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I serve as a church planter in Virginia Beach, Va. My title, according to the church I serve, is evangelist. That means I am a minister called to proclaim the gospel in a particular community and to labor toward the organization of a local congregation of Christ’s body in that place.

The title evangelist can be confusing. It can give the impression that the pastor is the only evangelist in the church. It can lead people to believe that gospel proclamation is only for those who are called to ordained ministry. But this undermines the very goal of church planting—the establishment of a body of worshiping witnesses in a particular location.

You see, the local church is a body of worshipers. When we evangelize, it is to bring new worshipers into this body. The purpose of evangelism is not simply to “get people saved.” The purpose of evangelism is to make known the God of the Bible in His Son Jesus Christ. When people come to know the Father, through faith in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they become worshipers. Another name for worshipers is disciples. The great task of the church is to “make disciples of all nations.” But how does someone become a disciple? Through an act of worship: “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).

The local church is more than an assembly of worshipers, though. Worship is the center of the Christian life. Yet, while all of life may be worshipful, we do not always live in the holy of holies of corporate worship. Our lives are punctuated by brief moments on the mountaintop of the Lord’s immanent presence as we gather on Sunday. But what is our calling in the much longer space between Lord’s Days? The answer is that we are to be witnesses of the risen and reigning Lord Jesus Christ.

A witness is someone who gives testimony to what he knows or has experienced. A Christian is a witness to the truth of the gospel. He is a witness to the incarnation, virgin birth, sinless life, substitutionary atoning death, resurrection, ascension, and present mediatorial reign of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. These realities we take hold of by faith, not by sight. They shape how we think about everything, thrilling our hearts with the “expulsive power of a new affection” so that we begin living holy lives in an unholy world. We testify to a living Savior who is all our righteousness and all our hope, and who is coming a second time for our salvation. We bear witness to Christ, not as detached observers but as those who have experienced Him in our hearts by the inward work of the Holy Spirit.

Every member of the church has a vital part to play in the great unfolding drama of redemption.

However, our witness in this world is not limited to what we believe in our hearts or how we live our lives. The gospel is, after all, a message. It is a message that has brought us from darkness into light. It is a message that has brought us from death to life. It is a message that has brought us from misery and despair into the joy of fellowship with God and His people in the local church (1 John 1:3–4). It is a message we cannot keep to ourselves. It is a message that must be proclaimed.

Local gospel proclamation is the means by which the whole church makes known the glory of God and His great love for the world in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Ministers are called to proclaim the gospel officially, as ambassadors of the kingdom of God. But gospel proclamation is more than the formal preaching and teaching of the gospel by Christ’s ordained servants. The whole church is involved in the work of proclaiming Christ. Every member of the church has a vital part to play in the great unfolding drama of redemption. Christ is at work not only in the worship but also in the witness of His people.

So, how do we proclaim Christ and the gospel as His worshiping witnesses?

We recognize that gospel proclamation begins in the local church. It begins with our faithful, enthusiastic participation in the body of Christ. We make public worship our highest priority in life. Remember, we are proclaiming Christ. But unless we proclaim Him as worthy of the highest place in our lives—the place of worship—our words will not penetrate jaded postmodern ears.

We commit ourselves to earnest and fervent prayer. As John Bunyan said so memorably, “We can do many things after we pray, but we can do nothing until we have prayed.” We pray for the preaching of the Word on the Lord’s Day. We pray that the Word would bear fruit in the hearts and lives of all who hear it. We pray that the Word would bear fruit in our own hearts and lives, making us more effective witnesses of Christ. We pray for opportunities to proclaim the gospel in the regular routines of daily life.

We love our neighbors as ourselves. We consider what God has done for us in Christ. We consider God’s love in causing us to hear the gospel when we were dead in our sin. And we respond to that love. We overcome the fear of man by faith. We love those in our little mission fields with the love of Jesus Christ. We invest time in them. We invite them into our homes. We invite them to church. We love them enough to speak to them of Christ.

How is any of this possible? Because Christ Himself is with us locally by His Word and Spirit: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

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From the November 2018 Issue
Nov 2018 Issue