When it comes to evangelism, we face a number of questions and debates these days, like, “Should we be more missional or more attractional? Or should we be both? How?”
We also want to know…
- what evangelism really is.
- what it ought to look like.
- what version or vision or paradigm of evangelism is the most biblical.
- what method is best and most fruitful.
- what will really work for us and for our time.
And what do we do with all those evangelism approaches we don’t like, that we don’t think work or that we even find offensive and counterproductive?
Some are asking even more fundamental questions like, “Should we even use the ‘E-word,’ given the baggage it carries? Is there a better word? Like ‘being and bearing witness’? What is best from a biblical standpoint?”
Others are asking that most fundamental question: “What is the gospel, anyway?”
Often, we get bogged down or derailed by division and argument and polarization. We can spend more time criticizing each other’s views and correcting each other rather than actually reaching out to people who don’t know Jesus yet.
What is your biggest question about evangelism? How are you working it out?
And what are you doing about all the arguing and polarizing and critique?
For me, the biggest question is, “What is the gospel?” If we are not clear there, the rest will unravel.
I answer that question by emphasizing the larger narrative frame of Scripture, which is the big story of the fulfillment of the reign of God from Genesis through Revelation. That big story is what provides the meaning for Jesus’ proclamation of the good news: “The kingdom [or reign] of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15).
I also answer that question by emphasizing the historical core of the story: Jesus died for our sins and rose to give us new life and a new creation. When we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, we shall be saved.
The big narrative and the historical core. You can’t understand one without the other.
Are we holding these together? Are you?
Rick Richardson is a professor in the Wheaton College Graduate School and directs the M.A. in Evangelism and Leadership and the M.A. in Missional Church Movements degrees. He is a senior fellow at the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism and heads up the Evangelizing Churches Initiative, which gathers senior pastors for greater evangelistic impact.