Evangelism (Part 1)

Topic Progress:

Series: Sword of the Spirit – Unit: Reaching the Lost
Lesson: Evangelism – Topic 01: Evangelism (Part 1)
Teacher: Colin Dye

Announcer: Welcome to Sword of the Spirit, written and presented by Colin Dye, senior minister of Kensington Temple and leader of London City Church. Sword of the Spirit is a dynamic teaching series equipping the believers of today to build the disciples of tomorrow. We pray that you find these programs inspiring, and a catalyst in deepening your knowledge of God, your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and your intimacy with the Holy Spirit.

Colin Dye: Hello, and welcome to The Sword of the Spirit, a school of ministry in the Word and the Spirit. Today we’re starting a new topic—Reaching the Lost. Evangelism and mission are the lifeblood of believers in Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself told us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. It is our mission; it’s our purpose. Now there are often many challenges associated with this to preach the gospel means that we must help people understand that without Jesus Christ, they are lost. As Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father but by me.” But what does it mean to be lost? Why do people need to be saved? And why is Jesus the only answer? Why do we, as Christians, proclaim Christ as the only way to God? What does it mean for our lives personally as we seek to spread this message? Is it something that we do only by talking to people and preaching? Is it also something that involves the way we demonstrate Jesus Christ by our lifestyle? And what about signs and wonders and miracles? The early church saw all of these elements. And throughout this series, you will see how each and every one of these things fits in with reaching the lost.

Hello, and welcome to this Sword of the Spirit teaching and training session. We’re looking at the subject Reaching the Lost. And in a very real way, everything that we do in the Sword of the Spirit series is about reaching the lost. It’s about equipping you with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, with the information of the Word of God so that this school of ministry in the Word and the Spirit will find its climax in you reaching out to the lost with your life. That you, by the power of the Holy Spirit and with the fullness of the Word of God within you, testify wherever you go to the salvation that’s found in Jesus Christ. Somebody has once said, “As fire exists for burning, so the church exists for mission—for evangelism.” We are never closer to the heart of God than when we hear and feel His heartbeat throbbing for the lost. It’s that which motivated our heavenly Father in sending Jesus Christ, according to the most famous verse in the whole Bible, John 3 and verse 16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, [should not be lost] but shall receive everlasting life.” Now over the years, there’ve been so many conferences and courses and conventions all focusing on the subject of evangelism, and yet it still seems to be the last thing that the church does. The Great Commission has become the Great Omission. Jesus said, “Go,” and we stay. He says, “Make disciples,” and the best we do is make a few decisions or help people make a few decisions for Christ. But the purpose of the Great Commission is that we should make disciples, mobilize disciples, and mature them into the image of Jesus Christ. And this full presentation of the Great Commission is still missing from the church. It seems that we’re not mobilized; we’re not geared towards going and doing what the Holy Spirit has told us to do. What the last command of Jesus should be is should be to us our first concern. And so the question we must as straightaway is, if God has entrusted us with this burning mission and that we are to speak the words of love and forgiveness, that we are to demonstrate His power through works of power—the dunamis of the Holy Spirit—that we should, by the process of what we might call our own incarnation as the Word become flesh in our lives, dazzle the world with the glory and splendor of Jesus through an incarnational presentation of Christ. If all of these things are the call of God upon us, why is it that it is not happening? Well, I want to ask the question—do we actually believe the gospel? Do we actually believe the gospel that we say we preach? Do we actually acknowledge that this world is lost and on its way to an eternal Christless eternity? Do we understand that large portions of the six billion people that are alive on planet Earth, have never heard for the first time, the Good News? The question that we have to ask ourselves is do we believe that the gospel is genuinely good news? Do we really believe that the gospel can make a difference in a person’s life? Is the quality of our own discipleship so much that we would say yes, we know the power of Christ to change our lives away from darkness to light; to change our lives from death to life, from hell to heaven? And is Jesus really making a difference to us and is that difference that which we can demonstrate to other people? Do we actually believe what the gospel says, that Jesus Christ is alive from the dead and that all people will be judged by Him one day? If we believe these things, then our response would be an unqualified ‘yes’ to the message of the gospel and an unqualified ‘yes’ to the call of the gospel to preach to the lost. Now by the time we’ve finished this series together, I’m praying that you’re going to have a much better understanding of God’s purpose in sending you into the world with His gospel. And I want you also to begin to understand there are lots of different ways in which we should spread the gospel and that we should use all the resources that God has given us to equip us for this task. And I also pray in particular, that you will be so convinced about the truth of the gospel that you would just be like the early disciples who say, “I can help speaking about the things that I have seen and heard because I know them to be the truth.” That you would be so equipped by the power of the Spirit, so motivated by the love of the Father, that you will make reaching the lost a lifestyle issue with you, that you will reach out to the hurting people around you with the power of the gospel message—that message that can effectively change their lives and change their destiny, just as it changed you. That’s our agenda. Let’s get down to it.

