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Evangelism is the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ and a call to follow Him. Understanding evangelism necessitates a need to understand what the gospel is. Dr. Parrett wrote, “The Gospel is the good news about the God who has acted in history to save us.”[1] Paul makes this statement defining the gospel:

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:1-4).

Dr. Parrett commenting on the gospel says:

Despite its amazing depths, the Gospel can be quite simply summarized. In light of these summaries, the essence of the Gospel seems clear: God has intervened on behalf of fallen humanity to reconcile sinners to himself through his Son Jesus Christ. Central to that reconciling work … is the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross and his glorious resurrection from the dead.[2]

The Gospel “calls humans to respond to the good news of God, but if the divine initiative is rejected, the very same gospel becomes the criteria by which God will judge the person (Rom. 2:16)”[3] wrote Gene Green. Judgment will begin with the house of God and include those who do not obey the gospel of God (1 Pet. 4:17). Peter and Paul (I Pet. 1:17, 2 Cor. 5:10) declare that the judgment will be made on the basis of the deeds a person does. The Lord will take vengeance on those who do not obey the gospel. They will be punished with an eternal destruction from His presence (2 Thes. 1:6-10). This vengeance is not the result of a desire for retaliation but God’s just judgment. Mankind will be judged by the gospel of God and the Lord will take vengeance due to his justness on those who do not obey it.

The early church seems to have had urgency in preaching the gospel. The church began evangelizing in Jerusalem; then spread out to the entire known world in accordance with Jesus’ words in Luke 24:47. The record of the evangelization of Jerusalem is recorded in Acts 1:1-7. The gospel was then shared with Palestine and Samaria (Acts 6:8-9:31). Next Luke records in the book of Acts that the gospel spread on to Asia Minor (12:25-16:5), Europe (16:6-19:20), and Rome (19:21-28:31). As Acts 8:4 indicates, the disciples “went everywhere preaching the word.” In such a short amount of time Paul was able to proclaim that the gospel has been preached to every creature under heaven (Col. 1:23). Two historians during the second century wrote on this amazing feat. Justin Martyr wrote:

There is no people, Greek or barbarian, or of any other race, by whatever appellation or manners they may be distinguished, however ignorant of arts or agriculture, whether they dwell in tents or wander about in covered wagons, among whom prayers and thanksgivings are not offered in the name of the crucified Jesus to the Father and Creator of all things.[4]

Tertullian further wrote on the spread of the gospel, “We are but of yesterday, and yet we already fill your cities, islands, camps, your palace, senate, and forum. We have left you only your temples.”[5] These first century Christians had a strong motivation for evangelism. If Christians today were to be motivated in the same way it would produce the same results. In fact these results are being reaped in areas like India where the church is growing by the millions. In 2013 in just one work of the Lord’s church there over 500,000 conversions meticulously documented. See mission reports from Ron Clayton (a work overseen by the Shiloh Church of Christ in Hazel Green, AL).

Should short-term missionaries today have an urgency for sharing the gospel? Ivan Stewart, long time church of Christ evangelist and author of several books, details eighteen different sets of scriptures that outline an urgency to share the gospel. Mr. Stewart makes a strong case that God does desire Christians to have a sense of urgency about sharing the gospel.[6]

Is there a Biblical pattern of how Christians should share the gospel today? Paul’s custom was to preach the gospel to the Jews first in each city. Paul preached in the synagogues (Acts 13:5, 14; 14:1). Dr. McRay wrote, “The synagogue was the religious, cultural and social center of the Jewish community in every settlement of the Roman and Byzantine Period. In the first century, synagogues, like churches, met in homes, some of which were altered to suit the needs of a congregation at worship.”[7] Paul took the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 13:47-48; 14:7-18) once the Jews rejected Christ. Paul went everywhere preaching the gospel and he did not discriminate on who to share it with; this included the strong and the weak (1 Cor. 9:19-23).

