Lecture 1: The Missio Dei
Lecture 2: Missional Hermeneutics
Lecture 3: Bloodlines – The Bible – Race, nation, ethnicity and people!
Lecture 4: The Bible and Evangelism
Missio Dei is a Latin Christian theological term that can be translated as the “mission of God,” or the “sending of God.” It is a concept which has become increasingly important in missiology and in understanding the mission of the church since the second half of the 20th century.
1 – Define mission, missionary, Missio Dei, missional, church
2 – Understand the Missio Dei in broad terms
20“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21)
21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”(John 20:21)
Dr. Ed Stetzer of Lifeway Research shares with us about the missional church
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/
In 1934, the German missiologist Karl Hartenstein first coined the term missio Dei to distinguish it from the missio ecclesiae, that is, the mission of the church. Some scholars holds that this coinage, which can be traced as far back as Augustine, had a strong trinitarian basis
During the past half a century or so there has been a subtle but nevertheless decisive shift toward understanding mission as God’s mission. During preceding centuries mission was understood in a variety of ways. Sometimes it was interpreted primarily in soteriological terms: as saving individuals from eternal damnation. Or it was understood in cultural terms: as introducing people from East and the South to the blessings and privileges of the Christian West. Often it was perceived in ecclesiastical categories: as the expansion of the church (or of a specific denomination). Sometimes it was defined salvation-historically: as the process by which the world—evolutionary or by means of a cataclysmic event—would be transformed into the kingdom of God. In all these instances, and in various, frequently conflicting ways, the intrinsic interrelationship between christology, soteriology, and the doctrine of the Trinity, so important for the early church, was gradually displaced by one of several versions of the doctrine of grace …
Mission was understood as being derived from the very nature of God. It was thus put in the context of the doctrine of the Trinity, not of ecclesiology or soteriology. The classical doctrine on the missio Dei as God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit was expanded to include yet another “movement”: The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit sending the church into the world. As far as missionary thinking was concerned, this linking with the doctrine of the Trinity constituted an important innovation …
Our mission has not life of its own: only in the hands of the sending God can it truly be called mission. Not least since the missionary initiative comes from God alone …
Mission is thereby seen as a movement from God to the world; the church is viewed as an instrument for that mission. There is church because there is mission, not vice versa. To participate in mission is to participate in the movement of God’s love toward people, since God is a fountain of sending love.
The mission theology expressed in the Latin Missio Dei articulates the belief that mission is God’s mission and we are God’s instruments in that mission. The starting point of Missio Dei is a Trinitarian God: mission is the purpose and action of the triune God. The internal relationships of the Trinity also embody the way God acts in the world. The church, as a community of God’s followers, becomes an instrument of God rather than the proprietor of the action. Mission then moves from something that churches do for the sake of God, to understanding the very nature of God as missionary and sending. It changes missions in the plural as if every church has a mission to mission in the singular. Because God is one, mission is one. In 1964 Stephen Neill, a mission historian from Britain wrote in his book A History of Christian Missions: “The age of missions ended. The age of mission began.”5
At the same time, Missio Dei causes the church to understand its very purpose as missionary. The church is both an object and the subject of mission. Unity is an embodiment of the mission of God that creates the church and works in the world. At the same time, the practice of mission is integral to a church that receives its purpose from this missionary God.
“Missional” or “missional living” is a Christian term that in essence describes a missionary lifestyle. Being missional includes embracing the posture, the thinking, behaviors, and practices of a missionary in order to reach others with the message of the gospel. The term “missional” gained its popularity towards the end of the 20th century with the influence of Tim Keller, Alan Hirsch, and others, as well as the Gospel and Our Culture Network. Their basic premise is that all Christians should be involved in the Great Commission of Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20).
Essentially, the idea of being missional teaches that the church has a mission because Jesus had a mission. There is one mission which says that the “missional church is a community of God’s people that defines itself, and organizes its life around, its real purpose of being an agent of God’s mission to the world. In other words, the church’s true and authentic organizing principle is mission. When the church is in mission, it is the true church.” Yet there has been some confusion regarding the term “missional.”
Alan Hirsch, one its proponents, says that “missional” is not synonymous with “emerging.” The emerging church is primarily a renewal movement attempting to contextualize Christianity for a postmodern generation. “Missional” is also not the same as “evangelistic” or “seeker-sensitive.” These terms generally apply to what he calls the “attractional” model of church that has dominated our understanding for many years. Missional is not a new way to talk about church growth. Although God clearly desires the church to grow numerically, it is only one part of the larger missional agenda. Finally, missional is more than social justice. Engaging the poor and correcting inequalities is part of being God’s agent in the world, but should not be confused with the whole.
Hirsch also says that a proper understanding of missional living begins with recovering a missionary understanding of God. By His very nature God is a “sending God” who takes the initiative to redeem His creation. This doctrine, known as missio Dei is causing many to redefine their understanding of the church. Because the church is comprised of the “sent” people of God, the church is the instrument of God’s mission in the world. However, most people believe that missions is an instrument of the church, a means by which the church is grown. Although Christians frequently say, “The church has a mission,” according to missional theology a more correct statement would be “the mission has a church.”
Though many churches have mission statements or talk about the importance of having a mission, where missional churches differ is in their attitude toward the world. A missional church sees the mission as both its originating impulse and its organizing principle. It is patterned after what God has done in Jesus Christ, that is, to be missional means to be sent into the world; not to expect people to come to us. This idea differentiates a missional church from an “attractional” church.
The attractional church seeks to reach out to the culture and draw people into the church. But this practice only works where no significant cultural shift is required when moving from outside to inside the church. And as Western culture has become increasingly post-Christian, the attractional church has lost its effectiveness. The West looks more like a cross-cultural missionary context in which attractional churches are self-defeating. The process of extracting people from the culture and assimilating them into the church diminishes their ability to speak to those outside. As a result, people cease to be missional and instead leave that work to the clergy.
Missional represents a significant shift in the way one thinks about the church. Being missional means we should engage the world the same way Jesus did—by going out rather than just reaching out. Missional means that when a church is in mission, it is then the true church.
According to Dave DeVries, author of “Missional Transformation: Fueling Missionary Movements that Transform America,” there are five biblical distinctives that form the foundation of a missional perspective:
• The Church is sent by Jesus Christ (John 17:18; 20:21, Luke 9:2; Matthew 28: 19–20; Acts 1:8)
• The Church is sent with the Cross (1 Corinthians 1:18, Ephesians 2:16, Colossians 2:14, 1 Peter 2:24, 2 Corinthians 5:17–24)
• The Church is sent in Community (Acts 2:42–47; 5:42; John 13:34–35; 1 John 3:16–17)
• The Church is sent to every Culture (John 1:14; Matthew 20:28; Acts 17:22–34; Luke 5:29)
• The Church is sent for the King and His Kingdom (Matthew 10:7; 25:34; Luke 4:43; Revelation 11:15–17; Jeremiah 10:7; John 18:36)
So, the question is asked, “Should Christians be missional?” Fundamentally, missional theology is not content with missions being a church-based work. Rather, it applies to the whole life of every believer. In truth, every disciple of Christ should strive to be an agent, a representative of the kingdom of God; and every follower should try to carry the mission of God into every sphere of his life. We are all missionaries sent into the world.
There are many ways we can do this as we’re each individually blessed with certain talents and skills to utilize to the glory of God. Jesus has told us in Matthew 5:13-16 that we are the salt of the earth, the light of the world . . . to let our light shine before men.
And, finally, in light of this idea of being “missional,” we can best sum it up with the words of the apostle Paul: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God . . . and whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17).
- The Bible as the product of God’s Mission
- Biblical Authority and Mission
- Biblical Indicatives and imperatives in Mission
19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Intro to Missional Hermeneutics Part one
Missional Hermeneutic Psalm 1
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/
“What is missiology?”
Answer: Missiology can be defined as “the science of the cross-cultural communication of the Christian faith.” In the Great Commission, the Lord Jesus told us to “go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15). That command forms the crux of missiology, as it seeks to understand and explain biblical values for evangelism, such as the role of culture in giving the message, both declaring and demonstrating the message of the gospel as it goes “into all the world.”
Three disciplines direct and enable the study of missiology: theology (mainly biblical), anthropology (including primitive religion, linguistics, cultural dynamics, and cultural change), and history. Missiology seeks to intelligently articulate the gospel and its power to change lives in a culturally appropriate context.
Five missiology-related issues that Christians through the centuries have wrestled with in applying and adapting the command to world evangelization are as follows:
• Apostolic practice – How does the church carry on the method of sending out laborers into the harvest field?
• Church structure and mission – How does the church most effectively reproduce itself? What does local church leadership look like in a given region, whether in the United States or in the recessed corners of the world?
• The gospel and other religions – What is the relationship between the good news about Jesus Christ and other religious systems which do not acknowledge His lordship? Is there validity to the religious experience of their devotees, or do they have to give up their religious practices?
• Salvation and non-Christians – Are the heathen really lost? What is their destiny if they have never heard the gospel and die without ever hearing it?
• Christianity and Culture – The same God who provided the gospel for all peoples has also prepared all peoples for the gospel. How does the church present the gospel to those who have never heard it, in such a way that it makes sense, culturally speaking, and answers their primary spiritually related questions?
Missiology seeks to “further the understanding and performance of the Christian mission in our day.” To summarize, missiology is the study of how to best do missions.
Recommended Resource: Let the Nations Be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions by John Piper
“What is biblical hermeneutics?”
Answer: Biblical hermeneutics is the study of the principles and methods of interpreting the text of the Bible. Second Timothy 2:15 commands believers to be involved in hermeneutics: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who . . . correctly handles the word of truth.” The purpose of biblical hermeneutics is to help us to know how to properly interpret, understand, and apply the Bible.
The most important law of biblical hermeneutics is that the Bible should be interpreted literally. We are to understand the Bible in its normal or plain meaning, unless the passage is obviously intended to be symbolic or if figures of speech are employed. The Bible says what it means and means what it says. For example, when Jesus speaks of having fed “the five thousand” in Mark 8:19, the law of hermeneutics says we should understand five thousand literally—there was a crowd of hungry people that numbered five thousand who were fed with real bread and fish by a miracle-working Savior. Any attempt to “spiritualize” the number or to deny a literal miracle is to do injustice to the text and ignore the purpose of language, which is to communicate. Some interpreters make the mistake of trying to read between the lines of Scripture to come up with esoteric meanings that are not truly in the text, as if every passage has a hidden spiritual truth that we should seek to decrypt. Biblical hermeneutics keeps us faithful to the intended meaning of Scripture and away from allegorizing Bible verses that should be understood literally.
