In his classic work Evangelism in the Early Church, Dr. Michael Green argues that:
“It would be a gross mistake to suppose that the apostles sat down and worked out a plan of campaign: the spread of Christianity was, as we have seen, largely accomplished by informal missionaries, and must have been to a large extent haphazard and spontaneous.”
In other words, evangelism was the prerogative of every church member. The ordinary people of the Church saw it as their “job”. In fact, if one studies history they will see that Christianity has been supremely a lay movement, spread by informal missionaries. “The spontaneous outreach of the total Christian community gave immense [momentum] to the movement from the very outset.”
As one surveys the current “evangelical Christian movement” (not sure that movement is the right word here?) it would not be hard to come to the conclusion that unless there is a transformation of contemporary church life so that once again the task of evangelism is something which is seen “as incumbent on every baptized Christian, and is backed up by a quality of living which outshines the best that unbelief can muster, we are unlikely to make much headway through techniques of evangelism.” For this to happen, it would seem that every believer would need to live with gospel intentionality.
What is “Gospel Intentionality”?
The term “gospel intentionality” is beginning to make its way into the regular vernacular of the Evangelical Christian ‘world.’ Much of its popularity is due to the book Total Church by Tim Chester.
“Major events have a role to play in church life, but the bed rock of gospel ministry is low-key, ordinary, day-to-day work that often goes unseen. Most gospel ministry involves ordinary people doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality.”
Chester goes on to describe this intentionality as “a commitment to building relationships, modeling the Christian faith, and talking about the gospel as a natural part of conversation… ‘the ordinary’ needs to be saturated with a commitment to living and proclaiming the gospel.”
Chester is basically arguing that the most effective context for evangelism is ordinary life. In other words, when someone is living with gospel intentionality evangelism will occur when “while walking along the road” or “sharing a meal.” In other words, as you live your life, you do so in such a way that will open opportunities to talk about the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Implications of Gospel Intentionality
First, living with gospel intentionality means that we need to re-envision those around us. It is very easy to ‘close our eyes’ to the people whom we come in contact with as we live day to day life. But we need to see them as people who are in need of a savior. In order to do this I would propose that we take intentional steps to build relationships and familiarity with the people around us. Perhaps living ordinary life with gospel intentionality would cause us to:
- Frequenting a local coffee shop or hair stylist/barber shop.
- Play, or have our children play for community sports teams.
- Tipping generously in local restaurants that we frequent.
- Being the kind of caring neighbor everyone wants to have as a neighbor.
- Investing time at a local charity or benefit.
- Finding creative ways to invest in, and better, our communities.
- Opening our homes to and sharing our food with others.
Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means that we do everything for the sake of proclaiming and authenticating the gospel to those around us! It is a conscious decision that we make to live our lives in this way.
“Christianity is enshrined in the life: but it is proclaimed by the lips. If there is a failure in either respect the gospel cannot be communicated.” But let’s be clear, “caring for others represents the gospel, it upholds the gospel, it points to the gospel, it’s an implication of the gospel, but it is not the gospel, and it is not equal to the gospel.”
- Michael Green, Evangelism in the Early Church, 256.
- Green, 274.
- Green, 275.
- Tim Chester, Total Church, 63.
- Deuteronomy 6:4-7; 1 Thessalonians 2:8.
- Green, 194.
- J. Mack Styles, Marks of the Messenger, 69.