I’ve been enjoying a lecture series from John Dickson that he gave at Regent college awhile back. Dickson’s talk focused in on promoting the gospel in contemporary culture. It’s a fantastic lecture as he drills into the history of the church, evangelism, philosophy, apologetics, and tons more. In one part, he highlights 7 things that average Christians are to do (i.e., the local church) to advance the gospel. I’ve listed them below, with some notes, also taken from the lecture.
Let me know what you think.
7 Ways The Local Church Advances the Gospel:
1 – Good Deeds:
Matthew 5:14-16: You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
The good deeds of the church shine the light of God to the world. Good deeds don’t convert (folks need to hear the word), but they’re a beautiful partner with good words. Good deeds partner with good words.
Here’s an example of this partnership in Titus 2: 9-10: Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.
The good life beatifies the word.
2 – Giving Answers:
Colossians 4:2-6: Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Look at what Peter says
1 Peter 3:13-17: Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 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, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
Notice that, for Peter and Paul, “giving answers” emerge out of the love in our hearts for Jesus. Never underestimate the power of a simple word from a disciple of Jesus.
3 – Public Praise (Church):
1 Corinthians 14: 24-26: But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”
What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.
What’s Paul’s saying about a church service? He’s saying an unbeliever will walk into church so everything we (the royal priesthood) do counts. The music, the prayer, the teaching…etc, it should all move someone to faith in Christ. Tim Keller calls this Doxilogical Evangelism.
Have you ever thought that gathering together on a Sunday morning, publicly, can spread the Gospel? It does. I recall a friend who was driving down the road one Sunday morning. As he drove by a church, he saw tons of people piling in. He said to himself, “all those people can’t be wrong.” That was enough for him to start him on his journey. Very cool!
4 – Evangelists:
An evangelist is one who proclaims the gospel – they’re a Gospeler – Christians invented this term. However, in our day, it’s come to mean a traveling preacher – e.g., Ravi Zacharias, Billy Graham. The Bible tells a different story. Yes, some travel, like Paul – but there were also local evangelists that belonged to one church – or a collective of churches,
Colossians 4:12-13: Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.
2 Tim 1-5: In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
All Christians do evangelistic things, but some are called – they’re given the gift.
5 – Prayer:
Luke 10:2 (NIV): He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
(ESV): And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
(MSG): What a huge harvest! And how few the harvest hands. So on your knees; ask the God of the Harvest to send harvest hands.
How do you solve the problem of advancing the gospel, pray! Also…
Ephesians 6: 18-20: And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
In short, when we pray – we advance the Gospel!
6 – Money:
Philippians1: 3-6: I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Paul closes letter with thanks, which reveals the understanding of “partnership in the gospel” –
Philippians4: 14-19: Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
Note the connection between Paul’s preaching and their partnership in the gospel. There’s even more that can get missed in English translations of the Bible. The Greek word “Propempo” is used to denote sending one out with provisions, rations, money, means of transport, letters of introduction, escort…etc. It’s not like they had credit cards and ATMs.
Romans 15: 23-24: But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to visit you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to see you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there [Propempo], after I have enjoyed your company for a while.
1 Corinthians 16: 1-4: Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. 3 Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift [Propempo] to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.
After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you—for I will be going through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay with you for a while, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey [Propempo], wherever I go. For I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.
Titus 3:13: Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way [Propempo] and see that they have everything they need.
John: 5-8: Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way [Propempo] in a manner that honors God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.
Money advances the gospel. It’s how we partner in advancing the gospel. For Paul, reaching into our pockets, is like preaching the gospel.
7 – Social Integration:
1 Corinthians 5:9…I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
This is all coming from the former king of all Pharisees! Paul continues…
Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience…..But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
For Paul, time spent with sinners was good for them – it was good for their salvation. Paul expected us to mix with sinners. Where did Paul (a former devout Pharisee) get his liberal ideas about food as well as mixing with sinners and non-believers? Jesus.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson