The assumption usually held by those who ask such questions is that the various programs that have taken the place of Biblical family nurture -- Sunday school, youth ministries, and women's Bible studies -- are necessary for evangelistic outreach. It is said that family worship is too hard for new Christians. In particular, most male family heads are considered to be unfit to assume their Biblical responsibility to spiritually nurture the members of their households. Therefore, separate ministries and education programs based on age and gender are said to be necessary for these families. And since new Christians are assumed to need these programs it also is assumed that family based churches will neglect evangelism. These assumptions are based on un-Biblical definitions of the gospel and the methods of evangelism.
As most Christians know, the word "gospel" or "good news" is derived from the Greek noun euangelion. The verb euangelizo expresses the act of proclaiming the good (eu) news (angelion). The use of these words in secular Greek is fairly well reflected in part in the usage in the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, to proclaim news of the military defeat of an enemy (1 Sam 31:9; 2 Sam 1:20; 4:10; 18:19,20,22,25,26,27,31; 1 Kgs 1:42). The verb also is used for bringing news to a father of the birth of his son (Jer 20:15).
It is easy to see how these examples prepare us for the good news of the birth of the Son of God who would defeat the accuser of the saints, Satan. However, other uses of euangelizo in the Greek Old Testament speak more directly to the New Testament fulfillment and thus the meaning of evangelism. For example, the author of the letter to the Hebrews cites Psalm 41:6-8 to speak of the incarnation of the Son of God. In verse 9 of the Psalm we find this use of euangelizo: "I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness in the great congregation; indeed, I do not restrain my lips, O LORD, You Yourself know. I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great congregation" (Ps 41:9-10). The hearers of the good news of God's righteousness is the great congregation, the assembly of God's people. In Psalm 68 a "great company" proclaim the word given by the LORD of His victory over the enemies of His people (Ps 68:11). Psalm 96 commands : "Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glories among the nations, His wonders among the peoples" (Ps 96:2-3). The message given to the nations is "The LORD reigns; The world also is firmly established, it shall not be moved; He shall judge the peoples righteously" (Ps 96:10).
The good news of God's reign was expressed by the prophet Isaiah as God appearing among His people. Zion or Jerusalem brings the glad tidings or good news in saying to the cities of Judah: "Behold your God! Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him; behold His reward is with Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young" (Isa 40:10-11). This is the good news: that God has come to save and rule His people, and so end the warfare with God caused by sin: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'" (Isa 52:7). Jesus said that these words from Isaiah were fulfilled in the inauguration of His ministry: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD" (Isa 61:1-2a; the rest of verse 2 is "and the day of the vengeance of our God"). These Old Testament passages provide the foundation for understanding the gospel in the New Testament.
A survey of the word euangelion in the New Testament will indicate that it is often found in the phrase "the gospel of the kingdom," that is, the kingdom of God or heaven (Mt 4:22; 9:35; 24:14; Mk 1:14). The verb euangelizo, preach the good news, often will have as its object the kingdom of God (Lk 4:43; 8:1; 16:16; Acts 8:12; 10:36). To speak of the gospel of Christ also points to the kingdom, since Jesus is the Anointed King, the Christ (Mk 1:1; Acts 7:42; Rom 1:16; 15:19,29; 2 Cor 2:12; 4:4; 9:13; 10:14; Gal 1:17; Php 1:27; 1 Th 3:2; 2 Th 1:8). The essence of the kingdom is expressed in the Lord's Prayer, that the Father's will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Mt 6:10). Doing the will of the Father is a mark of those who enter the kingdom. Calling Jesus Lord without obeying Him as King is a mark of those who do not truly know Him (Mt 7:21-23).
The good news that the King has come can only be meaningful to those who desire such a King. Therefore, the gospel was first preached to the Jews, who expected the Christ, even in their generation (Lk 23:51). However, most of that generation rejected Jesus as the Christ, that is, they did not obey the gospel. They rejected Jesus as Christ because they were not drawn by the Father (John 6:37,44). They preferred their religious traditions and institutions to the kingdom of God, the Lordship of Christ Jesus (Mt 15:3,7-9). Nevertheless, Jesus stated that His generation would see the kingdom of God present with power (Mk 9:1; Lk 21:31-32). Indeed, by rejecting Jesus and having Him crucified, that generation carried out God's plan for the Son of God in human flesh to die on the cross for the sins of His people. Jesus's resurrection confirmed that He had perfectly fulfilled the law, paid the debt for sin, and gained eternal life for all who are in Him, part of His body. After the resurrection Jesus ascended to heaven and assumed His throne as King, spiritually through His people and by God's sovereignty through all the kingdoms of this earth. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost empowered the disciples to speak the gospel boldly and showed the Jews gathered for the feast by speaking in the languages of gentiles in their own countries that the gospel would go to these peoples as well.
In the Biblical account of the mission to the gentiles we see the same pattern of going to those already gathered by God. Jesus proclaimed the gospel in the streets of Jewish towns as well as teaching in the synagogues. However, in gentile areas the apostle Paul and his company would first go to the synagogue, where God-fearing gentiles also gathered to hear the Word (Acts 19:8). If a synagogue did not exist they would find a prayer meeting. They also responded to the questions of inquirers.
Therefore, according to the Bible, evangelism is proclaiming to those waiting for the kingdom the good news that the King has come, who is Christ Jesus, the Lord. Those who respond to the gospel and enter the kingdom of God must have new hearts with the law written upon them, that is, a will to obey God's word. Those who do not acknowledge that Jesus is Lord have not believed the true gospel, although they may have believed a false gospel.
New Christians are gathered by their response to the Word and grow in their sanctification through the Word. Although Christians may be attracted by un-Scriptural programs it will not be because of the new heart but because of the flesh. In fact, the use of un-Scriptural programs may attract so many unregenerate members that the church is unable to truly edify the elect. For example, promoting family worship, no matter how simple its practice, will edify the elect. However, family worship will seem like a bore and a burden to the unregenerate. Therefore, churches that meet the needs of the unregenerate will have programs that "do religion" for them. However, such programs will undermine the spiritual growth of new Christians, as in the case of fathers who are led to rely on church staff and activists to nurture their families instead of assuming their Biblical responsibility.
Contemporary evangelism does not preach the gospel as defined by Scripture nor does it conform to the methods of evangelizing found in the Bible. It prevails because Biblical evangelism will not attract as many church members as worldly methods of evangelism. Indeed, during more than two hundred years of the most Biblical, most apostolic forms of evangelism, no Christian congregation was formed that was too large for a good sized house. Only with the rise of the Roman state church did church buildings appear comparable in size to those typical of churches today. The Waldensian precursors of the Reformation, with roots going back to the ancient church, largely met in houses. Luther had favored this model of the local congregation until he inherited the large church buildings seized from Rome for the new state church. Even when they do not meet in homes, Reformed congregations since then have tended to gather in modest meeting houses, not basilicas or cathedrals.
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