How does evangelism help or hinder the health of the church?

Post originally published at, used by permission.

In his small book titled, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus, J. Mack Stiles defines evangelism as “teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade.”[1] As we consider the health of the church, we cannot ignore evangelism, that form of communication with the goal of reaching people for Jesus Christ.
It is the execution of Jesus’ words to His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20, NIV)
The command of Jesus has enormous implications for the church in general and for the health of the church specifically. In this post, we are going to briefly discuss evangelism and how it can help or harm the health of the church. In his book 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever asks four questions in regards to evangelism:
· “Who should evangelize?”· “How should we evangelize?”· “What is evangelism?”· “Why should we evangelize?”[2]
Who should evangelize? Every disciple of Jesus should evangelize. Obviously, this does not mean that every disciple of Jesus will evangelize. In fact, I think it could be argued that most disciples of Jesus do not evangelize. This, however, is irrelevant. Every disciple of Jesus should evangelize. Mark Dever captures the reasons why so well as he writes, “Christians often leave evangelism to “the professionals” out of a sense of inadequacy, apathy, ignorance, fear, or simply feeling that it is inappropriate for them to do it.”[3] I am sure that we all have experiences with one or more of these. However, we should never use these as excuses not to evangelize.
How should we evangelize? This is important, and one that deserves more treatment that we will offer here. However, there are a few points we should keep in mind. First, we must understand the gospel (remember Mack Stiles’ definition). Greg Gilbert provides the essence of the gospel in four words, “God, man, Christ, response.”[4] We build upon these four core concepts, but without them we cannot communicate the gospel. In addition, we should use “our lives and our lips.”[5] That is, our life styles should reflect the teachings of the gospel. They should conform to the Word of God. In addition, our we should evangelize with our lips. That is, we need to vocalize the whole God, man, Christ, and response truths. Learn what the Scriptures say about these four concepts. Develop different ways to articulate them. That is how we should evangelize.
What is evangelism? We have already answered this with Stiles’ definition, and I think it bears repeating. “Evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade.”[6] Stiles develops this definition by adding several key points. We seek to teach the Gospel specifically (again, think of Gilbert’s four concepts). Stiles describes his own process, “No matter where or with whom, the process is simple: we read the passage [of Scripture] and talk about what it means.”[7] We teach the Scriptures. However, we do not simply fill people’s heads with knowledge about the Bible. We “aim to persuade.”[8] “Our aim helps us remember that much is at stake: to see people moved from darkness to light, from bondage to freedom. Aiming for something bigger helps us know which fights to pick and which to avoid,” writes Stiles.[9] This helps us understand what evangelism is and how to evangelize.
The final question we must ask is, Whys should I evangelize? To this question, Mark Dever offers three helpful and biblical reasons:
· “a desire to be obedient to the Great Commission”· “a love for the lost”· “a love for God.”[10]
These are excellent reminds of the importance of our mission. We seek to obey our Lord in fulfilling His Great Commission. In addition, if we love the lost (i.e., people who are not disciples of Jesus Christ) we will share the only hope they have of being found. Finally, and as Dever notes, “preeminently” we should evangelize because we love God.[11]
Evangelism is a key aspect of the Scriptures, of the Christian life, and it should be a mark of the church. If evangelism is found in the church, then that church is on its way to health. How are we, individually, doing with evangelism? How is our church engaging in evangelism? Obviously, it is difficult in the midst of this pandemic. However, a pandemic is not permission to avoid evangelizing. We need to be a healthy church, and to be healthy we need to evangelize. [1] J. Mack Stiles, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014), 26. [2] Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 120. [3] Ibid. [4] Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 32. [5] Will Metzger, Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel Wholly By Grace Communicated Truthfully & Lovingly 4th Edition (Downers Grove, IL: InterVaristy Press, 2012), 56. [6] Stiles, Evangelism, 26. [7] Ibid., 31. [8] Ibid., 26. [9] Ibid., 35. [10] Dever, 9 Marks, 138. [11] Ibid.

How does conversion affect the church’s health?

(This post is originally found at, used with permission)

A drunk who has spent years and enormous amounts of wealth.

A compulsive buyer who cannot say “No” to a good bargain.

A serial adulteress.

An incontrollable liar.

A politician.

A lawyer.

What does these have in common? Many answers could be offered, and most would more than likely be correct. However, one answer to that question has enormous impact on our understanding of the health of the church.

These individuals, and many others like them, cannot change. That would be the answer that connects them all. Unfortunately, many people in our society, including Christians, hold to this view. Mark Dever discusses this when he writes,

“For many today, wisdom is seen as learning to accept your internal circumstances, to adjust to them, to adapt to them—not to try to fundamentally change them. The die is cast, the lot is fixed, our personality is assigned, and except for some terrible trauma, the assumption is that the leopard does not change his spots, the anxious person his personality, or the insecure person his psyche. ‘That’s the way it is!’ Maturity comes from facing up to the truth about yourself and resigning yourself to it.”[1]

But is that true? Are people assigned to their different vices and shortcomings? How you answer this has enormous implications for the health of the church. For if no one can truly change, then the church will be filled with people no different from the world.[2] And if no one can change, then there is no salvation. That is, if people cannot change, then sin remains, and damnation awaits (Rev. 20:11-15; 21:8).

