Task of Evangelism

The Task of Evangelism

This is the second in a series of essays on evangelism as part of my own study on the subject at Grace Theological College.

The Task of Evangelism: A Manifesto for the Church

Brendon Ward

If evangelism is the mission of the church, then it is something that the whole church is involved with.  Granted, that while “Not all of us will feel confident about speaking to others about salvation”[1] there is an active role for each member of the body of Christ to play.

Accordingly, “All believers are called by the Lord to “make the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 4:5) and on every occasion to be “prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).”[2]

There are lots of different ways that individual church members can get involved that are all an outworking of the Great Commission task of taking the gospel to the nations. What follows is a brief exploration of what the corporate task of evangelising our community could look like.  It is by no means an exhaustive exploration, but perhaps each member can identify where they can contribute.

A Heart for the Mission

Before exploring specific task-orientated aspects of corporate evangelising, it is helpful to consider what kind of people we should strive to be as we engage in various evangelism related activities within the church.

We are encouraged to see our contribution to the Great Commission as an outworking of our Christian discipleship.  Accordingly, John Dickson writes:

Following Jesus in his mission must at least mean sharing something of his compassion.  It is directly out of this compassion that the call to be involved in mission comes. [3]

God’s people understand the world’s need for the Shepherd, feel the compassion of Christ toward them and beg the Lord of the harvest to advance the work of the gospel.[4]

We must be willing to ask ourselves whether we actually have a heart for the Great Commission.  That is, do we have an expressible heart-desire to see the Kingdom of God grow?  Do we share a passion similar to that of Paul the Apostle whose heart desire and prayer for his countrymen was that they be saved?[5]

If we lack in this area, then we need to search our own hearts and examine ourselves in the light of the gospels – gospels that present the one who saved us as a Shepherd who sacrificially sought each of us out.  The same Shepherd has committed the task of gathering other lost sheep into the fold to His body, the church.

Living Faithfully

The mission of the church, as defined by Jesus in the Great Commission, is so much more than what we do.  It encompasses the very heart of who we are as both individual believers, and as a corporate body of saved individuals called The Church.

Accordingly, in what has been called The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives two powerful “images that are to shape the way we Christians are to think about our calling in the world: ‘You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.’”[6]

Before we limit the task of evangelism to simply speaking to people about Jesus and asking whether they are saved, it is helpful to consider that Jesus uses the two images (salt/light) to teach “us that if we live in obedience to God’s commandments, loving Him and loving our fellow men and women, then people will see the beauty of our lives, the acts of kindness, the daily life of integrity and faithfulness, and their response will be to glorify God.”[7]

Similarly, “His two images, ‘salt’ and ‘light,’ demand a life that is to be lived in the world and applied to the world, out in the darkness where there is no light, out where the savouring salt is needed to make the food tasty. These images and Jesus’ use of them require Christians to be in the world, and not simply in the church.”[8]

Prayer In and As Evangelism

The most basic gospel- promoting task… is not evangelism; it is prayer to the Lord of the harvest.[9]

Prayer is not a passive, sideline aspect of evangelistic commitment; it is a fundamental expression of that commitment.[10]

…evangelism and prayer are two sides of the one coin.  One is public; the other is silent and hidden from view.  Both are vital.[11]

With those thoughts in mind, church members are encouraged to actively and deliberately pray evangelistic prayers.  They are encouraged to do so in all of the various gatherings of the church.  This means that as members gather together, in small groups, for whatever other purpose, they are encouraged to devote themselves to prayer (Colossians 4:2).  In the context of the letter to the Colossians Paul is encouraging the church to pray for the work of the gospel in his own ministry.  It is thus appropriate that as members gather together, and as they pray, that they pray for the work of the gospel.

In that regard, members are encouraged to:

  1. Pray for themselves

“Pray for yourself in all your relationships.”[12]

“We are to pray for open doors in our relationships so we will have opportunities to make the Gospel known.”[13]

  1. Pray for front-line workers

“Paul asked the believers to pray for him (Ephesians 6:19-20), that he would have courage to make the Gospel known when he was given the opportunity.”[14]  So members are to pray for those engaged in front-line gospel work, that they be given courage in every gospel-orientated endeavour.  Paul also asked for prayer in order that his gospel proclamation may be done with clarity.[15]

Similarly, Jesus calls His disciples (which includes every member of His church) to “pray earnestly to the lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest.”[16]

  1. Pray for unbelievers

“…all of us can confidently speak about others to the Saviour himself…”[17] There are people in our lives (whether or not we consider being in relationship with them or not) who do not confess Jesus as Lord or know His saving grace.  Praying specifically for these people is “a fundamental expression of both dependence upon God and commitment to his mission.”[18]

Similarly, while the apostle’s implication is all kinds of people, his instruction to Timothy[19] suggest that people beyond our direct sphere of influence be included in our corporate prayers.

