God is at the centre of the gospel word. Yet much evangelism tends to
place people in that position. The gospel becomes skewed towards me and
how Jesus meets my needs. But the gospel Jesus proclaimed is about God
exercising his life-giving rule through his Messiah for his glory.
The gospel word and the gospel community are closely connected. The word
creates and nourishes the community while the community proclaims and
embodies the word.
People want a form of evangelism they can stick in their schedule,
switch off and go home from. Jesus calls us to a lifestyle of love.
evangelism is best done out of the context of a gospel community whose
corporate life demonstrates the reality of the word that gave her life.
People need to encounter the church as a network of relationships rather
than a meeting you attend or a place you enter. Mission must involve
not only contact between unbelievers and individual Christians, but
between unbelievers and the Christian community. We want to build
relationships with unbelievers. But we also need to introduce people to
the network of relationships that make up that believing community so
that they can see Christian community in action.
Too much evangelism is an attempt to answer questions people are not
asking. Let them experience the life of the Christian community.
Major events have a role to play in church life, but the bedrock of
gospel ministry is low-key, ordinary, day-to-day work which often goes
unseen. Most gospel ministry involves ordinary people doing ordinary
things with gospel intentionality.
But the ‘ordinary’ is only a vehicle for Christian mission if there is
gospel intentionality. The ordinary needs to be saturated with a
commitment to living and proclaiming the gospel. The gospel is a
message, and so mission only takes place as we share that word with
people. A commitment to mission through community works only if the
priority of the gospel is a strong value within that community.
The communities to which we introduce people must be communities in which ‘God-talk’ is normal...This means talking about what we are reading in the Bible, praying
together whenever we share needs, delighting together in the gospel,
sharing our spiritual struggles, not only with Christians but with
People have rejected the gospel word in part because they have not been exposed to credible gospel community.
The means by which sinners are evangelized, the gospel word
and the gospel community, are the means by which sinners are discipled.
We continue to ‘evangelize’ one another as Christians because it
continues to be the gospel message with which we exhort and encourage
It is in the family of God that I am able to care and be cared for; love
and be loved; forgive and be forgiven; rebuke and be rebuked; encourage
and be encouraged. All of which is essential to the task of being a
disciple of the risen Lord Jesus. Too often, however, churches are not
contexts for making disciples so much as occasions for acknowledging
In our experience, most character formation and discipleship takes place
through informal and ad hoc conversations. This kind of word ministry
requires relationships, time and gospel intentionality.
From time to time I ask people how they have changed their views over
the past few years. It is telling when people cannot think of an answer.
Unless someone long ago came to a complete and perfect understanding of
the Bible, it suggests people are no longer living under God’s word so
that it challenges their thinking and practice.