A second crucial law of biblical hermeneutics is that passages must be interpreted historically, grammatically, and contextually. Interpreting a passage historically means we must seek to understand the culture, background, and situation that prompted the text. For example, in order to fully understand Jonah’s flight in Jonah 1:1–3, we should research the history of the Assyrians as related to Israel. Interpreting a passage grammatically requires one to follow the rules of grammar and recognize the nuances of Hebrew and Greek. For example, when Paul writes of “our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” in Titus 2:13, the rules of grammar state that God and Savior are parallel terms and they are both in apposition to Jesus Christ—in other words, Paul clearly calls Jesus “our great God.” Interpreting a passage contextually involves considering the context of a verse or passage when trying to determine the meaning. The context includes the verses immediately preceding and following, the chapter, the book, and, most broadly, the entire Bible. For example, many puzzling statements in Ecclesiastes become clearer when kept in context—the book of Ecclesiastes is written from the earthly perspective “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:3). In fact, the phrase under the sun is repeated about thirty times in the book, establishing the context for all that is “vanity” in this world.
A third law of biblical hermeneutics is that Scripture is always the best interpreter of Scripture. For this reason, we always compare Scripture with Scripture when trying to determine the meaning of a passage. For example, Isaiah’s condemnation of Judah’s desire to seek Egypt’s help and their reliance on a strong cavalry (Isaiah 31:1) was motivated, in part, by God’s explicit command that His people not go to Egypt to seek horses (Deuteronomy 17:16).
Some people avoid studying biblical hermeneutics because they mistakenly believe it will limit their ability to learn new truths from God’s Word or stifle the Holy Spirit’s illumination of Scripture. But their fears are unfounded. Biblical hermeneutics is all about finding the correct interpretation of the inspired text. The purpose of biblical hermeneutics is to protect us from misapplying Scripture or allowing bias to color our understanding of truth. God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). We want to see the truth, know the truth, and live the truth as best we can, and that’s why biblical hermeneutics is vital.
Recommended Resource: Basic Bible Interpretation by Roy Zuck
What Is a Missional Hermeneutic?
A missional hermeneutic is an interpretive approach that privileges mission as the key to reading the Scriptures. Missional hermeneutics works across the spectrum of approaches to the biblical text. It takes seriously the historical situation of the text (“behind the text”). It recognizes the influence of the reader’s social location (“in front of the text”). Yet it is fundamentally rooted in a close reading of the text (“the world of the text”). A missional hermeneutic seeks to hear the Scriptures as an authoritative guide to God’s mission in the world so that communities of faith can participate fully in God’s mission.
At the 2008 meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, G.R. Hunsberger (“Proposals for a Missional Hermeneutic: Mapping the Conversation”) reviewed current proposals on missional hermeneutics and organized them into four categories: The Missional Direction of the Story, The Missional Locatedness of the Readers, The Missional Engagement with Cultures, and The Missional Purpose of the Writings. I have adopted Hunsberger’s categories for the purposes of this essay.
The Missional Direction of the Story
A missional hermeneutic recognizes that the biblical canon tells the story of God’s mission (i.e., missio dei) in and for creation. The story of God’s mission can be summarized as Creation, Fall, Israel, Jesus the Messiah, Church, and New Creation.
The Bible opens with the creation of the heavens and earth by God. The human community is crafted in God’s image as the pinnacle of God’s handiwork. Men and women function equally as the image of God for the sake of the rest of creation. From the beginning, humanity was created for God’s missional purposes to represent God before creation by reflecting God’s character in community with God, with one another, and with the world.
Genesis 3-11 function in the story to explain the fundamental problem in the world. The “very good” creation of Genesis 1-2 is shattered by human sinfulness. Sin infests every human person and institution as well as fractures creation itself. The stories and genealogies of Gen 3-11 describe the world in which we find ourselves this side of God’s new creation. Yet in the midst of the chaos of sin and brokenness, Gen 3-11 presents a God who does more than pass the expected judgment—the God of the Scriptures begins to act to redeem a fallen world.
In Gen 12, God calls a new humanity into being with a series of promises to Abram and his descendents. This people exist to serve as the agents of God’s blessings for the nations (Gen 12:3). The narrative of God’s new humanity runs uninterrupted through the Protestant canon from Gen 12 – Esther. God’s new humanity becomes the nation of Israel. It is decisively shaped through God’s liberation of Israel from Egyptian bondage and through the forging of a covenant at Sinai. Israel’s deliverance from Egypt is purposeful and is undertaken for the sake of the world. At Sinai, Israel is called to serve as God’s missional people, a holy community for the nations (Exod 19:4-6). The remaining books of the Pentateuch establish a polity for God’s people as they prepare to live faithfully in the Promised Land as a witness to the nations. Joshua to Esther narrate the potential and pitfalls of God’s people living in Canaan including the devastation of the Exile due to disobedience and the resilience of God’s faithful love shown through God’s restoration of Judah from Exile.
A large portion of the OT is not set within a narrative framework. How do the Psalms, the Wisdom Literature, and the Prophets fit in the story?
The book of Psalms serves as the prayer and worship book for God’s people. The psalms reverberate with themes of God’s reign over the nations. Through lament, thanksgiving, and praise, the psalms encourage an expansive vision of the worship of God that ultimately climaxes in the concluding exhortation: “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” (150:6). The psalms root God’s people in a vital worshipping relationship with the Lord, the creator of the world, and deliverer of Israel.
Israel’s Wisdom traditions serve God’s story by offering serious reflection on God’s creation and the good life. Wisdom deals with questions that engage all of humanity. Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs have much in common with the wisdom of Israel’s neighbors. Wisdom is interested in navigating successfully through life. Since God created all that is, the wise can observe life astutely and deduce principles for living in God’s world. This focus on the human side of life makes it easy to connect Israel’s wisdom to culture. Yet, Israel’s unique contribution to the lore of the ancients is profoundly missional: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov 1:7). The implication is this: careful attention to the human condition may prepare persons for the truth about God (cf. Eccl 12:12-14).
The Prophets (Isaiah—Malachi) contribute to the Israel’s story in three ways. First, Israel’s prophets continually call God’s people back to their roots as a missional community that embodies God’s holiness before the nations. The Prophets take Israel to task for failing to live as God’s people. Second, the Prophets maintain an international focus. The God of Israel is the Lord of the nations, and, as such the prophets speak words of both judgment and salvation to the nations. Provocatively, Jonah audaciously announces God’s love for even the most committed opponents of God’s people. Last, the Prophets envision a new future work of God’s salvation (e.g., Jer 31:31-34).
It is against the backdrop of Israel’s Scriptures that Jesus the Messiah enters the story. Jesus lives as the ultimate human being who fulfills in his life, death, and resurrection God’s creational intentions for humanity and everything that God had envisioned for Israel as God’s new humanity. Jesus’ death is for the totality of the Fall and his resurrection declares the ultimate victory of God. The Gospels narrate Jesus’ life and ministry to teach future generations of disciples what it means to follow Jesus. The core of Jesus’ message is the announcement of the arrival of God’s kingdom and his call to realign our lives in light of this reality (Matt 4:17; Mark 1:15; cf. Luke 4:16-21).
In the aftermath of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, the risen Jesus sends out the church to announce and extend God’s salvation to the nations. The church is unleashed in the power of the Holy Spirit. The NT witnesses to the spread of the gospel across the first-century Mediterranean world. The scriptural story goes forth from the land of Israel to the nations in fulfillment of the Israel’s mission. The NT epistles serve as teaching documents for fledgling missional communities around the Mediterranean world.
The scriptural story ends with Revelation’s portrait of God’s future new creation (Rev 20-21).
Learning to understand the big story of the Scriptures is more than a descriptive task. The story of the Scriptures seeks to convert its readers/hearers to its perspective. The scriptural story invites its readers to understand their lives as part of its narrative.
The Missional Locatedness of the Readers
An interpreter’s social location serves a crucial role in the reading process. It may provide a fresh perspective for reading a text or it may distort a text’s meaning. M. Barram (“The Bible, Mission, and Social Location: Toward a Missional Hermeneutic,” Interpretation 61  42-58) has argued that readers must locate themselves in mission. The biblical texts were written in a missional context. Participating in God’s mission enables contemporary readers to find common ground with the ancient text’s perspective.
Moreover, engaging in missional activity in the world creates new questions with which to engage the Bible and is crucial for learning to hear the text for both church and world. A practitioner of missional hermeneutic learns to listen to a text on behalf of the people for whom she or he serves as a witness. Missional engagement unleashes the interpreter to read a text through the eyes both of Christ followers and of unreached persons. The wise interpreter learns through missional praxis the sorts of questions that an outsider to the faith may raise when hearing a biblical text. Thus, the practice of reading the Bible from a missional locatedness trains us to read and hear the Scripture from contested spheres in the marketplace and not only in the realm of the sanctuary where we “preach to the choir.”
The Missional Engagement with Cultures
A third line of inquiry in the field of missional hermeneutic is the manner in which the biblical materials themselves model engagement with culture. We gain new insights about twenty-first century incarnational ministry by studying the ways in which biblical texts communicate to their context. For example, how do the creation stories of Genesis engage and subvert the dominant worldviews of Israel’s neighbors? How do the similarities between the narrative structure of Exod 15:1b-18 and the Baal Epic serve to promote Israel’s understanding of reality to their Canaanite context? How does Paul use existing modes of communication in the Greco-Roman world to enhance the persuasiveness of his writing?
The Missional Purpose of the Writings
A missional hermeneutic recognizes that the Scriptures exist to convert and shape their hearers. Most of us have been trained to read the Bible as the basis for doctrine and individual piety. A missional hermeneutic reminds us that Scripture is concerned with shaping communities of God’s people into outposts for the advancement of the gospel. D. Guder has been on the forefront of emphasizing this aspect. He writes concerning the NT documents:
NT communities were all founded in order to continue the apostolic witness that brought them into being. Every NT congregation understood itself under the mandate of our Lord at his ascension: “You shall be my witnesses.” … To that end, the NT documents were all, in some way, written to continue the process of formation for that kind of witness. They intended the continuing conversion of these communities to their calling—and that is how the Spirit used (and still uses!) these written testimonies. (“Missional Pastors in Maintenance Churches,” Catalyst 31.3  4)
Thus, we need to ask specifically how each text was intended to form God’s people into a missional community. Moreover, this is not merely a NT perspective. As shown above, the thread of mission runs across the biblical canon. Both OT and NT texts can be read profitably in terms of how they seek to form the people of God for the sake of God’s mission to all creation.
