This was edited and published in Understanding and Using the Bible, edited by Chris Wright and Jonathan Lamb in the International Study Guides series published by SPCK.
The Bible is vital to evangelism because evangelism proclaims what God has done to save humanity. We get the knowledge of that primarily from the Bible. So evangelism is, in essence, introducing people to the story of the Bible.
John Stott who says that, “evangelism without the Bible is inconceivable,” gives three main uses of the Bible in evangelism. He says, “It is the Bible that gives our message its content, Christ crucified, risen and reigning. It is the Bible that gives our message its authority so that we proclaim it with deep conviction. And it is the Bible that gives the message its power, as the Holy Spirit reinforces the Word in the experience of the hearers.”1 Scripture itself attests the truth of this statement.
THE BIBLE GIVES THE CONTENT OF OUR MESSAGE
The Four Gospels were originally written as evangelistic tracts, as John explains: “…but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).2 John Stott says that “the Gospel writers are… correctly called ‘evangelists’ and their literary compositions are rightly called ‘Gospels’” because “they were setting forth the good news of Jesus Christ with a view to inducing their readers to believe in him.”3 We are asking people to accept Jesus as their Saviour and follow him as their Lord. If so, in evangelism, we should tell them what type of person Jesus is. The Gospels give us the information for this.
In the evangelistic speeches to Jewish audiences in Acts, like Peter’s Pentecost sermon and Stephen’s defence, over half of the recorded sermons consist of Old Testament Scripture.4 Paul’s philosophical message to the gentile intellectuals at Athens does not contain any direct quotations from the Old Testament, but it was a thoroughly biblical message. F. F. Bruce says, “His argument is firmly based on biblical revelation; it echoes throughout the thought, and at times the very language, of the Old Testament.”5
Paul tells Timothy, “…from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). Commenting on this verse Leon Morris says, “The whole purpose of the sacred writings was to bring men to the salvation that is in Christ.”6 This text shows that a major means used to bring children growing up in godly families to salvation is teaching them the Bible at home.
A primary reason for the value of Scripture in evangelism is that faith is necessary for salvation. The content of the message heard is the basis for faith. Paul said, “…faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Jesus said, “…whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). An objective message—the word of Christ—has to be heard. This message comes from the Bible.
Because the Jewish audiences in Acts accepted the authority of Scripture, it was used to validate the message. We can directly apply this principle to evangelism among nominal Christians. A prominent evangelist from the past, R. A. Torrey (1856-1928), illustrates this principle in both his public and personal evangelism. When a high society woman spoke to him fearlessly and with apparent pride about her morally loose lifestyle, he simply turned to John 3:16 and asked her to read it. Before she completed reading the verse, “she burst into tears, her heart broken by the love of God to her.”7
Torrey relates another incident when after a Sunday service he “spoke to a man of intelligence and ability, but who had gone down into the deepest depth of sin.” He told Torrey “I am too great a sinner to be saved.” Torrey got him to read 1 Timothy 1:15 which talks of Christ coming into the world to save sinners of whom Paul was the chief. On reading this he said, “Well, I am the chief of sinners.” Torrey replied, “That verse means you, then.” The man committed his life to Christ that day. This broken home was restored and he remained an active Christian.8
The fact that those who are not from Christian backgrounds do not accept the authority of Scripture should not deter us from using the Scriptures with them. Every religion has sacred texts, and people respect those texts as being representative of the beliefs of that religion. When we proclaim our religion, it would be natural for us to tell people what our holy book says. They could accept or reject it, but if we want people to know about our faith we should tell it to them. Sometimes when they hear what the Bible says, they realise that this is what they have been looking for and they surrender to the message of the Bible.
