Evangelism in a Skeptical World
eBook - ePub

Evangelism in a Skeptical World

Sam Chan

  1. 288 pages
  2. English
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eBook - ePub

Evangelism in a Skeptical World

Sam Chan

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À propos de ce livre

Many of the old methods of evangelism no longer work effectively today. We need new methods to communicate the timeless message of the gospel in culturally relevant ways.

In a post-Christian, post-churched, post- reached world, most Christians have been poorly equipped to tell their friends about Jesus. Dr. Chan combines the theological and biblical insights of classic evangelistic training with his own and hard-won insights from missiology on contextualization, cultural hermeneutics, and storytelling.

Every chapter is illustrated with real-world examples drawn from over fifteen years of evangelistic ministry across the globe. These are methods that really work—with university students, urban workers, and professionals—getting past the defensive posture that people have toward Christianity so they can seriously consider the claims of Jesus Christ.

Field-tested and filled with unique, fresh, and creative insights, this book will equip you to share the gospel in today's world and help as many people as possible hear the good news about Jesus.

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What must I do for my friend to be saved?
Anne is a stay-at-home mom who helps to run the play group at her church. After dropping off her two older sons at school, she brings her youngest son to the play group. Anne enjoys watching her son play with other four-year-olds while she has coffee with other parents.
One of the aims of the play group is to create opportunities for evangelism. Many of the parents and children don’t come from churched backgrounds, so the play group offers a unique opportunity to tell them the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Anne does this by mixing stories from the Bible with well-known children’s storybooks. For story time, the children might hear about Little Red Riding Hood, the Cat in the Hat, and David and Goliath. Next, Anne incorporates Bible stories into the craft activities. So far, the children have made slingshots to go with the David and Goliath story, long-haired wigs to go with the Samson story, and bandages to go with the story about Jesus raising Lazarus.
Anne is excited by the play group’s success. But lately there have been complaints from the Christian parents. They’re frustrated that the gospel isn’t being communicated. Why isn’t Anne using the Four Spiritual Laws, which is how many of the Christian parents first heard the gospel? And why hasn’t Anne talked about Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross?
Has Anne been doing evangelism at all? Has she been communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ? In what sense is the play group an evangelistic play group?
What counts as evangelism? What is the gospel? These words carry a lot of baggage, tradition, and emotion. Many well-meaning Christians remember fondly how they were told the gospel at some evangelistic event. For them, that will remain the only recognizable form of evangelism.
You may be coming to this book with a well-developed sense of what you mean by the word evangelism, or you may come with your own questions. To answer some of these questions, we will start by exploring a theology of evangelism. We will do this by surveying how the Bible describes evangelism and then applying this to our contemporary settings. So let’s begin with some definitions. What is evangelism according to the Bible?
I want to be clear that while many people use the word evangelism in different ways, we are looking to understand evangelism as an idea that we get from the Bible. There is just one problem. There is no direct-equivalent word for our English word evangelism in the Bible. There is no noun that matches how we use the term in English.
The Bible uses these Greek words: euangelion—“gospel”—to describe what is said (Mark 1:14–15); euangelistes—“evangelist”—to describe the person who is telling the gospel (Acts 21:8; Eph. 4:11); and euangelizo—“to proclaim the gospel”—to describe the activity of telling the gospel (Rom. 10:15). The best way to understand the term evangelism is that it is our attempt to describe what happens when someone tells the euangelion or gospel.
What Do the Terms Euangelion and Gospel Mean?
Euangelion, or gospel, usually refers to the “good news” about Jesus Christ. It is the story of God saving his people and judging his enemies by sending Jesus Christ. In this sense, euangelion or gospel is more broadly both good news and bad news.1
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew terms are besorah (noun) and basar (verb), which the Septuagint translates into Greek as euangelion and euangelizo respectively. These terms refer to the activity of bringing significant news in any general sense (1 Sam. 4:17; 1 Kings 1:42; Jer. 20:15). But they also come to mean significant news in a specific sense—God’s acts of salvation, especially the promised eschatological salvation of his people (Ps. 40:9; 68:11; 96:2; Isa. 40:9; 41:27; 52:7; 61:1; Joel 2:32; Nah. 1:15).2
Outside of the Bible, the Greek word euangelion (in the neuter singular) hardly occurs. And when we do find it being used, it doesn’t mean “good news” until several centuries after the New Testament.
But in the New Testament, euangelion recalls what we saw in the Old Testament’s use of basar—“to bring good news.” The word is used seventy-six times in the New Testament—sixty times by Paul alone. It typically refers to the story about Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:1; Gal. 1:11; 2:2) or of someone telling this story (1 Cor. 9:14; 2 Cor. 2:12; 8:18).3
The English word gospel comes from the Anglo-Saxon word God-spell—literally, “God’s story.” It is used in our English Bibles to translate the Greek word euangelion. When William Tyndale translated the Bible into English, he used gospel to mean “good news.”
What Does the Concept of Evangelism Mean?
Evangelism is a term we use in English for the act of communicating the gospel. This idea is conveyed in the New Testament by the verb euangelizo (“to bring good news”). But the concept should be broadly understood to include several different ways of bringing that good news to people. It includes any form of communicating the gospel, and there are several New Testament verbs that convey this idea, such as martureo (“to testify” or “bear witness”), kerusso (“to herald”), parakaleo (“to exhort”), katangelo (“to proclaim”), or propheteuo (“to prophesy”), and didasko (“to teach”).4
