Christians Need To Be Evangelized, Too
I had the privilege to present on the subject of evangelism during a lunch session at this summer’s EPC General Assembly. My talk was sponsored by the Westminster Theological Society, which was an honor. Unfortunately, I’m a technological doofus and failed to hit the right button on my mic to record the talk. Below is a rough paraphrase of my talk: “Christians Need To Be Evangelized, Too”. I started my talk by reading Isaiah 60:1-6.
My primary conversation partner in this talk is John Murray through his “The Message of Evangelism” and “The Church and Mission”, both of which are in his Collected Writings, vol. 1. We typically define ‘evangelism’ as something like “Sharing the gospel with those who are not saved or who are outside the church.” My premise is that our terms, practices, and approach to theology should be shaped by the vocabulary of the Bible. And biblically speaking, the definition of evangelism only needs the first part of our normal definition: sharing the gospel.
There are three biblical terms related to this idea of evangelism: euangelion, a noun which means gospel or the good news; eungelizo, a verb which means preaching the gospel or gospeled/gospeling. As Aaron White mentioned in his earlier talk, this verb is often translated in different ways, but it all comes down to this idea of gospeling. And finally, there is eungelistis, a propounder, proclaimer of the gospel. It is from this last noun that we get the term evangelist.
We don’t do our theology by concordance, but the meaning and use of these terms helps set our theology of evangelism. And what I hope to show is that Christians need to be gospeled, too. Christians need to be evangelized. I hope to orient us biblically to this and encourage us to that task.
To be evangelized, eugelizoed, is to be gospeled. To evangelize is do the working of gospeling. There is a need to do this for Christians, and not just because of the volume of ignorance in our churches. There would be nothing more disheartening for a pastor than to survey his congregation with the question “What is the gospel?” and read the results. Those of us who have done officer interviews and ask this question have far too often been dismayed as we are met with answers focusing on personal experience, transformation, and comfort, but not the affirmation that the gospel is the good news that Jesus is king and has inaugurated his kingdom through his death and resurrection.
No, beyond even this problem Christians need to be evangelized because that is the mission and nature of the church. The typical definition of evangelism is appealing to so many of us because we tend to think of salvation, the gospel, as getting us over a threshold. That salvation is about entering the kingdom of God, and therefore that evangelism is the work of getting people over that hurdle. Yet, Westminster Larger Catechism 159 on the preaching of the word says ministers are to aim at their hearer’s conversion and salvation. We are to preach to convert and save. Salvation is about the gospel and the gospel is about all who Jesus is and has done, not just getting in. To evangelize is to minister for both conversion, which is an aspect of salvation, and salvation in its entirety.
We all know the three marks of the church are preaching the word, administering the sacraments, and practicing church discipline. But Westminster Confession of Faith 25.4 actually says that the church’s purity depends on the doctrine of the gospel preached and received. The mission and nature of the church is the proclamation and reception of the gospel, not to those outside the church, thought that is good, but to the people of the church.
This is because the church is composed by, bounded and shaped by, the word of God. This is an old Protestant-Catholic debate about whether the church makes the word or the word makes the church, but as faithful Protestants we say that God’s word makes the church. That is, the word of the gospel makes the church. The life and nature of the church are determined by God’s word.
The Puritan preacher John Owen talked about this in commenting on Galatians 3:17. Abraham received the promise of God, God’s word, in receiving his covenant. God’s pledge is for salvation and all that accompanies it, which in Paul’s argument in Galatians 3 is namely the structure of the covenant people of God, from Abraham to Moses to the church. Owen says that here God is evangelizing Abraham. God, by his covenant, is gospeling Abraham. The gospel and word of God has always been the only way to God, and God, by covenantally evangelizing Abraham, is making the covenant community, that is, making the church.
This logic shows up all throughout the New Testament. For instance, in Galatians we see all over that the gospel is something that Paul proclaimed to and used to form the church. Hebrews 4 utilizes this idea when it says that the gospel came to those in the old covenant (4:2) but it only benefits those who receive it by faith and continue to receive it (4:6). The covenant promises of God to his people are gospel promises. The church in the old and the church in the new is formed and bounded by the word of God.
