A Singular Mission (Defining Evangelism)

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.

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DEFINING EVANGELISM

PART VI – Tying It All Together

Lesson Fifteen: A Singular Mission

18And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,’” (Matthew 28:18-20; ESV).”

In 21st century America, most organizations have a mission statement. Following suit, many churches have also developed mission statements to help them have a united purpose. Mission statements in-and-of themselves are not wrong. They can be quite helpful for uniting organizations of people under one cause or vision. The problem comes when God has stated the purpose for an institution, and it seeks to redefine that purpose. The question must be asked, then: If God has already given the church a mission, why are we still drawing up mission statements as though He hasn’t already spoken?

Mission Statements. A quick survey of the mission (or vision) statements of most churches demonstrates one or both of two things. First, many churches get the importance of the Great Commission in stating the mission of the church. They seek to demonstrate that they get its importance by using language that suggests as much. However, in talking about the importance of making disciples, they often use terms like creative or unique to describe their evangelism, suggesting that God’s word is not sufficient to teach us how to make and equip the disciples of Christ in the local church.

Others will hit on one aspect of the Great Commission (making disciples or, perhaps, foreign missions) while neglecting others, and especially baptism. A mission statement is often one of the first things that a potential visitor might read. Putting it out there that new disciples will be expected to make a commitment to the local church through something as public and personal as baptism is not a very seeker-friendly approach. Also, teaching is seen by many in our culture as “so one-sided.” That language could easily be replaced with talk of “helping” people move to the “next level” in their personal relationship with Christ.

A second thing made evident by a survey most churches’ mission statements is their man-centeredness. Even those that boast being Christ-centered will often spend the rest of the statement using terms like personal and individual, revealing how they really are more concerned with luring in potential church members than corporately honoring God. Even their man-centeredness is often shallow at best. They will give you cookie-cutter classes on how to move to the “next level” with Christ, but they often are more concerned with organizational matters than truly shepherding souls.

Think of some of the larger churches you have attended. Most likely, you barely knew the pastors of those churches and likely even spoke with several members who told you they had never met the man. This is the man that Hebrews 13:17 says must “keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account,” (NASB). Yet many of these pastors have never spoken more than a few sentences to many of the members of the churches they claim to shepherd.

The problem is not the size of the church, though. The problem is the lack of overseers necessary to shepherd such sizeable flocks. In order for true discipleship to take place, and the sheep to be adequately guarded against the wolves, pastors must share the work of the local church with other pastors to ensure that each member of the church is being fed, guarded, taught, encouraged, and built up in Christ.

Mission creep. Is there a problem, then, with mission statements? Yes. There is a problem with mission statements (plural). If a church does not recognize that they have already received their inerrant, infallible marching orders in the Great Commission, then they have already erred. The Lord has told the church what her mission is to be on this earth. We are to make disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching. That is the singular mission that should consume the local church. All other causes, purposes, or missions are to be subservient to this one all-consuming mission. When churches deviate from the God-breathed Great Commission, they inevitably engage in what is known as mission creep.

“mission creep: the gradual broadening of the original objectives of a mission or organization,” (Merriam-Webster).

When an organization commits mission creep, moving off of or broadening its originally stated objectives, the result is something far different than the original mission. The organization itself comes to resemble something far different than what it was meant to be. In the case of military organizations, the stated objectives are not met resulting military campaigns being prolonged. The church has been given her marching orders. We have a singular mission. We have not been commanded to broaden it or be creative. Our orders are very simple. We make disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching.

What are some of the ways in which churches have decided to broaden the mission of the church in recent years? One way is by becoming overly political in their emphases. Some churches have gone so far as to have political personalities come and speak to their people about matters of state, people who have no business filling the pulpit on the Lord’s Day. These churches run the error of Saul who, as king of Israel, had no business presenting the ceremonial offering to God before going into battle (1Sam. 13:8-14). He who enters the solemn assembly on the Lord’s Day either enters as God’s uniquely called representative to distribute the word and sacraments to the people or as disciples of Christ who come to bring an incense offering of corporate prayer and song, and to receive the word and sacraments. There is, therefore, no office of magistrate among the assembly of God’s people during His public worship.

