Resourcing Great Commission Christians
The following notes are from the 2014 edition.
This Executive Brief will break down the important points in each chapter of Evangelizology. Hopefully this brief will accomplish two things: (1) Will provide readers an understanding as to why the chapter is included as part of the notes; and (2) Will allow readers to gain an understanding of the prioritative elements in each chapter. In a way, this Executive Brief is like a Cliff Notes version that will provide you the thoughts behind the inclusion of each chapter in these volumes.
Please notice in the Table of Contents that some of the chapters include appendixes and some do not. The appendixes are generally material related to the content of the chapter, but not included as part of the chapter or the lecture notes. As these notes are somewhat exhaustive from a biblical-historical-theological point of view, a number of items have come up that are directly or indirectly related to how evangelism was/is practiced and taught in the classroom. These items are included as appendixes.
The purposes for Chapter One are two-fold. First, it was my goal to give a quick introduction to the rudimentary aspects of evangelism through the discussion of the tools for the evangelist: tracts, questionnaire forms, etc. Second, it was my goal to provide an overview of the massive bibliography available in the area of evangelism. This second point shows the scope of a discussion of evangelism in several ways: amount of material, variation in viewpoints and emphases, and changes in emphases over time.
Right from my very first class, students are required to begin sharing the Gospel. So for this reason I have included an early discussion of Gospel tracts and Gospel presentations. My father once asked me, "Tommy, how do you know that your students are saved?" This question rang in my heart for quite a number of years. It was because of that comment that I added the material on the first page of my notes.
Chapter Two begins the material related to the Christian's calling to evangelize. Because the Christian's practice of evangelizing is directly related to Christ's command and God's prompting in that direction, I begin to introduce the Christian's call to evangelism in Chapter Two. In this case, Chapter Ten on the Great Commission is a parallel portion, looking at the same topic through the lens of Christ's Great Commission.
The two main sections of Chapter Two are a section on 1 Peter 2:9-10 and metaphors for evangelism as related to the Christian. Both of these begin to build a base upon which students will begin to lay a foundation of the biblical material on the subject of evangelism.
Chapter Three begins to deal with the heartbeat of evangelism: the spiritual passion and the spiritual battle. The chapter begins to provide a historical introduction of what some people said about soul-winning. It then goes into the "Spiritual Passions" chart. The goal of the "Spiritual Passion" chart is to show that as a result of our response of faith in the Gospel, God will grow our spiritual passions, including a passion for Him, His Word, prayer, and obedience. This will lead to changes in how we live and communicate, with God, God's people in the church, and lost folks outside the church.
The spiritual battle cannot be ignored as we develop a heart for the lost. It is in the beginning of the budding of spiritual concern for others that Satan comes in to steal, kill, and destroy. In fact, one of the primary instances of spiritual battle takes place at the point of sharing the Gospel with lost souls. This is when Satan becomes very active to keep us quiet (cf. Acts 18:9-10). These notes overview the plots and wiles of the Devil as he opposes the proclamation of the Gospel.
Chapter Four develops two ideas that were born in my mind and heart through my early involvement in evangelism: Tremendous Truths and Unchangeable Realities. In my opinion Christians who understand these truths early as they develop in the practice of evangelism, will be protected from discouragement when the wiles of the Devil, as described in the previous chapter, come upon them (cf. Acts 22:18-22).
Unchangeable Realities are four realities in evangelism, which it seems to this author are impossible to avoid: fear, difficulties, antagonism, and persecution. Tremendous Truths are biblical points which God has provided in His Word to encourage the Christian to press on in evangelism regardless of the Unchangeable Realities.
Chapter Five highlights some motivations for evangelism. While there are numerous motivations in the Bible, these notes highlight some of the main ones communicated by Jesus or Paul. Then the chapter spends more time focusing on the urgency of evangelism. These urgencies are biblical and theological truths that convert the priority of evangelism from one among many to the pan-ultimate priority of life. Should Christians and students meditate on these urgencies, perhaps putting them in their daily prayer list, it may radically transform their lives!