This theme is prominent in Ephesians 2, with the Gentiles, previously “strangers to the covenant promises” (2:12) being no longer strangers (2:19) because he came to them to preach peace (2:17). The ESV translates 2:17 as “And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.” In the Greek “peace” is only used once; the first instance, translated “preached peace”, is literally eungelizo – gospeled. The people of God were constituted through the proclamation of the covenant gospel promises of peace. And this covenant gospel work continues past the initial merging into God’s family, but on into the ongoing building and joining together into the body of Christ by the indwelling of the Spirit (2:20-22). Paul says as much in Ephesians 3:6, “Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Christians are members of the body of Christ that Jesus himself is building by his Spirit through his covenant gospel.
The proclamation of this promise, the ministry of the word, is what builds the church. The gospel ministry of the apostles and prophets is building up the church, with Christ himself being its cornerstone (2:20). The gospel does not simply convert the church, but builds, forms, and maintains it. As Sinclair Ferguson likes to observe, who is the “he” of Ephesians 2:17 who preached the gospel to the Ephesians? Jesus never went to Ephesus during his earthly ministry. Yet the “he” certainly is Christ. Jesus himself is the one who gospeled the Ephesians because the ministry of the word of God truly is Christ proclaiming himself.
The word of God makes the church, makes the body of Christ, because the word of God written participates in the word of God incarnate. When we receive God’s word, it delivers to us Christ. The word of God makes the church because in it the church makes contact with and receives Jesus. As Scott Sealy observed in his earlier talk, the Second Helvetic Confession says “Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed, and received by the faithful.” The preached word of God is God’s word, not because the pastor can add to God’s revelation, but because through the proclamation of the word Christ eungelizos, gospels, himself to his people. Through the word given to the people of God, the Word gives himself to the people of God.
The gospel is good news, proclaimed. As Rudolph Bultman famously put it, Jesus the gospel proclaimer becomes the proclaimed. Christ is now the object of proclamation. Yet, Jesus never stops being the one who proclaims the gospel because he is the one building, gospeling, his church by his word. The proclaimer became the proclaimed, but remains the substance of the proclamation. Proclaiming the gospel is not only delivering information about good news, but delivering the substance of the gospel: the person of Jesus.
We’re familiar with this from covenant theology. Westminster Confession of Faith 7.5 says that the covenant of grace was administered (i.e. delivered) differently throughout history. In 7.6 it states “Under the gospel, when Christ, the substance, was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.” Christ is the substance of the covenant and he is dispensed (i.e. delivered or administered) to his people through the preaching of the word. As Presbyterians we frequently discuss this when it comes to the Lord’s Supper. Christ is present and feeds us with himself in the Supper, by faith. But the Lord’s Supper does not give us anything different from the preached word because they both give us Jesus. Not different parts of him, but Christ himself.
This is what Paul has in mind in Colossians 2:17 when assessing the rites and rituals by which the covenant was administered in the Old Testament. “These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” Christ is the substance. He is the reality of the covenant and word of God. The preaching of the word of God is gospeling the church because it is delivering to us the person of Christ.
Like with Ephesians 2:17, Paul is getting at something similar in Galatians 3:1. “It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.” Jesus was not crucified in Galatia, nor is Paul saying that the Galatians all traveled to Jerusalem for the crucifixion. There is some debate over whether Paul is referring to the administration of the Lord’s Supper or the preaching of the word, but the point is the same: in the worship of the church the word of God powerfully exhibits and delivers Christ the substance to his people. It is through Christ’s word dwelling in us that we are built up (Colossians 3:16). We are told in 1 Peter 1-2 that the grass withers and the flower fades, but God’s word endures forever, and this word is the good news (eungelizo, gospeling, 1:25) by which Christ called us as he build us like living stones into his dwelling place (2:4-6). This is the argument of Ephesians 1-4: that Christ is the head of his body, the church, as he fills all in all, through the ministry of the word that he has given his church in his ascension. When the gospel is proclaimed Jesus is presented before his church as he builds us up himself. Union with Christ is the nature of the church, which Christ the gospel is effecting by his word.
Christ is building his church through his word, through his gospel. The domain of Christ’s word is the building up the church as Christ delivers himself to his people in the gospel. As we are evangelized. If you haven’t read John Webster’s The Domain of the Word, I highly commend it on this topic.