Nor is there any place for earthly inter-mingling of nationalism with the worship of God. Christ’s disciples should be taught to respect and pray for civil magistrates (1Tim. 2:1-2; 1Pt. 2:13-17). However, when churches engage in Memorial Day services or bring the American flag into the assembly of God, a boundary has been crossed that should not be crossed by God’s church. No nation is ever to be put on par with, or elevated above, the kingdom of God during the worship of God. When the citizens of God’s kingdom enter His embassy on His day, there should be a recognition that they are leaving the soil of their earthly nation and standing on the soil of the kingdom of heaven.

Christians do not exist to improve their nation, state, or city. The land on which our church meets has had six national flags flown over it. From 1821 to 1845 alone—the span of just 25 years—Texas went from Spanish control, to Mexican control, to independence, to American statehood. Imagine, if the same thing were to occur today, what utter chaos and confusion would set in for many churches. What flag would they have on their stage opposite and equal with their Christian flag? Which politicians and political commentators would they invite in to interview during God’s worship before His kingdom citizens? God’s people need to be those who recognize that God establishes kings and removes them from their thrown, but His kingdom endures forever. As such, there should be no inter-mingling of God’s worship with national pride.

Moving beyond this one glaring error, there are many also who wish to bring social justice causes into the mission of God’s church. These people often are more concerned about societal ills, as they perceive them, than making disciples. Some of these causes are noble and, insofar as they are addressed in Scripture, should be a part of local church discipleship. Men should be taught to be spiritual leaders in their homes and present influences in the lives of their children. Women, children, and the disabled should be protected from all forms of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Partiality, in all its forms, should be openly shunned so that none are privileged above any others. Abortion should be outed as murder. Violence of any sort should be decried. The biblical definition of marriage and the marriage bed should be clearly taught.

In teaching on all of these issues, as well as the rest of the counsel of Scripture, Christ’s disciples will be adequately equipped to live for God as they ought. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work,” (2Tim. 3:16-17; NASB). Sadly, there are entire websites, podcasts, and organizations that have been established (some even calling themselves Reformed) that undermine the sufficiency of Scripture and have sought to smuggle worldly philosophies and the traditions of men into Christian discipleship (Col. 2:8-23).

These people see “white privilege,” “male privilege,” and even “straight privilege” (culturally defined labels) as necessary, mission-redefining concerns of the church. They suggest pragmatic solutions such as altering the hiring and ordaining practices of the church to be slave to worldly quotas rather than the leading of the Holy Spirit. They too seek to inject political discussions into the mission of the church, bringing up all manner of topics such as gun control, immigration, and the redistribution of wealth, as though these ought to be the primary focal points of the kingdom of God.

Sadly, the evidence is undeniable that the church has gotten off mission. Our purpose, our vision, our mission is to always, only be that of fulfilling the Great Commission. When we get side-tracked and start to follow red herrings, the enemy has succeeded in getting us off mission. When we are more concerned with social or political reform than we are with heart reform, we demonstrate that we have forgotten our first love. Let the church re-center on the primary mission to which we have been called on this earth: the Great Commission. As we do, we will return yet again to the chief end of the church of God. As we seek to make new disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching, God will be glorified and enjoyed as only He deserves.

Corporate Evangelism (Defining Evangelism)

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.

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DEFINING EVANGELISM

PART VI – Tying It All Together

Lesson Thirteen: Corporate Evangelism

23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near,” (Heb. 10:23-25; NASB)

 

Pragmatic Gnosticism. Most books you will read on the art and importance of evangelism will center on what is commonly called personal evangelism. They are in essence how-to manuals that are often filled with bits of special knowledge (gnosis) accumulated through trial and error. One approach to evangelism is only more valid than any other if it is demonstrably valid (pragmatism). In weighing the truthfulness of ideas about evangelism, many Christians have come to agree with the father of modern Pragmatism when he wrote: “Truth happens to an idea,” (William James, Pragmatism, pg. 92).

As a result, those who sell books and get speaking engagements on the matter of evangelism are those who have developed methods and seen them “work.” They are seen both as having a special knowledge about the subject that only they can offer, and as having seen their means justified by their results. This brand of Pragmatic Gnosticism is detrimental to our understanding of evangelism. Just as detrimental, if not more, is any notion that evangelism is primarily meant to be a personal endeavor.