Now, in the first section, I ask the question: What is evangelism? What is evangelism? I call this series of seminars Reaching the Lost. Reaching the Lost. And I suppose in one sense, that’s my mini definition of evangelism. But many people, it seems, even in the church, don’t understand what evangelism means. They don’t understand it fully. They have images of big crusades, tract distributors, those who walk on street corners with sandwich boards—“The end is nigh.” TV preachers who fleece their would-be flock, people knocking on doors. Some of the most awful experiences of my life have been knocking on doors. You don’t know what’s behind that door, brother. And people don’t seem, therefore, to appreciate the depth, the breadth, and the kaleidoscopic variety of what God intends by New Testament evangelism. Others would argue it’s best left to specialist evangelists and my job is to give to support them in their ministry. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth, because evangelism is the responsibility of everyone who is a recipient of good news. If you’ve got good news and you’ve experienced it, then it is a sin; it’s a crime not to share it. You cannot hold this. You cannot keep this to yourself. Others are influenced by their particular tradition within the church. We need to get back to the scriptures and we’re going to begin in this first session by looking at the meaning of the word evangelism. But we must get back to the scriptures and seek again an understanding—a fresh understanding, a biblical, a godly understanding—of what evangelism really, really is.

Now this has been hotly debated over the last eighty to ninety years. And the discussion has often centered around exactly the meaning of this word ‘evangelism.’ And there’ve been a number of different suggestions put forward. One that came very early on in this century—1918—it was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s—his enquiry into evangelistic work of the Church of England. And that commission decided that evangelism was—and the full quotation’s for you in the manual—to evangelize is “so to present Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit that men shall come to put their trust in God through Him to accept Him as their Savior and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church.” Now this is a very famous definition. It has a number of things which we can speak about in favor of it. For example, it says that evangelism is declaring a specific message. There is content, and that content is the gospel message, which must be communicated, it must be declared. It’s not an issue that needs—well, there’s debate surrounding it, but it’s not a debate. Christianity is not a debate. The gospel is not a debate. It’s an assertion. It’s a proclamation. Also, you will have noticed that this definition touches on our needs to depend upon the Holy Spirit. Evangelism cannot be performed in natural energy. Now there are many means of communication which we will use in communicating the gospel message. But the means of communication are not themselves where the power lies. The power lies in the message which [stutters] when once well communicated is released into people’s lives by the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about the fruit of the gospel. Also, this definition shows that evangelism involves presenting a person, presenting Jesus. That’s what it’s all about. It’s presenting Christ, presenting Jesus as the Christ who is the Lord as well—the Lord and the Christ. And so this, then, shows that the gospel demands discipleship. Now all of those things are found in this definition and we can speak favorably about it. But there is one thing that I want to touch on which I don’t exactly agree. I know what they mean, but I don’t exactly agree. Because it seems to suggest that the essence of evangelism is producing converts. That’s the essence of evangelism. It seems to suggest that because it says it’s to “so to present Christ that men and women shall come to put their trust in God as Savior.” Now I know that the gospel is effective and I’m thankful for this definition that reminds us of that, that as we preach the gospel, something’s going to happen. When we preach, people are going to believe. That’s the power of the Holy Spirit operating through this. Having said that, gaining converts is not the essence of evangelism. Evangelism is proclaiming Jesus Christ to sinful people in order that through the power of the Spirit, they may come to put their trust in God through Him. Now you may think I’m splitting hairs right now, but this is a teaching course and it’s so important that we get it right. If we have wrong assumptions about evangelism, our evangelism’s going to go astray. If we believe that the essence of evangelism is getting converts or even making disciples, as this definition suggests, we’ve gone a very long way, but we’re still short of the essence of evangelism. Evangelism is presenting Christ and depending upon the Holy Spirit to bring that change in people’s lives. Also, if you think about this, the definition itself could be suggesting that the essence of evangelism, or evangelism, should be restricted to the proclamation of the message. So the emphasis is on proclamation. Now again, it’s a good emphasis. But we’re not concerned just to have a good emphasis. We want to see a biblical emphasis. And a little later on, this will become clear to you. Let me approach it from another angle. Many church leaders look at evangelism through their own ecclesiastical spectacles. In other words, the church tradition seems to determine what they see. And we come to the scriptures this way. It’s very hard not to. We must learn to take off the spectacles of tradition and our own personal viewpoint and say, “Lord, I want to see the Word of God as it really is.” Now some would suggest from the evangelical tradition that evangelism is virtually synonymous with proclamation. It’s preaching the gospel—that’s what evangelism is. All right? Now others say yes, preaching is an important part of evangelism, but, for example, those of the orthodox churches would suggest strongly that evangelism includes—and a very large part of it—is the church’s presence in the world. The first is, perhaps, Proclamation Evangelism, this is perhaps called Presence Evangelism. It’s living a holy life and serving our community and doing so with the love of Christ. There’s the Great Commission, which is married to the Great Commandment. Go and preach is also allied to love. Love one another. And so they would emphasize this and say at the very least, it’s equally indispensable and perhaps even in some circles of the professing Christian church, it is even more important than the message. Then we have what we might call a Pentecostal and charismatic which has been very strong in recent decades—the 1980’s, the 1990’s—very strong—which we might call Power Evangelism. And that is the understanding that evangelism includes as a very significant feature, signs and wonders. And that signs and wonders must accompany preaching. Now these three basic ideas about evangelism can help us understand the different emphases that the other church groups bring. But we must go back to the Bible to see how accurate they really are. And the truth is, as we shall see, that it involves all these three things—Proclamation Evangelism, Presence Evangelism, and Power Evangelism.