Hospitality

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers”[20], said the writer of Hebrews.  In this passage, there is an inseparable connection between hospitality and strangers.  In fact, the Greek behind the King James Bible translates one word as entertain strangers.

The scope of biblical hospitality is much wider than being on a church’s hospitality roster.

“Scriptural hospitality is inviting people over who need our love, who need a meal, who are unlikely ever to repay us with a return invitation. Consider adopting a widow or widower, a single-parent family, a college student away from home, an international student, someone struggling with psychological difficulties. Don’t ask yourself if these people will ever invite you back. Don’t ask if they are Christian believers. Don’t even ask if they are nice people. Hospitality might mean asking a person in need to come and live with you and your family for a while.”[21]

A demonstration of this kind of entertaining strangers is to be found especially in elders and deacons within the church.  “Leaders in the church are required by Scripture to set an example in the areas of love, kindness, gentleness, patience, and forbearance before they are appointed to preach, teach, and rule. If we obediently require these attitudes and character traits of our leaders, what will our “new community” look like?”[22]

Meeting People Where They’re At

Christians acknowledge that everything about everything they do is an outworking of the gospel.  For Christians this is true of marriage, parenting, budgeting, and the way we use the internet.  Yet even unbelievers have an interest in these areas of life.  Accordingly, and especially because the Church has an authoritative voice on each of these issues, the Church is in a unique position to help members of their communities in the context of marriage and family.

It would be great if our church could work towards a situation where the following could be said of it:

Today many of those who come to our churches are parents knowing they need some help in raising their children in this morally challenging culture. Such parents often do not realize they are seeking the Lord and His truth, nor do they know that they are going to come to faith in Christ. But God uses that parental sense of responsibility they have toward their children as His means of reaching into their hearts and drawing them to Himself. All truth is God’s truth, and all good human qualities arise from the image of God that is indelibly imprinted in our human nature.[23]

In addition to the reality that married people and parents often seek ways to improve their marriages and parenting, our church is in a unique position in that it shares a property with a school and preschool.  While both school and preschool are committed to a Christian curriculum, it’s a well-known fact that many unbelieving parents send their unbelieving children to be educated on our property.

There is real potential to bring these factors together, and to offer such parents much needed guidance and support in the issues of life that are unique to them.

That being the case, what follows could be a really good way of building a bridge between the church and the community with the expectation that relationships form, and opportunity for the kind of gospel-centred hospitality emerge.

Making this open to families both within the Church and community[24], a series of classes would be offered covering topics such as marriage, parenting, budgeting, and internet safety.  The number of classes would be no more than 8 in as many successive weeks.  The delivery of these classes would include relevant instruction from the Scriptures knowing that in whatever context they are presented they have power to make one wise unto salvation.[25]

Towards the end of this block of classes, we, as a church, could start facilitating a program similar to Christianity Explained – which, again, is a series of classes that present the gospel in a way especially suited to people who have not had a lot of exposure to the Scriptures.  By the time those invitations are extended, the parents etc in our community will have already had a taste for what we are like as a church, as well as exposure to the Scriptures as they pertain to issues of marriage, family, etc.

Underpinning all of these initiatives would be the need for deliberate and focused prayer – and as individuals (and couples) express problems they face in marriage, family, etc – can come the offer to have people pray specifically (within the bounds of confidentiality).

In addition to our school and preschool, those family, friends, co-workers who are being prayed for as the church gathers could be invited/included, or similar, more focused programs could be facilitated to meet a specific need that these individuals/families might have that the church can minister to.

 

 

Bibliography

Barrs, J. (2001). The Heart of Evangelism. Wheaton: Crossway Books.

Dickson, J. (2005). Promoting the Gospel: The Whole of life for the Cause of Christ. Sydney: Aquila Press.

 

 

[1] (Dickson, 2005) 65

[2] (Barrs, 2001) 45

[3] (Dickson, 2005) 55

[4] (Dickson, 2005) 56

[5] Romans 10:1

[6] (Barrs, 2001) 55-56 quoting Matthew 5:13-16

[7] (Barrs, 2001) 56

[8] (Barrs, 2001) 56

[9] (Dickson, 2005) 54

[10] (Dickson, 2005) 57

[11] (Dickson, 2005) 60

[12] (Barrs, 2001) 51

[13] (Barrs, 2001) 50

[14] (Barrs, 2001) 51

[15] Colossians 4:4

[16] Luke 10:2

[17] (Dickson, 2005) 65

[18] (Dickson, 2005) 65

[19] 1 Timothy 2:1-2

[20] Hebrews 13:2

[21] (Barrs, 2001) 70

[22] (Barrs, 2001) 76

[23] (Barrs, 2001) 107

[24] A mixture of both would encourage relationships to form between Church and non-Church parents etc

[25] 2 Timothy 3:15, Romans 1:16

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