Chapter Six speaks of the Bible and evangelism. Because the Bible is the only document that will constantly bring our focus heavenward and lead us to unite with God, Christ, and the Gospel in bringing salvation to lost souls, it is vital and essential that all of evangelism be built upon a solid understanding of the nature and purpose of the Bible. When this foundation has been developed, at the very end of the chapter, I have included a section on the use of the Bible in witness for Christ.
The largest and most comprehensive chapter in Evangelizology is Chapter Seven on "Defining Evangelizing." I began these notes by taking the notes that my father used at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for his "Theology of Missions and Evangelism" class in the 1980s. He highlighted historic definitions of evangelism to help students understand some of the issues in defining evangelism. While this approach was informative and helpful, I felt after sitting in that class and actually teaching through the notes several times, that they lacked the biblical power and guidance. It appeared to me to be men in history quarreling over a definition of evangelizing. It was not until some years later that I began to compile actual verbs which described evangelizing, and found many-many verbs on this subject.
Three pages into Chapter Seven, I provide a "Chapter Breakdown" which explains the content of the chapter. The reader will note that the chapter begins with some historic definitions of evangelism (as I mentioned in the paragraph above), and goes from there. The two most important aspects of this chapter include (1) the work that I have done uncovering the translation of the verb "evangelize" and (2) my notes "Five Categories of New Testament Terms for Evangelism." Please see the chart right before this last section, in which I graphically portray the five categories. The massive category involves the development of the 120 or so verbs and the 15 or so nouns used in the Greek text of the NT for the act of evangelizing.
The student will be pleased to hear that I have begun a similar study of verbs for follow-up and discipleship in Chapter 26.
Because conversion is such a central part of reason for evangelism (to "make disciples," Matt 28:19), and because philosophical theology has sequestered and squelched some of the important aspects of conversion, it was deemed necessary to include a chapter on this subject. When the teaching of the Bible is considered at face value, many of the current debates in the area of conversion dissipate. However, when philosophical theology, with its "classical" approach to theological categories, is front and center, then an evangelistic theology of conversion becomes confused and even turns anti-evangelistic. It is all about the framing of the question. Therefore the topics presented in this chapter seek to re-center the question on the Great Commission and evangelism, while pointing out some unhelpful views of certain theologians and churches.
Chapter Nine is a chapter on the evangelist. The existence and development of this chapter was in two phases. During the first phase, I felt that there was a gift of evangelism, as well as a gift of the evangelist. So this chapter explains the spiritual gifts, and the role of the evangelist in the local church. In the second phase I began noticing the exclusion of the mention of the evangelist in almost all of my seminary textbooks. This disconcerting thought began to captivate my thoughts, especially in light of the historical notes that I have compiled in Chapter Seven and some of the notes on the translation of Matthew 28 that I have compiled in Chapter Twenty-Six. These three strands coming together led me to consider the unfortunate historiography of Church History in which I had been operating.
Meanwhile I had the privilege of purchasing a 1964 reprint of the 1570 French Martyrology of Jean Crespin, a Geneva publisher who had published 53 of John Calvin's books, as well as an edition of the English Geneva Bible. This Martyrology, which listed Protestant martyrs from 1410-1570, opened my eyes to evangelists in Church History prior to the First Great Awakening in England and the United States.
Please consider from this chapter the importance of the evangelist for the NT church. Whereas the word "Pastor" (for shepherd) is used once in the NT, the word "evangelist" is used three times. This chapter may provide for a complete rethinking and reconfiguration of our classes in pastoral ministry and macro-ecclesiology.
Chapter Ten focuses on the Great Commission. If the Great Commission is truly the single most important mandate given by Christ to His church, then it follows that it would be helpful to know what it is and what it means. The goal of this rather extensive chapter seeks to flesh out the biblical mandate of Christ's Great Commission mandate.
I have gone about seeking to understand the Great Commission in several ways in this chapter. After some preliminary points, I seek to flesh out each of the five Great Commission passages. I discuss and have charts and graphs discussing the interrelationship of the Great Commission passages. I look at other commands to evangelize in the Bible, of which there are quite a few. Then we look at OT sequels to the Great Commission passages.