Okay. Let’s then get into our biblical study. There are two major—two word groups. Two major word groups in the New Testament which are relevant to this topic. The one word group is all the words linked with euangelion—that’s the Greek word—and the other one is linked with the Greek word kerugma, which means ‘the proclamation.’ Okay. We’re going to come to these. Now it seems to me that many of the disagreements that we hear about evangelism flow from the way these words are understood or misunderstood, whatever the case may be. The first of these two group of words is based around the Greek word euangelion. This comes from two Greek words, eu, e-u, meaning ‘well,’ ‘noble’ or ‘good,’ and angelia, meaning ‘message’ or ‘tidings.’ So euangelion means ‘the good news,’ ‘the glad tidings,’ or ‘the noble message.’ A way of saying this in old English is ‘good speak.’ That’s where the word gospel comes from. It was then God’s spell, good news, good speak, and it came down to gospel. That’s where it comes from. And so this immediately establishes for us that evangelism is linked with the gospel. Now you say, “Well, we really are getting down to [basis]—basics—if we need to establish that.” But let’s remind ourselves, of course, evangelism is to do with the gospel. It is to do with the good news. It has to be good news, all right? And so anything that relates to the gospel must therefore relate to evangelism. So if proclaiming the gospel has to do with the gospel, then that has to do with evangelism. If living the gospel has to do with the gospel, that has to do with evangelism. If being good news has to do with the gospel, then it has to do with evangelism. So you can see already, we’re stretching our understanding concerning the meaning of this word. Now there is a noun related to this—euangelistes in the New Testament. It also comes from the same two Greek words—from eu, meaning ‘well,’ and angelos, ‘messenger.’ It literally means ‘a messenger of good.’ A messenger of good. The English word ‘evangelist’ is literally a transliteration of this Greek word euangelistes. You can hear it in the English and hear it in the Greek. Evangelist—euangelistes. It’s virtually a transliteration. Do you know the difference between a translation and a transliteration? A translation is when the word in the original language is given the word in the corresponding language. Okay? A transliteration is when the word in the original language is just carried over into the second language, almost letter by letter. We’ve come across this before when we were looking at Glory in the Church. For example, we saw that ‘baptism’ is virtually a transliteration from the Greek. Baptism—baptismos.  And it actually means, literally, immersed. And it would have had far reaching ecclesiastical effects if they translated it, so they, I guess for political reasons, they kept it as a transliteration. Here we have another word. The word ‘evangelist’ is virtually a transliteration from the Greek word. Now the verbal form of this—euangelidzo—is almost impossible to translate neatly into modern English. And that’s why it’s good sometimes to use the word ‘evangelize.’ So long as we pour into that transliteration the full content. Now let me remind you of something that we talked about in the Living Faith series. Remember the word for faith was pistis, and the verb was pisteuo. And so you can hear the similarity in the Greek—pistis and pisteuo. now when we come to translate that into English, we have a difficulty. Because pistis means ‘faith,’ but pisteuo we can’t translate as ‘to faith.’ We translate is as ‘to believe.’ So some people, then, get confused about whether faith and believing are different. It’s only a problem with language. Here, we have the same difficulty with this word euangelion and euangelidzo. If euangelion means ‘the gospel,’ logically, euangelidzo should bee translated as ‘to gospel.’ But it can’t because that’s bad English. All right. So the English language forces us to invent a verb before the noun. So when we say ‘to evangelize,’—I’m transliterating—we can’t say ‘to gospel,’ so we have to say ‘to something the gospel.’ We have to put a verb in front of that noun. And many translators have placed ‘to preach the gospel,’ which then is an interpretation in one sense because it shows us that the essence of evangelism is preaching. And that’s good so far as it goes, but it leads us into a misunderstanding because there’s more to evangelizing than preaching the gospel. It includes also demonstrating the gospel, living the gospel, being good news, demonstrating good news, as well as preaching good news. And so different translations in the English Bibles translate it as ‘to preach the gospel,’ ‘to announce the good news,’ or ‘to bring glad tidings.’ But if we were translating literally, we’d have to say it would mean ‘to gospel,’ or ‘to good news,’ or ‘to evangelize.’ Now most evangelical Bible translators, as I say, translate this as ‘to preach the gospel,’ and then those same people turn round and say therefore, to evangelize essentially means to preach. So they translate their interpretation then use the interpretation—use the translation to justify their interpretation. Have you got that? I’ll say it again. They use their interpretation in the translation and then use the translation to justify their interpretation. And so we must understand that evangelism is more than simply preaching. I think preaching is essential and central to evangelism, but it includes more. It includes more than that. Okay. Now other church leaders argue that we could translate euangelidzo, the verb, as ‘to be the gospel’ or ‘to demonstrate the gospel.’ But then that’s going to the same error in another direction. Perhaps a more neutral word like ‘to spread the gospel,’ ‘to bring the gospel,’ or ‘to bear the gospel’ would be better. Because if we use an extra verb, which is absent in the New Testament, we must make sure that the verb we put there does not prejudice our understanding of evangelism itself. That it will not be solely or exclusively proclamation, solely or exclusively incarnation—Presence Evangelism—or solely and exclusively demonstration—Power Evangelism. Just simply because ‘to gospel’ is not an acceptable English word. Now I have done a little chart for you there. Let’s summarize what we’ve looked at so far in the meaning of this word. We have the—first of all in the first column, we have the Greek word, then we have the transliteration of that, then we have the literal translation, then we have what we might call a good translation. All right. First of all, the word euangelion, a transliteration would be ‘the evangel.’ The evangel. The Greek letter—‘v’ in English transliterates the Greek letter there which we see as ‘u,’ upsilon. Okay. Then a translation of this—a good translation—would be ‘the good news.’ But what we—well, that’s the literal translation, isn’t it? But then a good translation is ‘the gospel.’ Then we have the next word, the verb euangelidzo. We have the transliteration ‘to evangelize.’ The literal translation ‘to good news.’ And it’s literal, but it’s bad English, so we have to have a better translation, ‘to bring the gospel.’ Then you have euangelistes, which is ‘the evangelist,’ and we have the [stutters] literal translation, ‘a good newser.’ A good newser. And then a better translation would be ‘a gospel messenger.’ Now, having said all of that, probably it’s good to stick to what we’re doing more often these days, is to stick to the transliteration of this and to say we’re going to evangelize. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to evangelize. But if we do that, we must make sure we understand what the New Testament means by evangelizing. Now when we pour into this word ‘evangelism,’ ‘evangelist,’ and ‘to evangelize,’ the Bible content, when we do that, we are then likely to begin to fulfill the Great Commission. That’s why it’s necessary. Albeit, it’s sitting in a classroom and we’re examining this together, we’re looking in the Greek, and we’re looking at all kinds of words, but it’s essential that we come to a good understanding of what the New Testament means. Not our human ideas, not our church traditions.

And that brings to an end today’s teaching on Reaching the Lost. I pray that you’ve been inspired to reach out to people who don’t yet know Jesus Christ with the wonderful message of the gospel. We’ll be back next time with more teaching on Reaching the Lost. Till then, God bless you.

Required reading

  • Dye, Colin. Reaching the lost, Kensington Temple, 2007
  • Bonnke, Reinhard. Evangelism by fire: Igniting your passion for the lost,Full Flame Gmbh, 2002

Recommended reading

  • Osborne, T. L. Soulwinning out where the sinners are, Harrison House, 1980
  • Bonnke, Reinhard. Time is running out: Save the world before it’s too late, Regal Books, 1999