It’s in the realm of personal evangelism that the results of this gnostic, pragmatic Christianity is said to prove its worth. If you follow Joe Schmoe’s approach to evangelism, you will surely see an upsurge in people who “pray the sinner’s prayer” and “invite Jesus into their hearts.” You might even see a greater number of annual baptisms and an increase in church membership.

Individuals or kingdom citizens? We must remember, though, that our goal in evangelism is not to get people through the door or even into the baptismal waters. Our goal in evangelism is to fulfill the whole of the Great Commission: to make disciples, baptize them into covenant membership with a local church, and teach them to observe all that Christ commanded. Our goal in evangelism is to make kingdom citizens, not individuals. Sadly, many of us have come to think like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who wrote: “I am waiting to be shown this prodigy in order to know whether he is man or citizen, or how he manages to be both at the same time” (Rousseau, Emile, pg. 6).

In the kingdom of God, we find our identities chiefly in our kingdom citizenship. Our worship is primarily corporate, and evangelism is calling others into our corporate worship of our sovereign King. We must, then, recognize that our evangelism is also primarily corporate. In our personal interactions with the lost, we must be always ready to give a defense for the hope that lies within us (1Pt. 3:15). We must also be overflowing with love for God and zeal for His kingdom to the point that we cannot but speak of it to the lost in our lives (Tit. 2:14).

Corporate commitment to teaching and preaching. However, we cannot of our own accord expect to give our lost loved ones everything they need for the conversion of their souls. The gospel is deeper and wider than anything we can hope to present in short snippets on our own. Furthermore, no individual Christian is anywhere commanded to teach any one disciple to observe all that Christ commanded outside the context of the regular, corporate assembly of the saints. The primary context for teaching the observance of Christ’s statutes and preaching God’s word is among His people on His Day.

23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near,” (Heb. 10:23-25; NASB; cf. John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; 1Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10).

It is as the church comes together as the church that evangelism becomes possible. When we think about evangelism, today, we think of it primarily in terms of making individual converts. In ages past, though, evangelism encompassed the whole of the corporate life of the church. For the Reformers and the Puritans, evangelism meant church planting—evangelism meant missions. These are areas where we really need to broaden our thinking about evangelism.

Corporate recognition of the gifted. It is the church corporate who recognizes godly men who are gifted for the task of preaching and teaching. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me,” (John 10:27; NASB). In this age in which direct, divine revelation has ceased, God directs His church through the indwelling of His Spirit and the leading of humble, yet vigilant, church leaders (Eph. 4:11-13; Acts 20:28-31). It is through the common suffrage of this Spirit-indwelt, elder-led body that God raises up godly men for the ministry.

“The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person, fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit, unto the office of bishop or elder in a church, is, that he be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage of the church itself; and solemnly set apart by fasting and prayer, with imposition of hands of the eldership of the church, if there be any before constituted therein,” (The Baptist Confession, 26.9).

Corporate education of the gifted. Consider for a moment the churches that supported Paul on his missionary journeys. They not only enabled him to journey to Ephesus and plant a church. They also enabled him to start up a school of ministry from which church planters like Epaphras were sent out to neighboring cities like Colossae, Hierapolis, and Laodicea to plant even more churches. We can conclude from this noble effort of the first Christians that it is proper for local churches to associate with other likeminded churches to support seminaries and schools of ministry. The result of such schools is the inevitable planting of churches and the furtherance of the kingdom into farther parts of the earth.

One such seminary is being established over the next few years in Fort Worth, Texas, one of just a few Reformed Baptist hubs in the United States. The Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies (IRBS) is a joint effort of the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America (ARBCA) to ensure the education of the next generation of Reformed Baptist pastors. As our church seeks membership in our state and national association, and as the Lord grants success to our evangelistic efforts, we can expect that such noble institutions will eventually benefit from our contributions.

Corporate commitment to church planting and foreign missions. Evangelism means the recognition and education of the gifted, but it also means the sending of the gifted. Evangelism means sending, because evangelism and missions are so intrinsically intertwined. This sending begins locally and works its way outward. Minimally, it means that a church will support fully its local ministry. After that level of local support is achieved, then other local churches can be planted. From there, and through the joint efforts of church associations, support for foreign missions should be a desire.