In his recent essay “Prophet to the Nations: Missional Reflections on the Book of Jeremiah,” C.J.H. Wright raised a related question: What does this text teach about the missional cost to the messenger? Wright expands the dimension of a biblical text’s teaching. Wright shows that the book of Jeremiah explicitly displays the personal cost to the prophet of participation in God’s mission. Raising the issue of missional cost is crucial as we seek to create a missional ethos in our congregations.
The Potential of a Missional Hermeneutic for Preachers and Teachers
- A missional hermeneutic provides a context and direction for preaching and teaching. Learning to read discrete texts within the grand narrative of God’s mission as described in Scripture provides a crucial angle for communicating the gospel. The interpreter recognizes that every text in the Bible helps to shape the people of God to serve as a missional community that embodies the character of God in, to, and for the world. In preparation for preaching and teaching, ask questions such as these: How does this text help us to understand God’s mission in the world? How do we need to change in order to live out this text corporately and individually? How does this passage serve as an invitation to the world to join God’s mission? What kind of persons does this text call us to become?
- A missional hermeneutic connects worship explicitly with life in the world by establishing a missional ethos for the community of faith. Learning to read the Scriptures through a missional hermeneutic keeps God’s mission on the front burner for all aspects of the community. Most profoundly it keeps the worship of the Triune God grounded in God’s missional intentions for humanity and all creation. Biblical worship at its core is profoundly missional. The aim of God’s mission is worship. Humanity was created to serve as God’s missional community before creation. As God’s new humanity, the church worships as a bold and daring testimony to the world of the greatness of God and as an invitation to unreached persons to become part of God’s new humanity for the sake of the world.
- A missional hermeneutic establishes a new framework for learning. As communities of faith struggle to break the grips of the paradigm of serving as inward-focused dispensers of religious goods and services to serving as outposts for the sake of God’s kingdom, a missional hermeneutic provides a different outcome for learning. “Christian education” is no longer merely learning facts about the stories of the Scriptures or grasping the basics of the historical creeds of the church. The goal of learning in the church now becomes a constant conversion to the message of Scripture so that each disciple can be shaped into the sort of person that she or he needs to become in order to participate fully in God’s mission in the world. All learning can now be set in the context of the missional reality of the twenty-first century church.
Barram, M. “The Bible, Mission, and Social Location: Toward a Missional Hermeneutic,” Interpretation 61 (2007): 42-58; Bauckham, R. The Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World (Baker Academic, 2004); Beeby, H.D. Canon and Mission (Trinity, 1999); Bosch, D.J. “Towards a Hermeneutic for ‘Biblical Studies and Mission’,” Mission Studies 3.2 (1986): 65-79; Brownson, J. Speaking the Truth in Love: New Testament Resources for a Missional Hermeneutic (Continuum, 1998); Guder, D.C., ed., Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America (Eerdmans, 1998); Idem. “Missional Pastors in Maintenance Churches” Catalyst 31.3 (2005): 4; Hunsberger, G.R. “Proposals for a Missional Hermeneutic: Mapping the Conversation,” Gospel and Our Culture Network Newsletter eseries 2 (2009): cn.org/resources/newsletters/2009/01/gospel-and-our-culture; Russell, B.D. “Missional Hermeneutics” http://realmealministries.org/WordPress/?page_id=753; Wright, C.J.H. The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (InterVarsity, 2006).
https://www.catalystresources.org/what-is-a-missional-hermeneutic/ accessed 25/01/2020 17h00
After reading this lecture, one should understand:
- “The bloodline of Jesus Christ is deeper than the bloodlines of race. The death and resurrection of the Son of God for sinners is the only sufficient power to bring the bloodlines of race into the single bloodline of the cross.”
- The sin of racism.
- Nothing but the blood of Jesus can wash away our sin and make our diverse society whole again
- Jesus brought an end to ethnocentrism. That Ephesians, Galatians, Romans, and other Pauline epistles uncover how reconciliation with God leads to reconciliation with one another, including other ethnicities.
- The achievement of the cross is reconciling all ethnic groups through faith in Christ is part of how the work of Christ on the cross magnifies the greatness of God’s grace.
- What is at stake in our pursuit of racial and ethnic diversity and harmony (both locally and globally) is both our reverence for the cross and our love for the glory of God.
- The practical implications for a ministry in a multi-ethnic society and the implications for a missional church within such a society.
“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Rev.5:9
“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.”
Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian – Book by John Piper
Racial Harmony and Interracial Marriage
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/
“What does the Bible say about ethnocentrism?”
Answer: Ethnocentrism is the belief that a particular race or ethnic group is superior to all others and all other races and ethnic groups are to be subjectively measured in relation to that race or ethnic group. It is a system of belief that leads to extreme pride and lack of concern for others. Simply put, ethnocentrism is another name for racism, which has been a plague on humanity for centuries and the cause of the death of millions. There is no place among God’s people for the ethnocentric attitudes which lead to racism. Such attitudes are contrary to Scripture and displeasing to God.
Biblically, ethnocentrism is sin. All men and women are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27, 9:6), although that image is corrupted by sin. It is because we are created in His image that God does not show partiality or favouritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34). Jesus did not lay down His life for a particular race of people, but by His death He “purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). The Israelites were ethnocentric by virtue of being God’s chosen people, but His choice was not based on their merit, but on His mercy and grace. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus came to save the world, both Jews and Gentiles. Paul bears this out by saying, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28) and “there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Colossians 3:11).
Jesus destroyed all barriers of race and ethnicity with His death on the cross. As Paul said in Ephesians 2:14, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” Ethnocentrism, whether based on historical grudges or on the erroneous teachings of men, is wholly contrary to God’s Word. We are commanded to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34), and such a command precludes any discrimination based on race or culture.
Recommended Resource: Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian by John Piper
“What does the Bible say about racism?”
Answer: The first thing to understand in this discussion is that there is only one race—the human race. Caucasians, Africans, Asians, Indians, Arabs, and Jews are not different races. Rather, they are different ethnicities of the human race. All human beings have the same physical characteristics (with minor variations, of course). More importantly, all human beings are equally created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus to lay down His life for us (John 3:16). The “world” obviously includes all ethnic groups.
God does not show partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9), and neither should we. James 2:4 describes those who discriminate as “judges with evil thoughts.” Instead, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (James 2:8). In the Old Testament, God divided humanity into two “racial” groups: Jews and Gentiles. God’s intent was for the Jews to be a kingdom of priests, ministering to the Gentile nations. Instead, for the most part, the Jews became proud of their status and despised the Gentiles. Jesus Christ put an end to this, destroying the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14). All forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination are affronts to the work of Christ on the cross.
Jesus commands us to love one another as He loves us (John 13:34). If God is impartial and loves us with impartiality, then we need to love others with that same high standard. Jesus teaches in Matthew 25 that whatever we do to the least of His brothers, we do to Him. If we treat a person with contempt, we are mistreating a person created in God’s image; we are hurting somebody whom God loves and for whom Jesus died.
Racism, in varying forms and to various degrees, has been a plague on humanity for thousands of years. Brothers and sisters of all ethnicities, this should not be. Victims of racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 declares, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Racists may not deserve your forgiveness, but we deserved God’s forgiveness far less. Those who practice racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to repent. “Present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13). May Galatians 3:28 be completely realized, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Recommended Resource: Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian by John Piper
“What does the Bible say about discrimination?”
Answer: Discrimination is itself the neutral act of perceiving differences. A music aficionado, for example, who recognizes the influence of Chopin in the études of Debussy may be said to have a “discriminating ear”; that is, the music lover is a person of refined perception. In most contexts, however, discrimination is a negative term referring to the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people, and this is the sense we will assign the word in this article. Discrimination can be based on disabilities, race, ethnicity, intelligence, or any number of factors that make human beings different.
Discrimination is not the same as discernment. Discernment is proper discrimination based on truth and fact. For example, discernment may not choose to hire someone because he showed up fifteen minutes late for an interview reeking of alcohol. Discernment rightly assesses that person as an unsuitable candidate for a responsible job. Discrimination, on the other hand, may choose to not hire someone simply because he is of a different race or did not wear expensive clothing to the interview. Discrimination wrongly judges a person based only on external factors or personal preference.
One of the first problems that arose in the early church was due to discrimination: “But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food” (Acts 6:1, NLT). The Jerusalem church was multi-ethnic, and some racial prejudice crept into their practices and caused trouble. This squabble pulled the apostles away from teaching and preaching, so the church elected the first deacons to deal with the problem and make sure no one was being discriminated against (Acts 6:2–3).
Discrimination was also a problem for the first Jewish believers in Jesus. Because God’s Messiah had come through the line of David and to the Jews first (Romans 1:16), they assumed He was their Messiah only. Disagreement arose then as Gentiles were added to the church. Some Jewish leaders wanted to know how “Jewish” the Gentile believers must become (Acts 14:27; 15:5). Many Jews could not believe that mere faith in their Messiah was enough to justify Gentiles as it had them. Surely the Gentiles should have to do something “Jewish,” such as observe the Sabbath or be circumcised, to be saved (see Acts 15:1 and Galatians 5:1–12). This clash of cultures, with its theological implications, necessitated the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:2–35). The modern church often wrestles with similar problems. Christians can discriminate against certain people groups or lifestyles, unsure if the same faith that saved us is enough to save “those people,” too (Ephesians 2:8–9).
No human being is fully free of prejudice or discrimination. It’s part of our selfish nature to prefer those of our own kind, whatever that represents to us. Races tend to congregate in their own neighbourhoods and churches, preferring their way of doing things to that of other races or nationalities. Preferences are fine as long as they don’t turn into legalistic discrimination against believers who differ on non-essential aspects of faith. Without realizing it, we can all be guilty of discrimination. Legalists discriminate against those they judge as rebels, while rebels discriminate against traditionalists. The goal should be to disagree without discriminating.
We can overcome our tendency toward discrimination by modeling Jesus’ attitude of humble service (Matthew 20:28). He washed the feet of Judas, knowing that Judas was traitor (John 13:27). He ministered in Gentile regions and in Samaria (Mark 7:24, 31; John 4:4). Rather than incite discrimination between “us and them,” Jesus’ coming to earth broke down the barriers that separated people: “He himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14). We can practice the instruction of Philippians 2:3, which says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”
God has made all who trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour one. Jews and Greeks, rich and poor, every nation, and every ethnicity—Jesus has formed His church from all groups (Galatians 3:28; Revelation 5:9). There should be no discrimination within the Body of Christ because there is no discrimination with God (Acts 10:34).
