignity, and value. But through willful, sinful rebellion against the will of God humanity has turned from innocence and belonging with God, to being separated from God as His enemies. All people are under the condemnation and guilt of their sin but possess the capacity to be restored to a loving relationship with the Lord God.
Christ: Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Being fully divine, Jesus also lived a fully human life. He lived a perfectly righteous life and being without guilt could serve as a substitutionary sacrifice. Through His death on the cross Jesus Christ ransomed sinful people. Christ’s death paid for the sins of all who come to him in faith. Christ’s resurrection from the dead is the ultimate vindication of the truth of these claims.
Response: God requires that we acknowledge our sinfulness, repent (or turn away) from our sins, and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior. We turn from sin, especially the sin of unbelief, and turn to God in faith. Authentic faith purposes to follow God for the rest of life. Authentic faith is not an outward show for others.
This is the gospel as a concise teaching. We teach this to others not as a curiosity, but as the hope of that person’s salvation before God. We teach, preach, or personally speak to others to persuade them of God’s truth. We sometimes start this process by ourselves talking with another person, but it always results in the new Christian believer coming into the local church. In the church the new believer should find truly converted and born-again people. A truly converted church loves the Lord with a passion and wants others to know Jesus as well. A truly converted church has a natural culture of evangelism.
May Jesus move us to be evangelists together for the sake of the lost and the glory of God,