A Sri Lankan Buddhist youth in his late teens was worried about who would look after him if his sick mother died. His father was already dead. He turned to the gods of Hinduism for support and became a devotee of several of them. At this time Youth for Christ (YFC) volunteers came to his neighbourhood and tried to get him to come for YFC programmes. He avoided them at first but ended up going for a YFC evangelistic camp. He debated with the Christians there and did not accept the message. Some months later he went for another camp, and again he debated with the Christians. At this camp a speaker quoted Isaiah 49:15: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” He realised that this was the God he was looking for, and he accepted the gospel. Today he is a YFC staff worker sharing the gospel to other youth from non-Christian backgrounds.
Of course, this is not the only way we proclaim the gospel to non-Christians. Sometimes we may argue for biblical truth without reference to the Bible. We will use logical or experiential arguments to demonstrate the truthfulness of our message. Yet there too, the message we argue for is the message of the Bible even though we may not quote directly from the Bible. This is what Paul did in Athens.
Paul’s method in Athens of presenting the God of the OT before the Christ of the NT is important for evangelism among those with no biblical background.9 People would not understand the meaning of what Christ did unless they understand something of the way God deals with human beings as Creator, Lord, Redeemer and Judge. This is described in the OT. It would be so much easier to understand the meaning of the sacrifice of Christ if there was some the background knowledge of the OT sacrificial system and why it was necessary.
Through its experience of reaching unreached tribes with the gospel, the New Tribes Mission has developed a course, Building on Firm Foundations, which uses what they call the “chronological approach” to evangelism and to teaching believers. This is available in a nine volume set in which two volumes are for evangelism and six are for teaching. Each series starts with the Old Testament and then goes to the New Testament.10 This approach could well be a key not only to reaching people in non-Christian countries but also in reaching people in the “post-Christian” West too.
Let me mention in passing that there is a noble tradition of using expository messages in evangelistic preaching. Because the Bible has the message of God to the world and is a very relevant book, simply going through a text may be a good way to give the hearers an idea of what God wants them to hear. I have often used this method in my evangelistic preaching. Sometimes I go through events in the life of Jesus or of another biblical character. I have also used the parables of Jesus and popular texts like John 3:16 and 5:24. Stephen Olford has written a whole book with such messages entitled Proclaiming the Good News: Evangelistic Expository Messages.11
THE BIBLE GIVES AUTHORITY TO OUR MESSAGE
This is a pluralistic age. The dominant idea regarding religious encounter is that all religions are more or less “equals in the universe of faiths,” as prominent pluralist theologian John Hick says.12 One needs to be very bold to proclaim that Christ is the only way to salvation in this environment. Many Christians today do not go out to those outside the church and seek to persuade them to change their allegiance and make Christ the Lord of their lives. They will share the message of Christ with seekers who come to them wanting to know about Christianity. But they would not proactively go in search of people in order to proclaim the message.
The biblical witness stands against such an approach to evangelism. The verb “to persuade” (peithō) is used seven times in Acts to describe Paul’s evangelism.13 In 2 Corinthians 5:11 Paul himself said, “…we try to persuade men.” This use of peithō has been defined as “to convince someone to believe something and to act on the basis of what is recommended.”14 Such confidence in our message derives from the conviction that we are bearers of the definitive revelation from God to the human race. If the Creator and Lord of the universe has given a final message to the human race and we know it, then we must do everything in our power and within our principles to bring people to appropriate that message into their lives. So Matthew’s version of the Great Commission begins with an affirmation of authority that belongs to Christ: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:18-19).
We get to know this definitive message from the Scriptures. So the authority of Christ is borne by us as we communicate the message of the Bible. Paul expresses his confidence about his evangelistic ministry when he says, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain” (1 Cor. 15:1-2). The reason for this confidence is that his message is attested by the Scriptures: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-4)..