Support for foreign missions means two things. First, it means the planting of churches. We must recall that every aspect of the Great Commission assumes the local church. If the lost in foreign contexts are to be reached, the corporate church must recognize, educate, and send gifted men. If they are to be baptized into covenant membership with a local church, a local church must be established in that foreign context. Finally, if they are to be taught to observe all that Christ commanded, they must have a local congregation with which to assemble under the ordinary means of grace.

The second thing support for foreign missions means is translation. If new disciples in foreign lands are to be taught to observe all that Christ commanded, they must be able first to hear all that Christ commanded in their own native tongue. This teaching is where charismatics get 1 Corinthians 14 so wrong. Paul’s concern in 1 Corinthians 14 was primarily on the lost. In the mission field, it was necessary for Paul to be able to speak in multiple tongues, so that people of many different languages might understand the word of God. In a local church context, though, the use of many languages would only confuse the preached word. This was the understanding of the Particular Baptists when, heavily citing 1 Corinthians 14, they confessed:

“The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic; so as in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal to them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have a right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded in the fear of God to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and through patience and comfort of the Scriptures may have hope,” (The Baptist Confession, 1.8).

They understood the gift of tongues not as some erratic, unlearned gifting that bore a close relation to direct revelation and, thus, must have ceased with the apostolic era. They understood the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 to be the local expression of the gift of translation from one tongue to another for the edification of the saints and the furtherance of the gospel. Such non-revelatory gifts are still in practice today through translation committees, schools of textual criticism, live translation at multi-lingual local churches, and the mission field. It is not in the least charismatic, therefore, to say that the gift of tongues (translation) never ceased. In fact, this gift must likewise be recognized and honed for the furtherance of the kingdom through the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

Personal implications. What does this mean for you as the ordinary person in the pew? It has a few different implications. It means that evangelism suddenly means a lot more than trying to figure out how to “break the ice” on a religious discussion while sitting next to a stranger at a ball game. It means a lot more, but it also simplifies matters. Rather than feeling all the weight of trying to figure out the perfect way to break out of your shell and start up conversations with total strangers, you are free to focus on how you can personally help the corporate church to fulfill the Great Commission.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • In submission to God’s word, how might I prayerfully help to recognize the gifted among our body?
  • How does my giving, outreach, and hospitality toward visitors help our local church to be fully sustained, plant churches, support seminaries, and support foreign missions?
  • How can I better support my elders in teaching new disciples to observe all that Christ commanded?
  • How can I be praying for the fulfillment of the Great Commission through the efforts of our local church?
  • How might you support your local church’s efforts to fulfill the Great Commission through prayer, regular attendance, hospitality, the discipleship of new believers, and fidelity to the teaching you have received?

Going in Christ’s Authority (Defining Evangelism)

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.

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DEFINING EVANGELISM

PART I – THE GREAT COMMISSION

Lesson One: Going in Christ’s Authority

 

18And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,’” (Matthew 28:18-19a; NASB).

All authority. It is essential on the outset that Christians, with the task of evangelism set before them, recognize that it is a task that must be done in boldness. It must be done in boldness, because it is a task that has behind it all of the authority of heaven and earth. It has divine authority. The task of evangelism is a task that has been demanded of us by divine authority, and its message bears the divine seal.

As we are going weekly into our contexts—our homes, our workplaces, the marketplace, and our neighborhoods—we are carrying with us the King’s message. When a mother instructs her children, she must recall with great urgency the divine message she has been given to imprint on those young hearts. As we take a smoke break or a coffee break at work, we must remember that Christ’s authority is over the whole earth, even our workplace. Our coworkers sorely need to be compelled by His gospel to submit to His rightful authority. . . in this life! Our neighbors both in the marketplace and on our block should readily see the gospel of Jesus Christ adorned by our character, our actions, and certainly our conversation. After all, this gospel is not our message. It is the King’s message, and we are His ambassadors as we sojourn in this world today.

How is it that the early church was taught to adorn the gospel of Christ and the doctrine of the apostles? They were called to have Christian character. Slaves were encouraged to have a strong, Christian work ethic, so that their character would support the Great Commission in the workplace and not detract from it.

9Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect,” (Titus 2:9-10; NASB).