Toward the end of the chapter, I discuss distractions or other commands that appear to compete with the Great Commission for preeminence in the local church. It is my wish that this chapter will help keep the Christian, pastor, and church on focus in fulfilling the Great Commission.
With this in mind, I began to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of four categories of evangelism programs: initiative evangelism methodologies, relational or lifestyle evangelism methodologies, servant evangelism methodologies, and special event methodologies. Whereas there can be huge methodological arguments and significant discussions and disagreements on these methodologies, a discussion of strengths and weaknesses ought not be ignored. It is for this reason that I have kept this chapter for the very end of the book. Without the conceptual framework of the earlier portions of the book, a discussion of methodologies is so animated so as to be almost fruitless.
Chapter Eleven and Twelve provide an introduction to the spiritual basis for evangelism: God's involvement with the evangelist and man's lost spiritual state related to evangelism. Both of these topics are pretty well attested to in Scripture, but do not seem to be covered in systematic theology class, because they do not coincide with the way that sacramental theologians have framed the issues dealt within their so-called "classical" categories of systematic theology. This is where evangelizology fits in this picture. Evangelizology does not frame the question of issues based on Augustine, Peter the Lombard, Thomas Aquinas, Friedrich Schleiermacher, or Philip Schaff. Evangelizology seeks to approach evangelism (and theology) from the priority of the Bible, being considered first and foremost from the standpoint of the Great Commission and evangelism on the highways and byways, rather than from the tenets of scholastic philosophical theology.
So with this context in mind, Chapter Eleven considers how man can and does partner with God in evangelizing, which actually leads to an eternal salvation for the elect. It is clear, by the way, why the sacramental theologians, including Augustine, did not speak of this in their deliberations. For them, the "signs and symbols" of the sacraments communicated "grace" to the recipient. For Evangelicals, the Holy Spirit works in, with, and by the Word of God proclaimed to bring forth eternal fruit in the life of the person who has a hearing of faith. This chapter cuts new ground for theological deliberation, as it is completely intertwined with the necessity for the evangelizing mandate.
Chapter Twelve is a very short chapter, which considers why people have not yet come to Christ, the profile of an open heart, biblical presuppositions, times of openness, and spiritual steps. These are imminently practical aspects that we need to keep in mind as we evangelize.
Chapters Thirteen through Fifteen provide an overview of some practical pointers prior to and to initiate personal evangelism conversations. Chapter Thirteen highlights pointers that may sometimes be used in preparing groups for evangelism ministry.
Chapter Fourteen considers beginning a spiritual conversation with someone. It actually plumbs some of the 52 personal evangelism conversations in the Gospels and the Book of Acts, as well as some Old Testament precedents. After looking at some personal evangelism conversation starters in the Bible, it then includes some pointers and principles for starting evangelism conversations today.
Chapter Fifteen takes the spiritual conversation, once it has begun as described in Chapter Fourteen, to the level of spiritual challenge. I have called it, "Getting into Spiritual Things." Moving a conversation from a surface discussion to the level of "warning" someone (as described in Ezekiel 3:17-19) takes love, tact, determination, and boldness. This chapter delineates the challenges to making this transition, and provides pointers, examples, and encouragement.
Storying became a faddish interest in the mid-1990s. Whereas the personal testimony is important, in some cases it has spun out into undermining the proclamation of the Gospel. Chapter Sixteen seeks to walk the fine line between a positive approach to personal testimony and a cautious approach to some aspects of storying.
I am reminded of some words of my father, who was a World War II veteran, missionary in France, seminary professor, and founding president of Tyndale Theological Seminary, when I told him that I was teaching my evangelism class how to prepare a personal testimony. He said, "Why are you doing that?" I was struck that not everyone felt that using a personal testimony was an essential need for personal evangelism.
Chapter Seventeen is another massive chapter in Evangelizology. It did not begin that way. In my early years of teaching, I would have gone through the "Simple Gospel" with my class, an explained the rudiments of what we need to share so that we can lead someone to Christ. However, as time went on, I noticed that little foxes, often brought up in theology classes or church history classes, can completely pull the rug out from under the simple Gospel, leaving the student with no Gospel at all. Furthermore, as explained briefly in my introductory notes to Chapter Eleven, as sacramental and formal theologians get a hold of the Gospel, over the many centuries of Church History, those things that are discussed about the Gospel have drifted into philosophical theology, sometimes appearing completely unrelated to the message that ought to be shared to lead someone to Christ.