After converting souls to Christ and establishing churches, Paul left Christians today a pattern to follow in teaching these new Christians. Paul only spent a few months to a couple of years teaching foundations before he moved on to establish other congregations. Dr. Elam, using this approach, has observed seventy-nine congregations established and 8,000 souls added to the church of Christ in New Zealand.[8] Dr. Elam goes on to write that the old paternalistic approach to missions, having a missionary stay with a new congregation twenty-five to thirty years, breeds dependency and is not based on Paul’s biblical approach to missions. In fact, after a congregation was established Paul’s missionary team belonged to the local church (examples include Antioch, Corinth and Rome), says Dr. Schnabel.[9]

As mentioned in a previous article the Biblical example of missions is not one of dependency or paternalism. When Paul planted churches you do not read of him supplying for their every physical need, building programs and leaving foreign missionaries for decades to prop up the church. In fact the longest time Paul spent consecutively with any one church plant that is recorded was in Corinth where he spent approximately 18 months to 2 years (Acts 18:11, 18) and in Ephesus and the surrounding areas (Acts 19:10). A person can read of these new church plants sending aid to other churches, being known for their benevolence (II Corinthians 8) and outreach (I Thessalonians 1:6-8) and suffering at the hands of pagans but many remaining faithful (I Thessalonians 3:7). Paul did not abandon these brethren (Acts 15:36). He visited the new Christians, prayed for them, wrote to them and encouraged them in their faith. At times he also left capable evangelists with them for a period of time (relatively brief in duration). All things that today missionaries can do as well, without breeding dependency.

Following in a brief example of the church plant in Thessalonica.

On Paul's second missionary journey in A.D. 49 he established the church in Thessalonica. Paul is accompanied by Silas and possibly Timothy (though he is not mentioned in Acts 17: 1-13) in this city (Acts 17:4, 14). Some scholars also say Luke was with Paul in Thessalonica (Acts 16:10). The only names that appear in Luke's account in Acts 17 inside Thessalonica are Paul and Silas. In Acts 17:1-2 Paul gives a reason for stopping in this city (unlike the cities he passed through: Amphipolis and Apollonia). The apparent reason is they had a "synagogue of the Jews" there and "as was his custom" he preached for three weeks reasoning with them in the synagogue about the Christ. In addition to the number of Jews who obeyed the gospel a large number of Greeks and leading women joined Paul. Thus the make up of the church was both Jew and Greek converts.

After Paul converted people to Christ many of the Jews became envious.

These Jews gathered other evil men of the city and attacked Jason and other Christians who harbored Paul and his companions (Acts 17:5-9). When these evil men did not find Paul they forced Jason and the other brethren to pay "security" and then let them go. The aggressiveness of the Jews led to Paul being sent away immediately to Berea by night (showing the concern the brethren had for his welfare).

The intensity in which the Jews attacked the brethren, and the concern they had in sending Paul away quickly informs the reader of the brevity of Paul's visit to Thessalonica. As previously mentioned Paul taught for three weeks in the synagogue (Acts 17:2). Additionally Paul would have needed enough time to preach to the pagans (1 Thessalonians 1:9) of the city to convert a "great multitude" of them (Acts 17:4). Exactly how much time Paul spent in Thessalonica is not stated but it would appear that it was more than three weeks but relatively brief. Likely Paul would have stayed longer if not for the Jews of the city.

It was impossible for Paul to preach the whole council of God in a month's time to the Thessalonians. So the church had more need for teaching (as one can learn from reading I & II Thessalonians) but there were some messages Paul did get across when he was physically with them.  As previously mentioned Paul was sent away to Berea by night to escape the evil men attacking Christians in the city (Acts 17:10). Paul then went to Athens were he waited for Timothy and Silas to rejoin him (Acts 17:15-16).

When Timothy arrived in Athens Paul sent him to Thessalonica to check on the new Christians there (I Thessalonians 3:1-2). Then Timothy returned with news from his trip to Thessalonica. Paul was prompted to write the church for several reasons which included eschatological error.  Either before or after sending Timothy to Thessalonica with what we call 1 Thessalonians today Paul went to Corinth (Acts 18). The second letter was sent by Paul not long after the first. "At least enough time lapses between Paul's initial preaching and his writing of 1 Thessalonians for the church there to have people who labored among them and were appointed over them 'in the Lord' (1 Thess 5:12). This of course would be a reference to elders. So within a matter of months to a couple of years elders were appointed at this new church.