We who work for others ought to regularly consider what our work ethic conveys to those with whom and for whom we work about what we truly believe. If we claim to be Christians, we must live, work, rest, and play in such a way as to adorn His and His apostles’ teachings. If we claim the name of the King, and we bear the message of the King, we must adorn His name with such virtues as integrity, loyalty, equity, and efficiency.

Sadly, I’ve spoken with some Christian business owners who have lamented to me the fact that they have hired a great many Christians who do not adorn the name of Christ. Christians can be known for shoddy work, for talking on the clock, and for laziness. What we should be known for is an above-standard work ethic that raises all our peers to the next level. As we show all good faith in our work, we will truly adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect. Wives, likewise, were encouraged to adorn themselves with godly character:

3Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands,” (1 Peter 3:3-5; NASB).

Rather than seeking to win their unbelieving husbands with the latest fashions and jewelry, they were to let the hidden person of their heart be exposed, but with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit. Peter, in essence, wants women to understand that men are not won by their wives’ external beauty. Ungodly husbands are won to Christ by the adorning of godly character in support of the gospel that has been preached. Peter conveys as much in the preceding two verses.

1In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior,” (1 Peter 3:1-2; NASB).

Everything the Christian does either supports or detracts from the Great Commission. Do we love our co-workers as we have been called to love all men? Do we hope to see them saved? We must adorn the doctrine of God our Savior then through a godly work ethic. Do we love our unbelieving family members? Do we hope to see them saved? Then we must adorn the gospel of Christ in our love and respect for them in all of our conversations.

We must adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ for their sake, but also out a sense of its authority. Again, this gospel we have been given is the very message of the King. It comes with His authority upon the hearts of the hearers, but it should also fall with His authority upon our hearts. If it bears no authority upon the church, how will they ever hear? We can wish all day long that they would just happen to the pew by the sheer will of God, but we know that is not at all how God accomplishes His will.

The gospel is God’s power unto salvation (Romans 1:16). They must be compelled to submit to godly discipleship by its power, or we should expect that they will never have the slightest desire of discipleship. The lost must see their great need of Christ and of His church if they are to be brought into the church and taught to observe all that Christ commanded. That is one of the goals of preaching the word: to help regular church members be so immersed in the word that we can all explain, bare minimum, a person’s need for discipleship in Christ. If the average church member can’t explain that, then the local church has failed him.

Going, therefore. This great authority having been given to Christ, the church is now commissioned. We are commissioned to make disciples of all nations. In the Matthew 28 account of the Great Commission, there are several participles providing subpoints to this main point. The main verb is to make disciples. The participles are ‘going,’ ‘baptizing,’ and ‘teaching.’ Each of these participles is given in support of the main verb, so it could be said—and has been said—that the main verb gives us the objective, and the participles give us the plan of attack.

Christ, in His incarnation, accomplished several pivotal goals in the church. One of the great feats He accomplished was to mobilize the church. The assembly, before Christ’s incarnation, had been bound up within one single ethnicity: the Israelites. The worship of God’s congregation was to occur according to a strictly regulated ceremonial law code in which four festivals were to be observed on Mount Zion a year. The covenant community of God was shored up within a very neatly defined set of geographical boarders.

When Christ came to this world and took on human flesh, He removed the enmity that existed between circumcised believers and their Gentile counterparts:

14For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity,” (Ephesians 2:14-16; NASB).

Now, the assembly includes all ethnicities from which any have bowed the knee to Christ. In His incarnation, He also removed the sense of geographical, earthly worship and declared that we who worship Him must worship Him instead in spirit and in truth.

21Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth,’” (John 4:21-24; NASB).

Jesus’ congregation then gathers not on Mount Zion to observe a regular church calendar of feast days, new moons, and sabbaths. Rather, we gather together wherever we can with a true, local body of believers to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Not only Has God expanded His assembly to include all ethnicities and abolished the requirement for the congregation to gather on Mount Zion, teaching them instead to worship in spirit and truth. Christ also broke apart the geographical boundaries of the kingdom of God, mobilizing the church to go forth into all nations. However, He did so through interesting means.

