The Effective Evangelism of the Church
Hallmarks of a Healthy Church
Illust: DL Moody is reported to have had the following conversation with a leading Christian gentleman in Chicago while seated before the fireplace in his home:
Man: “I can be just as good a Christian outside a church as in one.”
Moody: said nothing but pulled a burning coal from the fire and set it on the stone floor in front of the fireplace. In silence they both watched the coal gradually smolder and die out.
Man: “I see.”
We can’t fulfill our responsibility isolated from the church family.
The supreme mission of the church, indeed of all individual believers, is to glorify God
Numerous passages offer insight into this concept.
NAU 1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
NAU Ephesians 1:12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.
NAU Revelation 4:11 "Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created."
Soli Deo Gloria captures the life purpose of every believer and mission of the church. It is far more than a slogan of the Reformation (one of the five solas). Everything the church does should be measured by whether the glory of God is promoted.
A chief means by which the church accomplishes its task of glorifying God is evangelism
In the first century, evangelism was carried out primarily by the scattered church NAU Acts 8:1 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. 4 Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word
Evangelism was carried on by church members out in society. Generally people were converted apart from the formal gatherings of the church.
Various traits characterized this first century evangelism
They declared God’s message boldly - NAU Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.
Jesus was the main content of the message - NAU Acts 5:42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
They declared God’s message indiscriminately - NAU Acts 5:28 saying, "We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man's blood upon us."
They were oriented to God rather than men.
NAU Acts 5:29 But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men.
They declared God’s message systematically - NAU Acts 5:42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
They considered the hearer’s circumstances as they declared God’s message - NAU Acts 17:23 "For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you
They lived God’s message in addition to declaring it.
NAU 1 Thessalonians 1:7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. 9 For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God,
Jesus himself issued the mandate for evangelism – NAU Matthew 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." A diagrammatical analysis yields four basic notions; (really two: the mandate 19-20a and the promise 20b).
The mandate carries the authority of Christ himself. “Therefore” points back to the authority spoken of in v 18.
The mandate itself is “make disciples”.
“Make disciples” is the main verb (not “go”). It is an imperative.
Generally a disciple refers to one who is committed to a Master and is engaged in propagating his teachings. The term “disciple” was applied to all Christians which is to say those whose common trait was obedience to the Master. NAU John 8:31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;
Without consideration of anything else, this means that evangelism does not stop with an initial dump of the gospel or a profession of faith. The goal is to produce genuine followers! The enterprise is to make disciples rather than professors.
The mandate is to be carried out by those who have scattered.
“Go” is an aorist participle – “after having gone” indicating prior action. It assumes that the hearers had “gone” somewhere. It further assumes that they now had an obligation to make disciples right where they were! Undoubtedly Jesus had in mind the daily vocational life of the early Christians who scattered out from Jerusalem. Wherever they went they were to engage in evangelism.
This may be an explanation of the tongues phenomena at Pentecost described in Acts 2. People from many language groups were present who spoke in their native tongue.
The mandate is to be accomplished in conjunction with baptism and instruction.
“Baptizing” (v19) is a present participle; thus “while baptizing” indicating simultaneous action. So baptism is part of the discipleship process. If baptism is associated with entrance into the local church (Acts 2) then the assumption is that the new convert will be urged to unite with the church so that he/she can continue in the disciple making process.
In fact, note the profound theology associated with baptism itself (the Trinitarian formula).
“Teaching (v 20) is also a present participle; this “while teaching” indicating simultaneous action. So teaching too is part of the discipleship process. The picture now begins to take shape – genuine faith in Christ followed by baptism and membership into a church where the new convert can be systematically taught (see previous study regarding the role of the pastor-teacher in Ephesians 4:11-16).
Teaching also includes the practical admonition to zealously “guard” what is imparted; this is undoubtedly a way of saying obey or live the teachings.
And the teaching is specifically identified as that taught by Christ. This certainly could be expanded to things that are authorized by the God head, namely the inspired Scriptures.
The target of the evangelism mandate is “all nations”. This is a divine warrant to carry the gospel everywhere, even to those whose culture has no place for Christianity and even if the traditions and practices will be radically changed by the gospel!
The encouragement for carrying out the evangelism mandate 20b. Jesus promises his presence with those engaged in making disciples. This is of one piece with his declaration that he will build his church and that the building enterprise will succeed (Matthew 16:18).
A Definition of evangelism
Negative – evangelism is not church growth, decisions, speaking and writing against pagan culture, staging public protests, boycotting businesses, laudable behavior (being moral, honest, benevolent, ethical, or etc.), social justice (advocating for and assisting the downtrodden, oppressed, poor or homeless), compassionate acts, political action, your personal testimony, community service, church advertising, hospitality, and etc.
Positive – evangelism is declaring the truth that Jesus died for sinners, was raised from the dead, ascended to heaven, and that He can and will forgive sins for those who repent and believe.
We gather to learn; we scatter to live could be an appropriate motto of a local church. If done properly, evangelism happens.
© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2017. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.