Much of my time this spring has been occupied with preparing a webinar series for our local church on the subject of evangelism in the current culture. You can find the series on YouTube. It’s called, Engage — Evangelism and Disciple-making in Today’s Culture.
If you go there, you will see that the webinar series is divided into three parts which I call Context, Content, and Contact — each about thirty minutes in length.
Context is all about seeking to understand today’s western world so that we can share the Gospel with greater relevance. Just as Jesus came from heaven to become one of us (which we describe as his incarnation), so too, in order for us to share the Good News effectively in our world today, it is necessary to know and identify deeply with the people we are seeking to reach. Increasingly, current happenings demonstrate that the world we live in today is radically different than the one that existed just a few decades ago. This has deeply affected the way people think — especially about the issue of truth. For most people today, truth is relative to their own experience. Yet the Gospel claims truth as something apart from human experience — as in the existence of God and his self-revelation (in the Holy Scriptures and in Jesus Christ). And in seeking to communicate the Gospel today, it seems to me that we need to know how to adapt its communication to this new reality.
Content is the second segment in this webinar series. One of the reasons, I think, evangelism has fallen on hard times is due to less certainty about what the Gospel really is. I’ve noticed, especially in these times, that the Gospel has been reduced to some form of personal improvement (sometimes veiled as discipleship) or social justice. But this is contrary to the biblical description of the Gospel which is all about God’s grace expressed in Jesus’ death and resurrection for our sins (i.e. 1 Corinthians 15:1-3). Biblically speaking, discipleship is all about what it means to follow Jesus AFTER one has come to understand and respond to the Gospel. In order for Christians and the church to recapture a passion for evangelism, I believe it’s essential that we understand the true nature of the Gospel as Jesus’ death and resurrection for our sins which is available to all through a simple but genuine confession of faith.
Contact, the last in this series, is the most exciting of all! It demonstrates ways in which evangelism can happen today, providing ideas on how to actually engage people in Gospel conversations with a view to seeing them come to faith. In contrast to the more structured approaches in evangelism during the modern period (using the Four Spiritual Laws, the Roman Road, or Evangelism Explosion), a more natural approach in these postmodern times is to share the Gospel in the form of story — God’s story as outlined in the Bible, and/or one’s own story of how he or she came to believe. This session provides some simple ideas on how to become a credible witness to the Gospel through ordinary conversations, building friendship, and knowledgeably dealing with typical objections.
When Jesus came preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, he didn’t speak much of his death and resurrection simply because these hadn’t yet happened. On the other hand, there were times he made allusions to the prospect of these events since they represent the climax of his ministry on earth (i.e. Matthew 20:17-19, John 10:1-21). His life and ministry prior to his death and resurrection served to illustrate the nature of his kingdom all the while including a grand invitation to become participants in it by the supernatural work of the Spirit (i.e. John 3). Jesus’ death and resurrection together formed the capstone of all the prophetic references and images in the Old Testament such as the Jewish sacrificial system, priesthood, and royal righteous leadership.
It is for these reasons, after Jesus ascended to heaven and sent his Spirit upon those first believers, that the apostolic witness to the Gospel was supremely about his death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sin. The Apostles understood that the Kingdom of which Jesus spoke was only accessible by an acknowledgement of faith in what Christ had accomplished by his death and resurrection. This is the righteousness by faith of which the Apostle Paul spoke so passionately when he wrote that he is not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe (Romans 1:16, 17).
This webinar series reflects my own great passion in these times to write and speak with precision about the nature and necessity of the Gospel for the sake of our nation and the hope of the world. In a time when cultural and church focus appear to be increasingly upon moral or political solutions to our social and personal ills it seems supremely important to counter this current trend with a compelling message of the Gospel. Church and world history have demonstrated that when we appropriate and present the Gospel as the Apostles did in the first century, the response is radically transforming both personally and culturally. I offer this webinar series in the hope that it will serve to greatly strengthen Christian commitment to the Christ of the Gospel and its communication.
If I can be of any further assistance in coaching or teaching about these matters, or even of responding to any questions this subject may raise, please feel free to be in touch with me.