In Acts 7, we read of the stoning of Stephen, the deacon, at the hands of the Jews in Jerusalem. Up until this time, the church of Christ had met locally in one single location in Jerusalem. It was by all accounts an obscure, insignificant, geographically challenged church, though their numbers had grown quite large in a short amount of time. God used the murder of Stephen, though, as an occasion to mobilize the church and to move them out into all the known world.

“Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles,” (Acts 8:1; NASB).

Our God has a knack for taking the things that men mean for evil and using them for good. He did so in the life of Joseph. He did so in the death of Christ. Here, we see that He even did so in the stoning of Stephen. After the stoning of Stephen, a great persecution broke out in the church, and the saints were scattered.

On the day of Pentecost, we’re told that many Jewish men from all over the Roman empire had made their way to Jerusalem for the festival. Many of them repented of their sins as a result of God’s sovereign work on their hearts through Peter’s preaching. However, rather than going back home and making disciples, they remained in Jerusalem. We read in Acts 2 that this was a sweet time of fellowship, self-sacrifice, and learning at the feet of the apostles.

This time of growth in the faith would be needful in the days ahead. By Acts 7, the religious leaders in Jerusalem had reached a boiling point in their disdain for the Way. Many had been pierced to the core by Peter’s public preaching. Those who remained hardened were only growing in their animosity toward the church. When Stephen stood and boldly accounted to them the chronic unfaithfulness of Israel and their murder of the Messiah, it was more that they were willing to stand, so they stoned him. At this, a great persecution broke out, and the church was scattered. The church was scattered such that, by the time that Paul wrote to Colossae from prison, he declared that the gospel had already gone out to all the known world.

5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel 6which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth,” (Colossians 1:5-6; NASB).

Of course, as the gospel went out, support was soon needed. As people were brought into the church, fulfilling the gospel on a micro level, finances were needed for the sending of missionaries and the support of struggling churches. In First Corinthians, Paul writes of one such need:

1Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 2On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. 3And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. 4But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me,” (1 Corinthians 16:1-4; NASB).

Most commentators are in agreement that a collection was needful because of a local famine that was affecting the saints in Jerusalem. In the ancient church it was understood that, when one local church was in pain, the entire church experienced the same pain. This famine in Jerusalem was no different.

Support was not only required for established churches, though. Missionaries like Paul, Barnabas, John Mark, Titus, and Timothy needed to be supported as they took the gospel to the ends of the known world. In another prison letter, Paul commends the church at Philippi for their financial support of him.

15Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account,” (Philippians 4:15-17; NKJV).

Though Paul was a self-sufficient tradesman and had time to apply his trade as well as preach the gospel—having no wife or family for which to provide—he still required financial support, especially while in prison. This is a privilege for local churches. Local churches who have the ability to support missions should count it all joy to do so. It should not be seen as having been done so for the sake of the gift given to the missionary himself, but as fruit that abounds to the account of the giving church!

This blessing, however, should not be seen as something that can be bought. We do not earn the favor or the blessing of God through unwise stewardship. There were times in the lives of local churches in which they were unable to provide financial support for missions. Not only is it okay to go through seasons in which we are unable to give. It is biblical. Even the church at Philippi, who Paul is praising for their generosity in this text, went through a season in which they were unable to meet his need.

“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity,” (Philippians 4:10; NASB).

A natural outworking, then, of fulfilling the Great Commission in the immediate context of the local church is the increase of opportunity to support the fulfilling of the Great Commission in greater contexts. As the Lord gives ability through the increase of a local church, the local church is to be increasingly focused on the work of the universal church. As we focus on the spread of the kingdom abroad, we will then be encouraged to take part in the spread the kingdom in our contexts.

Introduction to Defining Evangelism

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.

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This course is not designed to be a practical treatment on the subject of evangelism so much as—as the title suggests—an attempt to define a doctrine of evangelism by examining key texts. There will be times when we consult church history to see how godly men of earlier ages understood these topics, but these lessons are designed primarily for the purpose of getting us into the word. As such, we hope to deeply consider several major biblical themes touching evangelism and the Great Commission, and to make practical application to our own lives.

Since this is not primarily a “how-to” on evangelism, there are some practical matters we want to consider first. Of paramount consideration is our own relationships with God and with our neighbors. We read in Matthew’s gospel:

“And He said to him, ‘‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets,’’” (Matthew 22:37-40; NASB).

