for communicating the gospel
Christians have always put great store in the business of communicating the gospel. The evangelical wing of the Christian church, in particular, has tended to make it an article of faith that direct face-to-face witnessing be required of all believers.
It is quite clear from Jesus' own ministry that we must be vitally concerned with the spread of the gospel. He came to seek and save that which was lost, Lk.15, 19:1-10. It is the role of the disciple to be part of his work, but does this mean direct proclamation? When we examine the scriptures we find few direct commands for all believers to evangelize. We do know that the apostles had a direct command to go into all the world and proclaim the gospel, Matt.28:18. That this command applies to all disciples is not born out by the Biblical record. Rather, the command is an example of one part of our Lord's strategy to spread the gospel throughout the world. So, our responsibility comes down to joining with Christ in gospel communication.
We believers have discovered the reality of the Kingdom of God in the world. This Kingdom is a city of refuge, a place of escape from a world of darkness, Act.2:36, Heb.13:6. It is a city of light bathed in the presence of God. It shines like a beacon, Matt.5:14 -16, Jn.13: 34, 17: 23. It shines in a world doomed to destruction, 1Pet.2:11-12, 3:1, Matt. 5:14-16, 2 Cor.3:18. On this earth the reality of the Kingdom lies in the church, in God's new community bound in love.
The lost sheep, those who know not Christ, when they see the light of the Kingdom, come and enter and live in the presence of the Almighty, Jn.1: 9-13. They see the reality of reborn people, caring as Jesus cared, and so they come, Jn.13-17. So, in an indirect way, believers in fellowship seek out the lost by their love for one another. Their light shines in the world, convincing it of its own sin, of the righteousness of which it falls short, and the judgement which is its end, Jn.16:7-11. Through the indirect witness of the group, the world sees reality. It sees its own darkness, Eph.3:7-13. It sees a Kingdom to come, and the Son, the only begotten of the Father, Jn.17:20-23.
If the life-style of the Christian community follows Jesus' example, it becomes a clear demonstration of the reality of the Kingdom's presence for all to see. Therefore the development of a true discipleship, a complete reliance on the grace of God in Christ both for salvation and renewal, is itself effective evangelism. It is a proclamation of the Kingdom's presence.
So, let us bathe in the gracious love of Christ and allow that love to wash over our brothers and sisters in the Lord. This love, demonstrated in the Christian community, will reach out to those who similarly want to be washed in God's love.
Direct evangelism is primarily the role of a specially gifted person, an evangelist, Eph.4:11, 2Tim.4:1-5. All other Christians must simply be willing (and able!) to defend and share their faith when asked to do so, Matt.10:32-33.
An evangelist is a messenger going out into the highways and byways inviting people to come to the great feast prepared by the Father, Lk.14:16-24. They invite people to come into the Kingdom, invite people to participate in the new relationships now possible between each other and God.
How this message is verified is very interesting. As evangelists invite the lost sheep into the Kingdom, they are able to point to the Kingdom's present reality in the church. They can illustrate the gospel by pointing to the Christian community, that little touch of heaven on earth. The apostles were sent out to proclaim the gospel, to heal the sick and cast out demons, Matt.10. As Jesus said, "If I by the finger of God cast out demons then you know that the Kingdom of God is upon you", Lk.11:20. Today it is the witness of God's people, their love for one another, their unity, that demonstrates the present reality of the Kingdom, Matt.5:14-16, and its inevitable coming in power, Eph:3:7-13. Therefore the church, as well as sending out evangelists to proclaim the gospel, is itself a verification of that message.
An Evangelist is a person gifted with the ability to confront people and speak clearly and forcibly. Paul, in Romans 12, states that each one of us must examine ourselves to see what gifts the Lord has given us and then use them in our ministry. Not all will be evangelists, but some will.
Most believers will find that they are not gifted to be evangelists. It is truly a very specialized gift. None-the-less, we can all do the work of an evangelist. That is, we can all play a part in the business of communicating the good news about Jesus. Consider some of the following:
i] Support missionary societies.
ii] Hold a dialogue meeting - invite our non Christian friends to our home for an informal discussion on Christianity.
iii] Hand appropriate tracts to friends, etc. or do a letter box drop.
iv] Buy radio/newspaper space for a gospel presentation.
v] Practice a gospel outline and apologetic questions so that when an opportunity comes our way with a friend or acquaintance, we will be able to effectively witness to our faith. It's amazing how the Lord can give us these openings. All we have to do is just look for them. They usually occur in a natural way.
vii] Give up some of your spare time to an evangelistic organization in administration etc.
Practical examples of direct witnessing
The opportunities for direct evangelistic work are numerous. Every believer should consider whether they might be able to undertake some form of direct evangelism. To this end there are numerous training programmes available to equip believers for up-front evangelism.
i] It is always difficult to confront people, but as long as we understand our material and can communicate it, we will soon gain confidence.
ii] Very few people are rude and around 1 in 10 will give us a hearing if our approach is friendly and confident.
iii] The approach must be honest and precise e.g.
a) Hello! My name is ....
b) I am a member of .....Christian congregation
c) My reason for visiting is very simple. I would just like the opportunity to spend a few minutes discussing the Christian faith with you - I would love to answer any questions you may have - tell you anything about our church that you may wish to know.
d) I am happy to call back if you are busy at the moment.
iv] Don't outdo the welcome; watch dress and breath.
v] Leave some literature
a) Gospel - John or Mark
b) A gospel tract
c) Church information. A Parish Paper.
