Last Sunday we started a new series on the Church and Evangelism. While topical series are not the norm at Reformation, we do periodically pause and look at subjects that we believe are timely and important to the congregation. In the past we have done this with church officers, worship and the Lord’s Supper.
Over the past several months the elders have been reading through the book Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus by Mack Stiles. The book addresses evangelism—the calling of non-Christians to saving faith and the process of discipleship, which is becoming more like Jesus (Luke 6:40). Stiles does a great job addressing problems with many modern approaches to evangelism—but more importantly he offers a biblically faithful approach. Such an approach is desperately needed in the church today.
It is needed because God has a heart for the lost and we ought to as well. Jesus came into this world to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). The last words our Savior spoke included the command to take the gospel of salvation into all the world (Matthew 28:18-20). It pleases him for all men to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). When we are apathetic toward evangelism we betray hearts that are out of sync with our Savior’s. The elders believe that this is an area where our church can (and should) grow.
But biblical instruction on evangelism is needed for another reason as well. Many well-intentioned believers have employed methods of evangelism that are not in accord with God’s word. We don’t just want to evangelize—we want to evangelize well. So the new series will not only seek to explain what evangelism is and why we should be passionate about it, but how God calls us to engage in that work.
The series will break into two parts. First, we will look at what the church is. It is the church that evangelizes and so we must understand what the church that evangelizes is. The first sermon was on the invisible church. From here we will look at the visible church as well as various metaphors God gives us to describe the church such as the bride of Christ, the pillar of truth, the household of God, the body of Christ and so on. We will look at each of these and see how they reveal an aspect of who we are as the church.
From there we will turn and look at the work of evangelism. We will address the content of the gospel message. Sadly many Christians struggle to clearly and succinctly summarize what the gospel is. The Bible says the gospel is the power of God unto salvation—we ought to know what it is. Much of what we will look at in this part of the series is how the church bears witness to the work of Jesus both by being the church and actively seeking to work together to share the grace of Jesus with unbelievers. Evangelism is not a solo sport, but a group effort. As Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6) A healthy view of evangelism must understand how we, as Christians, support each other in sharing the love of Christ with others. Our hope is that the series we are beginning will help us see, appreciate and embody all of these things.
We would also encourage each of you to read Stiles’ book. If you would like to buy a copy it is available at Amazon in hardback or on Kindle. However, as we mentioned on Sunday, we have copies available for free on the back table. Please feel free to take a copy for your family and read through it—you will be glad you did. The July 2016 New Horizons had a wonderful review of the book by John Shaw if you would like to read it (pages 14-15). That same issue also had a helpful article on evangelism on pages 3-8.