Posted by: sdunnpastor | December 27, 2010

WHAT IS THE GOSPEL – PREPARATORY THOUGHTS

This is a cross-posting from the School of Evangelism Blog DEEPER EVANGELISM To receive more preparatory work or to keep up on what the School is teaching, go to that blog and bookmark or edit.

WHAT IS THE GOSPEL? – Preparatory Comments

The first class in the 2011 School of Evangelism is a basic course on the theology of evangelism.  Most persons are so intent at doing the work of evangelism that they brush past the biblical foundations for evangelism. This is somewhat akin to getting into a car, turning on the ignition, putting it into gear, applying pressure to the gas pedal and assuming that you will be a good driver. What it may simply do is put you on the road where you have the potential to do more harm than good. Just because you can get the car started and onto the road doesn’t mean you’ll reach your destination. Nor does it insure that you won’t kill a few pedestrians while you’re learning to drive.

We start with theology before we get to methods and applications because it is our Father’s business and we want to insure we are actually doing our Father’s business rather than pursuing some activity that gratifies us but does not connect people to the Kingdom effectively. This means that we must know what God considers to be the work of evangelism – its values, its vision, its objectives, its design.

In the first class I taught in the School, I made the statement that evangelism and discipleship were inseparably bound in God’s design. Evangelism was not complete if it did not make people disciples.  One young student, who defined evangelism as “soul-winning” or “making a decision for Christ,” disagreed. “No, evangelism is getting people to choose Jesus and getting them saved. That’s all I am concerned about. Discipleship is an entirely different work.”

When I noted that the Great Commission describes the whole enterprise as “making disciples” and actually doesn’t mention “getting them saved,” he dug in his heels.  So then I said with only a small measure of hyperbole, “Evangelism without discipleship is only partial birth evangelism.”

Without knowing the scriptural foundations for evangelism we can make this and similar mistakes, robbing evangelism of its power and results. We can also reduce it to a human enterprise that is devoid of the Spirit’s work.

Theology, however, is particularly important because evangelism is about the message – the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Much of contemporary evangelism does not lead to life change because it is not rooted in the biblical message. Churches and Christians are increasingly fuzzy about the Gospel itself. And in that fuzziness there is both confusion and error. People who respond to the wrong message, even when it sounds like the Gospel, may not be truly committing their lives to the Lordship of Christ.

For this reason, in particular, we have re-focused the theology class to include a careful examination of the apostolic message, i.e., what is the Gospel. We will be speaking about the counterfeits to the Gospel that are often presented through the church and well-meaning Christians and the negative effects it has on new believers.  And we will examine, as we have before – what does the Bible teach evangelism is and what it is intended to accomplish for the Kingdom of God.

If you have not already signed up for the January 22, 2011 class “What is the Gospel?” we urge you to do so now. Later this week we will be issuing more direct assignments and readings to help you prepare to receive the maximum benefit of this class.  Go to the website and register today.

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