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ss nucleus - spring 2000,  Evangelism

Evangelism

Does the word evangelism send a shiver down your spine? Do you live in fear of being branded arrogant, or a hypocrite, or of being unable to present your faith in a clear, reasoned way? Then read on, for some snippets on the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of evangelism.

Why should we evangelise?

The greatest discovery

Nobody, and certainly no doctor, is exempt from the injunction openly to acknowledge Jesus:

‘Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven’ (Mt 10:32-33). The great Christian surgeon, Sir James Simpson, who introduced chloroform, was once interviewed by a newspaper reporter who asked ‘What was your most important discovery?’ ‘I discovered that I was a sinner and that Christ was my Saviour’ he immediately replied. This is the Spirit and unction we need to find again. The question is not, ‘Should doctors evangelise their patients?’ but, ‘How should doctors evanglise their patients?’ (Palmer B. Should doctors evangelise their patients? Nucleus 1996; 2-12, October)

Standing in the gap

2,600 years ago Ezekiel spoke to the nation of Israel whose sins were on the point of tearing her apart. At that time, God looked for someone to stand before him in the gap, averting the looming destruction (Ezk 22:30). Today, as Christians in medicine, we face a similar call. It is up to us to respond. (Pickering M. Editorial. Nucleus 1998; 1, January)

The gospel compels us

God, the author, sustainer, purpose and centre of all existence, the divine I AM (Ex 3:14), is the focus of eternity. He wants to prepare us for eternal fellowship with himself, by forgiving our sins, and changing us into the likeness of Christ by his Spirit (2 Cor 3:18). This is new birth. The Gospel message is not just a statement requiring assent, but a new life demanding commitment (Rom 6:17-18). We must therefore preach the Gospel both with words and with our lives (1 Thes 2:10). (Atkinson G. Compassion for the World’s Suffering. Nucleus 1996; 19-22, April)

How should we evangelise?

The centrality of Christ

Evangelicalism, in its overwhelming enthusiasm is becoming more offensive than is warranted by the gospel. Gimmicks and formulae abound – say these words and you’ll be saved; do this and you’ll receive the Spirit; do the other and you’ll spread revival. There has been a shift from the centrality of Christ to the centrality of the evangelistic method (Tong N. The Hand Bone’s Connected to the Wrist Bone. Nucleus 1991; 29-35, October).

Seeking a modern miracle?

Evangelism which is based around modern-day healing miracles is likely to be less than totally convincing. So is there no sign for the modern-day cynic? What is the authenticating evidence that Christian truth is really what it claims to be? Perhaps the real signpost is less spectacular but more convincing. ‘By this all men will know that you are my disciples,’ said Jesus, ‘if you love one another’ (Jn 13:35). The signpost for an unbelieving and cynical generation is the quality of the relationships in the Christian community, living under the cross. It is not our miracles but our love which should be the most powerful pointer to Jesus. It is commonplace, uncomplicated yet supernatural love, not the weird and spectacular miracle, that has the power to break through the hardened shell that the cynic surrounds himself with. If we wish to be pointers to Jesus then we need to pray, not for more miracles, but for more love. (Wyatt J. Healing miracles. Nucleus 1996; 21-24, July)

Honesty is essential

At all times our witness must be completely honest. There is no such thing as a ‘good witness’, only an honest witness. (Fisher R. Evangelism among Muslims. Nucleus 1997; 19-24, January)

The apostles’ example

The apostles’ evangelism was not just the simple proclamation of gospel truth, uncontaminated by cultural baggage of human argument. It was was done in an environment where the hearers felt comfortable, in words that made sense to them and in a manner which gave opportunity to raise objections. We are wise to follow their example. (Saunders P. Confident Christianity. Nucleus 1996; 24-25, October)

No compromise

The students at Balatonaliga, Hungary at the ICMDA congress were real examples of people living lives for Christ with no compromise. Their commitment to the gospel was staggering. Their obvious joy and their desire to see the good news spread within their countries often against fierce opposition (both political and religious) was very, very humbling to me as a western Christian. It made me reflect on our own home situation in the UK and on the unlimited freedom we have to proclaim Jesus crucified, limited only by our own apathy. (Chambers J. Hungary for God’s heart. Nucleus 1997;25-27, January)

Evangelism among Muslims

As Christians we tend to feel an obligation to be ‘nice’ whatever the situation. We often confuse being ‘nice’ with being ‘good’ or ‘spiritual’. We think that ‘being nice’ is part of our Christian witness; moreover we usually enjoy getting on well with people rather than quarrelling! But is it really right to respond in this way when Muslims tell us that ‘Jesus was never crucified’ or ‘You Christians have changed the Bible’? Often Muslims misinterpret our mild response to such remarks and the message that actually gets across is ‘Christians don’t react strongly because they don’t really care’. No, these are serious allegations and at the very least they are major mistakes. In saying such things Islam takes away the very heart of the gospel. A much more natural response, and one that is far better understood by Muslims, is to show our feelings. Of course we shouldn’t be rude or aggressive, but we do need to stand up boldly for the truth. We must introduce Muslims to the real Jesus, as he is set forth in the Bible and how we know him in our own experience. God is opening up new avenues for the gospel. Countries that have been closed to traditional paths of missionary work are opening wide, thanks to ethnic minorities living and studying in the UK. Muslims have come to us; they live in our country and speak our language. Many will return to influential positions in their own nations. Will they also return with the gospel? (Fisher R. Evangelism among Muslims: Islam - a threat or a challenge? Nucleus 1997; 19-24, January)

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