Evangelism, what is it?

What is evangelism, or what is the gospel? John Stott argues that there is to be a priority of evangelism because humans, all of them, are alienated from God. OK, but things get messy right away, and the messiness is often pointed out by those who have experienced the bad sides of evangelism. Recent postings on the internet reveal that folks want to evangelize but don’t want to call it that!

John Stott, in his classic book, Christian Mission in the Modern World (IVP Classics) , addressed these problems and said evangelism must not be defined by three things:

1. The recipients.
2. The results, as if evangelism only occurs really when folks are repenting, getting baptized and revealing faith. To “evangelize,” Stott reminds us, does not mean “win converts.”
3. The methods. Word of mouth, pictures, etc.. but to evangelize is to announce, however that is done.

Evangelism can only be defined by its message. What is it? Stott says there is some variety in the NT on this; he also says it is shaped by culture, but he contends the one gospel is found in the NT. We are to be faithful and contemporary.

Question, and simple one: Is your church preaching the gospel outlined here by Stott? What is it missing?

I am so glad in this book that Stott pays compliments to CH Dodd’s magisterial little book on the gospel (The apostolic preaching and its developments ). That is one of the finest book ever on this subject, and neither does Stott fall for many modern reconstructions of the gospel (and I write about this in my next book, The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited, coming out in a few weeks). So what is the gospel?

First, it concerns events: Jesus lived, died and was raised and exalted. The gospel emphasizes resurrection.

Second, it concerns witnesses: the apostles appealed to the Old Testament and to their own eyes (which became the New Testament).

Third, it concerns affirmations: that what God did in Christ he is still doing in Christ; Jesus is enthroned over all. Thus, the affirmations are that he is Lord and Savior.

Fourth, it concerns promises: the forgiveness of sins and the promise of the Holy Spirit.

Fifth, it concerns demands: repentance (toward God, self and others), faith/believe, and baptism.

The good news is Jesus.

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  • Amos Paul

    Our church preaches the Gospel as the Kingdom.

    Mat 4:23
    And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.

    Evangelism, then, can be done in all manner of both proclamation and demonstration. All good work in that it participates in the Kingdom of light rather than darkness is evangelism. Jesus is our King, ruler, Savior, and bringer of the Kingdom to our lives.

    1 John 3:8
    The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

    Col 1:13
    He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.

    The good news is that Christ can bring His light of restoration into our lives and overcome our rebellious reality of sin and death.

    Acts 26:18
    To open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.

    This puts us back in proper relationship with God so that we can more fully live by loving Him and loving others. Everything else, as Hillel might say, is commentary.

  • Greg

    Based on Luke 24, Matthew 28, and John 20, along with the preaching found in the book of Acts, I’m not sure I agree with the first, second, third, etc. laid out here.

    The preaching in the book of Acts seems to treat first, second, and third as “the gospel”. What is listed as “fifth” (the demands) is the response of those who hear the Gospel. As Stott says above, the results are not the same thing as evangelism.

    What is listed as “fourth” (the promises) are contingent upon the response. The forgiveness of sins is an implication of having heard the gospel, repented and placed faith in Christ. It is really good news, but it doesn’t seem to be on par with what the apostles preached as “the gospel”.

  • Patrick

    I agree with Scot’s view.

    I think what that translates into is as NT Wright makes the good case, we live on resurrection ground here and now, the Kingdom is in us as we speak, it is our privilege and responsibility to re-present the virtues of our Lord to mankind.

    There were some wonderful Christians who were murdered in Afghanistan about 1.5 years ago. One of them was a lady nearby my home. These folks did not spend a lot of time verbally evangelizing the Afghans in their area( it is illegal to do so) but, mainly they loved&served them relentlessly.

    When they were murdered, I prayed, “Lord, take their conduct and impress the people that this is the reality of Your Son so they will desire and believe in the true identity of Him”.

    To me, this is a great example in modern times of the believer being “The 5th Gospel”. Salvation is not just for us, it is through us in this manner.

  • Scot, does Stott really miss Jesus’ “new commandment” to love one another in his demands, as John phrased the command to love our neighbor? I’ve been reading some of Stott’s commentary recently, and at least in some wording, I wonder where he doesn’t alight on our call to be transformed. Perhaps it was a sign of his exegetical times that I find myself wondering if he’s deliberately or inadvertently missing Paul’s call “to the obedience that comes from faith”. “If you love me…”, what next?

  • DRT

    I was discussing the gospel yesterday with someone who conducts a bible study that I attended and he said that it was god took his anger out on Jesus so he does not take it out on us. It makes me sad.

  • Scot, I’m very excited to learn about your upcoming book. If it’s as good as One.Life, it will be a classic. Thank you for waking up tens of thousands (maybe more) to a gospel that is way older than revival tents and organs!

  • #5 DRT, ouch! That is sad on so many different levels!

    #2 – I’m not certain Scot is saying that the gospel is any one of the items listed. The gospel is concerned with these items, they have relationship to the gospel.

    As he says, “The good news is Jesus”–but it certainly concerns the four items listed above.

  • Mirce Tancev

    The Gospel of/about our Lord JESUS Christ is still the same (Heb. 13, 8), in spite of the fact that He is preched and His Gospel is translated almost in all possible languages. And thanks God that He is revealing Himself through Jesus to the babes in faith (1. Cor. 15, 8: or »as to the untimely birth«) and to the poor (Mat. 11, 5: »and poor have good news proclaimed«), and not to the wise and rich (Mat. 11, 25-30; Jam. 2, 5: »Hearken, my brethren beloved, did not God choose the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the reign that He promised to those loving Him?«).

    Please read also 1. Kor. 1, 21ff – that »it did please God through the foolishness of the preaching to save those believing…« (those that are nothing special!) please read indeed about that “foolish, weak, base, despised” and subjective method of ap. Paul’s evangelism (to the called and so called: »for see your calling, brethren, that not many [are] wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble«).

    And please read 1. Kor. 2, 1–5 about the experiance of ap. Paul in his own subjective context as messenger before God (Rom. 14, 22: »Thou hast faith! to thyself have [it] before God; happy is he who is not judging himself in what he doth approve«)!

    May God give us all, HIS POWER, and understanding that He is still giving and »gave authority to become sons of God« (John 1, 12). HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD in His so called weakness, foolishness etc and HOW GREATER is HE INDEED in His mighty Spirit of Power, and of Love and of a Sound Mind (2.Tim. 1, 7)! Because without this Spirit there is no sound understanding what evangelism is!