Recommended Resource: Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian by John Piper
“What does the Bible say about prejudice?”
Answer: Broadly speaking, prejudice is preferential bias, and it can be either favorable or unfavorable. But the term prejudice most often refers to a negative opinion, not based on fact or experience, formed without just grounds or sufficient knowledge. Prejudice targets groups or types of people rather than responding to people as individuals. Prejudice is usually expressed as unreasonable and hostile feelings, opinions, or attitudes toward ethnic, racial, social, or religious groups. Prejudice has been a significant part of religious history, with some even defending acts of prejudice in the name of Christianity. It’s good to look at what the Bible says about prejudice.
Humans have a natural tendency to show prejudice toward anyone who is different. Both Old and New Testaments were written during times of human history when racial, national, and sexual prejudice was expected. Women were treated as property, and the enslavement of other nationalities was common. When God gave Moses the Law for Israel, He incorporated moral and ethical standards that were unheard of in that barbaric day (Deuteronomy 4:8). God decreed that His people would be different from the violent and godless nations around them (Leviticus 20:26). Part of that difference would be in the way they were to treat others: foreigners among them were to be treated as their own brothers (Leviticus 19:34), eliminating prejudice from their ranks.
Prejudice among Jews, Gentiles, and Samaritans was rampant in Jesus’ day. Jews hated Samaritans and considered Gentiles unclean. Jesus transcended the prejudice by placing particular emphasis on a Gentile man’s faith (Matthew 8:10–11) and the kindness of a Samaritan (Luke 10:30–36). God had chosen the nation of Israel through whom He would send His Messiah (Romans 1:16), and the Jews were proud of their heritage (see John 8:33). When the church began, the first Jewish converts to Christianity believed God’s salvation belonged solely to them. But as non-Jews began to respond in faith to the gospel, the ingrained Jewish prejudice led quickly to discord and controversy within the church (Acts 11:1; 15:5).
God gave the apostle Peter a vision to teach him that God is not prejudiced and will not tolerate prejudice in His people. Because of what God revealed to him, Peter said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (Acts 10:34–35). Paul, chosen specifically by God as the apostle to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:8), explained that Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, offers salvation to everyone who trusts in Him. That faith grafts every believer into God’s family. Paul wrote, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26–29). There are no second-class Christians. Faith in Christ is the great equalizer, eradicating any foundation for prejudice.
The historical accounts of fighting and bloodshed in the name of Christ—Protestants killing Catholics and Catholics killing Protestants—look nothing like the Christianity of the New Testament. Religious prejudice is just as evil as any other kind and is nowhere validated by Jesus or the apostles. Religious prejudice is still rampant in many parts of the world and is directly opposed to everything Jesus taught. While we can strongly disagree with other Christians in doctrine and lovingly oppose false teaching of every kind, we are never to force our views through hatred, coercion, or violence (see John 18:36).
Jesus’ teaching combats prejudice. God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good,” Jesus said, “and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). “Love your enemies,” Jesus said, “do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:27–31). Such commands steer us away from prejudice of any kind.
The Bible states that love must govern every action we take (1 Corinthians 16:14), and prejudice is opposed to love. Love sees the image of God in every individual; prejudice pre-assigns judgment without just cause. First Corinthians 13:4–8 defines what love looks like. We are not the judges of a person’s worthiness. First Corinthians 4:5 says that we should not “pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.”
Prejudice has no place in the heart of a believer in Christ. Our lives are to be ruled by humility, obedience, and love for God and others (Romans 13:7–9). Prejudice violates all three. To be prejudiced means we consider ourselves better than someone else, which is pride (Philippians 2:3). It means we are directly disobeying Jesus’ command to treat others as we would want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). And it means that we are not fully loving God, since we are unwilling to love people created in His image (1 John 4:20–21). Due to our fallen human natures, we all struggle with some form of prejudice; we should be quick to recognize it as sin and ask the Lord to rid us of it. When we are willing to see our prejudice as God sees it, we can repent of it and seek His help in changing it (1 John 1:9).
Recommended Resource: Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian by John Piper
“What does the Bible say about interracial marriage?”
Answer: The Old Testament Law commanded the Israelites not to engage in interracial marriage (Deuteronomy 7:3–4). However, the reason for this command was not skin color or ethnicity. Rather, it was religious. The reason God commanded against interracial marriage for the Jews was that people of other races were worshippers of false gods. The Israelites would be led astray from God if they intermarried with idol worshippers, pagans, or heathens. This is exactly what happened in Israel, according to Malachi 2:11.
A similar principle of spiritual purity is laid out in the New Testament, but it has nothing to do with race: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). Just as the Israelites (believers in the one true God) were commanded not to marry idolaters, so Christians (believers in the one true God) are commanded not to marry unbelievers. The Bible never says that interracial marriage is wrong. Anyone who forbids interracial marriage is doing so without biblical authority.
As Martin Luther King, Jr., noted, a person should be judged by his or her character, not by skin colour. There is no place in the life of the Christian for favouritism based on race (James 2:1–10). In fact, the biblical perspective is that there is only one “race”—the human race, with everyone having descended from Adam and Eve. When selecting a mate, a Christian should first find out if the potential spouse is born again by faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:3–5). Faith in Christ, not skin colour, is the biblical standard for choosing a spouse. Interracial marriage is not a matter of right or wrong but of wisdom, discernment, and prayer.
A couple considering marriage needs to weigh many factors. While a difference in skin colour should not be ignored, it absolutely should not be the determining factor in whether a couple should marry. An interracial couple may face discrimination and ridicule, and they should be prepared to respond to such prejudice in a biblical manner. “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him” (Romans 10:12). A colour-blind church and/or a Christian interracial marriage can be a powerful illustration of our equality in Christ.
Recommended Resource: Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian by John Piper
The Bible and Interracial Marriage
Interracial marriage is really a misnomer. There is only one race — the human race. But, since inter-ethnic marriage and inter-skin-color marriage haven’t caught on as alternate terms, I’ll go with interracial marriage. Like most of the articles in the GotQuestions.org Top 20, this one can stir up some pretty heated arguments and strong emotions.
In Deuteronomy 7:3, speaking of the Israelites’ relationship with the inhabitants of the promised land, God commands, “You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons.” There are many other Old Testament scriptures that warned the Israelites against intermarriage with the inhabitants of the land of Canaan. Some look at those scriptures and come to the conclusion that it was a racial issue. I disagree. It was a religious issue. God did not want interracial marriage between the Israelites and Canaanites because, “for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods” (Deuteronomy 7:4). It had nothing to do with skin color. It was entirely a matter of the Canaanites worshipping false gods and having evil and immoral religious practices.
The New Testament nowhere speaks about interracial marriage. It does, however, clarify the Old Testament commands. Second Corinthians 6:14 states, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” First Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.” There is no more intimate “company” than your spouse. There is no stronger yoke than marriage. Just as the Israelites were not to intermarry with those who did not believe in the one true God, so are Christians not to intermarry with those who do not believe in the one true God. Believers are not to marry unbelievers because it hinders our faith and disrupts our relationship with God.
There are some who argue that since God separated the races at the Tower of Babel, the races should remain separate. Problem — the Tower of Babel speaks of God separating people by language, not race. There are some who argue that interracial marriage should be avoided due to the prejudice the couple will receive, whether from their families or from the surrounding culture. Problem — since when do we allow the unbiblical beliefs of others to be the determining factor in our decisions?
So, if the Bible does not speak against interracial marriage, does that mean interracial marriage is always a good thing? Not necessarily. In regards to interracial marriage, I am an advocate of the “eyes wide open” approach. An interracial couple should fully understand the risks of interracial marriage. Whether it is racism, prejudice, discrimination, or simply the disapproving glances, an interracial couple needs to consider these issues and decide accordingly. It is sad that these issues exist, but they have to be taken into account. In some, maybe even most, parts of the world, interracial marriage is strongly discouraged.
Ultimately, interracial marriage is a decision that should be made between the couple and God. Of course the couple should take the feelings of their family into account, but since there is no biblical command against interracial marriage, it is a matter of Christian freedom.
S. Michael Houdmann
Race, Cross, and the Christian (Crossway 2011, 295 pp.)
There are fewer things more distressing than racial division within the Christian church. Yet racial division has plagued the church from the beginning. Whether one considers the apparent antagonism between Greek and Hebrew speaking Jewish Christians which evidences itself in Acts 6, or Paul’s reminder to the Ephesians that Christ has torn down the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles in Ephesians 2:11-22, it is evident that this sin is one that reappears from time to time. It is equally evident from the whole sweep of Scripture that racial animosity is a sin and has no place whatsoever in the church of Jesus Christ. While there is one faith, one Lord, and one baptism (Ephesians 4:5), the church is to be made up of people from every tribe, and tongue, and nation (Rev. 5:9; 7:4; 13:7).
Into this context speaks prolific author and pastor John Piper. Writing not as an expert in the field but as one whose heart is burdened over this issue, Piper offers us Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian as an attempt to address the problem of racial division and animosity. More specifically Piper seeks to address the race question from the perspective of Reformed Christianity. Even more specifically, Piper addresses the relation of blacks and whites in the church in America in light of our history with slavery, the Civil War, and the civil rights movement. While acknowledging that the Reformed faith has a checkered history relating to slavery in America, Piper argues that the Reformed faith (shorthand for biblical Christianity) has the internal resources for self-criticism and correction and offers hope to those trapped in the wretched vice-grip of the sin of racism.
John Piper begins his study with a note to his readers on his use of the terms “race” and “racism” (17-19). The author is concerned with clarity in communication and so offers a definition of these two words. For Piper, “race” and “ethnicity” are closely related terms, if not exactly synonymous. “Unless I explicitly differentiate race and racism from ethnicity and ethnic; I would like you, the reader, to think of both when I mention either – that is, ethnicity with a physical component and race with a cultural component. Very often I use the terms together to draw out this combination of ideas” (18). Piper offers further thought regarding the difference between race and ethnicity, “…since ethnicity includes beliefs and attitudes and behaviors, we are biblically and morally bound to value some aspects of some ethnicities over others. Where such valuing is truly rooted in biblical teaching about good and evil, this should not be called racism. There are aspects of every culture including our own (whoever “our” is), which are sinful and in need of transformation. So the definition of racism leaves room for assessing cultures on the basis of a biblical standard” (18). At the end of the day, racism involves both heart attitudes and actions. “The heart that believes one race is more valuable than another is a sinful heart. And that sin is called racism. The behavior that distinguishes one race as more valuable than another is a sinful behavior. And that sin is called racism. This personal focus on the term racism does not exclude expression of this sin in structural ways-for example, laws and policies that demean and exclude on the basis of race…” (18-19).
