Evangelism in a Healthy Church
October 16, 2014 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
This Sunday evening the whole Oak Hills church family is encouraged to gather for dinner fellowship, prayer, and discussion of chapter 3 of Mack Stiles’ book, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus. As we strive for church health, we long to “do the work of an evangelist.” For a church family that means everyone is united “with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”
One of the aspects I love about Stiles’ book is that he emphasizes that a healthy church, faithfully fulfilling its duty, will naturally be an evangelizing church. There is no need for big budgets, big programs, or big personalities. God can use us, Oak Hills, for his work of evangelism in our community as we seek to be faithful to the gospel.
Stiles explains how evangelism naturally happens in the normal life of a healthy church: “In pursuing a healthy culture of evangelism, we don’t remake the church for evangelism. Instead, we allow the things that God has already built into the church to proclaim the gospel. Jesus did not forget the gospel when he built the church” (p. 64). He then goes on to explain how the normal, “ordinary” practices of the church (singing, preaching the Word, the Sacraments, giving of tithes, etc.) ought to proclaim the gospel.
How does this practically work for the weekly gathering of the church? Notice how Stiles illustrates how an evangelizing church functions. “When you bring your friend from the community into church, everyone is ‘on game’: you are all reaching out. That’s a culture of evangelism. It’s not just about being friendly, though that needs to happen, but having a deep awareness that we are in this together. In a healthy church, visitors see the gospel present in all we do. That’s why we sing the Word, pray the Word, preach the Word. We want people to hear the gospel in the service. And when we practice the sacraments, we want them to see the gospel and hear it again as we explain what’s happening. As members live out the gospel, the gospel comes out of us” (p. 66).
Let’s flesh this out a bit more for Oak Hills (I’d love for you to join us for further conversation on Sunday night).
1. We are a church that aims to be confident in the Gospel. The gospel is the power of God. We do not need to be ashamed to share it. We don’t not need to add to its message. It is only through the gospel that true renewal will come for believers and unbelievers alike.
2. We are a church that understands that our weekly Sunday morning gathering is for both building up the body and evangelizing our community. If the gospel is the power of God, we all equally need the gospel for renewal. Let’s not look for other fixes. And, let’s invite others to join us in pursuing this renewal through the gospel.
3. The members of our church desire to support, encourage, and pray for one another as we seek to share the gospel with others and invite them to church. Seeking to evangelize on your own is scary. It is so much easier to do it with a group of “covenant members” who are striving by your side for the same thing. We need to gather as an evangelizing body on Sunday mornings. This mindset is part of what Stiles means by being “on game.”
4. We are a church that will trust the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit as we seek to be faithful in sharing the gospel. Ultimately, only the Holy Spirit can save someone. God has chosen to use the proclamation of the gospel to awaken faith in people. Let’s rest in God’s work as we seek to be faithful in our work to proclaim the gospel. Our success is not measured by the number of conversions we see.
May God bless Oak Hills as we long for gospel renewal together.