Should The Focus Be Evangelism?

More to the point, theologically, the Christian assembly is a fellowship of the redeemed. It is a manifestation, as well as an anticipation or foretaste, of the great assembly that Christ is building—the assembly of the firstborn in heaven that will be revealed on the last Day (Heb 12:22-24). The purpose of our earthly assemblies, therefore, is to fellowship together in what we already share—our union with Christ—as we listen to and respond to him together, and build his assembly by the words we speak.

This runs counter to the common (although often unspoken) assumption that one of the main aims of a church gathering is to be attractive to non-Christians—to draw them in, to intrigue them, and to evangelize them.

The Sola Panel | Is church for evangelism?

This certainly flies in the face of much of the “church growth” movement that we’ve been seeing. It also, interestingly enough, flies in the face of much of the emerging church movement as well (but not nearly all of it, let’s be clear). So what is the church to do then?

That said, it is interesting to note that in 1 Corinthians 14 the presence of an unbeliever or untutored person is assumed, hence Paul’s concern that what is said in church be intelligible to such a person. Further, 1 Corinthians 14 expects the gospel will be preached, for how else will an unbeliever be convicted of his sin and exclaim that God is truly among those gathered? But to preach the gospel does not mean that, every week, the sermon is targetted specifically and primarily at unbelievers. Surely, whenever we preach faithfully we are preaching the gospel!

So what does all this mean in practice? I don’t think the answer is to ‘dumb down’ the teaching. It does mean explaining jargon words (apostle, grace, justification, faith etc) and seeking to be clear, but it does not mean we don’t preach on the more complex passages of the Bible.

Philip Griffin commenting on Is Church For Evangelism?

I’m not sure what the entirety of my opinion is on this one. It just stuck me as an important thing to consider.

hat tip to:Between Two Worlds


  1. Ian I found your blog from JT’s blog post on this topic.

    Just commenting on the comment you posted by Philip. I don’t think one can definitely argue that 1 Corinthians 14 assumes the presence of unbelievers. Paul states:

    “1Co 14:23 Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad?”

    It is interesting to note that Paul does not say that all the unbelievers will think you are mad (with Paul assuming they are a normative part of the ‘congregation’), but only if an “unbeliever enter[s]”. It could therefore be argued that Paul assumes that unbelievers are not there primarily, but may, on occasion, enter.

    As you say in your concluding point, it is something “important…to consider.”

  2. Nathan:

    I agree with your assessment that Paul is not stating that there WILL be unbelievers. When I posted this I was more posting as an item of interest.

    I think that there needs to be a balance between teaching the believe and reaching the unbeliever. However, I do feel that “seeker-sensitive” churches do themselves and the seeker a great disservice when the Gospel is not preached. For me the major aspect of Philip’s response that deserves consideration is in regards to jargon. Don’t assume that everyone knows what you mean when you use it.

    I actually had a Sunday School class I was leading yesterday where we had an issue where the words used in the translation have different meanings now.

    I guess I view this as, “don’t dumb it down, but don’t assume they know what you are talking about.”

  3. I consider it important to explain jargon, but we need to remember that a lot of what people refer to as ‘jargon’ are actually Biblical words, ie. atonement, justification, propitiation, sanctification. So we need to explain them, and continue to use them, as opposed to replacing them with other words. There was a good discussion regarding this very topic on the last broadcast of The White Horse Inn where they interview Dr. R. C. Sproul. I’d encourage your readers to have a listen to it.

    *edited by Starlyth 9/8/08 to fix the URL.

  4. Please don’t misunderstand me! I absolutely agree that we cannot remove biblical language, so much gets lost if we water it down. I include not using propitiation (especially, but other words as well) as watering down the Gospel. It just has to be explained. So many pastors and church-people try to reach out, but dilute the very message they seek to deliver.

    The WHI episode with Dr. Sproul is on my “to listen to” list of many podcasts. I just downloaded it last night.

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