I first woke up to the significance of how we speak about evangelism whereas taking a language course in Central Asia. The teacher was a veteran missionary. In his class on religious vocabulary, he lamented a rising development amongst native church buildings. That they had begun to import a international phrase introduced by American Christians; they now talked about evangelism when it comes to “sharing the gospel.”
We’d surprise what may very well be flawed with Christians sharing the gospel. Or we would suppose that solely a tetchy, theologically slender missionary would ever be so delicate with regards to particular terminology. However my trainer insisted that this phrase was problematic. It was, in his estimation, an idea international to native believers and international even to the Bible.
On the time, his analysis appeared provocative. I’d by no means heard such an thought. As a result of “sharing the gospel” is the way in which just about everybody in America talks about evangelism. Whether or not evangelicals or fundamentalists, Reformed or Arminian, Pentecostals or Preterists, Bible-believing Christians throughout virtually all theological views and denominational strains conceive of evangelism when it comes to sharing the gospel.
So I left his class with a nagging query: What’s the issue with sharing the gospel?
Defining and Describing Evangelism
Our English phrase for evangelism derives from the Greek phrase euangelizo. It means, most mainly, to announce excellent news. As Don Carson has helpfully demonstrated elsewhere, euangelizo entails heraldic proclamation. It assumes the authoritative declaration of the gospel. In different phrases, evangelism is an act whereby one cuts straight. You possibly can’t hem and haw and do evangelism. After inviting a good friend to church, you don’t get to examine the field for doing evangelism. Being faithfully current in your neighborhood doesn’t equal biblical evangelism. Well mannered religious conversations at work or across the dinner desk additionally don’t imply you’ve evangelized anybody. You need to announce excellent news.
Being faithfully current in your neighborhood doesn’t equal biblical evangelism. Well mannered religious conversations at work or across the dinner desk additionally don’t imply you’ve evangelized anybody. You need to announce excellent news.
However past the biblical definition, it’s additionally useful to think about how Scripture describes the act of evangelism. Once we take a look at the Acts, as an example, we see the methods through which they convey the gospel. They bear witness to Christ and exhort their hearers to be saved (Acts 2:40). Full of the Spirit, they communicate boldly earlier than rulers and authorities, proclaiming the resurrection (Acts 4:1–2). When threatened and instructed to maintain silent, they pray for higher boldness (Acts 4:29). After dealing with imprisonment, they proceed to show publicly (Acts 5:21). All through Luke’s retelling of early church growth, the gospel advances because the apostles and others cause from Scripture, persuade others, and testify to Christ. We hear them preach excellent news and name sinners to repentance. What we don’t discover them doing is “sharing the gospel.”
If you happen to search the New Testomony for this phrase, you’ll most likely land on one reference in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. There he writes, “Being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves” (1 Thess. 2:8). So sharing the gospel is clearly not unbiblical. However even in that context, it’s instructive to see how Paul fills out what he means by this “sharing” or “giving” of the gospel. He repeatedly emphasizes that he spoke with boldness, making an impassioned enchantment to them as he proclaimed the gospel (1 Thess. 2:2–9).
In brief, the breadth of the New Testomony clearly portrays Christian evangelism as verbal proclamation and summons. It’s information delivered as a persuasive plea, declaring the glory of Christ and calling sinners to repent. That is what it means to do biblical evangelism.
Sharing Is Not Declaring
I feel this angle ought to give us pause, then, once we acknowledge that the dominant, if not unique, manner People speak about evangelism is when it comes to sharing the gospel. As a result of phrases imply one thing. The phrases we use to explain evangelism assist us perceive our activity and methods to go about conducting it.
The issues with merely “sharing the gospel” are a number of. For one, sharing tends to be passive. We’d share one thing with others, however provided that they want to have it. Sharing is clearly not the identical as declaring. Not solely that, however limiting our description of evangelism to this one phrase shrinks our conceptual classes for what “gospelizing” can and will entail. As a single phrase, “sharing” doesn’t have shoulders broad sufficient to hold all that the Bible communicates about evangelism. It lacks depth, readability, precision, and nuance. And, if I’m brutally sincere, it’s simply lazy language that we wouldn’t accept in different spheres of life.
The breadth of the New Testomony clearly portrays Christian evangelism as verbal proclamation and summons. It’s information delivered as a persuasive plea, declaring the glory of Christ and calling sinners to repent. That is what it means to do biblical evangelism.
I like to consider baseball as a major instance. What if a baseball coach constantly described the function of his pitchers when it comes to tossing the ball? In apply or a sport, each time his pitchers have been struggling to get batters out, what if his dominant instruction was merely to toss the ball? Not throw strikes. Not work the corners. Not change speeds. Not pound it inside. Simply toss the ball. Would his pitchers have an correct understanding of their duty? Would they know methods to succeed?
However that’s basically the way in which we speak about evangelism. Our description is overly simplistic and probably too passive. When that description of evangelism then turns into our default instruction—to easily share the gospel—we fail to convey the angle, method, and authority essential for the act itself. What began as a refined change in terminology leads to a large shift for our entire ethos of evangelism. And now, I concern, some Christians could now not also have a class for proclaiming excellent news, particularly when others are apathetic or antagonistic towards the message.