So to summarize where we are: God’s word, the gospel, makes the church. The church is formed, sustained, grown, through gospeling. Gospeling is giving to us Jesus, the substance of God’s word. This is what it means to be evangelized, and why Christians need to be evangelized. This talk by Simeon Zahl helps capture why this matters for Christian transformation. Our practices reflect how we believe people are changed into the image and likeness of God. The biblical structure for how people are to be made like that is through gospeling by God’s word, and our practices should reflect that.
The Scope of the Gospel
Many of us have probably heard Tim Keller’s comment that the gospel is not the ABCs of the Christian faith, but the A to Z of the Christian faith. Keller doesn’t mean that the message of conversion is all there is to the Christian life, but that the gospel informs and touches on all aspects of the Christian faith. It is the shape of the Christian faith. Karl Barth gets at something similar in his work Evangelical Theology. One of Barth’s opening observations is that evangelical theology treats the God of the gospel; theology is about God, and God is about the gospel. There is an inextricable link between the being of God and his gospel. To touch on one is to touch on the other, and the gospel is God-shaped because it is the manifestation of God’s being.
This gets to the heart of one of Murray’s key insights (and yes, Murray and Barth would hate being associated together like this). No part of revelation, no part of God’s word, is unfit for proclaiming the gospel. All of God’s revelation is revelation of his character, which is the foundation and wellspring of the gospel. Ministers of the gospel are to proclaim the full counsel of God as Paul boldly claimed in Acts 20. All of God’s counsel is fit for proclaiming the gospel.
A scriptural example of this is Paul’s address to the Athenian Areopagus in Acts 17:22-31. Paul calls the Athenians to repentance, but notice what is absent from his gospel presentation. Jesus is not named, and the crucifixion, justification by faith, the kingdom of God, and salvation by grace alone are not mentioned. The resurrection barely gets a passing reference. Instead Paul bases his appeal on God as creator and having a claim on the Athenians. God made you, you’re his, so repent before it’s too late! This is from Paul, the same guy who said he resolved to know nothing but Christ crucified! The same guy who said he delivered of first importance that Christ died for our sins! He didn’t even mention Jesus or the cross!
The central message of the gospel is not the exclusive message of the gospel. The whole scope of scripture contains the message of the gospel.
Another example of this idea recently arose on Lutheran Twitter when Hans Fiene, the Lutheran Satire guy, said that Holy, Holy, Holy is a terrible hymn for Trinity Sunday. “It’s not a great hymn because it’s infected with the Calvinist error of thinking that listing God’s attributes is the same thing as proclaiming the Gospel.” The best response was from Steven Wedgeworth, “Calvinists do indeed believe that the gracious gospel of Christ is a free overflow of God’s very nature.” This is John 3:16 logic: if all of God’s revelation is fit to proclaim the gospel because the gospel flows from the being and character of God, then it is certainly appropriate to proclaim the gospel out of God’s holy and loving character.
The full scope of scripture is fit to proclaim the gospel and was used so within the biblical narrative for the life of the church. For instance, in Acts 15:35 following the Jerusalem Counsel, Paul and Barnabas returned to the church in Antioch “teaching and preaching the word [eungelizoing; gospeling] of the Lord.” Handling God’s word was gospeling the church, which is what Paul and Barnabas were still doing after years of serving this congregation. All of scripture is designed for this purpose. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, following the famous affirmation of scripture’s inspiration, Paul says that scripture is intended to complete or perfect the man of God, for the sake of every good work. This idea of completion or perfection, of being fitted, is what Paul is aiming at in Ephesians 1-4 when he speaks of the church being built up into the body of Christ, towards fullness and maturity, through the gospel. All of scripture serves this overarching purpose. All of scripture is profitable for the work of the gospel.
Christians need to be evangelized to grow from milk to solid food. And Christians need to be evangelized because the work of the church is the ministry of the word, and the ministry of the word is the ministry of evangelism. Christians need to be evangelized because Christians need to have scripture proclaimed to them.