Love for God. We must consider how much time we spend in the word and on our knees in communion with the God with whom we claim to have been reconciled. If I do not spend adequate time with my wife and with my kids, it will show in the way that I talk about them and converse with them in public. As I seek to give marital or parenting advice to others, they will know by their observance of my own relationships that I am disqualified to offer such counsel. The same is true for evangelism. If we are to be qualified to bring people to Christ, both in the eyes of our hearers and in reality, we must regularly strive to bring ourselves to Christ in His word and in prayer.

If we hope that others are to know Christ, we must know Him as well. We’re not called to know Him on a merely academic level. We can have a great abundance of knowledge about people. Just talk to any avid baseball fan, and they will soon be rattling off to you player stats for their favorite players. If the player has been in the game for a while and has written an autobiography, they may have even read it. However, how foolish would it seem if, by virtue of this public knowledge of a public individual alone, they were to invite you over to his house for a cookout that is not open to the public.

In the same way, we are not to so belittle a relationship with our Redeemer as to invite people into such a relationship without first being in relationship with Him ourselves. Before we explain to men and women their dreadful state before God apart from Christ, we must have first taken stock of what it means for us. If we are then to educate them on the merits of Christ through which He accomplished our redemption, we must examine ourselves to see if we are truly living according to the grace that has been given us. If we are to call them to repentance and faith, we must first examine ourselves to see if we have truly repented and believed.

Love for neighbor. Love for God is the first Great Commandment. We must labor long and labor consistently at cultivating a love for our God. As we do, we will increase in yet another love: love for neighbor. This call to love our neighbor is the second great commandment. As we come daily to the word and to our knees in prayer seeking to grow in love for Christ, we should seek also to have our hearts inclined toward our neighbors.

Have you ever been excited at the prospect of meeting with a couple for dinner for the first time only to find that they had invited the whole neighborhood to their house for dinner and a sales pitch? They recognized that hospitality can be a great way to get people through your doors and gain a listening audience, but they did not care to use their home for the purpose it was originally intended. You came in the hope of a potential new friendship and instead were treated like a potential customer. What was lacking? Love.

Dynamics change drastically when love is at the core of the relationship dynamic. Jennifer and I had some friends at our last church who had us over to their house on a couple of occasions a year. They sold products through their home for one of these companies, but by the time they actually spoke with us about the products they had, it did not come off as a sales pitch. We were friends, brothers and sisters in the Lord. There was no suspicion there. We either bought their products or we didn’t but, either way, they still loved us and we loved them.

We must cultivate the same love for our neighbors to whom we hope to bring the gospel. It does no good to tell people your message is one of love if they perceive that there is no love for them in your heart. This isn’t an evangelism method I’m proposing to you. It doesn’t matter to me if churches knock on doors, host neighborhood cookouts, organize evangelistic conferences, rent booths at local festivals, hand out gospel tracts, or preach the gospel in the open air from on top of egg crates. Each of these methods will rub wrong people of different personality types.

Each of these methods will also be met with some measure of success. The difference is not necessarily in the method. The difference is in the love that we have for our neighbors. If we do not love them, they will know. In our skeptical world, it is much easier to spot someone who is lacking in love than to discern the authenticity of actual love. Nevertheless, let us pray for our neighbors, let us ask God to grant us a heart for our neighbors, and let us regularly seek His power and wisdom in conveying that love to our neighbors.

Structure. Our approach to defining evangelism will follow the structure of the “Working Definition” above. The first two parts of our study will be preparatory, while the last three parts will be definitive, explaining what evangelism is. In the first part, we will examine the foundation for evangelism: The Great Commission. The main verb in the Great Commission is the verb make disciples. This verb is modified by three participles: going, baptizing, and teaching, so our first three lessons will center on these three modifiers.

In the second part, we will consider the messengers and the hearers of the gospel in the act of evangelism. Is every Christian meant to be engaged in evangelism in exactly the same way as all others? Is evangelism solely the work of ordained, or recognized, leaders within the church, or is it the responsibility of every member? Who are the proper recipients of the evangelism? Is it only for those outside the church, or should it be a major emphasis of the preaching and teaching within the church? Part Two will be covered in lessons four and five.