2. Appointment visitation
Cold unannounced visitation is becoming less effective because of the activities of the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons. It is very easy to ring up church contacts and organize a time to visit to discuss church activities and the Christian faith. Remember, new arrivals in the district usually appreciate a visit by a local church representative.
The use of aids, such as printed material or an audio visual, can be very effective. Of most importance, a concise and well-prepared presentation is a necessary requirement. A church Visitors Information booklet is a must. Such a publication enables the visitor to speak about the life of the church, origins, history, programme, services....., and then speak of the belief of the church. A gospel outline should be included in such a publication. The visitor can then work through it with their contact. Evangelism Explosion is a favoured method used in many churches.
3. Small group evangelism
This method is being used very effectively with such programs as Christianity Explained. Over a six week period a small group meets to examine the elements of the Christian faith. A study booklet is provided, a leader guides the group through the studies, and over the six weeks the group comes to understand the gospel. The meeting can be held anywhere from a private home to a church hall. The Alpha course is a favoured method in many churches.
4. Open air evangelism
A highly specialized activity. Quite effective from a group base or a van set up with audio visual equipment. An old style medicine show could be adapted to this end.
5. Youth workers
Tremendous opportunities are now open for full-time youth work in local churches. The running of activity-centred programs, camps, clubs, etc. give numerous opportunities for personal evangelism.
6. Full-time Evangelists
A local church evangelist.
7. Overseas missionary work
This work has tended to change from general evangelistic work to specialist church support work, such as theological education, yet there is still vast opportunities for missionary work throughout the world.
8. Rallies, Crusades and Special services
People are increasingly unwilling to come out at night to a tent meeting. Often when we run special events like this, it is only members of the Christian community who bother to come along, and even then, most of them don't bother. The day of large evangelistic occasions has probably ended, but limited opportunities still exist.
9. Small group home Evangelism
A particularly effective method of home-meeting evangelism was developed by Rev. John Chapman and first used in the Armidale diocese in Australia. John then brought it to Sydney and during the 70's and 80's was one of the most favoured methods of evangelism. It is a home meeting method where the host has invited non-Christian friends along to discuss Christianity. The leader opens with a clear run-down on the gospel, and then answers apologetic questions that arise.
10. Street Witness
This is an effective method for young people at University, on the beach or on street corners. It works best with a handout e.g. An "underground" newspaper.
11. Coffee House, Drop-in Center, Commune
These were particular evangelistic enterprises used during the youth revolution in the 70's. The "Jesus people" used them to reach out to street kids. Staffed by a team of young people, they provided opportunities for personal and group evangelism. Few examples are to be found now, although the "Drop-in Centre" concept has particular merit and is still used widely in secular youth work.
12. Sunday School, Scripture, Camping, Clubs
School and college based evangelism still works very well, particularly in after-school clubs, junior high Friday evening clubs, and camping ministry. These programmes require a dedicated team, but the work is now made much easier with the availability of programme resources and equipment. Sunday School, as an evangelistic enterprise, is probably no longer viable. Increasingly only those with strong links to the church send their children to Sunday School and it is therefore better to incorporate the children into the worshipping community of the church rather than isolate them from their denominational roots in an independent child evangelism programme. In most churches, children now only leave the church service during the teaching/sermon segment.
13. Media Evangelism
In the global city, with the increasing segmentation and stratification of society, the communication of the gospel must inevitably employ the print, and especially the electronic media. The Internet, for example, holds outstanding possibilities for gospel communication. The following are just some of the practical ways we can get the gospel out to our local community:
i] Production of a good local church paper delivered to all homes in the district.
ii] A startling column or advert in the local paper.
iv] Letterbox drop of a tract with local appeal.
v] Monitoring of phone-in programmes.
vi] Submitting Christian articles to newspapers and magazines.
vii] Production of films and videos, plays, magazines, music.
viii] Placement of Christian videos in video outlets, or free distribution to all enquirers.
ix] Entry into the electronic entertainment media, especially T.V.
The 5 by 5 finger exercise gospel presentation
The practicalities of evangelism rest on a sound understanding of the gospel. There is little point getting all the "levers" right, getting the methodology right, but not getting the message right. It is essential for every believer to know the gospel, in the sense of understanding it, and be able to communicate it. For an understanding of the gospel refer to The Theology of the Gospel. As for being able to communicate the message, it is essential to have a structured presentation on the tip of the tongue.
The following 5 by 5 presentation uses the five fingers of both hands. There are five main points, with the fourth point having five sub points. It is just a matter of working through the fingers of both hands, finger by finger. On the fourth finger of the first hand, move to the five fingers of the other hand for the five sub points.
- 1. God, his existence and creation.
There is a moral loving personal God. He has created the whole universe. We are a very special part of that creation, created to know and experience his eternal love.
- 2. The human condition, sin.
The trouble is we have ignored God. He is now distant from us, and our world is in chaos.
- 3. Salvation through Christ.
God has done the only thing you would expect him to do. He has set about to clean up the mess. He has done this in Jesus, in his life, death and resurrection.
- 4. Blessings in Christ.
Jesus now reigns in heaven and because he is the living Lord, we can live, we can experience life in all its fullness.
- 1. A new friendship with God for eternity.
- 2. A new life-style.
- 3. A new freedom from guilt, self and fear.
- 4. A new community to be part of.
- 5. The hope of a new world, heaven, eternity.
- 5. Response.
God calls on everyone of us to respond to this offer of new life in Jesus. All we have to do is ask Jesus, it's as simple as that.
1. Consider how well your congregation images the reality of heaven. Does it serve to proclaim the gospel indirectly through its communal life?
2. Consider how well your congregation gets the gospel out into the local community. What means do you use to communicate the gospel and how could they be improved?