Piper organizes his book into two major parts: part one deals the world’s need for the gospel (31-106) and part two deals with God’s word as the power of the gospel (109-233). The book also includes four appendices dealing with (1) the terminology of race, (2) God-centered theology and the black experience in America, (3) how Piper’s church (Bethlehem Baptist Church) pursues ethnic diversity, and (4) the implications of Noah’s curse. Part one of the book begins with the author’s own story of growing up in the segregated south and involves his pilgrimage on the way to becoming pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Piper moves on to stress the importance of the gospel and his life transformation. The third chapter notes the changing face of the church from a predominantly European and North American phenomenon to a predominantly Two-Thirds world movement. Piper then addresses the exemplary nature of the black-white relationship, the need to consider both personal and systemic matters, and the power of the gospel and the roots of racial strife.
Piper begins the second part of the book, which focuses on the power of the gospel for salvation, with the story of William Wilberforce and his concern with doctrine and slavery. Wilberforce believed that the moral problem of slavery (and other social issues) was connected to a failure to understand and embrace the doctrine of justification by faith alone (109-112). Doctrine has practical consequences. Piper then deals with the accomplishment of the gospel, considers the mission of Jesus and the end of ethnocentrism, the creation of one new humanity, the ransoming for God from every tribe, and the fact that all people are justified in the same way. Yes, true doctrine has practical consequences indeed! Piper meditates on dying with Christ for the sake of Christ-exalting diversity, living in sync with gospel freedom, and the law of liberty and the peril of partiality. Piper asks why diversity within unity was worth the death of the Son. Finally, in the fourth section of part two of the book, the author speaks to interracial marriage and prejudice.
Having considered the details of Piper’s Bloodlines, I would like to offer three observations. My first thought is that the relation between blacks and whites is the most obvious one in the American context but it is by no means the only racial divide either in this land or in other lands. In this book it serves as the paradigm case and offers us insight into the dynamics of race and ethnicity involving other groups. Whites and blacks have no corner on this market.
Secondly, Reformed Christianity is not alone in its having to wrestle with the problem of racism. Most, if not all, of the major branches of the Christian faith in America split over the slavery issue in the years leading up to and into the Civil War and it is myopic to act as if only the Reformed faith has a checkered past on this score. This is not to let us off the hook, but I mention it to remind us that the problem is broader than the Reformed community.
Thirdly, the issue of racism manifests the utter devious sinfulness of sin. The problem is not difficult to understand; this sin is simply that – sin. But what is complex is how this sin insinuates itself into other matters. The sin of racism is intertwined with cultural and theological issues not directly related to racism per se. Sometimes what is understood to be a racial divide is more a theological or cultural divide. More often than not, racism gets entangled with theological and cultural matters. It is only the grace of Christ that can free us from the miasma of this specific sin.
This is a wide-ranging and searching volume that addresses a perennial problem. At the end of the day, the only satisfactory answer to racism is the reconciling blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and the integrating ministry of the Holy Spirit that glorifies God the Father. When we are reconciled to the Father by the Son through the Spirit, this spills over into reconciliation with our fellow human beings. Piper does not pretend to have offered the last word on this subject. But it is a powerful word. If we believe that the Reformed faith is the most biblical expression of the Christian faith, then we should long to see it spread to every land, tribe, and tongue.
Rev. Jeffrey Waddington (PhD. Candidate, Westminster Theological Seminary) is the teacher of Calvary Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Ringoes, NJ. He is the co-editor, with Dr. Lane Tiption, of Resurrection and Eschatology.
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/ unless otherwise indicated,
The Bible and Evangelism
After reading through this lecture you should :
1 – know and present the core of the gospel to unbelievers with reference to ways of evangelism in the New Testament evaluate his personal involvement and commitment to evangelism.
2 – create a plan to equip church members to know and present the core of the gospel to unbelievers.
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Mark 16:15
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” ESV Matt 28: 19-20
Why is differentiating between evangelism and missions important?
Girl is shocked by street preacher Ray Comfort
Five Essentials of Evangelism, Part 1
Five Essentials of Evangelism, Part 2 (Acts 5:11–42)
“What is the gospel?”
Answer: The word gospel literally means “good news” and occurs 93 times in the Bible, exclusively in the New Testament. In Greek, it is the word euaggelion, from which we get our English words evangelist, evangel, and evangelical. The gospel is, broadly speaking, the whole of Scripture; more narrowly, the gospel is the good news concerning Christ and the way of salvation.
The key to understanding the gospel is to know why it’s good news. To do that, we must start with the bad news. The Old Testament Law was given to Israel during the time of Moses (Deuteronomy 5:1). The Law can be thought of as a measuring stick, and sin is anything that falls short of “perfect” according to that standard. The righteous requirement of the Law is so stringent that no human being could possibly follow it perfectly, in letter or in spirit. Despite our “goodness” or “badness” relative to each other, we are all in the same spiritual boat—we have sinned, and the punishment for sin is death, i.e. separation from God, the source of life (Romans 3:23). In order for us to go to heaven, God’s dwelling place and the realm of life and light, sin must be somehow removed or paid for. The Law established the fact that cleansing from sin can only happen through the bloody sacrifice of an innocent life (Hebrews 9:22).
The gospel involves Jesus’ death on the cross as the sin offering to fulfill the Law’s righteous requirement (Romans 8:3–4; Hebrews 10:5–10). Under the Law, animal sacrifices were offered year after year as a reminder of sin and a symbol of the coming sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 10:3–4). When Christ offered Himself at Calvary, that symbol became a reality for all who would believe (Hebrews 10:11–18). The work of atonement is finished now, and that’s good news.
The gospel also involves Jesus’ resurrection on the third day. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25). The fact that Jesus conquered sin and death (sin’s penalty) is good news, indeed. The fact that He offers to share that victory with us is the greatest news of all (John 14:19).
The elements of the gospel are clearly stated in 1 Corinthians 15:3–6, a key passage concerning the good news of God: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living.” Notice, first, that Paul “received” the gospel and then “passed it on”; this is a divine message, not a man-made invention. Second, the gospel is “of first importance.” Everywhere the apostles went, they preached the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Third, the message of the gospel is accompanied by proofs: Christ died for our sins (proved by His burial), and He rose again the third day (proved by the eyewitnesses). Fourth, all this was done “according to the Scriptures”; the theme of the whole Bible is the salvation of mankind through Christ. The Bible is the gospel.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). The gospel is a bold message, and we are not ashamed of proclaiming it. It is a powerful message, because it is God’s good news. It is a saving message, the only thing that can truly reform the human heart. It is a universal message, for Jews and Gentiles both. And the gospel is received by faith; salvation is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8–9).
The gospel is the good news that God loves the world enough to give His only Son to die for our sin (John 3:16). The gospel is good news because our salvation and eternal life and home in heaven are guaranteed through Christ (John 14:1–4). “He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3–4).
The gospel is good news when we understand that we do not (and cannot) earn our salvation; the work of redemption and justification is complete, having been finished on the cross (John 19:30). Jesus is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2). The gospel is the good news that we, who were once enemies of God, have been reconciled by the blood of Christ and adopted into the family of God (Romans 5:10; John 1:12). “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1). The gospel is the good news that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
To reject the gospel is to embrace the bad news. Condemnation before God is the result of a lack of faith in the Son of God, God’s only provision for salvation. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:17–18). God has given a doomed world good news: the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
Recommended Resource: What Is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert
“What is the biblical method of evangelism?”
Answer: When trying to decide how to share Christ with someone, the starting point should be the same as that of John the Baptist and Jesus Himself. Matthew 3:2 tells us that John began his ministry with the words “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Repentance refers to a “change of mind,” which implies sorrow for past offences (2 Corinthians 7:10), a deep sense of the evil of sin as committed against God (Psalm 51:4), and a conscious decision to turn from sin to God. The first words Jesus spoke when He began His public ministry were identical to John’s (Matthew 4:17).
Biblical evangelism – The good news and the bad news
The word “gospel” means “good news.” While many well-meaning Christians begin their evangelistic efforts with the good news of God’s love for mankind, that message is lost on unbelievers who must first come to grips with the extent of the bad news. First, man is separated from a holy, righteous God by sin. Second, God hates sin and is “angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11). Third, death and judgment are inevitable (Hebrews 9:27). Fourth, man is wholly incapable of doing anything about the situation. Until the full extent of this bad news is presented, the good news cannot be effectively communicated.
Biblical evangelism – The holiness of God
What is missing from much modern evangelism is the holiness of God. In Isaiah’s vision of heaven, God’s holiness is being extolled by the seraphim around the throne. Of all the attributes of God they could have praised, it was His holiness—not His love—of which they sang. “And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory’” (Isaiah 6:3). When we understand just how holy God is, we can begin to understand His hatred of sin and His righteous wrath against sinners. Zechariah 8:16-17 and Proverbs 6:16-19 outline the sins God hates—pride, lying, murder, false witness, those who stir up trouble, and those with evil in their hearts. We cringe at the idea of God actually hating, because we are more comfortable with Him as a God of love, which He certainly is. But His hatred is real and it burns against evil (Isaiah 5:25; Hosea 8:5; Zechariah 10:3).
The unsaved person stands in mortal peril of the wrath of holy God, as Hebrews 10:31 reminds us: “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” An unbeliever is separated from God by his sin, which God hates, and there is nothing he can do about it. His nature is corrupt and fallen and he is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) with no hope of redeeming himself. He cannot save himself, in spite of good intentions or good works (Romans 3:20). Every good work that man thinks he can do is as “filthy rags” in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6). No amount of good living will make us acceptable in God’s eyes because the standard is holiness, without which no one will see God (Hebrews 12:14).
Biblical evangelism – Salvation through Jesus Christ
But now comes the good news. What man could not do to save himself, God accomplished on the cross. Jesus exchanged His righteous, holy nature for our sinful nature so that we can stand before God completely clean and pure, new creations with the old sin nature gone forever (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). God provided the perfect sacrifice for our sin, not because we deserved it or earned it, but because of His love and grace and mercy (Ephesians 2:8-9). Only those whose natures have been changed can escape the wrath of God and live in the light of His love and mercy. If we believe these things and commit our lives to following Christ by faith, we will live eternally with Him in the bliss and glory of heaven. This is good news indeed.
