Have you ever been in a worship service and the sermon sounds like a series of foreign words strung together by “Amens”? As we speak to non-Christians, this is a serious issue. How can we expect people to respond to the Gospel if they don’t understand the language we are using to proclaim it?
“The greatest problem of communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.” George Bernard Shaw
One possible obstacle to using 5Q to transform our church culture is its terminology. It doesn't have to be.
So, before we explore the Evangelist dimension, let’s take a look at the 5Q personalities and what the terms mean. APEST is not a grouping of Bible Words. Each term existed in Roman culture long before it became “Biblical.”
APOSTLE is a term that meant “a sent one.” Messengers, mailmen, Men in Brown, these are technically Apostles. The apostle was a person that was sent from one place to another to perform a task, or establish a something new on behalf of a greater power or need. They left what was comfortable to move into the unknown for a larger cause. In our culture today, we refer to them as:
Innovators - Pioneers - Architects - Designers - Networkers - Curators - Ambassadors
PROPHET was an office that existed in religion since before religion was religious. The prophet was a “seer” in many cultures, one who read signs and found symbols in religious rituals and sacrifices. They “spoke” for the gods and as such could be formidable political powers. Prophets in the Old Testament are primarily described as fore-telling, seeing into the things of God; and forth-telling, speaking for God to the people. Today, we might also call them:
Intercessors - Campaigners - Passionaries - Holy Rebels - Activists - Mystics - Innovators
EVANGELIST was a word used for a Messenger declaring the coronation of a new king. It was not a religious word at all. New Testament writers borrowed the term to refer to the proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah. They were messengers of The Good News.
Since we’re talking about the Evangelist today, we’ll elaborate a bit.
Evangelists are still not exclusively bound to the pages of the Bible.
If you look around you, you will find them everywhere.
We are surrounded by evangelists today, in fact companies are even using the term “brand evangelist” as a way to refer to their customers. The goal is for each customer to be someone who recruits others to the brand’s user community.
Every paleo dieting, cross fit training, essential oil using friend you have is a natural evangelist. The only reason you know they do those things is because they told you. They evangelized.
Every time you tell your kids dinner is ready, or tell your coworkers “We’re getting a bonus!” you are evangelizing them, spreading good news, growing the celebration.
We might recognize them in our culture as:
Recruiters - Apologists - Entrepreneurs - Storytellers - Journalists - Networkers - Producers
SHEPHERD, in antiquity, was a…Shepherd. A sheep guardian. You don’t need to go crazy with the metaphor. In the Hebrew Testament, as the Greek, Shepherds and sheep made a natural comparison to the Church and it’s leadership. We experience them today as:
Guardians - Spiritual Directors - Healers - Counselors - Relational Networkers - Liturgists
TEACHER has long arc in history as well. Writing systems were learned and taught 3,500 years ago. In the Christian congregation, the role of the teacher is to learn and teach the life of faith in Christ. It’s specific, but not original.
They can be recognized as:
Sages - Trainers - Mentors - Coaches - Theologians - Truth- Tellers - Researchers
Every paleo dieting, cross fit training, essential oil using friend you have is a natural evangelist. The only reason you know they do those things is because they told you. They evangelized. Click To Tweet
Evangelists share the Gospel. So, what is the Gospel?
The Gospel is a person, not just a proposition.
Often when we hear Christians share the gospel it goes something like this:
“God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross as a sacrifice for your sins and Jesus was resurrected back to life so that if you confess your sins and believe in Him through faith, you will be saved from judgment and gain eternal life.”
This is true, just not the whole truth. That version of the gospel becomes something you can shout into a megaphone, something you can print on a track and hand drop in mailboxes; and while God may use those efforts, they are not the best reflection of how God himself delivered the good news.
That version of the gospel is disembodied truth. It makes the Gospel just a proposition when in fact, the Gospel is at its core, a person. We are not called to introduce people to a truth claim; we are trying to introduce them to Jesus himself. He is the good news.
The good news is incarnated in Jesus. It is personified in Jesus.
The gospel is best communicated in flesh, not just in words. So Evangelism always begins with our life, our actions, our character, our posture. Can we state propositions about Jesus? Yes of course, but we must physically incarnate Jesus before we verbally instruct people about Jesus.
What we discover in the new 5Q: Reactivating The Original Intelligence And Capacity Of The Body Of Christ are ways that we find the Evangelist doing that work, putting “flesh” on the Gospel:
The evangelistic function enhances the capacities of the whole church to be able to communicate the unfolding story of the church in compelling, accessible, and understandable ways.
It elicits a response from the audience—effectively “closing the deal.”
Create an Invitational Culture
Related to the “taste and see” aspect of the previous function, an evangelistic culture invites people to experience what the church is pointing toward. In this form, it is inherently attractional.
Sneeze the Movement Message
Evangelism involves the infectious sharing of the movement’s core message. This is done both inside and outside the community of faith. The message itself must remain compellingly related to real existential human issues so as to retain its infectious and timeless nature. The message is viral and can readily be passed on. A church without an evangelistic function is definitely on its way to death, precisely because the gospel (the evangel) is what brings new life.”
Ensure Cultural Relevance
Evangelism makes rich use of popular culture (symbols, language, narratives, and ideas) to find the gospel-keys into “the heart of the immediately surrounding culture (not necessarily cross-cultural)."
Develop Sticky Messaging
The sticky message is simple, surprising, emotive, and creates enthusiasm. The evangelist ensures the “stickiness” of the core message of the church—the evangel, or the cause of the organization.
Present the Value Proposition
It is vital that all understand the “value proposition” that is the church of Jesus Christ. To use the words marketing, sales and promotion does not cheapen but rather highlights the irreplaceable importance of the function for movemental forms of church.
Branding involves the management of how the organization is being perceived and experienced. Because it is concerned largely with the communication and reception of the message, evangelistic functions will need to include the issue of branding and brand consistency.”
Value the Individual
Evangelism takes individual people very seriously. Each person is a vital part of a network in the broader society. Each person is an object of God’s eternal compassion.
Demonstrate Catalytic Witness
Because of this external focus, evangelism is an essential catalyst for people movement. It’s not just about verbal proclamation but is also committed to the demonstration of good news in word, sign, and deed. Evangelism is therefore witness to the good news of the reign of God in Jesus.
Recruit to the Cause
Sociologically speaking, evangelism is all about recruitment to the cause. Cultivating an innate evangelistic sensibility therefore requires making sure that the message is transmitted well and is received by the recipients in ways that draw them into the saving story of Jesus. But recruitment is not just about “saving people.” It also describes the general capacity to draw people into the various other functions of the church in mission.
[Thanks to Jon Ritner who has graciously allowed the sermon material from Ecclesia Hollywood’s current series, “Collaborative Church,” to be edited for the blog]
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How does the fact that Jesus IS the good news transform the way you think about Evangelism? Does the idea of embodying Christ in addition to proclaiming him help you see yourself as an Evangelist? We'd love to here from you in the comments!