World Evangelism Model

missions (1)

“What’s more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would declare the Gentiles to be righteous because of their faith. God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago when he said, “All nations will be blessed through you.”  —  Galatians 3:8

Through the Bible God is Himself actually evangelizing, that is, communicating the good news to the world.  All Scripture preaches the gospel; God evangelizes through it.

If, then, Scripture is itself divine evangelization, it stands to reason that we can learn how to preach the gospel by considering how God has done it.  He has given us in the process of biblical inspiration a beautiful evangelistic model.

What strikes us immediately is the greatness of God’s condescension.  He chose to make this disclosure through the vocabulary and grammar of human language, through human beings, human images and human cultures.

Men spoke and God spoke.  Men spoke from God and God spoke through men.  The words spoken and written were equally His and theirs. Christians want to assert something similar about the Incarnation, the climax of the self-communicating God.  God’s eternal Word, who from eternity was with God and was God, the agent through whom the universe was created, became a human being, with all the particularity of a first-century Palestinian Jew.

Essentially the same principle is illustrated in both the inspiration of the Scripture and the incarnation of the Son.  This principle of identification without loss of identity is the model for all evangelism, especially cross-cultural evangelism.

Some of us refuse to identify with the people we claim to be serving.  But this  was not the way of Christ, who emptied Himself to serve.

Other cross-cultural messengers of the gospel make the opposite mistake.  The Lausanne Covenant expressed the principle in these words: “Christ’s evangelists must humbly seek to empty themselves of all but their personal authenticity, in order to become the servants of others.”

We have to wrestle with the reasons why people reject the gospel, and in particular give due weight to the cultural factors.  Some people reject the gospel not because they perceive it to be false, but because the perceive it to be alien.

The gospel some European and North American missionaries had exported was a culture-Christianity, a Christian message that is distorted by the materialistic, consumer culture of the West. All of us need to subject our gospel to more critical scrutiny, and in a cross-cultural situation , visiting evangelist need humbly to seek the help of local Christians in order to discern the cultural distortion of their message.

Others reject the gospel because they perceive it to be a threat to their own culture.  But does the gospel we proclaim present people with other threats that are unnecessary, because it calls for the abolition of harmless customs or appears destructive of national art, architecture, music, and festivals, or because we who share it are culture-proud and culture-blind?

To sum up, when God spoke to us in Scripture He used human language and when He spoke to us  in Christ He assumed human flesh.  there is self-emptying and self-humbling in all authentic evangelism; without it we contradict the gospel and misrepresent the Christ we proclaim.


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