Biblical evangelism begins with prayer for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in witnessing, open doors of opportunity, and a clear understanding of the bad news of sin and wrath and the good news of love, grace, mercy, and faith.
Recommended Resource: Reaching the Lost: Evangelism by Bobby Jamieson
“What is the Great Commission?”
Answer: Matthew 28:19–20 contains what has come to be called the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus gave this command to the apostles shortly before He ascended into heaven, and it essentially outlines what Jesus expected the apostles and those who followed them to do in His absence.
It is interesting that, in the original Greek, the only direct command in Matthew 28:19–20 is “make disciples.” The Great Commission instructs us to make disciples while we are going throughout the world. The instructions to “go,” “baptize,” and “teach” are indirect commands—participles in the original. How are we to make disciples? By baptizing them and teaching them all that Jesus commanded. “Make disciples” is the primary command of the Great Commission. “Going,” “baptizing,” and “teaching” are the means by which we fulfill the command to “make disciples.”
A disciple is someone who receives instruction from another person; a Christian disciple is a baptized follower of Christ, one who believes the teaching of Christ. A disciple of Christ imitates Jesus’ example, clings to His sacrifice, believes in His resurrection, possesses the Holy Spirit, and lives to do His work. The command in the Great Commission to “make disciples” means to teach or train people to follow and obey Christ.
Many understand Acts 1:8 as part of the Great Commission as well: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The Great Commission is enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are to be Christ’s witnesses, fulfilling the Great Commission in our cities (Jerusalem), in our states and countries (Judea and Samaria), and anywhere else God sends us (to the ends of the earth).
Throughout the book of Acts, we see how the apostles began to fulfill the Great Commission, as outlined in Acts 1:8. First, Jerusalem is evangelized (Acts 1 — 7); then the Spirit expands the church through Judea and Samaria (Acts 8 — 12); finally, the gospel reaches into “the ends of the earth” (Acts 13 — 28). Today, we continue to act as ambassadors for Christ, and “we plead on Christ’s behalf: ‘Be reconciled to God’” (2 Corinthians 5:20, CSB).
We have received a precious gift: “the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 1:3). Jesus’ words in the Great Commission reveal the heart of God, who desires “all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). The Great Commission compels us to share the good news until everyone has heard. Like the servants in Jesus’ parable, we are to be about the business of the kingdom, making disciples of all nations: “He called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13, KJV).
Recommended Resource: How You Can Help Fulfill the Great Commission by Bill Bright
“What does it mean to be ‘fishers of men’?”
Answer: The phrase “fishers of men” was spoken by Jesus when He was calling two of His disciples, Simon Peter and Andrew, to follow Him. “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him” (Mark 1:16–18; see also Matthew 4:19).
The idea behind fishing is to know the fish you are looking for and attract it so you can make the catch. To catch a fish we must know what equipment to use, the habitat and depth of the water we are fishing in, as well as the kind of bait the fish will go after. After we understand everything we need for real fishing, then how do we relate that to being fishers of men?
God asks us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18–20). Just as we need equipment to be fishermen, we need equipment to be fishers of men. Putting on the armor of God is one way to be ready at all times with everything we need (Ephesians 6:10–18). Especially important are the shield of faith with which we ward off the opposition from demonic forces who don’t want to see men saved by the gospel of Christ (v. 16) and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (v. 17). Without these two pieces of spiritual equipment, we will find fishing for men’s souls impossible.
Not only must we have the armor of God as our equipment, but we must also know the fish we are trying to catch. Knowing the lost condition of the people around us will help us to understand that, no matter how good we are at fishing, we will never “catch” the fish on our own. No reasoned argument will convert the soul of a darkened mind, because “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). But God can and frequently does penetrate the darkness with the glorious gospel, and He uses us to do it. He knows which “fish” are His; therefore, we are to seek His wisdom and His guidance on all our fishing expeditions. Prayer is essential.
Lastly we must offer the only effective net—the gospel of Jesus Christ. To those who are perishing, the message of the cross is foolishness, but to us, it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). The gospel message has the power to change lives, shine light into darkness, and deliver evil men from hell. There is power in no other message and no other “net” can catch the fish of God. “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). This was Jesus’ message to Peter and Andrew—follow Me, learn of Me, know and understand My mission and My message. Only then will you be able to be fishers of men.
Recommended Resource: Reaching the Lost: Evangelism by Bobby Jamieson
“What is a Christian Testimony?”
Answer: The word “testimony” is used in few different ways. One common usage is when a person is brought into a courtroom and placed under oath to tell, attest to, or give witness to his or her personal knowledge or experience with reference to the case that is being heard. To link the word “Christian” to the word “testimony” is to narrow the focus of the testimony and who can give it. Only a Christian can give a Christian testimony, and a Christian is one who has received forgiveness for sin by trusting alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ for that forgiveness.
A Christian testimony is given when Christians relate how we came to know the God of the Bible through the moving of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Most commonly, we are sharing how we became Christians by God’s miraculous intervention and work in our lives through specific events. Often we can only see that in hindsight, but sharing that experience is vital. Also, when giving this testimony, a sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is always a necessity. Though we can include specific information about how we came to accept Christ as Savior, those details should not be the focus of the testimony. The focus should be about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
A Christian testimony should not end with the conversion experience, but should also include the ways in which the Lord has worked in our lives to sanctify us for His service. As an example, a testimony could include how He brought us through a difficult time in our life (such as a loss or some sort or a severe illness) and built our faith in Him through that experience. We should also be able to describe the continual process by which the Spirit who now indwells us leads, guides, molds and shapes us into mature Christians. Again, the focus should be on the Lord and His faithfulness, and should include at least one verse that speaks of that faithfulness (Psalm 18:2, 6).
Recommended Resource: Reaching the Lost: Evangelism by Bobby Jamieson
“Is handing out gospel tracts a good evangelism method?”
Answer: Any method that results in people hearing/reading and understanding the biblical gospel is a good evangelism method. Gospel tracts are small booklets that present the gospel, usually based on a specific theme. The theme may be a holiday, a timely issue, a movie or TV show, a book series, a musician, etc. – there are gospel tracts on virtually every topic imaginable. The goal of a gospel tract is to get the gospel of salvation of Jesus Christ into peoples’ hands in an interesting and easy-to-read format. While the precise origin of gospel tracts is uncertain, there are records of them as early as the 13th century A.D. Gospel tracts were popularized during the Protestant Reformation, and the invention of the printing press made mass-production of tracts much easier and faster. The most well-known gospel tract is likely “The Four Spiritual Laws” written by Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ.
Gospel tracts can be a very effective method of evangelism. Again, if the biblical gospel is presented in a clear and understandable manner, God will use it (Isaiah 55:11). Any time God’s Word goes forth, it is powerful and effective (Hebrews 4:12). People who are not otherwise effective communicators can overcome such a weakness by use of a gospel tract. Gospel tracts are an excellent choice when you simply do not have time to stop and witness to someone. Gospel tracts can be left in strategic locations for people to pick up later and read.
There are perhaps two primary weaknesses/issues with gospel tracts. First, there are several prominent gospel tract publishers who produce tracts in which the gospel is not as clear as it should be. Some of the pseudo-Christian cults are well known for having tract ministries. Before you consider handing out a gospel tract, read it closely and do some research on its publisher. Make sure that the gospel is clearly presented. If the tract endorses a website or other source of information, ensure that the message presented there is biblical.
Second, some people rely entirely on gospel tracts and purposefully avoid directly sharing the gospel with others. Giving someone a gospel tract is easier than personally sharing the gospel. While there are definitely many situations where giving a gospel tract is entirely appropriate, there are other situations where only a personal gospel presentation will suffice. We are all to be ready, willing, and able to share the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 3:15). Gospel tracts can be an important and valuable aspect of sharing the gospel, but it should not be the sole means of our outreach.
Recommended Resource: Gospel Tracts available at Christianbook.com
“Is door-to-door evangelism an effective method?”
Answer: Whenever door-to-door evangelism is mentioned, people invariably think of Jehovah’s Witness and, to a lesser extent, Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Whereas only a tiny proportion of Mormons undertake two years’ missionary work, all Jehovah’s Witnesses (whether baptized or not) are expected to take part in the door-to-door work. They are referred to as “publishers.” They have to report their activity, which includes the number of hours spent each month going from house to house and in conducting Bible studies with interested people.
In 2012, with 7.5 million publishers, the Jehovah’s Witnesses saw over 260,000 people baptized into their organization. On average, it takes 6,500 hours’ activity to generate one new baptism. On that basis, door-to-door evangelism is a hugely time-consuming activity.
Jesus commissioned His followers to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything He had commanded (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15). The Great Commission is not an option – it’s a mandate. If only more Christians were as prepared to share the gospel as the Jehovah’s Witnesses are to promote their teachings! But is door-to-door evangelism the way?
How did Jesus and His disciples go about their work? It does not seem they went from door to door, uninvited. Yes, Jesus sent out His followers in pairs to prepare the way for Him to preach in outlying towns and villages, but He did not instruct them to go door-knocking. In Luke 10:5-7 Jesus issues these instructions: “Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.” Jesus’ disciples did not go from house to house, uninvited, but they could enter a house where they were welcomed and stay with that family, telling them about Christ.
After Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, she was so impressed by what Jesus told her that she went back to her town and persuaded many to come back with her to meet this Jesus of Nazareth. “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” They persuaded Jesus to stay with them for two days, and many more became believers (John 4:1-31, 39-42). Jesus and His disciples did not canvass the Samaritan village first.
The first Christians did not go from door to door, either, as far as we know. The early Jewish Christians in Jerusalem spoke in the temple every day (Acts 2:46) and taught in each other’s houses as often as possible (Acts 5:42). The apostle Paul certainly spoke to strangers in the marketplace about Christ (Acts 17:17), but that’s about as close to door-knocking as we see in Scripture.
There is nothing wrong with going from door to door. It might produce results, and we are grateful for any soul who comes to Christ. But there is no explicit biblical precedent for that particular method.
Probably the most effective method of evangelism is to speak personally to friends, neighbors and co-workers. This is the type of evangelism Philip models in John 1:45-46. When Christians befriend others and develop a trusting relationship with them, they earn the right to be listened to. Inviting others to come to church or attend weekly Bible studies in the homes of other Christians is another good way to share the gospel. The way we live is important, too. A life of godliness speaks volumes to non-believers about the transforming power of the love of God.