Of course, we cannot be arrogant when we proclaim this message. The nature of the gospel eliminates the possibility of Christians being arrogant. To proclaim salvation in Christ is to also affirm that we are unworthy sinners who have done nothing to merit salvation. In fact we are servants of the people. Yet we are bold to proclaim Christ as the Lord of the universe. Paul said, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4:5). We have authority for evangelism because we bear the word of the Creator of the universe to his creation. But it is a derived authority; not something intrinsic to ourselves. We are sinners saved by grace who are committed to being humble servants of the people.
Billy Graham is known both as a humble person and as one who proclaimed the gospel with authority. In a video sent to the Amsterdam 2000 Conference for Preaching Evangelists (which he could not attend because of ill-health) he said, “Our authority comes from the Bible, the Word of God. When our message is based on the Word of God, just quoting from Scripture gives an authority. The Bible has its own built-in power. That’s the reason I use the phrase, ‘The Bible says.’ When I say, ‘The Bible says,’ I notice there’s a new attention from the audience.”
Graham went on to talk about how he himself had to struggle over the authority of Scripture and how important it was to finally come out of that struggle with a firm confidence in the Word. Without such confidence, our preaching will be ineffective because it lacks authority and conviction.
This is an age where we have seen the growth of two approaches to truth which are hostile to biblical Christianity. One is fundamentalism which, I believe, comes out of an insecurity that causes people to respond in an excessively hostile way to challenges to their faith. The other approach, pluralistic relativism, is opposite in extreme to fundamentalism. It says that absolute truth cannot be known and refuses to insist on the binding value of moral and religious convictions. Our generation is already showing signs of revolting against these two approaches. This revolt will grow with time. May the church be ready to respond with a lifestyle of humble servanthood and a ministry of confident proclamation of God’s message. People giving up both from fundamentalism and relativism will realise that what they are thirsting for is found in the gospel.
THE BIBLE GIVES POWER TO OUR MESSAGE
The Bible also gives power to our message. In this day when “power evangelism” has become very popular, people do not usually regard power in connection with the Scriptures. Rather it is viewed in connection with the Spirit’s direct intervention in ministry expressing power in tangible ways that meet people’s needs. These ways are described in the Bible as “signs and wonders” (Acts 2:43; 4:30; Rom. 15:19; 2 Cor. 12:12 etc.). This is a welcome rediscovery of an approach to ministry that was very prevalent in the NT era.
However, the Bible speaks of power in connection with the impact of the Word too: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12—AV). We seem to have lost this belief in recent times, especially when it comes to evangelism. Today the most prominent forms of evangelism are those which major either on signs and wonders or on relevant felt-needs-oriented ministry (like the seeker-sensitive approaches). With such emphases it is possible to neglect the important place of the word in evangelism. Indeed biblically responsible evangelism can be done both by those emphasising power evangelism and those using seeker sensitive approaches. The ministries of John Wimber who emphasised “power evangelism” and of Bill Hybels and his Willow Creek Association which emphasise “seeker sensitive evangelism” show this balance. But some of the followers of these movements have got so enamoured by the means used to attract people to the message that they have neglected some vital features of the message itself.15
The Bible specifically says that the power of Word of God aids in the conversion process. Paul stated that the Scriptures “are able to make you wise for salvation” (2 Tim. 3:15). Peter said, “…you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23).
The rich man in Hades asked Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers with the message so that they would not end up in Hades. Moses replied, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” The rich man pointed out, “No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Abraham’s reply was, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:27-31). Abraham’s point was that the Scriptures were sufficient to bring salvation to those people. If they did not listen to the Scriptures, neither will they listen to a person who has risen from the dead.
What is this power of the Scriptures? I do not think this is a case of the words of the Bible carrying some magical ability. Firstly, the power of the Word lies in the fact that it is the Word of the Creator to his creation. God knows the human heart better than anyone else. He knows best what the human being needs. He is the Great Physician who knows exactly what will heal the sin sick soul. And he has given his prescription in a book. Surely, then, that book would be powerful to affect change in people.
