This article is about witness and lifestyle in evangelism.

Source: Christian Renewal, 2008. 2 pages.

What Should Reformed Evangelism Look Like?

“Chick tracts.” The Harvest Crusade. The Billy Graham Crusade. “Every Member's a Minister.” I certainly know what Reformed evangelism is not. Having been converted in a Foursquare Church and educated at an Assemblies of God liberal arts college, I have seen and participated in many crusades, evangelistic outreaches, and altar calls. I thank the Lord for his mercy in freeing me from the bondage of that system and I pray he will lead others out as well.

Yet I do not want to simply follow the stereotype and offer a scathing critique of evangelicalism, but instead desire to express positively my vision of Reformed evangelism.

A Fundamental Distinction🔗

The first pillar of Reformed evangelism is a crucial distinction between evangelism and witness. To “evangelize” (from the Greek, euangelizo) is to preach the evangel, the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. Those called and authorized by God to preach in an official way fulfill this task. Thus Paul spoke of Christ gifting the church with evangelists (Greek, euangelistes). Classically in Reformed understanding this office of evangelist, along with apostle and prophet, were extraordinary gifts for the foundation-laying period of the church. Yet what is so interesting is that Paul speaks of the ordinary office of minister as continuing the function of evangelist when he said to Timothy: “Do the work of an evangelist” (Greek, euangelistes). On the other hand, all God's people are called to bear witness of Jesus – who he is and what he has done (Revelation 6:9, 17:6, 20:4).

Why is this important? It is important because it protects the sacredness of the ministry of the Gospel to which few are called but also because it protects the people of God from the tyranny of pastors such as those many former evangelicals such as myself once sat under, who chastised their people for not “evangelizing.” Ministers: evangelize; people: bear witness of Christ and invite your unsaved neighbors to be evangelized.

Evangelistic Preaching🔗

In light of the above, then, the next thing that needs to be said is a word about “evangelistic preaching.” If it is the case that ministers are called to evangelize, two things should happen.

First, ministers must be sure that every sermon is evangelistic because every sermon preaches the good news about Jesus Christ. We cannot rely on evangelicals to do the evangelistic preaching while we can do doctrinal preaching! We must preach Christ from every page of Scripture, whether from the Law, the historical books, the prophets, the Gospels or the epistles and whether our text is in the indicative or the imperative. How wonderful it would be if all our churches experienced every week what the Canons of Dort describe:

Moreover, the promise of the gospel is that whosoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel (2.5).

There is a second thing that should happen that I would like to describe. The second is a result of the first. I am firmly convinced that if we as ministers do what is described above, our people will become more confident in inviting their unsaved neighbors to church and more eager to do so. Instead of being in fear because the pastor may chide his people on any given Sunday or being embarrassed because his sermons are not the clearest and easiest to understand, we will see our people enjoy being witnesses, which leads to the next consideration.

Prepared Disciples🔗

The third point of Reformed evangelism is the preparation of disciples so that they can be used of God in disciple making.

Listen to what the apostle Peter says: but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.1 Peter 3:15

Just because the minister is the one doing evangelism in its proper sense does not mean that all the people of God do not participate in the work of evangelism. Christians must be ready at all times to give a defense (Greek, apologia) of their hope, and to do so as Christ would have gently and respectfully. Reading through the Bible, the confessions, and solid Christian literature as well as the public ministry of the church is the means by which this happens. As one of my Pentecostal professors always said: “Everyone is and must be a theologian.”

Holy Living🔗

Finally, the fourth point that needs to be made is that Christian witness is not only with the lips, per above, but with the life. In fact, it is the life that leads to opportunities to use the lips. Why do you think Peter said people will ask about your hope? It is precisely because they will see you suffering in hope as a Christian. Again, Peter spoke of this aspect of our witness, saying,

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that… they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.1 Peter 2:12

In fact, this is one of the reasons we do good works, according to the Heidelberg Catechism: “by our godly walk win also others to Christ” (Q&A 86).

Reformed evangelism really is not that hard, doesn't take a specialist, and certainly does not take a program. It takes ministers doing what they were called to do – preach the gospel – and people doing what they were called to do – know their faith and live it out. In a couple of words, Reformed evangelism is done by the church being the church.

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