It has been well noted that the good news of Christ does not make sense apart from the bad news. The cure for a terminal disease does not become precious to the patient until the doctor issues the dismal diagnosis. In the same way, the unregenerate must understand the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man before the good news of Christ’s work of atonement makes any sense. Part Three, comprised of a lesson on God’s holiness and a lesson on the sinfulness of man, will help us to understand the importance of these truths for evangelism.

In Part Four, we will finally come to an observance of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. In lessons eight through ten, we will note three acts of Christ essential to the gospel message: His obedience in life, His obedience in death, and His resurrection. As we observe each of these doctrines, we will see how Christ accomplished for us our full and final atonement and, through union with Him, come to have reconciliation with God in heaven.

Lessons eleven and twelve will comprise the fifth and final part of our study. In them, we will observe the gospel commands that come as a result of having heard the gospel of Jesus Christ: repentance unto life and saving faith. Having explained the joyous news of our accomplished atonement in Christ Jesus, the church has one final declaration to our hearers in our work evangelism:

30Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead,” (Acts 17:30-31; NASB).

A Working Definition of Evangelism (Third Revision)

You can see the original Definition here, the first revision here, and the second revision here.

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“With a view toward making disciples of all nations1 and entering them into covenant membership with a local church, through baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 2 in order that they may be taught to observe all that Christ commanded,3 evangelism is the endeavor of the entire church4 to explain to the unregenerate—both in their midst and in the world5—God’s holiness,6 man’s sin and its wages,7 Christ’s accomplishment of redemption through His obedience in life,8 death,9 and resurrection,10 and the proper response of sinners: repentance from sin toward God11 and faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.”12

1 Mt. 28:19a; Acts 8:1; Col. 1:5-6

2 Mt. 28:19b; 1Cor. 10:1-2, 11; Acts 2:37-39; 8:12-13; 18:8; Eph. 4:1-6; Rom. 12:5; 1Cor. 12:25; Eph. 4:25

3 Mt. 28:20; Acts 2:42; 20:20; Eph. 2:20

4 1Pt. 3:15; Phil. 2:14-16; Lk. 12:48; Eph. 4:12

5 1Cor. 9:18; Gal. 1:8-9; Mt. 24:14; Mk. 13:10

6 Exod. 24:17; Deut. 4:24; Heb. 12:29; Isa. 6:3-5; 1Tim. 6:16

7 Rom. 3:23; 5:12; Tit. 1:15; Gen. 6:5; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:10-19

8 Rom. 5:19; Heb. 5:8

9 Phil. 2:8

10 1Cor. 15; 2Cor. 5:15; 1Thess. 4:14

11 Mt. 3:2; 4:17; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; 17:30; 20:20-21; 26:20; Rom. 2:4; 2Cor. 7:10; 2Pt. 3:9;

      Rev. 3:19

12 Rom. 1:16; 4:5; 9:33; 10:4, 9-11; Gal. 3:6, 9, 22; Eph. 2:8; Heb. 11:6

A Working Definition of Evangelism (Second Revision)

You can see the original Definition here, and the first revision here.

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With a view toward making disciples of all nations and entering them into covenant membership with a local church, through baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, in order that they may be taught all that Christ commanded, evangelism is the endeavor of the church to explain to the unregenerate—both in their midst and in the world—God’s holiness, man’s sin and its wages, Christ’s accomplishment of redemption through His obedience in life, death, and resurrection, and the proper response of sinners: repentance from sin toward God and faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

A Working Definition of Evangelism (Revised)

You can see the original Definition here.

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With a view toward making disciples of all peoples and bringing them into covenant with a local church, in which they shall be baptized in the name of the Triune God and taught to obey all Christ commanded, evangelism is the act of worship whereby Spirit-led believers articulate for unbelievers God’s holiness, man’s sin and its wages, Christ’s accomplishment of redemption through His obedience in life, death, and resurrection, and the proper response of sinners: repentance from sin toward God and faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

A Working Definition of Evangelism

With a view toward making disciples and covenanting them to a local church, where they will be baptized in the name of the Triune God and taught to obey all that Christ commanded, evangelism is the articulation of the holiness of God, the sin of man and its wages, Christ’s accomplishment of redemption through His incarnation, perfect life, death, burial, and resurrection on behalf of sinners, and the proper response of sinners: repentance from sin toward God, and faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.