The word, “evangelism” strikes fear in the hearts of many Christ-followers. But nothing could be more backwards, for the people of God possess the greatest news in the universe. A holy God sent his Son, the Lord Jesus to die in the place of every person who would ever believe. Sinners may receive the hope of eternal life by banking all their hope in Christ and the benefits he purchased for them on Calvary’s cross.
J. Mack Stiles helps Christians develop confidence in the responsibility to tell the nations about Christ in his excellent little book, Evangelism. The author rightly responds to churches who turn the evangelistic endeavor into a mere program. Rather, he encourages the church to develop a “culture of evangelism” which is “built on people filled with the power of God’s Spirit proclaiming the gospel of God’s grace in the context of their everyday lives and relationships.” The main theme, then, is built around an entirely different paradigm; a mindset that can and should dominate every local church.
Stiles endorses a modified definition of evangelism that I rather like: “Evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade.” Such a definition works well in the pulpit, classroom, local park, and coffee shop. Francis of Assisi may have been well-intentioned when he quipped, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary use words.” But wordless evangelism is no evangelism at all (no offense to The Wordless Book – which actually uses words, in the final analysis). Stiles speaks emphatically, “There is no evangelism without words.” Such a gospel should include important words that include God, man, Christ, and human response.
The culture of evangelism that Stiles favors emerges clearly in chapter two. The author dreams of churches committed to eleven ideals:
- A Culture Motivated by Love for Jesus and His Gospel
- A Culture That Is Confident In the Gospel
- A Culture That Understands the Danger of Entertainment
- A Culture That Sees People Clearly
- A Culture That Pulls Together as One
- A Culture in Which People Teach One Another
- A Culture That Models Evangelism
- A Culture in Which People Who Are Sharing Their Faith Are Celebrated
- A Culture That Knows How to Affirm and Celebrate New Life
- A Culture Doing Ministry That Feels Risky and Is Dangerous
- A Culture That Understands That the Church Is the Chosen and Best Method of Evangelism
Such a culture becomes a reality when God’s people put the gospel at the center of every activity. The gospel emerges in every song, every sermon, and every classroom. In this gospel-centered culture, people are equipped – prepared and passionate about presenting Christ to lost people.
J. Mack Stiles has written a fantastic book that I commend to Christians – not only to read, but also to absorb and apply. Perhaps the harvest is just around the corner!