If “evangelism” means sharing the gospel, what then IS the gospel? Fortunately for me, I live with a scholar who set me straight on this issue.
Many years ago, our family visited a church while we were travelling. A representative from a humanitarian organization was speaking that day and we listened to his stories about Africa and poverty.
His message pinnacled around one particular story.
I can’t remember every detail, but it involved this man befriending a little African boy and eventually giving him a pink ball. The pastor, interviewing the man, commented at the end of the story, “That, my friends, is the gospel.”
My husband and I got into the car after the service and he asked me unsuspectingly, “So, what did you think about the service?”
I was all smiles, thinking about children in poor countries being loved on. “It was great. I’m so glad that church is making a difference.
“Yeah, but what about what the pastor said?”
I wasn’t sure.
“What did he say?”
“He said that giving that boy a pink ball was the gospel. I’m all for humanitarian work, but is it the same thing as ‘the gospel’?”
“Okay…well, gosh, Colby…It kind of is…”
“Kind of?…Annie, a picture of the gospel is different than the actual gospel.”
I probably sighed, annoyed that he was being so picky, splicing hairs, and being overly critical of the pastor.
He went on. “That is the danger of our evangelical churches. Instead of preaching the gospel, they are assuming the gospel. They ASSUME that everyone already knows that the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. So, they don’t talk about that. And they confuse the gospel by saying that it’s the same as giving someone a pink ball.”
I sat and listened to him as he got more and more passionate, leaning forward as he drove, pounding on the steering wheel as his stand-in pulpit. I looked around at the people we were sitting next to in traffic.
Probably forced a smile so they wouldn’t be alarmed.
That conversation took place several years ago, but I think of it often.
Our culture is confused about what the gospel is, and we’ve bought the line, “Share the gospel. Use words if necessary.”
Sure, I understand the sentiment. We need to show love and compassion and kindness before our words will mean anything.
But, let us not forget: Using words IS necessary.
The gospel is the good NEWS of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When’s the last time you read a NEWSpaper that only used words “if necessary.”
We have been commissioned to share this message. With words.
So yes, in one sense this quote is true. Yes, showing love and taking care of people’s physical needs are essential. Yes, our words will mean nothing if our actions are crappy. Yes, actions speak louder than words. But, then…let’s not forget to use actual words.
If Jesus’ disciples hadn’t used WORDS, would the gospel have made it to you?
Does your church do a good job making the gospel clear? Is it easy for you to love on people, but hard for you to bring up the gospel? Yeah, me too…let’s pray for each other…we can’t do this on our own…