Sunday, 14 May 2017

What is and isn't Evangelism?

At my church I have become the portfolio leader for local evangelism. This is a new portfolio and I am kinda finding my way, so I am reading some things and then thinking out loud for others to help sharpen my thinking. This may become a series...who knows...

I have just skimmed through Reaching the Lost: Evangelism. This isn't really a book, but more of a 6 week Bible study guide based on one of the nine marks of a healthy church. In the introduction it talks about what evangelism is and isn't. This is probably a good place to start when thinking about evangelism. It is good to draw boundaries of what is isn't in your brief. In the book it says:
evangelism is not the same thing as sharing a personal testimony. It’s not the same thing as presenting a rational defense of the faith. It’s not even doing works of charity, though all three of these things may accompany evangelism. Nor should evangelism be confused with the results of evangelism, as if to say we’ve only successfully evangelized when a conversion follows.
Personal testimony, defending the faith and doing good deeds are good things. I think everyone should write out their own testimony as a story, I like reading apologetics and have posted some things along this theme and who wants to be the guy against doing good things to others? However, I found it helpful to see that these things are not evangelism. I think they are all good means to evangelism but it isn't evangelism proper. Sometimes we may think inviting people to church or some event is evangelism. It's not, but it may well be a means to evangelism. It is good not to blur this.

So what is evangelism? To put it as simply as possible: evangelism is speaking the Gospel. It is telling good news. It is an announcement that is not dependent on the hearer's response. The Gospel is a message that is to be told. This means that evangelism is communicating something specific.

It also means that the Gospel is something that needs to be said and not done. This does rub up against the fake quote of St. Francis of Assisi that you see from time to time that goes something like: Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary. Instead, if we are making up fake quotes, I think it should go: Preach the Gospel at all times. It is necessary to use words. Of cause our whole lives should be in step with the message of the Gospel, but the Gospel itself is a message.

So if evangelism is speaking the Gospel, this of cause raises an immediate question: What is the Gospel? This will need another post, but it did remind me that a few years back I read three books in a row trying to answer this question. These (and others) may need another revisit...

Books on the Gospel
The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight
Gospel by J. D. Greear
What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert

I like the 9marks guys in that they seem to write fairly simplistic books. Sometimes it doesn't hurt to go back to basics.

Other books by 9marks that I have read:
Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
What is the Gospel? Greg Gilbert
What is a Healthy Church Member? by Thabiti M. Anyabwile


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