On Healthy Churches 7: "A Biblical Understanding of Evangelism" (Mark 5)

Last night, we continued to work our way through Dever's "nine marks of a healthy church."  We looked at evangelism, first discussing how this related to the other "marks."  If we pursue biblical theology, we will have a right gospel.  If we have a right gospel, it will lead to a better understanding of conversion.  If we rightly understand conversion, we will go about evangelism differently.  Specifically, it means that we won't think conversion is all up to us and manipulate people into professing faith, leading to spurious converts. Evangelism, we discussed, is simply sharing the good news.  It's telling people the gospel.  And it's for all disciples, as Matthew 28 states-- not just for "professionals."  Dever does an excellent job in his main work explaining what evangelism is not.

  1. It is not imposition, as we can't make someone believe, according to the Bible, and we're not trying to force someone to agree with our opinions, but rather the truth of the Scriptures.
  2. It is not a subjective testimony.  A testimony is helpful, but it's something different from the gospel.  We can talk about what God has done for us without ever explaining to someone the Christian message.
  3. It is not apologetics or defending the Christian faith.  We can answer objections, "our defense", without ever sharing the message, our "offense."
  4. It is not the same as social action.  People on the left and the right can get this confused.  On the left, people can think feeding the hungry is enough.  On the right, people can think fighting abortion is enough.  As Christians, we must minister in word and deed, like our Lord.  But this doesn't mean that one is enough without the other.
  5. It is not the results of evangelism itself.  What could this mean?  It means that often we don't think of it as evangelism until someone responds.  But, evangelism is just sharing the gospel, leaving it up to the Lord for results.  If we equate evangelism with its fruits, we will pull out any bells and whistles to get people to pray some prayer.

So that's what evangelism is not.  Again, it's simply sharing the message.  Sure, we can do it in ways that are bad and that won't get results, but if we understand conversion rightly, we recognize that it's all in God's hands.  Our task is to be faithful, and, ultimately, not great at sharing the good news.  And that is a great, great comfort.

Last night, we also read Matthew 28 and John 13.  Matthew 28 reminds us that Jesus is with us and that we are to make disciples and not just people that pray a mantra. John 13 reminds us that we have a corporate witness as a church.  How we love one another is a powerful testimony of the gospel to the world around us.

Next, we talked about how love for God is the only sufficient motivation for evangelism.  Primarily, this is because our love for others is meant to point them to an end-- that of loving God.  So, personally, our evangelism should express love for our Father.  But, also, our evangelism is meant to cultivate that love in others.  Do we desire, as Piper says, for the nations to be glad in God? We finished up with three key things that Dever argues we should also mention in evangelism:

  1. It is urgent. We as Christians, if we're evangelistic as we should be, are often very good at this one.
  2. It is costly.  We are not so good at this.  There must be a healthy tension between the gospel's urgency and its costliness.  If we push the gospel's urgency without its cost, we will likely do whatever we must to get this person to "convert."  However, if we forget the urgency part, we'll wait forever to share and allow him or her to consider the claims of Christ up until the point when it's too late.
  3. It is worth it.  Yes, we must share that, despite the costs of following Jesus, the joy of being in him will far outweigh them!  Again, we are often good at this one, also.  But if we give the benefits without the costs, we're building disciples that won't last long.  And that's called a "bait and switch."  And none of us likes that at Best Buy or at 1st Church of Jesus.

Next week, we will turn to church membership.