This would be terrible news, if it were true. But praise the Triune God that it is definitely not true! Paul tells us such in 2 Cor. 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (NIV) That is change. The old is gone, the new is here. Jesus tells Nicodemus essentially the same thing, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3, NIV) We can change, but how?

This is what the third mark of a healthy church comes into play. We are dealing with conversion, a term that has fallen into disuse, unfortunately replaced with the term “decision.” Helping remove confusion from the term conversion, Mack Stiles notes, “But the Bible clearly teaches that conversion is not a function of your parents’ religion, of which church you join, or of what your passport says. It’s not based on your academic achievements, even if they are from a religious institution. Conversion comes from true, conscious, genuine faith in Jesus.”[3] It is not a decision in the same sense that one becomes a fan of the Dallas Stars hockey team. It is true change, rebirth, new creation.

One of the sad results of a consumer-mentality is how it has changed the church. We have seeker-sensitive churches (a phrase that creates a whole host of problems). These churches have good aims. They want to see people in the community saved. However, they go about it in the wrong way. As a result, churches may skim on what conversion is, shrinking it down to what they consider “essential,” that is, making a decision or repeating a prayer. While the decision to trust Christ for salvation is there (see Rom. 10:9-10), it is not just a decision. It is a change.

Putting it in stark terms, Paul describes conversion as dead people coming to life (see Eph. 2:1-10). As we consider the health of our church, we need to see if our church as whole understands what conversion is. All the teachers, deacons, pastors (yes, the New Testament teaches a plurality of pastors/elders) must understand conversion. Not only that, all our members must grasp conversion (interestingly, membership is one of the marks of a healthy church, which, Lord-willing, we will discuss on 16 February 2021).

Conversion must be an essential mark of our church if we are to see the Gospel proclaimed (with lives and lips). Conversion must be expected if we desire to grow into the body of Christ (Eph. 4:1-16). We started with a list of individuals with various problems. After their salvation (see John 3 and 2 Cor. 5), we will find this:

A saved lawyer.

A sanctified politician.

A former liar.

A committed wife.

A wise steward.

A sober man investing in his family, church, and community.

What is the key to conversion: Jesus Christ and His glorious gospel.

[1] Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 97.

[2] Compare the differences between people who are saved and people who are lost: 1 Cor. 5:9-6:11; Gal. 5:16-26; and Col. 3:1-11, to offer a few.

[3] J. Mack Stiles, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014), 36.

How does Gospel Understanding Affect Church Health?

This post was originally published on, used with the author’s permission.

“What is the gospel?” asks the cashier at the grocery store. This comes on the heels of your questions, “Do you go to church? Have you believed the gospel?” What do you say?
You are caught off guard, and unconsciously pull out a gospel tract and hand it to the nice, young lady, explaining that a small booklet will answer her questions. You quickly gather your items and head for the door, simultaneously embarrassed by your forgetfulness and angered by your response.

Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever felt like you were unable to articulate the gospel? Well, you may have experienced this, but did you know churches experience it as well?

We are in a series that is discussing the question, “What is a healthy church?” Part of the answer to that question depends upon our understanding of the gospel.

We return to Mark Dever’s book, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, Dever gives us four negatives that help dispel confusion,

· “The good news is not simply that we are okay.”

· “The good news is not simply that God is love.”

· “The good news is not simply that Jesus wants to be our friend.”

· “The good news is not simply that we should live right.”[1]

We could spend a good deal of time dissecting these negative answers to the question, “What is the Gospel?” However, I think they immediately clear up the confusion and dispel the clouds that often skew our vision of the glorious gospel.

At the level of churches, one can also see how important this is within the walls of the church. It is paramount that churches avoid these “simply’s” of the gospel. Our churches need to understand what the Gospel is for several reasons.

If the church does not understand the Gospel, then the church cannot fulfill her mission (see Matt. 28:18-20). If the church does not understand the Gospel, then the church cannot disciple her members. If the church does not understand the Gospel, the question must be asked, “Is this a church?”

The stakes are high when discussing the gospel. But if you have followed this far, you will notice we have not answered the question, “What is the gospel?”

We turn our attention to Greg Gilbert, the author of What is the Gospel?[2] Gilbert summarizes his answer, drawing and relying upon Romans 1-4, writing, “We are accountable to the God who created us. We have sinned against that God and will be judged. But God has acted in Jesus Christ to save us, and we take hold of that salvation by repentance from sin and faith in Jesus.”[3]

That is the gospel in summary format. The entire Scriptures build upon this foundation (or, skeleton). As Glasser et. al. remark, “The whole Bible, both Old and New Testaments is a missionary book, the revelation of God’s purpose and action in mission in human history.”[4]
In order to understand the Gospel better, you need to read the Bible, God’s Gospel book (or, missionary book). Churches, in order to be healthy, need to understand the Gospel. Confusion of the Gospel not only hinders the health of the church at large, it also has the possible barring of people from salvation. For example, if a church does not preach the Gospel, let alone understand the Gospel, then the church could by default keep people away from their hope of salvation.

The church, which is made up of individuals like you, must have an intimate grasp of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Without it, it is unhealthy at best, and dead at worst.

[1] Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church New Expanded Edition (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 80-90. [2] Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010). [3] Gilbert, What is the Gospel?, 32. [4] Arthur F. Glasser, et. al., Announcing the Kingdom: The Story of God’s Mission in the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 17.