Which brings us to the evangelists, the eungelistis. This term is used only three times in scripture: In Acts 21:8 to refer to the office of Phillip, in 2 Timothy 4:5 when Paul encourages Timothy to do the work of an evangelist and fulfill his ministry, and Ephesians 4:11 in the list of offices Christ gave the church in his ascension. This latter instance is particularly relevant. The logic of Ephesians 4:7-16 is that in his ascension Christ gifted the church with the means by which the church would continue to be built on himself as the cornerstone. This is the apostolic ministry (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers), which has the purpose of the doing the work of the ministry in perfecting the saints, by building up the body of Christ into maturity, into the fullness of Christ, growing into Christ, knowing the Son of God in faith, and being joined and fitted together as his body. The gospeling that Jesus accomplished in 2:17 is carried out in his church by this apostolic order through the ministry of the word. Apostles-teachers are executing this gospel-word ministry. The body of Christ grows through the word dwelling in it (Colossians 3:16), and apostolic ministry of the word aims at internalizing this gospel, indwelling the saints, through the proclamation of Christ’s gospel. This is how Jesus reigns over his body during his session at God’s right hand. This is how the man of God is perfected by God’s word for every good work.
Now, John Calvin held that the office of evangelist mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 expired in the early church along with the office of apostle. Calvin was followed by titans of Reformed Scholasticism, such Peter van Mastricht, the favorite theologian of Jonathan Edwards, and Herman Witsius, whose Economy of the Covenants is the standard historical articulation of covenant theology. This view was held by George Gillespie, the young Scottish commissioner to the Westminster Assembly, whose perspective was codified in the Westminster Presbyterial Form of Church Government. In recent years this interpretation was also expressed by Herman Bavinck and the incomparable biblical scholar Herman Ridderbos. While Calvin himself did hold open the slight possibility that evangelist as an office could pop up from time-to-time in extraordinary historical moments, the mainstream of the Reformed tradition has held that this office did not continue past the apostolic era of the church’s founding. The reason to list all of this is because it’s probably unusual to hear someone say that “evangelist” as an office or specific calling is ceased. But the dearth of specific references to eungelistis in scripture and mainstream Reformed theology support this perspective.
What’s the point? The gospel, the euangelion, is still propounded without eungelistises. The duty to proclaim the gospel through the word of God went from apostles to pastors and teachers. The work of evangelism, the work of gospel ministry, was given to the church and continues on through offices given the church to that end: pastors. Even if you think evangelist as an office continues on to the present, the logic of Ephesians 2:20 and 4:11 is that the foundational work was accomplished through the apostles and is primarily carried on in the present through pastors.
This is what Paul means when he calls himself and the other apostles “stewards” of God’s mystery (1 Corinthians 4:1). It was only through his calling that he was made a minister of God’s gospel (Ephesians 3:7). It belongs to those who stand in continuity in calling and office with the apostles (pastors) to administer the gospel through God’s word. Pastors are the stewards of God’s gospel.
Implications for Evangelism
There are four implications for carrying out the ministry of evangelism.
First, pastors are to declare the full counsel of God. Murray when discussing the content of evangelism urges pastors to emphasize God’s election, limited atonement, and total depravity. Not what we would expect, is it? Murray points out that all of these teach the full and complete grace of God and total inability of the sinner in salvation. These points are often missed in evangelistic training, but are at the heart of the gospel. And all of these are part of the scriptural message given to the church.
When Jesus commands the apostles to go and makes disciples in Matthew 28:19-20, he instructs them to disciple by teaching observation of all that Christ had commanded them. As Bob Godfrey has pointed out, Jesus said all. Teach them to observe all that I have commanded. For the church to do less is to disobey Christ’s evangelistic commission. A few years back a famous pastor said that we need to unhitch our gospel presentation from the Old Testament. He didn’t mean get rid of the Old Testament, but that we should stop leading with some of the more obscure passages that trouble the sensibilities of the modern American. Either way is bad: the full scope of evangelistic scripture should be taught in obedience to Jesus.
I once attended an evangelical megachurch (not EPC) and the pastor told everyone present he would only ever teach what was relevant to them. He said he’d never teach on infralapsarianism or supralapsarianism. These are different doctrinal schemes of organizing and thinking through God’s eternal decrees of creation, sin, and salvation. As this pastor spoke I couldn’t help but think “You’re short-selling your people, missing ways to minister to them, and teaching them to ignore parts of scripture.”