Is an exact dating possible of the Thessalonian letters? In 1909 a gray limestone inscription was found near Delphi. The inscription reproduces a letter from emperor Claudius to the people of Delphi which includes the name of Gallio and a date. Gallio in Acts 18:12-17 was part of the tribunal of Paul in Corinth. "It has usually been supposed that the letter mentions Gallio as current proconsul of Achaia; in that case, since proconsuls normally entered on their tour of duty on 1 July, it would follow Gallio arrived in Achaia as proconsul on 1 July, A.D. 51. It would follow further that Paul's eighteen months in Corinth (Acts 18:11-17) lasted from the late summer of A.D. 50 to the spring of A.D. 52 from the late summer of A.D. 51 to the spring of A.D. 53, so that the later part of A.D. 50 A.D. 51 would be the date of 1 Thessalonians".

I Thessalonians was the earliest letter recorded in the New Testament.  It was written within 20 years of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection. So now that we understand a little context of the church at Thessalonica let's look at the first letter.

I Thessalonians 1:1-3   Paul reminds them of his prayers for them and commends them for their work of faith, labor of love and steadfastness of hope in Christ. This church was alive and working for the Lord.

I Thess 1:4-6 This church was being persecuted so much so that later Paul would address the reward of those who died previously for their faith (one example is in I Thess 4:13-18). Paul reminds them that instead of being depressed about those who have lost their lives we should encourage one another about their fate in Christ.

So this church was a working church, it was a loving church, it put its hope in Christ and it was suffering persecution. So when they faced persecution did they try to hide and stay out of the way? Let's see. Read I Thess 1:6-10. This new church who was only months or possibly a year or two old became an example to all the believers across Macedonia and Achaia. Not only were they known for their faith throughout the entire area. This church proclaimed God's word even when it was not popular. Even when it cost them their lives. This is a church that makes a difference.

This is a church that made an impact. Just take a look at how large Macedonia is on the map in the back of most Bibles. Today’s church has the same precious message of the gospel. It is the power of God for salvation. Paul said it this way in Romans 1:15-17: "So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written the righteous shall live by faith."

Christians today should be excited about the opportunity they have to evangelize. It is still the Lord's church and Christians are His people carrying His message, blessed with His armor and most importantly His Spirit. The saints serve a faithful God. If they will but do His will He will bless and reward them with a home eternally in Heaven.

What good does it do to teach someone moral principles and even feed the poor and cloth the downcast (which are also important but a study for another time) if Christians withhold from them how to become a child of the King? If they withhold from them how to have life that never ends, eternal riches and a mansion, robe and crown and a spot before the creator of the universe.

Today evangelism is not at the forefront of many congregations. There is no sense of urgency. Each day more lost souls die but many Christians are afraid to evangelize their family and friends. Brethren let all of the saints pray for courage to make an impact in this this state, this county and this community and within their own homes.

As mentioned previously the scriptures confirm that today Christians do not have the ability to lay hands on people to confer spiritual gifts as the apostles had. However the saints have something so much more precious. They have the complete word of God that is able to instruct, rebuke, teach and train. Christians need to lead people to Christ, teach them the Word of God, pray for them, write to encourage them, visit them, and spend a few months to possibly a few years (depending on their maturity) to encourage them but then move on and let them go forth and bring glory to God like the church in Thessalonica did. However the saints should not abandon them but continually follow-up just like Paul did with prayers, writings and visits. But the rest of the world needs the gospel as well so the saints should not be content with just one new church plant but move on to share the gospel with others.

As a missionary embarks on their effort to share the gospel they should connect everything they do to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is only in Christ a person can be saved. It is only in Christ that a person can be rescued from sin. It is only in Christ a person can escape eternal punishment. Finally remember to pray for boldness, courage and opportunities to share His good news with those throughout the world!


[1] Parrett and Kang, Teaching the Faith, Forming the Faithful, 103.

[2] Ibid., 101, 103.

[3] Gene Green, The Letters to the Thessalonians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2002), 291.

[4] William Hendrickson, New Testament Commentary: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Double Combination ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996), 51.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ivan Stewart, Go Ye Means Go Me (Oklahoma City, OK: privately printed, 1998), 18-19.

[7] McRay, Paul: His Life and Teaching, 122.

[8] Elam, The Mission Cry of the New Millennium, 158.

[9] Schnabel, Paul the Missionary, 393.

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