Q&A 1358 - Evangelism for everyone? or How much can we read into the scriptures?
Douglas, I thoroughly enjoy and am built up by your Q&A section. I'm writing about a particular response where you answered a brother’s question about how to distinguish between tradition/opinion and doctrine [Q 0449]. One of your criteria was that the church’s emphasis on a particular aspect should jibe with the Bible’s relative emphasis. You then use evangelism as an example of something that can be overemphasized respective to the Bible.
My thought is that although evangelism is not explicitly emphasized in Paul's letters, often there are traces. It was something already understood, and often implied. Is it not already assumed that disciples are doing this, since Jesus spent his life sacrificing himself to help people become right with God? Paul gave up everything for the sake of preaching the gospel as well. For example, baptism was not heavily emphasized throughout Paul's letters because it was already well known fact that it was necessary. Basically, it wasn't disputable. Isn't spreading the gospel similar in this aspect? Although it's not mentioned, we see references and illusions to it (all of Acts; 1 Pet 3:15; 2 Cor 5:18-21; 1 Tim 2:5-7; Col 1:6; Gal 1:15-16; Col 1:25-27; Rom 10:14-15; 1 Cor 9:16; 1 Cor 16:11). “Follow my example as I follow Christ” comes to mind as an example of an implied command. I pray that my question is well received and you can help me better understand your viewpoint. – P.J.
Your point is thoughtful and incisive – and well taken. Let me develop my thinking on this a bit farther, and I hope it'll be helpful. Of course we need more evangelism, not less. Some believe that will happen with more messages on evangelism. Perhaps, though that works a lot better with teenagers than with 40-year-olds. Not to say that what we emphasize should be dictated by what people would like to hear (2 Tim 4:3).
By emphasizing what the Bible emphasizes (grace, reconciliation, gratitude, joy...) we create a climate in which faith grows and evangelism is the natural overflow of hearts filled with God and the desire to do his will. People share when they are happy, and they're happy when they are being fed, respected, loved... (As for baptism, I'm not sure it isn't emphasized in Paul's letters, since hardly any letter lacks a reference or two to baptism. For example, Eph 4:5 is joined by two verses in Eph 5. Titus 3:5 is a nice parallel to John 3:5. And so on...) Helpful?
Yes, very helpful. I agree with you 110% that evangelism should be out of an overflow. Our heart and motivation are so important when evangelizing. I truly believe that, and I strive to never make anyone feel bad or guilt them into evangelism. I believe a lack of evangelism or talking about God is most likely a symptom of something deeper and questions, not assumptions, are necessary to draw it out.
Might I ask one follow-up question? I have heard a position taken that evangelism is not for everyone, and I have referenced some of the scriptures used in this argument for your review below. What are your thoughts? (My answer are out of italics):
- Jesus is only talking to the Apostles in Mark 16:15-20 (great commission). A question was asked: "Who decided to make this scripture universal?"—Better to use Matt 28, since Mark 16:9-20 probably isn’t original. The early church was evangelistic, so the record indicates that they understood the apostles to be getting everyone into the mission.
- Using the scripture about "one body, many parts" in 1 Cor 12 to suggest not everyone has the gift of evangelism therefore not everyone is called to evangelize.—This passage is really about the other gifts. The only possible “evangelistic gift” passage would be Eph 4:11, but this seems to be about spreading the gospel from city to city, like Stephen and Philip, who did the work of evangelists.
- The fact "evangelism" is seldom mentioned in NT letters. In fact, it was stated, "You won’t find anywhere in any of Paul's letters where he sends people to evangelize." – True enough. We know very little about how early Christians shared the faith. Yet the faith seems to have spread organically; life in Christ was genuinely encouraging, and they couldn't keep silent. (For more, please listen to the two podcasts at my website, "Evangelism in the early church.")
- We do not all have to baptize based on John 4:1-2 and 1 Cor 1:17—John 4 is about John’s baptism, not Jesus’s. 1 Cor 1:17 is a matter of emphasis. Paul clearly baptized many clearly that isn’t the focal point of the gospel, even though baptism is the time when the good news brings us into a new birth (Rom 6:4)—something Paul was quite clear about.
- Rom 10:13-15 to suggest that the ones "sent" were just the apostles and not every is "sent."—That seems unnecessarily restrictive.
To clarify or reiterate, my question is: is there any merit to the above to suggest that not all disciples are called to evangelize—make disciples—baptize—teach others to obey?
The mission of the church is to bring the good news to the world. Yet we are all involved in different ways. One plants, another waters (1 Cor 3). One speaks publicly, another serves privately (1 Pet 4). The mentally impaired, for example, might not be able to assist directly in the components in the list above. So the mission is given to the church as a whole. Yet, as you and I have experienced, when you understand the good news, it’s hard not to share it (2 Kings 7:9; Jer 20:9; Acts 4:20).