Last week I had a young man, agnostic, come into my office to talk about God. He had studied the moral idea of God and had lots of opinions and questions. “All sin demands justice, and the only justice for sin is death. If you sin after you’re saved, someone needs to die again.” Know what doctrine is helpful in addressing this? Limited atonement, because Christ has completely satisfied God’s justice by his death. “If God is the unmoved mover who determines all things in advance, including salvation and damnation, did he just make me for the purpose of reprobation?” Know what doctrinal framework is helpful here? Infralapsarianism vs supralapsarianism! And the answer to his questions comes from Westminster Shorter Catechism 1: The chief end of man [the reason God made you!] is to glorify and enjoy him forever. The full scope of scripture is profitable for gospeling.
Pastors, don’t grow lazy, stagnant, and repetitive in your work and mind. The temptation post-seminary is to breathe easy and overly relax. Resist that. Study. Work out your mind for the sake of the church. The salvation of your congregation depends on it. Hebrews 5:11 is that verse where the author berates his readers for being too dumb to understand what he needs to teach them. It follows all that intricate and archaic stuff on Melchizedek. Commenting on this verse, John Owen reminds us that the Holy Spirit didn’t record it in vain. Owen exhorts “That it be the design of every faithful minister, in the course of his ministry, to withhold nothing from those committed unto his charge that belongs to their edification, as do all the things that are written in the Scripture.”
Withhold nothing! Not Melchizedek, the genealogies, Leviticus, the dimensions of the tabernacles, nothing. Love your people, don’t withhold God’s word from them. This is what Paul meant when he told Timothy to fulfill his ministry. Now, don’t do it all at once. “In the course of his ministry.” Understand your congregation and the season you and they are in, but withhold nothing. As my old pastor Steve Brown always says, Don’t hold back! Trust the Holy Spirit, that he did not record anything in vain. This is how the word of Christ dwells richly in his people.
Second, your congregation is your mission field. There’s a sign in the back of my sanctuary, and my elders, and pastoral my predecessor who is here today, already know I think this, which says “You are now entering the mission field.” I would love to take that down. Because the church is the field mission. The mission field is out there, too, of course, but it is inside the church. And the church needs to learn to think of itself not just as those who are giving to the mission but are the recipients and objects of the mission.
Pastors, evangelize your congregation. Westminster Confession of Faith 15.1 says “Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ.” An evangelical grace is a gospel grace. This is the only doctrine described this way in the Westminster Standards and is the only specific doctrine commanded to be preached. And it is to be preached to the whole church. Repentance unto life is not just for getting over the threshold, but for all who are present, unconverted and mature believers alike. Martin Luther’s famous first thesis was “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’, he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”
Evangelize your congregation. And be encouraged. There are lot of voices bewailing the state of evangelism and wanting to use all kinds of techniques and approaches other than the regular, faithful preaching of God’s word. But pastor, if you are faithfully preaching God’s word you are faithfully fulfilling your ministry and evangelizing your mission field.
Third, “Come and See!” is an appropriate and welcome evangelistic message. Not all should teach says James 3:1. That means that not all should teach God’s word, i.e. evangelize. When Jesus ascended he appointed some, not all, to the offices of apostles-teachers. He gave some, not all, the gifts of teaching the word (1 Corinthians 12:28-31). Not all are called to this ministry and not all should be gospeling. Not all are evangelists. All throughout scripture those who are called and commissioned (Presbyterians call this ordination) are the ones primarily sharing the gospel. This begins with Jesus himself in his anointing being annointed to eungelizo (Luke 4:18) which continues on in his commissioning the apostles to eungelizo (Luke 9:1-2, 6; Matthew 28:18-20). Acts is full of descriptions (8:14, 9:30, 13:3, 15:3, etc.) of people being sent to minister, something repeated by Paul in Romans 10:14-16 about gospel ministry in general and, as previously mentioned, of himself in Ephesians 3:7. This is how the ministries of the evangelists Timothy (2 Timothy 4:4) and Titus (2 Corinthians 8:16-19) are initiated.
How does the church as a whole participate in this calling? Heidelberg Catechism 32 says “By faith I am a member of Christ and so I share in his anointing. I am anointed to confess his name, to present myself to him as a living sacrifice of thanks.” Westminster Confession of Faith 25.5 says that gospel is to be embraced in the church. Confessing and embracing the gospel, and presenting yourself with thanksgiving, is the calling of every Christian. This is no small thing.
