Author: Cristian Franco
Category: Proclamation Evangelism
To facilitate a truly global conversation, we ask Christian leaders from around the world to respond to the Global Conversation’s lead articles. These points of view do not necessarily represent the Lausanne Movement. They are designed to stimulate discussion from all points of the compass and from different segments of the Christian community. Please add your perspective by posting a comment so that we can learn and grow together in the unity of the Spirit.
A response to our lead articles this month:
Nothing Rhymes with Orange. False. Nothing and Orange do not Rhyme - Rev Richards Gibbons
Preach The Gospel Wherever You Go - Use Words if You Have to - Rev Derek Simpson
Toward a Biblical Approach to Understanding Proclamation Evangelism - Thomas Johnston
If we, as South American Christians, want to respond to our Lord Jesus’ commission and carry out a permanent and effective integral evangelization – one that will transform men and women individually, addressing all aspects of life-, we should reflect on every action and behavior, evaluate the fruit obtained, and think of the challenges ahead, both in the near future and mid and long-term future. For it would be tragic if we failed to escape the immediacy undermining all around at the pace of anxiety and if we did not know how to implement new methodologies that may serve as communication tools of the eternal message of salvation.
Now facing our future as a Christian church, what should we be considering to make our evangelization efforts more effective? Following are some possible actions:
1.- Announcing Jesus Christ (John 12.32)
Though it’s sad to admit it, many churches in our context have ceased to preach about Jesus. Little by little, they have walked away the blessed Gospel and have given in the pulpit to a preaching discourse that has nothing to do with the Word of Life that does have the power to transform man.
Terms like “sin”, “blood”, “forgiveness”, “repentance”, “sacrifice” and some other of the kind have disappeared from the message these churches are proclaiming, and the name of Christ is used just as a mere dressing to season a bunch of expressions that have no taste nor flavor and lack power to transform lives in a radical way.
Then we should not be surprised at discovering that despite figures and statistics, crowded temple halls and hands up in praise, our continent still shows high rates of corruption, drug addiction, discrimination and all evils the Gospel can change when received with faith, repentance, and humility in the heart of man.
Let’s put it clear and let’s believe it once and for all: no Christianity is possible without Christ! No transformation in society will be possible if we do not allow Jesus come and take His place, both in our relationship with God as in our everyday life!
2.- Reaching all people (Romans 1.14)
We need to readapt the evangelism strategies so that we can reach all people, and we should just stop “fishing in the fishbowl”. Though it may have lost some strength and meaning because of so much repetition, this idea that we are wasting so many resources in the Lord’s name, in unfruitful efforts, exhausting activism and compromise the Lord has never asked from His church, should make us feel ashamed.
The Lord commanded us to reach people from all walks of life: the rich and the poor, socialists and capitalists, heterosexuals and homosexuals, the Jews and the Palestinians, children and adults, the youth and the elders, men and women, celebrities and ordinary people, intellectual and uneducated people, the powerful and the oppressed, the healthy and the sick, the clean and the dirty, the hungry and the un-hungry, the charismatic and the shy, believers and atheists. Why then don’t we come into an agreement and just do what we have to do?
Sometimes I think of what would happen if us Christians could just agree on three aspects: seriously studying our societies and see which areas remain still unreached, joining our efforts
to effectively reach each area with a message and a concrete and practical expression of love and deciding to invest our money, time, talents and efforts to carry out the Great Commission the Lord has given us.
In Latin America we need to recover an evangelization approach exclusively motivated by our love to God and to our neighbor (John 3.16; 1 John 3.16). A true evangelist will beg the Father that in the power of the Holy Spirit, he can announce Jesus with passion and intelligence to as many people as possible, considering them as an indicator of the number of lives transformed by Him, and not as if racing to rank first in the soul-winning statistics (Matthews 9.36).
3.- Communicating clearly (1 Corinthians 14.11)
Let’s be honest and sincere: people who have no relationship with Jesus as their Lord and Savior sometimes finds it hard to understand what we say or what we believe. It’s amazing to see how many men and women become so inspired when they listen to a simple though deep explanation of the Gospel, free of religious stylistic devices.
That’s why we need to take seriously this idea of getting to know our culture, of reading the books people read, of paying attention to popular music, of loving our roots which does not mean to fall in fanaticism or nationalism that only bring fight and division.
It would not be fair and we should not allow ourselves to communicate Jesus’ message with an obscure jargonized language. Let’s keep the message clear! Let’s talk about benefits and also of responsibilities! Promises and obedience! Blessings and requisites!
4.- Providing opportunities to participate (Acts 2.46-47)
One of the main shortages of Christianity today is the poor participation we give people in the development of congregational life. Yes, it is true that there have appeared new methodologies that have succeeded in decentralizing church service life so that every Christian can rediscover his or her privilege and responsibility as a priest for the Lord. However, we need to say that sometimes these structures can only reproduce just the undesired result, thus generating a multiplication of activities and commitments that will end up choking the share of freshness of those who should grow in faith, develop healthy families and serve the Lord in the midst of society.