Thus, over the years (since 1985), Chapter Seventeen has grown and grown. It has grown in two ways. First, I have included clear points that often undermine the Simple Gospel, such as a gradual conversionism. Second, I have sought to elucidate those items that affirm and confirm the Simple Gospel message, such as individualism.
Again, this chapter began through taking my father's notes and expanding them from about 6-7 pages. The professor and student will find the material on the simple Gospel at the very end of this chapter.
Once a conversation has begun, once the Gospel has been shared, then the spiritual battle becomes clear and the conversation proceeds into what I call, "Levels of Openness." Chapter Eighteen considers this process, in the middle of or at the conclusion of a Gospel presentation, where again, people fall into some pretty consistent categories (perhaps much like the Parable of the Sower in Chapter 25). These categories are helpful to keep in mind, as the personal evangelist seeks to know how to proceed with the individual.
The levels are pretty cut and dried: the open person, the close person, the non-committal person, and the spiritually stagnant. To these four I also added "the Messenger of Satan," which appears to be a unique category of people that the personal evangelist will encounter who will seek to discredit or discourage the personal evangelist. This last group provides the greatest challenge in the ministry of personal evangelism, and must be seen in a proper biblical and spiritual sense, lest the personal evangelist be discouraged and cease evangelizing altogether.
Chapter Nineteen provides an overview of smokescreens and objections to the Gospel, as well as a little taste of street apologetics. Whereas much of what is taught as "classical" apologetics may have very little relation to the issues which real people are facing on the highways and byways, street apologetics is born out of encounters with real people on the street. In that way, it may be helpful for the student to consider.
Issues will vary from people to people and from culture to culture. The evangelist needs to arm himself to know how to give an answer to lead people to salvation in Jesus Christ. I am also convinced, especially in this area, that the Holy Spirit provides specific answers during specific conversations to answer difficult people who are encountered (consider Ezek 3:8-9; Matt 10:19-20; Acts 13:9-11).
Chapter Twenty is called "Results, Reactions, and Responses." This chapter reinforces the interrelationship between proclaimer, Christ, and God, also confirming the interrelationship in the reactions of people to each. These interrelationships include reactions and verbal responses to the Gospel message. Again, this clearly biblical interrelationship encourages the faithful personal evangelist in his ministry and resolve.
Is this interrelationship as described in Chapter Twenty not another area that is quite ignored in "classical" theological studies?
The need for a verbal commitment to Jesus Christ through prayer is confirmed throughout the Bible, but especially in the words of Jesus in John 4:10, "…you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." The necessity for verbally "asking" for salvation is the topic of Chapter Twenty-One, titled, "Commitment and Prayer." Rather than the prayer prayed over an infant whose eyes are not yet opened, while some water is being poured, sprinkled, or rubbed into their hair, the prayer of repentance of the sinner in response to the Gospel presentation is clearly in keeping with the examples and teaching of the Word of God. It is in effect a type of "Sinner's Prayer."
Corporate reciting of a creed, corporate singing of "I Love You, Lord," nor any sacrament can replace the sinner broken by his sin, and humbly confessing his need for the cleansing blood of Jesus to be poured over his soul.
Chapter Twenty-Two follows up on the decision by discussing the invitation to receive Christ as Savior and Lord. Again, the many examples of the Bible and the teaching of the Bible are brought to bear on this—another divisive subject. It goes without saying that the 85% of people who call themselves Christian, who do not believe in conversion as a divine appointment following the verbally proclaimed Gospel from the lips of an evangelist, also balk at an invitation. To them, conversion is not transacted in such a "simplistic" way. To them, conversion is transacted by the water on the unknowing infant's head or even perhaps by some divine decision prior to the creation of the world. Thus, these "Christians" are insulted at the idea of an invitation to receive Christ, and especially at the prospect of "assurance of salvation" from God, confirmed at the heels of such a decision for Christ.
