Posts tagged Evangelism
The Pastor's Call to Evangelism

Here are two juicy quotes on the pastor's call to evangelism from John Owen's "Sermon V," delivered on September 8, 1682 at the ordination of a man to the ministry. The whole sermon is worth reading. "Christ hath not appointed his ministers to look unto themselves only; they are to be the means of calling and gathering the elect in all ages: and this they principally are to do by their ministry" (460).

"Our work is the same with the apostles'; the method directly contrary. The apostles had a work committed to them, and this was their method:— The first workcommitted to the apostles was the convincing and converting sinners to

Image Credit: Banner of Truth Works of John Owen

Christ among Jews and Gentiles, —to preach the gospel, to convert infidels;—this they accounted their chief work...And then, their second work was to teach those [who were] disciples to do and observe whatever Christ commanded them, and to bring them into church order. This was their method. Now the same work is committed unto the pastors of church; but in a contrary method. The first object of our ministry is the church,—to build up and edify the church. But what then? Is the other part of the work taken away, that they should not preach to convert souls. God forbid" (460-461).

From The Works of John Owen, Volume IX (Repr., Banner of Truth Trust; 1965), 452-462.

The Creator God

One of the most obvious tensions believers face with their unbelieving neighbors is our different accounts of humanity's origin. The scientific community (and ancient astronaut theorists) offer different accounts of our "arrival" or evolution, and in so doing they deny the foundational distinction between us and God, namely, that he is the Creator and we are the creatures.  

This tension presents believers with a couple of obstacles:

  1. Christians must be prepared to explain the biblical account of creation: God created all things from nothing and fashioned human beings in His likeness.
  2. Christians must consider how our evangelism ought to be shaped by an utter denial of the Creator God. 

While most Christians have gone around and around with a coworker or friend about the first point, the second point receives much less attention. 

That's why I was delighted to read a section on Paul's evangelism to the pagan societies of ancient Lystra and Athens in Tom Schreiner's New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (142-143). He points out that Paul's evangelistic strategy in communities that denied God's identity as the Creator was far different than his evangelism to the Jews (who affirmed the Old Testament teaching of God as Creator). 

In both cases (found in Acts 14 and 17, respectively) Paul focused on God as the Creator who was the source of life and the One who was uniquely qualified to receive worship. This is significant because, as Schreiner concludes, "Those with a pagan worldview need to be nurtured in the creation theology of the OT in order understand that Jesus is the one who fulfills the promises of the creator God" (143).

Perhaps this is an important thing for us to consider as we proclaim the gospel to people who have astonishingly similar worldviews to the ancient Lystrans or Athenians. Our gospel presentations can no longer assume familiarity with the storyline of Scripture or God as Creator. Instead, we must begin where Paul began, with the Creator God.