As we begin the new year of 2021, we also begin a new series on FaithandSelfDefense.com.
Our new series, Evangelistic Apologetics – A Closer Look, follows the popular series Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack, which published as a 33-part series on FaithandSelfDefense.com from January 2014 to March 2020. That series is now available for free as a set of five eBooks. It looks deeply into internal and external challenges the modern Christian church faces. If you have not read The Church Under Attack series, we invite you to do that as soon as you can.
This new series, A Closer Look, will address the challenge our Lord has given us to preach the Gospel and make disciples. We will look deeply into the basics of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how to share it effectively with family, friends and others God leads into our lives. We will look at the importance of personal evangelism and how to use apologetics as we tell others of the wonderful grace of our mighty God.
The words ‘evangelism’ and ‘apologetics’ sometimes cause Christians to shy away from learning more about each. Some people don’t believe it’s their job to do evangelism. They think it’s the job of the pastor or evangelist. Some people admit to being afraid of talking about their faith with others. Others are concerned they won’t know how to answer tough questions non-Christians often ask.
Not My Job
Let’s tackle the first concern – it’s not my job. The short response is that it is your job. Let me explain.
The Apostle Paul addressed the important issue of ministry in several of his letters, but the clearest response may be what he wrote to the Ephesians. The context is what Jesus gave to His Church.
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”Ephesians 4:11-16
Jesus ‘gave’ (edōken) His Church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Why? “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” The chief job of pastors and evangelists today is for the ‘equipping’ (katartismon – training, preparing) the ‘saints’ (that’s all of us) for the ‘work of ministry’ (ergondiakonias – task of service) ‘for the edifying’ (oikodomēn – building up) of the body of Christ.
Why did Jesus do what He did? Because He knew that gifted people using their gifts to equip (train, prepare) the saints (all believers) who would edify the Body of Christ would have an impact on the Body in several important ways:
- Reaching unity of the faith
- Reaching the knowledge of the Son of God
- Reaching maturity (to a perfect man)
- Reaching the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ
- Reaching the point that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting
- Reaching an ability to speak the truth in love
- Reaching the point of growing up in all things into Christ
Paul claimed that when these gifted people (e.g. pastors, evangelists) did what Jesus wanted them to do (equip the saints for their ministry), then “the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
That is a unique and wonderful promise and is evidence that ‘ministry’ is for all saints.
Next question: is sharing the Gospel (evangelism) part of a ‘ministry’ that Jesus has given to everyone in His Church? Short answer is ‘yes.’
The Gospel accounts have a lot of information about what Jesus told His followers to do, but let’s just look at what He said prior to ascending from earth to Heaven.
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15
“Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” Luke 24:46-49
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
We learn in Acts 2 that all of the disciples waiting on the Holy Spirit (about 120 people) spoke publicly on the Day of Pentecost. Thousands believed and became members of the Church that day. Those new believers continued steadfastly in what the apostles taught them and in fellowship with all believers.
So, what did the apostles teach the believers about sharing the Gospel? Was it only for the apostles or did Jesus want all believers to be part of the ‘ministry’ of evangelizing?
While the apostles had a special calling in the early days of the Lord’s building His Church, many who were not apostles were involved in sharing the Gospel. One was a man named Stephen and another named Barnabas. They were not apostles, but the apostles trained Stephen, Barnabas and many others to proclaim the Gospel message.
Another example is what happened after Stephen was martyred. Saul of Tarsus led a strong persecution of the followers of Christ in Jerusalem. That persecution scattered believers throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except for the apostles. The apostles stayed in Jerusalem. What did the scattered believers do after they went out on their own without the apostles?
“Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.”Acts 8:4
The believers who were scattered from Jerusalem because of Saul’s persecution went everywhere “preaching the word.” One thing we learn from this is that the apostles did their job of equipping (training, preparing) all of the believers to ‘preach’ the Gospel. The apostles had their own responsibility for preaching the Gospel as believers. They also had the added calling/gifting of equipping the saints for their ministry, which they did.
Some of those believers who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch (Syria) preaching the Gospel of Christ. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard about what was happening, they sent Barnabas to go as far as Antioch to look into the reports of people being saved. Barnabas visited the church in Antioch, then traveled to Tarsus to find Saul (who had become a believer) and bring him to Antioch. After about a year teaching believers in Antioch, the Holy Spirit called Saul (Paul) and Barnabas to other cities to preach the Gospel and establish new churches.
As we look at Paul’s experiences in traveling to a variety of cities in the Roman Empire over a period of many years and writing to members and leaders, we see how he emphasized the importance of every believer sharing the Gospel with family members, friends, co-workers and strangers.
“For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” Romans 10:10-15
“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” Philippians 2:14-16
“Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Colossians 4:5-6
The Apostle Peter wrote to Christians living in various parts of the Roman Empire (1 Peter 1:1) and encouraged them to endure the trials they were facing. He also encouraged them to be ready to share the Gospel of Christ with others, especially as people saw them facing tough times with the hope they had in Christ.
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.”1 Peter 3:15-16
What Jesus Sees
It’s important that we remember how Jesus sees things. He looks at the earth with love and compassion and sees a harvest that needs laborers.
“But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”Matthew 9:36-38
He trained and sent out scores of disciples to preach the Gospel (Luke 10:1-12). Now He is sending us. May we see our world through the eyes of Jesus Christ.
We will take a closer look at what Jesus had in mind when He gave His Church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. What role do they play in the Lord’s Eternal Plan?
We will take a closer look at how we do ministry that God will bless in the next part of our special series.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.