Second, this Word is powerful because it witnesses to Christ. Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). The Scriptures point people to Christ because Jesus is the grand theme of the Bible. People may be impressed by the way in which the OT anticipated Christ, and be forced to consider the claims of Christ because of the fulfilment of the prophecies about him. This is what impressed the Ethiopian eunuch and resulted in his salvation (Acts 8:26-39). Then, of course, we know how people are impressed by the person and work of Jesus as presented in the Bible.
Third, the Scriptures also point people to how God has provided an answer to their yearnings. This is illustrated by the examples described above from the ministry of R. A. Torrey and of the youth who looked for a god who would care for him if his mother died. When people hear the Word something in them says, “Aha! This is what I have been looking for!” Many stories could be related of people who were arrested through reading or hearing a verse of Scripture. Sri Lanka’s pioneer in Christian drug rehabilitation ministry Raja Wijekoon was converted in prison by reading a tract with the words, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). He had been a Buddhist and a gang leader, but those words arrested him and caused him to look for more about Jesus.
This is why we have confidence as we proclaim the Word. Whether people will accept it or not, we know that we are proclaiming the message that their Creator has given to answer their deepest needs. In fact, relevant expository preaching in a church can result in the conversion of people. It has been said of Ray Stedman that, “Throughout his ministry he remained committed to biblical exposition, but did so in a way that communicated clearly even to those without any religious background. When Ray preached, unchurched people felt he was talking to them. In other words, Ray believed biblical exposition is the most seeker sensitive thing a preacher can do!”16
Fourth, the Word is powerful in being an agent through which the Holy Spirit “will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). The Word was inspired by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:16; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21). So it would be natural to expect him to use it to convict people. This is especially so because the conviction that occurs is a conviction based on what the Bible says is right and wrong. This is why Paul describes the Word of God as “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17). Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Here, actually, it is the Spirit using the Word to do his work.
Today’s Experience Orientation. In this post-modern age the value of objective truth has been downgraded and people accept a given way of life based more on experiential considerations than on truth-related considerations. If a religious system is good for me at a certain time, I accept it and experience its benefits. But this is not necessarily a life-long commitment. It’s “cool” for me right now, and I will hold on to it unless I find something more satisfying.
In keeping with the post-modern mood of the West and the needs orientation of many in the non-western world, most people come to Christ today because he meets some personal need of theirs. The need may be for security, for healing, for wealth, for peace, for a group of peers who provide acceptance and identity or for some other experiential need. Some of these people have not fully understood the gospel with its emphasis on the work of Christ in redeeming humans from sin. Yet they would say that they have embraced Christianity. They come because Christ meets a need. But they will stay because they have come to realise that he is the truth.
After the feeding of the 5000 many people stopped following him after they found out that he was more interested in giving them the bread of life than physical bread (John 6). After the feeding they were willing to make him their king who supplies their needs, but not willing to accept him as the truth who calls them to follow him. After many had left him Jesus asked his disciples, “So you want to go as well?” Peter answered for the rest, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:67-69). They stayed because they had accepted him as the truth.
The above scenario would suggest that the work of evangelism is not complete when a person decides to follow Christ. We must continue to teach the objective truths of the gospel, so that their primary reason for being a Christian is more the fact that Christianity is the truth and the way to salvation than the fact that Christianity meets some felt needs.
Evangelism among Non-westernised People. Because the worldviews of non-westernised people from other faiths are so different to ours, evangelism among them brings special challenges. Most of our work in our church and in YFC in Sri Lanka has been with people from poor, non-western, non-Christian backgrounds. Many from other faiths have come to Christ, and most of them have come because they saw that Christ met some felt needs they had.
However, they kept holding to a concept of God and a worldview that was similar to what they had held before becoming Christians. They went to God like they went to a doctor—because he met their personal needs. With such a concept of God, they did not think they needed to bring their whole life—including their thoughts and private actions—under the Lordship of God. The message of salvation from sin through Christ’s work also has so many alien concepts that it takes time to sink in. So a major shift in worldview must take place before they understand biblical Christianity.
