From the moment of my hiring I said one of my goals for the church would be the “normalization of evangelism”. This passion to see the body of Christ as a natural, everyday witness, by word and deed, to the grace and truth of Jesus Christ, was borne out of both theological conviction and personal frustration.
The theological conviction comes from trusting what God tells us in his Word. The bible tells us of the remarkable privilege we have been given by God to be “ambassadors for Christ.”
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
(2 Corinthians 5:18,19)
He is not only building his church, but doing it through us! Scary thought isn’t it! But wait a minute, perhaps it is only scary when our focus is wrong. It isn’t the reconciling itself that is entrusted to us, but the message that is entrusted to us. Therefore, we don’t judge our evangelism by our cleaverness, or even by the results – we judge it by our faithfulness to the message, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As for my frustration, many years ago I grew increasingly agitated with impotent efforts at sharing my faith: both through the church and privately outside. Too often the church has used manipulation and guilt to get people to “do evangelism.” Take a guess at what then marks our evangelism: you got it, manipulation and guilt!
I would like to commend for your summer reading one of my favourite books on evangelism: Mack Stiles’ Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus. It is a short, easy to read book with a much-needed message to the Church. Two weeks ago I highlighted Will Metzger’s Tell the Truth. As much as I love Metzger’s book as a resource, it tends to follow most of Western Protestantism in seeing evangelism as by individuals and for individuals. Stiles, in contrast, longs to see a church-wide “culture of evangelism” writing: “I yearn for a culture of evangelism that never trades confidence in the gospel for confidence in techniques, personalities, or entertainment gimmicks. (p49)”
In chapter one he lays out a helpful, simple definition of evangelism: “Evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade (p26)”, as well as terms such as ‘conversion’ and ‘gospel’. The balance of his book develops the concept of the whole of the church bearing witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ in ways that are natural to each of us. He offers a very helpful reminder to us with the “aim to persuade” because people need more than a mere data transfer. Good evangelism is more than explaining, expanding, and answering questions. He says: “as we set out the facts of the gospel” and the “reason for the hope within us”, remembering evangelism’s aim helps us to be compassionate, understanding, and loving (cf: 1 Pet. 3:15). Speaking of the church as a collective evangelist is not to suggest that evangelism happens within the church walls according to programs and events. On the contrary, within a culture of evangelism, “people understand that the main task of the church is to be the church.…The church should cultivate a culture of evangelism. The members are sent out from the church to do evangelism. (65-66)”
This fall we are looking to sharpen our discipleship in the area of evangelism and I am excited to see us become more effective, natural ministers of reconciliation in our daily lives!
 J. Mack Stiles, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus, (Wheaton, Il, Crossway, 2014)
As we gather for Sunday worship, we want you to meet with God and be transformed by the Word. Prepare your heart by reading the passage and listening to the songs for Sunday.