What Is An Evangelical? Part 3 – Evangelism
And now, ladies and gentlemen, we return to the most anticipated (haha) post of the past few months – Part 3 of my series, “What Is An Evangelical?” This entry we will be discussing the third mark of an evangelical: evangelism!
To recap: an “evangelical” is a person (preacher), church, or denomination that has the Gospel of Jesus Christ, especially the primacy of Christ’s work, as the central article of faith; that believes the spreading of the Gospel and the salvation of souls is the number one duty of the Christian; that believes all moral/spiritual truth is found in the Bible; and that Christians are called to live lives of service before God and fellow man.
We have discussed thus far the meaning of “evangelical” (see above paragraph) and the Gospel. Now let us turn to evangelism.
To begin, what exactly does the word evangelism mean? It comes from the Greek word euangelion, which means “good news.” I think we covered that in our first foray into the meaning of “evangelical.” In practice, evangelism involves spreading the Good News about Jesus to people who do not know Him. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Evangelism is very simply telling people about Jesus. There are several ways we accomplish this basic act: preaching the Word and intentional conversational discussion with people. This discussion can be flat out telling people “you need Jesus” (which is what preaching does much more than conversation) or it can be something that comes about as part of every day conversation with those around us who are non-Christians. There are several methods of sharing the Gospel that have been identified but I will not discuss them here.
This is in direct obedience to the Great Commission as recorded in Matthew 28:19-20:
Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
Or again in Mark 16:15:
Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
Now, let’s discuss some practical details about evangelism. Evangelism involves winning a person to Christ and helping them to mature as a born-again believer. At my church, my pastor invented an easy way to teach the Deaf this term: a BAB (born-again believer). There are two implications of this practical definition.
First, we must understand that the primary goal of evangelism is winning a person to Christ. If all we do is simply tell about Jesus and no one ever believes, then we may as well shut up and go home. We’re just peeing into the wind. Our words and actions must have a definite purpose, and if our purpose is not the salvation of lost individuals, of lost souls, then we have no business telling people about Jesus, period.
Further underscoring this point is that God’s word does not return to Him (and by implication, to us) empty-handed as Isaiah 55:11 tells us. It does what God has purposed for it to do. The good news about Jesus, the Evangel, will never be told by us without doing what it is intended to do. Thus our attitude must be the same as the Father’s–our evangelism must have the express purpose of winning lost souls to Christ. We must pray that every time we share Jesus with someone that the Holy Spirit will be working to secure that person’s eternal security.
Second, we must understand that evangelism does not stop with the salvation of the lost soul. We now have a commitment to the brand new BAB to nurture them in Christian growth. They are spiritual babies, and babies must be cared for, nurtured. If all we do is win them to Christ and they never grow and become mature believers, we have seriously failed. This nurturing of new Christians is what we call discipleship.
An example of this principle is the current push for church planting. Each church in the SBC is being encouraged to reproduce itself in one or more church plants. That church must be at a point in its growth where it is mature enough to “birth” and “raise” a church to maturity. That new church must then do the same, reproducing itself and raising a new church to maturity. Just so, we must be willing to not only “birth” the new Christian, but to take up the task of raising that new BAB in the way he or she must go. The goal is for that new BAB to reproduce him/herself. Indeed, that must be the goal of every Christian!
I want to make a couple of remarks about something I’ve been noticing as part of my own personal study into the theological system of the doctrines of grace. Historical Calvinism was heavily evangelistic in its practice. Modern Calvinism has largely lost this focus, from what I have seen. There is a movement now to correct this loss of purpose, and I believe this is a great thing. It would be extremely educational and practical to see Calvinistic evangelism in action.
There is much, much more that could be said here about evangelism, but that would require turning this blog into a Personal Evangelism class, and that’s beyond the scope of this series. Let’s suffice it to say that evangelism involves (1)telling people (especially lost people) about Jesus with the express purpose of winning them to Christ; and (2)discipling new converts to Christian maturity, with the goal of equipping them to win and disciple new believers themselves.
Well, that is it for part 3 of this series. Join us next time as I explore the third characteristic of the evangelical in part 4: the commitment to Scripture!