Our experience has led us to the conviction that there are three key factors needed to bring about this shift. Firstly, even though meeting physical needs is the most attractive thing to many people, we must work hard at presenting the other gospel truths, especially those relating to the redemption Christ won for us. Because this is such an alien concept, we have to really work at finding creative ways to get this message across. Each culture will have ways that are effective in communicating the message of the cross. Evangelists must make finding those ways one of the great ambitions of their lives.17
We must not fall into the trap of letting marketing concerns—that is, what people want to hear—control our preaching content. Sadly, many preachers cannot resist the temptation to spend all their time talking about what people want to hear about the power of God while neglecting the work of Christ in winning our redemption from sin. Even in Paul’s time this was a difficult doctrine to proclaim (1 Cor. 1:21-25), but Paul faithfully made that his main message (1 Cor. 2:2). Today we have some churches which major on power and others which major on gospel truth and apologetics. One of the surprising discoveries I made when studying the book of Acts to write a commentary on it18 was that in the early churches the great miracle workers like Peter, Stephen and Paul were also great apologists. This is a combination rarely seen today!
Secondly, Christian leaders should get close to those who have come to Christ in an incarnational ministry (John 1:14) that gives them a sense of solidarity with them (see e.g. Acts 20:17-38) and provides the converts an example of Christian living that they can follow (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1; Phil 3:16; 1 Thess. 1:6). This way it is possible to impart truths through community experience that includes systematic teaching and intimate personal relationships. By being close to the people the leaders get to understand their special challenges and are able to address them with biblical answers.
Thirdly, we need small group Bible studies where the Scriptures are not only studied but also applied to people’s lives through discussion and systems of spiritual accountability where people share how they are doing in their Christian life. This dynamic way of grappling with biblical truth with active minds enables the Word to be internalised by the new Christians.
Evangelism among Post-Modern People. In the West a similar challenge exists because of prevailing post-modern attitudes. In this environment we are seeing a downplaying of the value of objective truth. Much more weight is given to subjective experience. Therefore it is not surprising that in the Western world (as in the non-western world) the charismatic movement, with its emphasis on experiencing Christ through the Holy Spirit, has thrived. Some analysts today identify the charismatic movement as a typical post-modern movement,19 though there are others who would dispute this.
How will a gospel based on objective truths—events which took place in history which are the basis of the salvation offered—survive in this post-modern world? There has been a lot of debate on this, with a wide spectrum of opinions within the church. Many within the Evangelical camp have reacted to evangelical insistence on doctrinal orthodoxy which, they believe, hinders Christian witness in a post-modern world. An example is the Emerging Church movement whose most popular exponent is Brian McLaren.20 Several responses have come from those who have felt that this movement is going too far away from biblical Christianity.21
Without entering into this battle raging within the church, I will share my convictions arising out of attempting to reach the highly westernised affluent youth in Sri Lanka. I have recently taken over the direction of this ministry of YFC. The youth are very similar to post-modern youth in the West. Two days after writing this I will go on a four day evangelistic camp with these teenagers. Below are some of the convictions and practices we have adopted.
In this camp we will have a lot of fun, games, music, and drama. There will be good opportunities to enjoy friendship with others. But communicating the gospel is the major objective of the camp.
We will present the Christian approach to the felt needs of these youth. In this way we tell the youth how becoming followers of Christ can help them respond to needs that are uppermost in their minds. These needs will be highlighted through the use of skits, games, music and clippings from music videos and movies. We will not stop with the analysis of the situation and a description of the problem, which is what many songs, movies and dramas do. We will also try to show how the Biblical gospel addresses those needs. At this particular camp we will cover the following felt needs topics: self image; peer pressure; uncertainty about the future, especially relating to love and marriage; and parent-teen relationships.