Evangelism Is Defined by Its Message
While several terms indicate the variety of ways we communicate the gospel, the essence of evangelism is in the message, the gospel of Jesus. Evangelism is the event of communicating this message, or we might say that evangelism is defined by its message. The essence of evangelism is not the method (preaching, singing, acting) nor the medium (a person, a book, a song) nor the occasion (church service, commencement speech, school camp) nor the audience (believers and nonbelievers).
Evangelism Has Broad and Narrow Senses
In a broad sense, evangelism communicates the gospel to both believers and nonbelievers. We find this sense of evangelism, for example, when Paul says, “[Christ] is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28). Paul communicates (evangelizes) the gospel to the believers, those who already know and follow Jesus. In this broad sense, evangelism is the basis of preaching, teaching, and ethical exhortations to believers. Without the gospel message, our preaching, teaching, and exhortations to believers would be reduced to legalism and moral aphorisms.
In the midtwentieth century, C. H. Dodd wrongly made it fashionable to distinguish between preaching to believers and evangelizing nonbelievers. But this distinction cannot be supported biblically, because in the New Testament the gospel is the basis of both activities. Both believers and nonbelievers are being preached to and evangelized with the gospel.5
However, we can also define evangelism in a narrow sense as communicating the gospel to nonbelievers to urge them to believe in Jesus (Acts 8:35; Rom. 10:14–15). For the rest of this book, we will use the term evangelism in this sense.
Evangelism Is Not Defined by Its Method
In the Bible, there is no single method of communicating the gospel; instead there is a variety of methods. In the New Testament alone, we find:
  • Parables by Jesus
  • Songs
  • Creeds
  • Letters to churches
  • One-on-one conversations
  • Sermons in formal worship gatherings
  • Discussion meetings
  • Public speeches
  • Apocalyptic literature
  • Miracles
Unfortunately, well-meaning Christians often get stuck on one particular method and end up believing it is the only or best method. Usually this is the method that we have become an expert in. Or it is the method that was effective in our own conversion. Or it is the method that distinguishes our tradition or denomination from others.
For example, my American friends tell me that for a long time, much of North American evangelism utilized tent-style crusades. Or it relied on crisis evangelism, sharing the gospel in a way that emphasized making a decision at that moment.6 While it’s understandable why we might use one method for a long time, it does mean that we miss out on the strengths of other methods. And we risk becoming legalistic and reductionist by insisting on one method, confusing orthodoxy (the message) with orthopraxy (the method).
My hope is that this book will help us to be aware of our prejudices about methods of evangelism and to explore different methods and appreciate their strengths.
We have defined evangelism as an event where the gospel is communicated. But what exactly is this gospel? How do we describe it? How do we understand it? To answer these questions, we will look at the gospel from three different but complementary perspectives.
1. The Gospel according to the New Testament Writers
Let’s say we’re trained as New Testament exegetes. We would answer the question “What is the gospel?” by describing what New Testament writers such as Paul say about it. From passages such as Romans 1:1–5 and 1 Corinthians 15:1–4, we can observe four things:
  1. The gospel is the story about Jesus Christ: who he is and what he has done.
  2. Our access to the gospel is through the Scriptures.
  3. The gospel, which demands a response of faith and obedience, brings salvation.
  4. The gospel is communicated to both believers and nonbelievers.
In Romans 1:1, the apostle Paul tells us that the gospel is “the gospel of God”; it is God’s gospel.* This means the story belongs to God; it is not our story to invent, modify, or embellish. We should also trust in its power. We do not need to add anything to it to make it more powerful.
At the same time, in Romans 16:25 Paul tells us that the gospel is “my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ”; it is Paul’s gospel as proclaimed by him. So even though the story belongs to God, it is told by a human evangelist. In this sense, it is our story to tell. It has to come through our personality, culture, language, idioms, emotions, limitations, and experiences.
There is always this tension to the act of evangelism. We have a timeless story from God, which is true for all peoples of all cultures and in all places. But at the same time, it has to be told by a person who is in a time, culture, and place. Throughout this book, we will return to this tension again and again, and we’ll explore it in greater detail in later chapters.
* This was drummed into my head by one of Sydney’s champion evangelists, John Chapman. I can still hear his distinctive voice saying, “It is God’s gospel.”
2. The Gospel according to Theologians
Let’s say we’re trained as systematic theologians. We would answer the question “What is the gospel?” by prescribing systematized biblical ideas for our contemporary setting. Most approaches to evangelism in the West use some type of theological grid to communicate and explain Christian beliefs. For example, we could break down the gospel story into a variation on the following main points:7
  1. God created us.
  2. We have sinned against God.
  3. Jesus saves us from our punishment.
  4. We now have a decision to make.
These main points are fleshed out with our theologies of creation, sin, salvation, and conversion. This has been the predominant approach to evangelism over the last century, commonly found in methods like Evangelism Explosion, the Four Spiritual Laws, Bridge to Life, and Two Ways to Live. Perhaps you can think of others.
3. The Gospel according to Storytellers
Let’s say we’re trained as storytellers, in particular as biblical theologians. We would answer the question “What is the gospel?” by tracing the story of what God has done, and continues to do, to save his people. As an example of this approach, Timothy Keller suggests the following storytelling grid:8
  1. Manger
  2. Cro...