But won’t “Come and See” with the full scope scripture preached be inaccessible to non-Christians? I once attended a different evangelical megachurch (also not EPC) and the new pastor placed a ladder on the stage to demonstrate his approach to ministry. He had taken off the bottom 3-4 rungs to the ladder and said that this is what things would be like if he preached to the Christians. The non-Christians would never be able to climb up the ladder of faith because they would never be able to get started. He then put the bottom rungs back on and took off the top rungs. Now, he said, the non-Christians could get on the ladder of faith and the mature Christians could take care of themselves since they were already mature. If they wanted deep teaching they could go find a small group during the week.
This approach assumes non-Christians are stupid and unsophisticated. It believes that non-Christians aren’t interested in anything of substance that hasn’t been market-tested to death. But all you have to do is compare Christian pop culture with mainstream American pop culture to see the missional errors in this approach to thinking and ministry.
Paul says in Ephesians 3 that the ministry of the gospel, the ministry of the word of Christ, is so that “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (3:10). The church, which is already seated with Christ in the heavenly places above all powers (1:3, 20), displays God’s wisdom through the gospel. This gospel display is how the church wrestles against powers in the heavenly places. And this is exactly what Paul means in Galatians 3:1 about Christ being publicly portrayed as crucified. Embrace the gospel, tell your neighbors and friends to come and see. Let them come and see the manifold wisdom of God in the worship of the church and receive the gospel. Trust the Christ who governs his church and his Spirit who does not work in vain.
The one time we have any sort of clear biblical instructions on this subject, this is exactly what the Bible says. “But if all prophesy [minister the word of God], and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you” (1 Corinthians 14:24-25). Trust the Spirit, trust the ministry of Christ, invite people to come and see.
Westminster Confession of Faith 35.4 is on the love of God and mission, and though it isn’t original, it is still good. It says:
Since there is no other way of salvation than that revealed in the gospel, and since in the divinely established and ordinary method of grace faith comes by hearing the word of God, Christ has commissioned his church to go into all the world and to make disciples of all nations. All believers are, therefore, under obligation to sustain the ordinances of the Christian religion where they are already established, and to contribute by their prayers, gifts, and personal efforts to the extension of the kingdom of Christ throughout the whole earth.
The church through Christ’s ordinances accomplishes the work of evangelism. Individual Christians should support the work of the church. All Christians should be able to enthusiastically give the evangelistic message “Come and See!” And churches better have the gospel of Christ on display.
Finally, Christians need to internalize the gospel. This is the goal of the ministry of the word. Perfect and equip the saints for every good work, which includes confessing their faith and articulating what they believe. The indwelling of God’s word in the heart of the Christian is the goal. Ruling elders, be the cheer squad and agents of this in your church.
Following Stephen’s death and Saul’s persecution of the church people were scattered and spread the gospel with them as they went. In both instances this was quickly followed by a leader of the church coming to guide them, with Phillip going to Samaria in Acts 8 and Barnabas to Antioch in Acts 11. Nevertheless, the people had embraced and internalized the gospel to the point that it informed all that they were and did. The word dwelt within them, and non-Christians took note.
“In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Peter’s focus is on the hope of the heart for the Christian in the midst of suffering, not the reason. The Christian is to have a good conscience and conduct because they have internalized the gospel of the suffering Christ. If the Christian does not possess and embody this hope, there is no reason to be shared. The prepared reason here, so often proof-texted for apologetics training, is preparation to articulate a deep-seated, all-encompassing and informing hope. It is that hope of the gospel, not the reason, that is first and foremost to be cultivated. Preparation to articulate the reasonableness of the faith needs faith that is first growing into Christ.
A recent example of this is Stephen Colbert’s response when he was asked about the overlap of his faith and comedy.
Colbert has clearly internalized his faith. It touches and informs all that he does. That internalization beats any pre-packaged system, script, or method of sharing one’s faith. It is authentic, in all the right senses of that word. The church does this through evangelizing its people through the full counsel of God’s word. That is how the word of Christ dwells richly in his people, and that is what pastors and elders should be striving for.