A good biblical example of evangelism is the young Jewish girl captured and taken to Syria as a servant for Naaman’s wife. The little girl’s faith in the God of Elisha prompted her to spontaneously speak of his miracles. Her faith and her concern for Naaman’s health resulted not only in Naaman being healed, but also coming to faith in Yahweh (2 Kings 5:1-19).
All Christians need to be equipped to share the good news with others (1 Peter 3:15). We might not all be teachers and preachers, but we should all be so grateful that we have been saved that we want to tell others and explain what God has done for sinners such as us. Whether we’re going door to door, leaving tracts at a restaurant, or engaging in friendship evangelism, we should be sharing the gospel. Jesus commands it, duty demands it and gratitude prompts it.
Recommended Resource: Reaching the Lost: Evangelism by Bobby Jamieson
“Is street preaching an effective evangelism method?”
Answer: Street preaching, or preaching openly in a public area, has been a method used throughout the history of Christianity for the purpose of evangelizing people who would not typically enter a church. Ever since the apostle Peter preached in the streets of Jerusalem in Acts 2, Christians have used this method to lead many to faith in Christ.
Despite the long-standing tradition of street preaching throughout church history, some believe that the practice should no longer be used. They have a variety of reasons for their opinion. First, critics believe street preaching has lost effectiveness as compared to its results in past decades. Second, some believe that street preaching is too overt or offensive, that people are turned away rather than drawn to Christ. Third, some critics note that certain people have used the “soapbox” to spread extremism, political wrangling or bad theology, giving street preaching a negative association. As a result, they argue, Christians should use other forms of outreach.
A practical and biblical look at these concerns reveals many weaknesses in these criticisms. First, even if street preaching is less effective than at other times in history, this does not mean it should no longer be utilized. What if a street preacher sees only one person come to faith as a result of his sermon—does this mean he should not have preached? It still changes eternity for that one person. Other methods of outreach may be more effective, but this does not mean street preaching is ineffective.
Of special concern is the second criticism, that street preaching is too offensive. Since when are Christians to reach the lost only in “inoffensive” ways? Paul wrote that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Unless a Christian never shares his or her faith, opposition is inevitable. The goal is not to avoid offense at all costs; the goal is to avoid unnecessary offense. The cross of Christ will always be an affront to unbelievers (1 Corinthians 1:23). The way we communicate can be adapted to the audience, but our message must remain the same. Street preaching is simply one method to communicate Christ to those who may otherwise not hear the gospel.
Third, should Christians continue to use street preaching even though some have misused this method? Rather than abandon the practice, perhaps Spirit-filled individuals should reclaim the proper use of street preaching. Christian writers don’t give up their craft simply because some authors write bad books. The Bible teaches, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
In summary, street preaching is a historic method of evangelism that can be quite effective in reaching those who might never enter a church. It may appear less effective than in the past, it may indeed offend those who resist the truth, and it may have to overcome some negative associations, but street preaching continues to be used by God around the world to lead people to faith in Christ. We need not condemn its practice but encourage those who boldly communicate the faith in the public square. Rather than wait for the lost to come to us, we should go to them.
Recommended Resource: Gospel Tracts available at Christianbook.com
“Is a gospel crusade a biblical method of evangelism?”
Answer: A gospel crusade is a concentrated effort to evangelize a city or region. Prior to the preaching the groundwork is laid: a large venue is rented, whole communities are invited, musicians and counsellors are lined up, and churches are asked to pray. When the big day arrives, a high-profile evangelist preaches a public message or a series of messages on salvation and gives an invitation to respond. Evangelists who have used the gospel crusade method of evangelism to speak to millions include George Whitefield, Charles Finney, D. L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham.
Gospel crusades have been in existence since the second chapter of Acts and since then have exploded in number and popularity. Some crusades claim to present the gospel; some of them don’t. Some crusades may be labeled “gospel,” but are in fact focused on physical healing, inspirational messages, or prosperity. For the purposes of this article, we will define a gospel crusade as a scheduled event designed to attract a large number of people for the purposes of presenting God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. We will also assume for the purposes of this article that the true biblical gospel is indeed preached at the crusades we will consider.
The first “crusade” of sorts is found in Acts 2:14–41, after the Holy Spirit had come upon the disciples. Peter immediately began speaking to the thousands gathered at Pentecost, explaining the phenomenon they were seeing and hearing. These formerly terrified followers of Jesus were suddenly speaking boldly in other languages so that travelers from many nations could hear the gospel in their own tongues. Three thousand new converts were added to the kingdom that day. Clearly, this gospel crusade was a biblical method of evangelism.
The next verse (Acts 2:42) shows us why this gospel crusade was so effective. There was follow-up, and the new believers “devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to fellowship, and to prayer.” Those new converts were immediately welcomed into the church at Jerusalem where they were instructed about how to be disciples of Christ (see Matthew 28:19–20). One weakness of the crusade method of evangelism is the lack of follow-up. Of the thousands who flock to the front to “give their lives to Jesus,” how many continue in the faith? Although many reputable evangelists such as Billy and Franklin Graham strive to connect new believers with local churches, the numbers don’t support the claim that most of those responding to an altar call were truly born again. Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples” (John 8:31). The implication is that those who do not continue in His word never were His disciples to begin with.
There are many acceptable methods of presenting the gospel, and none should be discounted if the truth is proclaimed. A gospel crusade is only one way, but often we think of it as the best way. We may subconsciously excuse our lack of personal evangelism by assuming that unbelievers will be exposed to a gospel crusade through TV or in person and hear the truth that way. There may be instances when an unbeliever is so hardened against the gospel that he or she has been resistant to personal evangelism but is drawn to a gospel crusade through the celebrity status of the speaker or musicians. However, as followers of Christ carrying His mandate of winning the lost, we should never assume that the message is somehow reaching those who need it without our participation.
God uses many avenues to reach those He came to save, including gospel crusades. As His followers, we should be actively involved in helping Him through every means possible. When we support gospel crusades through our time, finances, and participation and, at the same time, seek to draw people to Jesus through our personal witness, we can be confident that we are obeying Jesus’ last words to us and helping Him make disciples of all nations.
Recommended Resource: Reaching the Lost: Evangelism by Bobby Jamieson
“What is personal evangelism?”
Answer: Personal evangelism is the act of a person sharing the gospel with another. There are many different methods of personal evangelism, and it is a hot topic within Christianity. Books, classes, and seminars are dedicated to the subject of witnessing, soul-winning, and helping others find salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Not every method is effective or biblically supportable; according to Bible teacher Dr. John MacArthur, “Jesus would have failed personal evangelism class in almost every Bible college and seminary I know.”
According to a 2016 Barna survey, 73 percent of Americans claim to be Christians. However, after applying scriptural tests to those claims, only around 31 percent actually qualify as practicing Christians. The Bible knows no other kind (Matthew 7:19–21; 1 John 3:7–10). Clearly, what has passed for personal evangelism for the last several generations has not been effective.
When Jesus practiced “personal evangelism,” He often seemed to make it more difficult for those who showed interest (Luke 9:57–62). His encounter with the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16–24 is a good example of showing an unbeliever what true discipleship costs, but this type of personal evangelism is rare today. Jesus was not interested in what has come to be known as “easy believism.” Some modern methods of personal evangelism are so mechanical that salvation is presented almost as a business arrangement: “Plug in this sinner’s prayer and voilà! Eternal life!” This presentation may result in many responses, but is that real salvation? The Barna statistics indicate otherwise.
Paul exemplified effective personal evangelism. After his radical conversion to Christ (Acts 9), Paul’s entire life changed. His new life motto was encapsulated in these words from Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Paul lived evangelism. Everything he did was for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). He sought ways to impart truth everywhere he went, in every cultural context (1 Corinthians 9:20–22). The other apostles practiced personal evangelism in the same way. At times, they gained massive responses, and churches were started on the spot (Acts 9:35, 42; 11:24). Other times, the first Christians were mocked, beaten, jailed, or run out of town (2 Corinthians 11:34–35; Acts 16:22–23). So even the best methods of personal evangelism won’t always produce converts.
We can learn a lot about personal evangelism from those first Christians. The following are some factors that contribute to effective personal evangelism:
Prayer. Beautiful words and impassioned speeches may move a soul, but they cannot transform a hard heart. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can bring conviction and repentance (2 Timothy 2:25). The first Christians relied on massive amounts of prayer before they attempted to do anything for the Lord, and God blessed their efforts (Acts 1:14; 4:31; 6:6; 13:3; Colossians 4:4). When our prayer lives are consistent and meaningful, we are ready to engage in personal evangelism.
Biblical knowledge. We don’t have to possess a seminary degree or the ability to read ancient Greek, but we do need an overall understanding of what the Bible says. Many people allow this factor to silence them, citing their lack of biblical knowledge as a reason they don’t witness for Christ. But there is no reason that we cannot study and learn for ourselves what God says about His plan of salvation. Christians should be experts on the gospel. Second Timothy 2:15 commands us to study as unto God so that we will become “as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” We need to know the basic truths of Scripture in order to have effective personal evangelism.
A story. We all have a story. If we’ve come to know Christ and have experienced forgiveness of sin and His transforming power in our lives, then we have a story to tell. Effective personal evangelism often incorporates a personal testimony. Paul often recounted his own conversion story in his evangelism, reminding his audience of how wicked he had been and how far God’s grace had brought him (Philippians 3:4–6; Acts 26:9–23; 1 Corinthians 15:9). An example of how a story affects personal evangelism is found in John 9. Jesus healed a man born blind. The Pharisees plied the healed man with questions about Jesus that he could not answer. Finally, in frustration, the man cried out, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (verse 25). We may not know the answers to every question we are asked, but we do know what Jesus has done for us. We know that once we were blind to spiritual truths, and now we see.
The right attitude. Much damage has been done in the name of Christ by people trying to conduct personal evangelism without love and without humility. First Corinthians 13:1–3 reminds us that we may do any number of noble-looking deeds, but if we don’t do them in love, we have accomplished nothing. Love for Christ must be first (Mark 12:30), followed closely by a love for people. Our motivation in personal evangelism must never be anger, a desire to condemn someone, or a need to win an argument. We should check our own hearts before embarking on a quest to evangelize others (Matthew 7:3–5). We don’t have to be perfect, but we need to be certain that our desire is the salvation of the lost, not the motivation to look spiritual or to be right. Galatians 5:22–23 is a list of character qualities that will be a part of effective personal evangelism.
