The Evangel: What's That? (Part 1 of a Series)
Evangelism has become a problematic term for some in the twenty-first century. Just what is "the evangel"? In the early church, three Greek words described "the evangel": euaggelizesthai, marturein, and kerussein. Translated, these three words mean: to tell good news, to bear witness and to proclaim. This article will focus on the "good news."
The Good News
What was the good news that Jesus shared? The first evidence of the good news is found in Luke's Gospel when Jesus recites a lesson from Isaiah 61.
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18-19).
This passage underscores care and concern for the poor and marginalized people in society. The good news offered relief and release. The year of the Lord's favor, also called Jubilee, represents a forgiveness of past burdens and a fresh start. How might your local church offer relief from past burdens: spiritual, physical, financial, social?
Two Emphases: Repentance and the Kingdom (Reign) of God
The early church emphasized two key elements of the good news: (1) repentance (turning away from evil and turning to good — located in salvation through Jesus Christ) and (2) the announcement of the kingdom of God (God's reign on the earth).
How Do You Talk to People About Repentance?
The invitation to repent or turn away from evil is still relevant today. Offer people hope that they can live a better life apart from participation in evil — however that evil is manifested. Just as in addiction recovery programs, admitting that one is participating in evil is the first step toward healing.
Highlighting the characteristics of Christian behavior (the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23; the Beatitudes, Matthew 5; the love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13) is one way to help people realize the need to repent and embrace a God-directed life.
How Do You Talk to People About the Kingdom (Reign) of God?
The announcement of the kingdom of God (God's reign) is another key point of the good news. For decades, many church and parachurch organizations emphasized conversion "in order to get to heaven." By contrast, Jesus Christ's foundational message was "repent for the kingdom of God is near." His emphasis was on conversion that led to a change in behavior, thought, and action. These changes indicated that a person was choosing to live as a new citizen in God's kingdom (reign).
There is a marked difference between the two approaches. Salvation with heaven as the only goal has a distant future orientation. It can leave the new convert questioning what he or she should to do now as a Christian. By contrast, salvation that invites us to be participants in God's kingdom and reign has a present orientation. The focus is on what is necessary now to live in this new reality. What does your preaching and Bible teaching emphasize?
How Do We Share the Good News Today?
One simple thing to do is share with others the various things that Jesus said and did. According to some academics, we have now entered into the third or fourth generation of "biblically illiterate" people in the United States. That means that sharing the stories of Jesus is more crucial now than ever before.
Simple Ways to Share the Good News in Families
Share Bible stories with small children. Many children and adults are not familiar with Bible stories. Learn to tell Bible stories vividly and dramatically. Invite children to play one of the roles of a Bible character. After children become familiar with the story, invite them to tell the story in their own words.
Sing Bible story songs at home, in the car, and during walks in nature. Through stories and songs, the Bible can be etched easily on the soul.
Refer to Scripture in prayer. Read a portion of Jesus' teachings or actions and use the reading as a springboard to a prayer time between spouses or between parents and children. For example:
"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1).Resources
Dear God, help usspeak softly, respectfully, and kindly toward one another today. Amen.