In these posts I have been developing on evangelism, I have stressed that the imperative of Matt 28.19 means the task of evangelism is making disciples… people who have come not only to believe in Jesus as the Lord and Messiah but are also learning to believe and live as Jesus believed and lived, committing their life to live by such faith.
While there are certainly exceptions, I believe this task to be a process and not an event. I am talking about a person going from no committed faith to a faith that wants to die with Christ in the waters of baptism (cf. Rom 6.3-4). This is a process, a journey, that takes time. To borrow from a biblical metaphor, it is a seed that must sown and cultivated so that God can bring the increase among good soil (cf. Mk 4.1-20; 1 Cor 3.6; hence, the above picture of the little plant).
This is why making disciples requires us to build relationships and invite people into the Christian community. It is in community and relationships where we get to know people, where a robust living faith with all of it’s values and practices is experienced. It is also a place to teach them the gospel.
For evangelism to occur, there also needs to be a time-space for teaching in the gospel…this Jesus story that brings resolution to the story of Israel (see Scot McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited, 44). I also believe this involves the teaching of scripture which I view as a window to look through to see Jesus.
So how do we evangelistically teach the gospel, the scriptures? As a general rule, I try to avoid topical and systematic approaches to Bible study (e.g., Bible study tracts). Sometimes that cannot be avoided but I believe that God gave us the Bible in the form of a collection of writings from various literary genres and that should be respected.
I find it most helpful to read through entire books. Because time in such settings as a small group gathering generally does not permit for the reading of an entire book in one setting, I suggest breaking the book into sections perhaps by chapters or by sections which the Bible translation has already made. I also want to offer some questions that can be asked after read a passage or chapter of scripture which will help facilitate an inductive study with open dialogue (these questions are adapted from Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community, 167):
- What do you find intriguing or interesting?
- What do you find challenging or even that you don’t like?
- Is there anything that you do not understand?
- What did you learn about God, Jesus, and biblical faith?
- Regardless of where you are at in faith, what would it look like to live what you have learned?
A final word about teaching the gospel and scriptures. If people are going to learn and believe in the gospel, it is imperative that they know the entire canon of scripture. By that I mean that people must be taught the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. And with some reservation about taking people away from actually reading the Bible, I highly recommend as a companion Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen, The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story.
You can read the previous posts on Evangelism here:
- Evangelism: Making Disciples
- Evangelism: What Is a Disciple?
- Evangelism: Relationships and Community