In his small book titled, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus, J. Mack Stiles defines evangelism as “teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade.” As we consider the health of the church, we cannot ignore evangelism, that form of communication with the goal of reaching people for Jesus Christ.
It is the execution of Jesus’ words to His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20, NIV)
The command of Jesus has enormous implications for the church in general and for the health of the church specifically. In this post, we are going to briefly discuss evangelism and how it can help or harm the health of the church. In his book 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever asks four questions in regards to evangelism:
· “Who should evangelize?”
· “How should we evangelize?”
· “What is evangelism?”
· “Why should we evangelize?”
Who should evangelize? Every disciple of Jesus should evangelize. Obviously, this does not mean that every disciple of Jesus will evangelize. In fact, I think it could be argued that most disciples of Jesus do not evangelize. This, however, is irrelevant. Every disciple of Jesus should evangelize. Mark Dever captures the reasons why so well as he writes, “Christians often leave evangelism to “the professionals” out of a sense of inadequacy, apathy, ignorance, fear, or simply feeling that it is inappropriate for them to do it.” I am sure that we all have experiences with one or more of these. However, we should never use these as excuses not to evangelize.
How should we evangelize? This is important, and one that deserves more treatment that we will offer here. However, there are a few points we should keep in mind. First, we must understand the gospel (remember Mack Stiles’ definition). Greg Gilbert provides the essence of the gospel in four words, “God, man, Christ, response.” We build upon these four core concepts, but without them we cannot communicate the gospel. In addition, we should use “our lives and our lips.” That is, our life styles should reflect the teachings of the gospel. They should conform to the Word of God. In addition, our we should evangelize with our lips. That is, we need to vocalize the whole God, man, Christ, and response truths. Learn what the Scriptures say about these four concepts. Develop different ways to articulate them. That is how we should evangelize.
What is evangelism? We have already answered this with Stiles’ definition, and I think it bears repeating. “Evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade.” Stiles develops this definition by adding several key points. We seek to teach the Gospel specifically (again, think of Gilbert’s four concepts). Stiles describes his own process, “No matter where or with whom, the process is simple: we read the passage [of Scripture] and talk about what it means.” We teach the Scriptures. However, we do not simply fill people’s heads with knowledge about the Bible. We “aim to persuade.” “Our aim helps us remember that much is at stake: to see people moved from darkness to light, from bondage to freedom. Aiming for something bigger helps us know which fights to pick and which to avoid,” writes Stiles. This helps us understand what evangelism is and how to evangelize.
The final question we must ask is, Whys should I evangelize? To this question, Mark Dever offers three helpful and biblical reasons:
· “a desire to be obedient to the Great Commission”
· “a love for the lost”
· “a love for God.”
These are excellent reminds of the importance of our mission. We seek to obey our Lord in fulfilling His Great Commission. In addition, if we love the lost (i.e., people who are not disciples of Jesus Christ) we will share the only hope they have of being found. Finally, and as Dever notes, “preeminently” we should evangelize because we love God.
Evangelism is a key aspect of the Scriptures, of the Christian life, and it should be a mark of the church. If evangelism is found in the church, then that church is on its way to health. How are we, individually, doing with evangelism? How is our church engaging in evangelism? Obviously, it is difficult in the midst of this pandemic. However, a pandemic is not permission to avoid evangelizing. We need to be a healthy church, and to be healthy we need to evangelize.
 J. Mack Stiles, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014), 26.  Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 120.  Ibid.  Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 32.  Will Metzger, Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel Wholly By Grace Communicated Truthfully & Lovingly 4th Edition (Downers Grove, IL: InterVaristy Press, 2012), 56.  Stiles, Evangelism, 26.  Ibid., 31.  Ibid., 26.  Ibid., 35.  Dever, 9 Marks, 138.  Ibid.