This time I want to talk about evangelism and discipleship. What exactly is evangelism? How much may following Christ cost me? Is it enough to be living a (comfortable) christian life as a witness of Christ among (non-) christian friends and neighbors or is there a need for more than that? I have been reading Peter Wagner’s book: ‘Church Growth and the Whole Gospel’ A book published in 1981 that writes about church, the kingdom of God, the evangelistic mandate, the cultural mandate and all kinds of practical implications of different points of view.
One definition of Evangelism is:
- The nature of Evangelism is the communication of the Good News.
- The purpose of Evangelism is to give individuals and groups valid opportunity to accept Jesus Christ.
- The goal of Evangelism is to persuade men and woman to become disciples of Jesus Christ and to serve Him in the fellowship of His Church.
- (Peter Wagner, P57)
Wagner defines three P’s in Evangelism. ‘1-P’ is Presence. This stands for being present in society as a Christian. It focusses more on the cultural mandate than on the conversion of people. (The cultural mandate is the mandate God gave to Adam to govern the world for Him, and Jesus repeats in different terms.)
The 2nd-P is Proclamation. This stands for Preaching the Gospel. This stretches that it is our task to present and proclaim the Gospel and it is all to God if people actually turn to God or not. The 2-P people do not like the given definition of evangelism because it includes the goal to incorporate new-converts in a church.
The 3rd-P stands for Persuasion. This is to persuade people to become disciples of Jesus and help them becoming one.
In this world today it is clear that many people will not like the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Some will react with ignorance like many people in Spain. Some will react with suspicion, immediately wanting to take distance and avoiding contact. Others will react hostile. They are offended. They want to stay far away from anything to do with Jesus Christ. This all depends of the local culture, the person’s perceptions and the way the Gospel was presented among many other factors. The bible makes it clear that all these attitudes where very present in the time the early church started to spread out over the world. So actually this is nothing new.
So the question is: where are you? What is your intention? Jesus has mainly called us to discipling. Going to people, teaching them and hopefully baptizing them are all tools in the toolbox of the person discipling. As for me, I noticed that while evangelizing it is actually difficult to start a conversation about Christ as Savior. I noticed that actually I am quite insecure. I want people to like me. I am often afraid what people think of me. And yes, I know this is not something to worry about and I have found my security in Christ. But still at such a moment as starting a conversation with somebody my mind goes there and it sometimes stops me from stepping out.
Counting the costs: Is it okay if people start to dis-like me? Is it acceptable if people think I am of this weird cult that believes in Jesus? Is that a problem? Or is it actually an acceptable cost of being a follower of Jesus?
Do I really want to invest my time to persuade one person to follow Jesus and to teach him how to do it, while I can also use this time to proclaim the gospel to dozens of people? Or in other cases: do I want to risk being imprisoned, cast out of society or even being killed because of Jesus?
It did cost Jesus everything. He became a nobody, a person like us and He followed His Father so far as to be tortured to death in the worse way described in history (Phil. 2:5-8).
How far does your obedience go? What may obedience to God cost you? Be careful, when counting, it might stop you earlier than you wish for.
Torrejon de Ardoz, 4th-july-2016