Nuggets of Fudge – Evangelism, Then and Now

For some time now I have been concerned and disappointed that so many people who are pastors, preachers, and other church leaders do not preach the gospel of Christ, and worse, some have made it clear they don’t know what the gospel is.

My beloved friend Edward Fudge shares some wisdom in his most recent gracEmail about evangelism today compared to what happened in the first century. We would do well to pay attention to his words and make some corrections if necessary.


Two of the most glaring contrasts between the evangelism reported in Acts and much evangelism done today involve the message itself. The word “evangelism” comes from the Latin (evangel) and Greek (euanggelios) root words for “gospel” or good news. News, of course, is the report of a deed or event. The message in some evangelism today is not good news at all, but at best good “do’s”–a list of things (varying by denomination) that the hearer is told to do to enjoy God’s favor; or, in other evangelism, at best “good views”–a system of doctrine that the hearer is told will bring God’s favor if faithfully learned and followed. These examples both differ from New Testament evangelism in two important ways. First, their message is not good news. Second, their message spotlights the men and women to whom it is directed, instead of spotlighting God who has done marvelous deeds of which the gospel brings the good news.

By contrast, the evangelistic reports in Acts summarizes parts of the story of Jesus’ life on earth, variously including his miracles, arrest, and unjust execution by the Romans, incited by the Jerusalem Temple establishment. Some reports also mention Jesus’ ascension, exaltation, and enthronement at God’s right hand. But the major element in this “good news”–the item in the apostolic spotlight–is this: “God raised him from the dead.” The gospel is about God, not about us. It tells the great deeds God has done for us, not good deeds we are to do for God.

The core of the apostolic gospel is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and its promise that we also can receive immortality from God and enjoy eternal life. This is so central to the evangelism reported in Acts, that when the apostles are put in prison in Jerusalem for preaching the gospel, the angel who releases them during the night encourages them to go to the Temple and “speak to the people all the words of this Life” (Acts 5:20). In conversion, God gives repentance that leads to life (Acts 11:18). When the gospel is heard and understood, people do one of two things: those who are appointed to eternal life, believe; those who reject the gospel judge themselves unworthy of eternal life (Acts 13:46, 48). Jesus went into hades, the realm of death, but he had no sin and death had no power over him. When he arose out of death and out from among all the dead, Jesus conquered death and the devil who ruled through fear of death. Because Jesus arose, all who are in Jesus, whom he represents, also will arise from death.

Edward Fudge


Social Networking for Jesus

In recent weeks I have had readers visit from about a dozen foreign countries and about 40 states. Amazingly, little ole’ me can type a post here, hit the publish icon with my mouse, and in less than 5 minutes have an email telling me someone from across the world has read my post and made a comment.

Who can imagine what the next decade, or the next 25 years will be like? I have a profile on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and some others. Some of my friends have even more. For about $39 I can do an impressive background check on almost anyone if I know their name, or telephone number, or address, and I can do it in about one minute.

I have enjoyed contacting old classmates and catching up with old friends from places I’ve lived over the last 50 years. I think last time I looked I had something over 700 friends on Facebook. I don’t know most of them but someone I know knows them so they wanted to be my friend. I have no idea why.

So I’m thinking today….just how effective is the social networking platforms for ministry, and more specifically for evangelism. One way to measure this is to compare 2010 to about 80 or 90 A.D.

A group of rag-tag fishermen, a tax collector, a doctor, and other roustabouts started to follow Jesus of Nazareth. He performed miracles, healed the infirm, opened blinded eyes, fed multitudes with a few loaves of bread and a few fish, raised the dead, and preached. His message was against the established religion of the day and he was considered by most of the church crowd to be quite a rebel.

You know the story, Jesus was executed after being convicted in a kangaroo court, and then after being buried for 3 days he was raised from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus was common knowledge in all the near countries in a short time.

These first century evangelists were common men and women who for the most part were uneducated, had very limited training in the Scriptures, didn’t like each other, many of them were dirt poor, yet they turned the world upside down for the cause of Christ. At once after the events of that first Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection the gospel swept across the land like the wind.

No printing presses for flyers or tracts, or Bibles. No telephones, no telegraphs, none of almost everything we take for granted today, and the record shows that those first century Christians were indeed very effective. And, the record is also clear that we are not very effective. Especially in this country we are loosing ground, not holding our own. Some of the sects are recruiting members at much higher rates. Why?

One would think that with all the technology, all the education, all the wealth, we should be blazing with evangelistic zeal. We aren’t.

Maybe we are too comfortable

Cars with nav systems, huge flat screen HDTV’s, cosmetic surgeons, lake houses and club memberships are standard fare for some of us. Even the poorest of us (in the U.S.A.) are rich compared to much of the rest of the world. We are full and happy, and making plans to build bigger barns.

We have no persecution

Severe persecution marked the history of the church for the first several centuries after Christ was raised from the dead. That persecution was the very thing God used to spread the people and thus the message of the good news far and wide. Christ promised it would come, and it did to them, and it turned out to be good for the gospel cause. Maybe we haven’t done anything threatening enough to be persecuted for.

Maybe we are off message

Those earliest gospel heralds preached Jesus, his death, burial, and resurrection. It was the resurrection that stirred up the opposition the most. We preach on it a lot on Easter Sunday but not a lot otherwise. We quote scripture to each other on Facebook and try to one-up each other with pithy quotes on Twitter, but there is precious little gospel out reach on the social platforms I know about.

Maybe we are going and doing in our own power

Jesus said “I have all the power in heaven and on earth and I’ll give it to you”. You go wait until you receive that power and then go be my witnesses and I’ll be with you, you have nothing to fear.” So, this bunch of guys who ran like rabbits before Jesus was crucified, less than two months later were mighty men of God who feared nothing but God. Maybe we should wait before God in prayer until we have that same power for gospel witness.

Maybe we need a new profile

Instead of thinking I’m Bob, a teacher, father, and avid football fan who is a Christian, we should be thinking I’m a Christian who happens to be a teacher, father, and football fan. Maybe a new identity would change our sense of worth and affect our work for Jesus and the gospel. A different profile might result in new priorities.

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21)