This last Sunday, my church began a mini teaching series called, Blueprint. In this series, we our hoping to equip our people with an understanding of who the church is, what we are supposed to be doing, and why we ought to be doing it. It should be a helpful and, by God’s grace, fruitful endeavor.
Last night, Pastor Derick Zeulner kicked off the series by preaching on the church’s task in evangelism. Far from being a guilt-ridden scolding, Pastor Derick helped us all see what evangelism is and invited us to become a church that is diligent in sharing the very good news about Jesus in our everyday, ordinary lives.
As I was thinking about the sermon, I recalled a very helpful chapter from my favorite book on evangelism, The Gospel & Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever. The chapter was titled, “What Evangelism Isn’t.” As you can guess, the chapter went through various things people often mistake for evangelism. For your edification, I offer them, along with mini-excerpts, below…
Evangelism Is Not Apologetics. “Apologetics is defending the faith, answering the questions others have about Christianity. It is responding to the agenda that others set. Evangelism, however, is following Christ’s agenda, the news about him. Evangelism is the positive act of telling the good news about Jesus Christ and the way of salvation through him.”
Evangelism Is Not Imposition. “It’s important to understand that the message you are sharing is not merely an opinion but a fact. That’s why sharing the gospel can’t be called an imposition, any more than a pilot can impose his belief on all his passengers that the runway is here and not there.”
Evangelism Is Not Social Justice. “Being involved in mercy ministries may help to commend the gospel, which is why Jesus taught, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Displaying God’s compassion and kindness by our actions is a good and appropriate thing for Christians to do. But such actions are not evangelism. They commend the gospel, but they share it with no one. To be evangelism, the gospel must be clearly communicated, whether in written or oral form.”
Evangelism Is Not Your Testimony. “One of the classic testimonies was given by a blind man Jesus healed. When he was questioned after Jesus healed him, he responded, “Whether he [Jesus] is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:25). The man disregarded the menacing threats of those more honored and respected than he in order to give this verbal witness to the power of God. It’s a wonderful, powerful testimony, but it’s not evangelism. There is no gospel in it. The man didn’t even know who Jesus was…An account of a changed life is wonderful and inspiring thing, but it’s the gospel of Jesus Christ that explains what it’s all about and how it happened.”
Evangelism Is Not The Results of Evangelism. “The Christian call to evangelism is a call not simply to persuade people to make decisions but rather to proclaim to them the good news of salvation in Christ, to call them to repentance, and to give God the glory for regeneration and conversion. We don’t fail in our evangelism if we faithfully tell the gospel to someone who is not converted; we fail only if we don’t faithfully tell the gospel at all. Evangelism itself isn’t converting people; it’s telling them that they need to be converted and telling them how they can be.” (This is taken from The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, p. 69-82. For a short video promo on the book, click here. Also, you can read the whole chapter for free here.)
So, if these things aren’t evangelism, then what is? Well, since Dever started this mess, I will let him answer that question. On his ministry’s website (9Marks), he explains evangelism as follows:
Evangelism is telling others the good news about what Jesus Christ has done to save sinners.
In order to do this you must tell others that:
- God is holy (1 Jn. 1:5). He is the creator of all things (Gen. 1:1).
- All people are sinners who deserve God’s righteous, eternal wrath (Rom. 3:10-19, Mark 9:48, Rev. 14:11).
- Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man, lived a sinless life, died on the cross to bear God’s wrath in the place of all who would believe in him, and rose from the grave in order to give his people eternal life (John 1:1, 1 Tim. 2:5, Heb. 7:26, Rom. 3:21-26, 2 Cor. 5:21, 1 Cor. 15:20-22).
- The only way to be saved from eternal punishment and be reconciled to God is to repent of sin and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation (Mark 1:15, Acts 20:21).
Evangelism is telling others this basic message.