Presenting the basics of Christianity as recorded in the Bible will continue to be our primary task in evangelism, and this is even more important than giving Christian responses to felt needs. During the four mornings at camp we will cover six great, universally relevant gospel truths: (1) who God is (if the audience is predominantly from other faiths we will speak on the evidence for the existence of a supreme God); (2) why the world is in a mess (the fall and its consequences including judgement); (3) who Jesus is (his life, ministry and character); (4) what Jesus did and will do (his death, resurrection, ascension and second coming to wrap up history); (5) responding to God by receiving forgiveness, yielding to Christ’s lordship and joining in his agenda for the universe through evangelism and service through a new humanity where earthly distinctions are broken; and (6) living the Christian life in the power of the Holy Spirit. Until we have covered up to the fifth point we will not make a public invitation to the youth to respond to the gospel.
These gospel truths will be communicated in numerous ways. (1) Early morning the youth will be given short texts from the Bible relating to the topics of the morning with some questions on the texts. Surrounded by the beauty of nature, they will be encouraged to meditate alone on these texts using the questions. (2) The morning worship will praise God for the truths we are focussing on in the morning. This comes from the conviction that Christians can praise God for these gospel truths and non-Christians can find out about these truths by being at the worship session. (3) The main morning message will present more of this scriptural truth and its implications. (4) Following the talk the campers will break into small groups to discuss what they have been exposed to in the morning. Each group will have a leader who acts as a resource person.
At different times in the programme the truths could be communicated through (5) the dramatic reading of Scripture. For example, when I speak about the Fall I have a drama team acting out the segments of the story of the fall by reading it from Genesis 3. After each segment is acted out, I will do a short evangelistic exposition of it. Then they will act out the next segment. To illustrate a point we may use (6) short skits before the main talk, (7) secular and Christian songs, (8) testimonies and interviews, and (9) video clips from popular programmes, movies or clips involving personalities popular with the youth. (10) Even the prayers, especially prayers of praise, can serve to communicate truth. The important feature of all these ten points is that they are means used to communicate scriptural truth.
The strategy here is related to the fact that the present generation is used to acquiring information through small sound and video bites. So the same basic message which was earlier given in one talk is now given in many smaller doses using ten different means of communication.
In all of this, the methods are servants of the unchanging truth as it is found in God’s Word. The primary consideration always is, “How can we get these truths across to the hearer?” We will not downplay some of the unpleasant aspects of the gospel which are not very palatable to the hearer. In Athens, even though the Athenians believed that they had arisen from a separate stock to the rest of mankind, Paul, in presenting the gospel, did not hide the Christian belief that all humans came from one man (Acts 17:26).22 He did not hide the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ either, even though many in his audience found that very repulsive (Acts 17:32).
Being relevant in a Christian sense is not the same as presenting only things that people like to hear. Different aspects of the Christian message become unpalatable to different people at different times. Our task is to present these truths in a way that the audience will want to listen and in a way that is convincing to them. Today Christians are reluctant to present the message of judgement as part of evangelism. Paul was not afraid to talk about judgement to the sophisticated Athenians (Acts 17:31), neither should we. But we may need to find creative ways of communicating this doctrine, like C. S. Lewis did.23
When Paul talked to the Roman governor Felix, “he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgement” (Acts 24:25). Paul believed that deep down in the heart of every human being there was a sense that sin should be punished (Rom. 1:32). We can imagine that in his discussions with Felix about judgement he was trying to appeal to that inner sense. Though discussing the doctrine of judgement seems culturally inappropriate, humanly it is a very relevant topic because there is a sense about it in every human heart and because it is a truth which every human needs to be warned about. After all one of the three things the Holy Spirit convicts the world of is judgement (John 16:8).
Similarly, early in our ministry with affluent youth we will attempt to communicate the view that Christians need to be in solidarity with the poor and needy, and commit themselves to bringing relief and justice to such people.
