The Nature of World Evangelization

As I’ve had the opportunity to teach about missions over several decades, I’ve tried to include this expanded definition as often as possible. This brief definition, which I’ve borrowed from Ed Dayton, helps us get a better grip on the entire process of what Dayton labeled world evangelization, and we in Mandate generalize as missions.

As we begin, here is the entire quote, an introductory sentence followed by three steps toward world evangelization.

Because world evangelization is a task, it is essential to have a clear understanding of the goal of that particular task.

The nature of world evangelization is communication of the good news.

The purpose of world evangelization is to give individuals and groups a valid opportunity to accept Jesus Christ.

And the goal of world evangelization is the persuading of men and women to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and serve him in the fellowship of his church.

Dayton was brief, but we’re not going to be so restricted. I’d like to take his three main points and, over the course of the next three weeks, expand on each. Let’s get started with:

The nature of world evangelization is communication of the good news.

Good news is an oft-used English translation of the word gospel. In our English Bibles, the two terms are relatively interchangeable. If we ask an average group of American churchgoers to define gospel, though, they’ll probably talk about personal salvation, repentance and forgiveness of sin, etc., and they will not be wrong.

The website puts it this way:

The central truth of the gospel is that God has provided a way of salvation for men through the gift of His son to the world. He suffered as a sacrifice for sin, overcame death, and now offers a share in His triumph to all who will accept it. The gospel is good news because it is a gift of God, not something that must be earned by penance or by self-improvement (John 3:16, Romans 5:8-11, 2 Corinthians 5:14-19, Titus 2:11-14).

Looking at Jesus’ own words in the books we label the Gospels, He often ties the words good news or gospel with the phrase kingdom of God (as in Matthew 4:23, 9:35, and 24:14). This seems to come into play when Jesus taught about the two greatest commandments, as in Matthew 22:36-40:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.

And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

We can say from both of the previous illustrations that the gospel contains a vertical relationship (with God) and a horizontal relationship (with the world around us). Ideally, the good news begins with the inner change brought about by transferring our allegiance to God through Jesus Christ, which we call salvation. It continues with a renewing of our inner selves and a process of growth to become like Christ, which we call sanctification. It should then touch those around us through our lives and overt testimony, hopefully beginning with our immediately families (as seen time and again in the book of Acts), and extending from us to touch and improve our own society and, ultimately, the world. This might be summed up in Paul’s words from Ephesians 2:10, “. . . we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

That is the good news we must communicate to those who have not yet heard, and communicate it repeatedly even to those who have.