Obedience, not results. It is often tempting to scale down biblical truth in personal evangelism in order to elicit the response we desire. But to do so only undermines the work God wants to do in that person’s life. Scripture is replete with examples of people obeying God’s commands, even though the results were nothing like they assumed: Abraham followed God to Canaan—and a famine hit right away (Genesis 12:10). Mary accepted the role of mother to the promised Messiah—then watched Him be mocked and crucified (Luke 1:38; John 19:25). Paul followed the Holy Spirit’s leading to Philippi—and was arrested and imprisoned (Acts 16:6–24).
In our personal evangelism, it is good remember that we are only responsible to God for our obedience, not the results of that obedience. We may present the gospel thoroughly and lovingly, and the person to whom we witness may hear and understand but choose to walk away. We are not responsible for that reaction, only the level of obedience involved in our presentation. Jesus explained in Luke 8:5–15 that human hearts are like types of soil. The seed sown is the same in each case, but people receive the Word of God differently and respond differently. Our job, as the sowers of seeds, is to present truth as effectively as we know how and entrust the results to God.
Personal evangelism is the responsibility of every believer. God calls each of us to different tasks and endows us with different gifts, but the goal is the same—the salvation of the lost (1 Corinthians 12:6–7; Luke 19:10). He places us in strategic positions for influence, not privilege. We have neighbors, coworkers, friends, and relatives who need to hear the good news about Jesus. Whether we’re called to lead evangelistic crusades or simply cultivate a relationship with an unsaved neighbor, personal evangelism should be the driving force in our lives. Jesus’ words spoken to His disciples more than two thousand years ago still apply to His followers today: “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4). As long as we have breath, we can do personal evangelism. As long as we stay surrendered to the Holy Spirit, He will do it through us (Luke 12:12).
Recommended Resource: Reaching the Lost: Evangelism by Bobby Jamieson
What is servant evangelism?”
Answer: Often the word evangelism brings to mind a dynamic person speaking to large crowds about Jesus and giving an invitation for salvation. Some evangelists do speak to large, public crowds, but the truth is there are many approaches to evangelism and many different strategies. Servant evangelism is sharing God’s love by simply serving others in practical ways without asking for or expecting anything in return.
The focus of servant evangelism is doing acts of kindness for anyone and everyone. “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people” (Galatians 6:10). An example of servant evangelism could be something as simple as handing out free water bottles on a hot day or taking bags of food to needy families at Christmastime. The possibilities are endless, but the common denominator is that nothing is asked for in return. One of the motivations behind this type evangelism is that the Bible tells us that God’s kindness leads people to repentance (Romans 2:4).
There are many benefits of servant evangelism, both for those being served and for those serving. Servant evangelism reaches people where they are and exposes non-Christians to Christians showing God’s love in unmistakable and non-threatening ways. Not everyone is comfortable walking into a church building, but receiving a free service with no strings attached is harder to resist. In fact, it usually piques curiosity as to why someone would go out of his or her way to perform this act of kindness. Servant evangelism has the potential to soften people’s hearts, enabling them to hear and receive the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a good way to “water” seed previously sown (see 1 Corinthians 3:6).
Servant evangelism benefits those serving, as well. As Christians, we are called to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Serving others gives Christians the opportunity to tell about God’s love. When someone asks why they’re doing what they’re doing, those who are serving can point to Christ—it’s great training ground for other types of evangelism! Also, as Christians, we are to be full of the Holy Spirit in such a way that the Spirit flows out to others (see John 7:38–39). Engaging in servant evangelism puts Christians in situations where the Holy Spirit can minister through them. Jesus commanded His disciples and, consequently, Christians today to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19–20). Jesus didn’t say, “Wait inside your church buildings for the lost to come to you”; He said to “go.” Through servant evangelism the church can show people outside the church that God cares and give them a reason to want to come inside.
While servant evangelism is certainly a biblical practice, it is incomplete as a form of evangelism until the message of Jesus is spoken. Romans 10:17 tells us, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” To complete the process of evangelism—to bring someone to accepting Christ as Savior—we need to speak “the word about Christ.” Servant evangelism can be effective in opening that person’s heart to receive the message once he or she hears it.
Recommended Resource: Lifestyle Evangelism: Crossing Traditional Boundaries to Reach the Unbelieving World by Joe Aldrich
“What is lifestyle evangelism?”
Answer: “Lifestyle evangelism” is an evangelism strategy that focuses on living a holy, winsome life among unbelievers with the goal of attracting people to the message of Jesus Christ. Many variations of lifestyle evangelism exist, but the definitive resource is the book Lifestyle Evangelism by Joe Aldrich.
Lifestyle evangelism has been popular since the 1990s, and many Western Christians have sought to share their faith through their lifestyle in addition to their verbal testimony. In contrast with other methods such as tracts, crusades, and media-based outreach, popular in the mid-twentieth century, lifestyle evangelism focuses on building relationships with one person at a time. Through friendship, opportunities arise to share the gospel.
Critics claim that lifestyle evangelism is insufficient or that it ignores the Bible’s command to share the gospel verbally. Doing good works is not enough; we must speak the truth. However, lifestyle evangelism can and should do both. There are many examples in Scripture of those who both lived out their faith and verbally shared their faith.
For example, the apostle Peter boldly shared his faith in Christ on the Day of Pentecost in the streets of Jerusalem, and 3,000 people were converted to Christ and baptized as a result (Acts 2:41). Shortly afterwards, he and the other apostles were taking action to meet the needs of widows (Acts 6:1-7).
In addition, members of the early church were known for their good works, being “highly regarded by the people.” (Acts 5:13). At the same time, they were obeying God’s command to “tell the people the full message of this new life” (verse 20). A combination of vibrant faith and a vibrant sharing of faith is the proper balance.
Paul exhorted Timothy to “keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching” (1 Timothy 4:16). Paul emphasized that Timothy’s lifestyle and preaching were both important in the effort to evangelize others.
Paul affirmed the same principle in Ephesians 4:1-3: “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Though called to boldly proclaim Jesus (Romans 1:16), we also have a clear call to live a life reflective of the message of Christ.
So long as lifestyle evangelism does not replace the verbal sharing of the gospel, it is a legitimate ministry tool. Lifestyle evangelism can be a wonderful way to show faith in action in a world that needs to see what true Christianity looks like.
Recommended Resource: Lifestyle Evangelism: Learning to Open Your Life to Those Around You by Joe Aldrich
“What is friendship evangelism?”
Answer: Friendship evangelism as a method of bringing people to Christ or sharing the gospel of Christ has several meanings and connotations. Some people believe that friendship evangelism requires Christians to become friends with unbelievers, establishing a relationship before attempting to address their need for a Savior. Some see friendship evangelism as living a solid, righteous life—a living testimony—before others so that they desire that kind of life and ask how to achieve it. At that point, the gospel is shared. Still others believe that living a righteous life in the world is evangelism enough and that no further efforts are necessary. The theory is that unbelievers will be so convicted of their need for that kind of life that they will seek God on their own. What does the Bible say about friendship evangelism?
Each of the three above-named methods of friendship evangelism falls short of the biblical method of evangelism. The first method, becoming friends with unbelievers in order to gain enough credibility so they will listen to the gospel, fails to recognize several important biblical truths. For one thing, believers are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14–17). The essence of friendship is mutual respect and affection based on agreement on basic life principles. But can a believer really have such a relationship with an unbeliever? In light of James 4:4 and Ephesians 5:11, such a relationship is not biblical. The unsaved person is part of the world, which hates God and the people of God. How can such a person have affection and respect for believers, who are part of the kingdom of God? Are we to be friendly towards unbelievers? Absolutely! Are we to have intimate relationships with unbelievers? Biblically speaking, no.
Furthermore, neither Jesus nor the disciples practiced this type of friendship evangelism. Jesus didn’t limit His gospel presentations to His friends and relations. He preached to complete strangers the message of repentance from sin and salvation through Him. He sent His disciples out two by two, and they “preached that people should repent” (Mark 6:12). If people refused to listen to them, Jesus instructed them to “shake the dust” off their feet and move on to the next town. He never encouraged them to settle down for a few months and develop friendships with those who rejected His message. Nor did He tell them to avoid quoting Scriptures so that their hearers wouldn’t be offended or turned off to the gospel. He knew that the “message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18) and that most people will reject that message, no matter how friendly the manner in which it is presented. Christ was rejected by the world, and He told us to expect the same reaction (John 15:18–20).
What about the method of “evangelizing” through our living testimony? There is no doubt that we are to live righteous lives before the watching world, and there certainly is power in the testimony of a life transformed by Christ. A classic example of this is Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1–42). Jesus was able to tell her everything about her life, including the sin she was living in now. Jesus, in His infallible way, gave her the gospel, and, of course, she believed. John 4:39 picks up the story: “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers” (John 4:39–41).
Everyone in that town knew this woman and the sordid life she lived. What caused them to believe in Christ was not only her words about Jesus, but her transformed life. She was a living testimony to the power of the gospel of Christ. So impactful was the change in her life that they knew something miraculous had happened, and they asked Jesus to remain with them, which He did for two days, preaching the same gospel of repentance and the offer of the living water of eternal life through Him. “And many more believed because of his word” (John 4:41). In this instance, both the preaching of the Word of God and the testimony of a life changed by that Word bore the fruit of repentance.
But was the woman’s changed life sufficient to bring others to the Savior? No, but it was the impetus for them to seek more information. Can we today expect that our lives will be sufficient testimony to convince unbelievers of their need for Christ? The problem that arises in this third type of friendship evangelism is that too often the lives of Christians are not a good witness of the Lord and Savior we profess to know and serve. Too often the world sees in us more of a reflection of them than a reflection of Christ. To rely exclusively on the “living testimony” of redeemed sinners who, while saved by grace, still battle the flesh on a daily basis—without the testimony of the truth of Scripture—is to handcuff ourselves in a way the Bible never bids us to do. Not even the most well-lived life can compare with the power of the Word of God. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). “Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29).
Clearly, the biblical method of evangelism is the faithful proclamation of the truth of Scripture in conjunction with the living testimony of those who have been changed by that truth. When Jesus went about teaching the gospel message of salvation, He taught love and forgiveness, being kind and compassionate. But He went to sinners in order to convict them of their sins. A case in point is the very Samaritan woman we’ve been talking about here. Remember . . . the very first word Jesus said when He began His ministry was “Repent!” “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’” (Matthew 4:17). We are commissioned to bring that same message to the world, speaking the truth in love from a heart changed by the Savior.
Recommended Resource: Evangelism Explosion, Fourth Edition by D. James Kennedy