I recently finished teaching a course on sharing your faith. I started by asking, “What is evangelism?” Few could answer the question with confidence—I suppose that’s why I taught the class in the first place, but even so, I was a little surprised at how few of the participants had a working definition. I decided to continue with what I thought was an easier question: “What is the gospel?” Blank stares.
As a result, I decided to begin with God’s big story, teaching definitions of evangelism and the gospel rooted in God’s mission to restore the world toward its intended wholeness as understood through a look at the entire narrative of God through Scripture. I explained to the class that the church is God’s plan for a world made whole. I explained that not having working definitions of evangelism and the gospel is to simply be a passive spectator of, rather an active participant in, what God is doing in the world.
Did you know that 51 percent of churchgoers have never heard of the Great Commission? On top of that, another 25 percent say they’ve heard of it but don’t know what it means. Wow! We’ve got some work to do. But where do we begin? In addition to teaching a missional lens through which to view God’s big story in Scripture, we must also teach what evangelism is and, perhaps even more importantly, what the Great Commission is.
Dr. Hal Knight and Dr. Douglas Powe Jr. have a wonderful definition of evangelism in their book Transforming Evangelism: “Sharing and inviting others to experience the good news that God loves us and invites us into a transforming relationship through which we are forgiven, receive new life, and are restored to the image of God, which is love.”
Take notice of these five essentials from that quote: (1) sharing and inviting—this means we are active participants, (2) God’s good news of converting love, (3) forgiveness, (4) new life, and (5) restoration toward the image of God in which we have been created.
What is your working definition of evangelism?
I also teach that the gospel is the story of God’s will, way, and work of providing salvation and justice for all through the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.
Take notice of these three essentials: (1) God’s will is to restore the world toward its intended wholeness, (2) God’s way is through the gift of God’s Son (who came to die for us and to show us how to live), and (3) God’s work is done through the people of God, led by the Holy Spirit, as active participants in God’s mission.
After you’ve imparted working definitions of evangelism and the gospel, it’s time to equip congregants to cultivate a lifestyle of sharing their faith story in winsome and generous ways. When you begin to equip, make sure you spend ample time helping people identify the reasons they don’t share their faith. Identify the problems as you provide the solutions. Of the people who attended the class, the four primary reasons they didn’t regularly share their faith were (1) fear they might offend someone (being politically incorrect), (2) fear they don’t have enough knowledge of Christianity and the Bible/fear of getting questions they can’t answer, (3) lack of confidence or understanding about turning conversations toward faith, and (4) belief that sharing their faith is optional.
The intent of Jesus’s Great Commission—which, by the numbers, half of your congregation has never heard of—is to make disciples, through everyday life in everyday kinds of ways.
Equipping people with a missionally rooted understanding of evangelism and the gospel (and practical ways in which to share the gospel) is the solution. The intent of Jesus’s Great Commission—which, by the numbers, half of your congregation has never heard of—is to make disciples, through everyday life in everyday kinds of ways, by teaching, baptizing, bringing people into a community marked by forgiveness, new life, and a conversion toward the image of God in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May it be so through our faithful and fruitful leadership as active participants of God’s mission to restore the world toward its intended wholeness.
There was too much info in the class for me to be able to share it all here, of course, but if you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and mention this blog post, I will send you a free outline of the class for you to adapt and use in your own context.