Rico Tice has said, “Evangelism is one of the chief ways that heresy enters the church.” Australian evangelist John Chapman said in a message on 2 Corinthians 4, “If you don’t get your theology of evangelism right, there’s almost no chance you’ll get your practice right.” He continued, “That’s why I spend a little time each week trying to give a theological undergirding for evangelism.” This is a crucial issue for Chapman because
“To be involved in evangelism is to be caught up in the purposes of God.”
I had a chance last week to present a seminar on How Good Theology Undergirds and Empowers Evangelism for the annual General Assembly meeting of the Presbyterian Church in America. I used the passage that both Tice and Chapman think is crucial for our theological understanding of evangelism: 2 Corinthians 4:1-7.
In this passage, we learn that evangelism is difficult, in fact humanly impossible, because it is a spiritual battle. Why? Because the god of this world, Satan, has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. The only one who can cure that blindness is the Triune God. That means it’s not because of our clever arguments, but because God does a miracle of opening blind eyes. If God could make light in the beginning, in creating the world (verse 6), then he can certainly do the miracle of bringing the light of the gospel to spiritually blind eyes.
The implications that empower our evangelism are: prayer is crucial since God has to do a prior work for our witnessing to be successful; and if it takes a miracle for anyone to come to Christ, then there is no person we should write off as being too difficult. It took a miracle for you and me to respond.
Another theological underpinning in this passage is the need for gospel integrity. We don’t tamper with God’s Word. Rather, we openly state the truth. There’s always the temptation to water down the Gospel to make it easier for people to respond. As Rico says, to “Cut the price so that more will buy.” That’s what makes it so easy for heresy to enter through our evangelism. But this passage shows us that the power is in God’s Word and that God does the heavy lifting of opening blind eyes. The implication for our evangelism is that we are not salesmen.
That leads to the final theological point I made in the seminar: the need for our humility and creativity. Verse 5 says,
“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”
We proclaim Christ and we serve others. The implication for evangelism is that it is not about us, and we bring energy and creativity to the task as we reach out to others and serve them for Jesus’ sake.
Rev Aaron Roberts, one of the pastors at Covenant Presbyterian in Harrisonburg, VA, gave insight from a pastor’s perspective of what he has found in using Christianity Explored. What he has found is: 1) the power is in the Gospel alone; 2) the power is not in us; 3) God uses means to save; 4) this matures his people from the start (Christianity Explored makes it clear that the call of the gospel is a call to die to self), and 5) there is a spiritual battle.
One participant in the seminar noted the good correspondence between the biblical foundations for evangelism and the structure of Christianity Explored course. Another noted how this resource can not only reach non-Christians but also equip Christians. Yet another found encouragement to “press on” in equipping saints for ministry, including the ministry of sharing the gospel.