A class on evangelism
Pastor Stephen will be leading us through a class on evangelism for the next four weeks starting November 21, 2021. The class will focus on having a biblical understanding of evangelism. It also explains why and how we should practice it. This class will help all of us follow the great commission given to us by Jesus in Matthew 28. We hope to see you there.
Mack Stiles wrote a helpful book on evangelism. It is part of the 9Marks series on building healthy churches. Come get this book and read it. It can be found in the bookstall here at TBC. Below is a taste of some of the things you will find.
“Evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade,” writes Stiles in Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus. Let’s take a closer look at this definition and his book on evangelism.
In chapter one Stiles unpacks the word evangelism. He shows us that evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade. Evangelism includes a teaching element, the gospel, and an aim to persuade others to follow Jesus.
Stiles writes about developing a culture of evangelism in local churches in chapter two. So, we should make more evangelism programs, Stiles? Stiles makes a convincing argument showing that while evangelistic programs may be used by God, they are not the most effective or primary means of evangelism. “The fact is, most people come to faith through the influence of family members, small-group Bible studies, or a conversation with a friend after a church service: Christians intentionally talking about the gospel”. Stiles continues to show that programs tend to be expensive. He also explains that only about 1% of those under twenty-one come to faith through some form of media while about 43% come to faith through friends or family. Instead of relying on evangelistic programs, we should be talking about a culture of evangelism.
So, what is a culture of evangelism? It includes having “common biblical ideas, a biblical language, and shared biblical actions”. Stiles complies the following list to show what a culture of evangelism looks like. It is a culture that is: “motivated by love for Jesus and His Gospel, is confident in the gospel, understands the danger of entertainment, sees people clearly, pulls together as one, people are teaching one another, models evangelism, those who share their faith are celebrated, knows how to celebrate new life, doing ministry that feels risky and dangerous, and understands that the church is the chosen and best method of evangelism”.
Zoom in on that last one for a second. A culture of evangelism “understands that the church is the chosen and best method of evangelism.” This is the focus of chapter three. In order to grasp the weight of this Stiles spends some time defining the church biblically. “A local church is a gathering of baptized, born again Christians who covenant together in love to meet regularly under the authority of Scriptures and the leadership of the elders to worship God, be a visible image of the Gospel, and ultimately give glory to God”. In a church “the people regularly gather in gospel love to hear the word preached, sing, pray, give, and practice the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper”. A culture of evangelism understands that there is a different priority for the church and for the individual.
Consider what Stiles says here:
“I was at High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas. The pastor, Juan, had asked me to do a seminar on developing a culture of evangelism. I talked and people asked questions. Then someone asked an elephant-in-the-room type of question: “Many Vietnamese are moving into the community around our church; what is the church going to do to reach out to them?”
On the one hand, this was a wonderful question. A member recognized that she had the privilege and responsibility to reach out with the gospel, and she saw an opportunity to do it. On the other hand, the way the question was phrased seemed to imply that reaching out was the responsibility of the church, not the person who noticed the opportunity.
But in a culture of evangelism the work is grassroots, not top-down. In a culture of evangelism, people understand that the main task of the church is to be the church… Certainly, the church supports and prays for outreach and evangelistic opportunities, but the church’s role is not primarily to run evangelistic programs. The church should cultivate a culture of evangelism. The members are sent out from the church to do evangelism.”
Here’s how I responded to the question at High Pointe: “It’s really not the best thing for ‘the church’ to set up programs for Vietnamese outreach, but rather for you to think how you can reach out. So I would recommend you learn something about the Vietnamese culture, maybe by learning some greetings in Vietnamese, trying their food, and learning about the struggles they face living in the majority culture. Reach out and invite the friends you make to come with you to your homes, a small-group Bible study, or church. Then, perhaps, some of you should even think of moving into the Vietnamese community with the purpose of commending the gospel among that community.”
In the final two chapters, Stiles unpacks practical ways for all of us to grow in personal evangelism. This is very helpful in guiding us through concrete ways to be personal evangelists.