As Christians, we need to recover our Master’s capacity for good listening. We talk too much! For this reason: let’s change our strategy and let’s listen to people more – and this, regardless of the fact we like what they say or not – and let’s pay attention to what they say. We would learn so much if we just were willing to listen to people more! I’m sure we would be more effective in our mission and we would know what to give if we just did so.
5.- Making disciples (Romans 8.29)
How surprised we would be if we just made a survey among the congregation members and we asked them which is the main goal in Christian life. Some would reply: -“Evangelizing”, others would say: -“Changing society”, and some other would say: -“Living to worship God”. The striking thing here is that these aspects of a life of faith and many other more are the ones that every person loving Jesus and serving Him as Lord and Savior should be experiencing, but by no means they are the main goal, rather, the consequence – the fruit – that should naturally follow a true Jesus’disciple.
The goal of goals, the main purpose, what God desires with every man and woman is to take them
to continuous improvement and maturity – character! – so that we can look like Jesus more and more. In other words: becoming like Jesus is the fundamental goal in Christian life. The rest will come naturally if we maintain this reality in perspective.
There lies then one of the major problems of Christianity today and not only in South America but in every nation of the planet: that every believer can be transformed into a disciple of Jesus, someone who will dedicate every minute of his or her life to imitate – follow, obey! – his or her Master.
All people with faith in Jesus should be asking themselves at the end of the day:
-“Today, according to the Bible teachings, do I look more like Jesus than yesterday?” If the answer is “No”, we should postpone any activity, event or responsibility, repent and – in the power of the Holy Spirit – seek the unmovable Rock of centuries as our foundation.
It’s clear: we should not win proselytes that will adopt an external format but we should cooperate with God in having people become transformed by Jesus’ love, so that our Creator’s image and likeness is expressed in their own lives.
6.- Planning the future (Romans 14-23-25)
Latin American culture as such does not usually favor a strategic planning towards the future. If anyone were asked about the plans of the Christian church for the next fifty years in the region, he or she would probably have no answer. In fact, if anyone were just asked about the projects for the next five years, he or she would also provide no answer!
Let’s pay attention to Apostle Paul, who shows us – in the Book of Acts and in his letters– how he used to plan looking toward the future, regardless of his mood and feelings, spiritual opposition, lack or abundance of resources.
For this, all Christianity representatives should have a round for dialogue and, in a humble attitude, they should set themselves to outline the real scenarios in this continent. In other words: we should define which are the demands and the tendencies (where are our societies heading for?) and to focus our actions toward the future, looking into the past– as in a thanks-giving act and wiling to learn from History – and also looking into the present, without neglecting the urgent and immediate needs that must be addressed as well.
An agenda looking toward the future – fifty, twenty or ten years ahead – would make us think beyond our own generation (no matter whether we will see our plans come true or not) and to design the steps we need to fulfill our mission in the place the Lord has placed us to be His witnesses. It’s about thinking of the future in a humble, serious and responsible way!
There is a pastor’s prayer that has deeply moved me and that goes like this: -“What will my grandchildren say when they find out about what I did in the past thinking of the future? Will they say I was a responsible person or that I just resigned to live my reality and to leave things unchanged? Lord! That I never give in to the control of this kind of individualism that makes us think of today and discourages us from looking toward the future!”
There is this beautiful Latin American song that talks about one of the desires that all Jesus’ disciples should cherish: “The Americas will be for Christ”, written by Guatemalan Alfredo Colón many decades ago:
THE AMERICAS WILL BE FOR CHRIST
The Americas will be for Christ
He is the only way to God.
It will see what eyes have not seen
When it walks in the path He has trod.
The Americas will be for Heaven
The Heaven that Jesus prepared.
One day I will fly from this earth,
To be with Jesus there.
The people who have been sleeping
Will know that God loves them in truth:
Alaska and the United States
Mexico and also Canada.
The peoples who make up the Isthmus,
And those of the south will know,
Without Christ there can be no Christians;
Without Christ all to Satan will bow.
Colombia, Panama and Venezuela,
Bolivia, Paraguay and Ecuador
Will have peace from God that comforts;
The Redeemer’s peace evermore.
And Chile, Peru, Argentina,
And Cuba, Uruguay and Brazil,
And the group of sea-girt islands
God’s blessings also will fill.
Beautiful Guatemala and Honduras,
Lovely Nicaragua as well
Will have, in future ages,
New life of which to tell.
And God will bless Costa Rica,
And God will bless El Salvador –
Nations that, though small,
Are great in the peace of the Lord.
Well, that’s our Lord and Savior’s desire! But to a great extent, the fulfilling of such a big desire will depend directly of how we decide to respond to our Lord’s commandments and how we deal with the challenges in this very precise time in History.
God bless us all as we obey His Great Commission.
Cristian Franco, Evangelist, Director of Fundación Cercanos (Nearby Foundation)
Buenos Aires, Argentina