Yes, while there are many controversial issues in these notes, the invitation is another one. This author attempts to bring the Bible, theology, and church history to bear on this subject for the enlightenment of the reader.
Chapter Twenty-Three is another very short but very important chapter. It relates to immediate follow-up after the evangelistic conversation, focusing primarily on those who did make a positive response to the Gospel. There is also included a suggested protocol for evaluating a Gospel conversation. This evangelist has been beat down many times after a conversation by the Accusers words, "You didn't say the right thing!" "Why didn't you say this?" "Why didn't you say that?" Sometimes introspection is helpful. But usually it can be destructive. Proper evaluation can help.
Chapter Twenty-Four addresses the need for and the link between the evangelistic conversation, conversion, and Water Baptism within the local church. This chapter also addresses some confusing and unexpected consequences of infant baptism upon the evangelism enterprise of the church.
While a short chapter, Chapter Twenty-Five may be one of the more important chapters in the entire book. In the estimation of this author, Christ provides His disciples with a theological rubric within this parable. There are the saved; there are the lost; and then there are two groups that can make us feel uncomfortable, the shallow soil and the weed-infested soil. Whereas "classical theologians" can describe the saved and the lost, according to their categories of logic, they have more difficulty with the two middle soils. However, pastoral ministry and evangelism ministry make it abundantly clear that the middle soils do exist, and that they do infect the church and discourage the evangelist.
It is my feeling that Christ gave this parable as an encouragement to His disciples to press on, even though some (or much) seed does fall on shallow soil and some (or much) seed does fall on weed-infested soil.
In Chapter Twenty-Six, I seek to provide a link between evangelism, follow-up, and discipleship. I delve into the pages of history to pull the reader out of the contemporary battles in this area. Then deal with some definitional issues. Perhaps the discussion of Matt 28 and its translation may be a benefit to the reader, as well as the sequel of verbs describing the follow-up activity of the apostles in the Book of Acts. Do not these verbs describe what the local church is all about, and what it should be doing?
After laying out the verbs, I discuss the importance of follow-up, from the standpoint of my early years in the ministry wherein I was strongly influenced by the discipleship movement. While very grateful for those years of training and thought, I must confess that I had to scour the pages of the Bible to find strong admonitions and examples of discipleship and mentoring. When I used similar efforts in seeking information on evangelizing, it resulted in the content of Chapter Seven.
The appendixes to Chapter Twenty-Six provide an evaluation of some polemical hot-points in the local church and its view of evangelism and discipleship.
Just as Evangelizology includes a chapter on the Bible and another chapter on God's role in evangelism, so in the follow-up section of the book, I have included a section on God and the Bible in follow-up. Again, because of our Pelagian tendency to place all the weight of responsibility for follow-up upon the shoulders of the evangelist, Chapter Twenty-Seven provides a counter-balance as to God's self-disclosed responsibility in follow-up, as well as the power of the Word of God in follow-up.
Finally, Chapter Twenty-Eight gives some graphically-portrayed schemes for follow-up and spiritual growth. Perhaps these can guide the evangelist as he assists those that he has led to Christ in their walk with the Lord.
Chapter Twenty-Nine provides practical notes for developing and maintaining a regular visitation program in a local church. Visitation Initiative gives the skeleton or framework through which any local church can custom-design its own evangelism and visitation ministry.
This chapter was developed when I was a part-time pastor of visitation at a local church, and was frankly overwhelmed by the task. Hopefully this will provide a bite-sized and workable solution to this often neglected area of local church life.
Chapter Thirty came to my attention as I began to notice that many of the evangelism programs developed for small groups or for the local church fell into some pretty well-defined categories. Because of this commonality, rather than evaluating them individually, I wondered about evaluating the various methodologies as groupings or categories.
Chapter Thirty-One provides the next logical step for these notes. If all that has been noted is true and is biblical, then how do these truths correspond to theological categories as they are noted today? Further, can deviancies from the personal gospel be noted and analyzed? While the chapter on the gospel message considered issues related to the gospel, Chapter Thirty-One concerns issues that correspond to a theology of evangelism.
This page was revised on 28 August 2020.