So without jettisoning unpleasant truths, we will attempt to present to people the whole counsel of God, as Paul said he did (Acts 20:27). The task is not always easy in today’s world. But some of the greatest productions of Christianity have been as a result of Christians responding to the tough challenges the church faced. So we have several great Epistles of Paul which were responses to problems faced by the church. We have the writings of the early church fathers who created great apologetic works in response to powerful challenges from unbelief and heresy. We have the great reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin battling to restore biblical Christianity in the church and sparking a great reformation.
Today evangelists are faced with the challenge of presenting the biblical gospel to people whose worldview is so different to the biblical worldview. May this challenge give rise to great creativity in the church and brilliant expressions of the unchanging biblical gospel.
1 John R. W. Stott, “The Evangelist’s Message Is Bible-Based,” in The Mission of an Evangelist, edited by William W. Conard (Minneapolis: World Wide Publications, 2001) p. 61.
2 All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version © 2001, Good News Publishers.
3John Stott, The Authentic Jesus (Basingstoke, Hants: Marshalls, 1985), p. 20.
4 Robert E. Coleman, The Master Plan of Discipleship (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1987), 105
5 F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Book of Acts, revised edition (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988), 335.
6 Leon Morris, I Believe in Revelation (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), p. 127.
7 R. A. Torrey, Personal Work: A Book of Effective Methods (Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell Co. n.d.), 52. This book which is contains a section of Torrey’s larger work How to Work for Christ is full of illustrations of how Scripture can be used in personal evangelism.
8 Ibid., 55-56.
9 See also Paul’s evangelistic message in Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:16-41).
10The story of how this was used in a tribe is vividly portrayed in two videos entitled, “Ee-Taow” (It is true) and “Now We See Clearly.” These materials are available from New Tribes Mission, 1000 East First Street, Sanford, FL. 32771-1487.
11 Stephen F. Olford, Proclaiming the Good News: Evangelistic Expository Messages (WORDSearch electronic version, 2005).
12 See John Hick, God and the Universe of Faiths (London: Macmillan, 1973). For critical responses to Hick, see Ronald H. Nash, Is Jesus the Only Savior (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994) and Harold Netland, Dissonant Voices: Religious Pluralism and the Question of Truth (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and Leicester: Apollos, 1991).
13 17:4; 18:4; 19:8; 19:26; 26:28; 28:23, 24; cf. 2 Cor. 5:11. It appeared 6 times in Acts before chapter 17, but 17:4 is the first time it appears in connection with Paul’s evangelism.
14 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, editors, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, vol. 1 (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989), 423.
15 For a discussion of this, see my Sharing the Truth in Love: How to Relate to People of Other Faiths (Grand Rapids: Discovery House Publishing, 2000), chap. 4.
16 Mark S. Mitchell, Portrait of Integrity: The Life of Ray C. Stedman (Grand Rapids: Discovery House Publishing, 2005), p. 14.
17 For an attempt to answer questions about the death of Christ asked me over the years by non-Christians see my The Supremacy of Christ (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1995 and London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1997; Secunderabad: OM Books, 2004), chapters 9-14.
18 Ajith Fernando, NIV Application Commentary: Acts (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998).
19 See Carl Raschke, Why Evangelicals Must Embrace Postmodernity (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), p. 205.
20 See Brian D. McLaren, A New Kind of Christian (San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001); _____, The Story We Find Ourselves In (San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003); _____, A Generous Orthodoxy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Youth Specialties, 2004). See also Tony Jones, Postmodern Youth Ministry (Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Youth Specialties, 2001).
21 See, for example, D. A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005); R. Scott Smith, Truth and the New Kind of Christian (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2005).
22 See Bruce, Acts, p. 337.
23 See e.g. Lewis’ The Great Divorce (New York: Macmillan, 1946). On this see, Wayne Martindale, Beyond the Shadowlands: C. S. Lewis on Heaven and Hell (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2005).