Table des matiĂšres

  1. Cover Page
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright Page
  4. Dedication
  5. Contents
  6. Foreword
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. 1. A Theology of Evangelism
  9. 2. Everyday Evangelism
  10. 3. How to Craft a Gospel Presentation
  11. 4. Evangelism to Postmoderns
  12. 5. Contextualization for Evangelism
  13. 6. Gospel-Cultural Hermeneutics
  14. 7. Storytelling the Gospel
  15. 8. How to Give Evangelistic Topical Talks
  16. 9. How to Give Evangelistic Expository Talks
  17. 10. Religious Epistemology, Apologetics, and Defeater Beliefs
  18. Conclusion: Moving People from Hostile to Loyal
  19. Appendix: Have You Heard of the Four Spiritual Laws?
Normes de citation pour Evangelism in a Skeptical World

APA 6 Citation

Chan, S. (2018). Evangelism in a Skeptical World ([edition unavailable]). Zondervan Academic. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/581219/evangelism-in-a-skeptical-world-pdf (Original work published 2018)

Chicago Citation

Chan, Sam. (2018) 2018. Evangelism in a Skeptical World. [Edition unavailable]. Zondervan Academic. https://www.perlego.com/book/581219/evangelism-in-a-skeptical-world-pdf.

Harvard Citation

Chan, S. (2018) Evangelism in a Skeptical World. [edition unavailable]. Zondervan Academic. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/581219/evangelism-in-a-skeptical-world-pdf (Accessed: 14 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Chan, Sam. Evangelism in a Skeptical World. [edition unavailable]. Zondervan Academic, 2018. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.