Rick Richardson is an ordained priest with the Anglican Mission in America. He runs the evangelism and leadership program at Wheaton College Graduate School and is associate national director for evangelism with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. In this small book, Rick presented the great truth regarding evangelism that the Evangelists are not Gospel-sellers. Instead, we should learn to be a good guide to lead people into the spiritual community and finally the salvation in Christ.
In this book, Rich first challenged the common perception for gospel-sharing as Gospel-selling. It’s a poor conception but it is widely accepted by even Christians. Evangelism is simplified to selling an idea and an invitation to make a decision. I believe this is one of the roots of shallow Christianity in both western and eastern society. This concept of evangelism changed the ministry of Christianity to event-focused and poor Christians had been pushed to sell, pushed to host events, and thus push others to make harsh decisions. I cannot agree more with Rick on his illustration of modern Evangelism. It is true. It’s not only happening in United States, but also in China and many other countries, pushed by various kinds of mission organizations and churches.
Rick tries to correct this view from several aspects in this book. He emphasizes the central role of Holy Spirit in our ministry and our call is to observe and follow the Spirit, not to run ahead of or behalf of the Holy Spirit. He also calls the reader to notice the importance of the spiritual community, and also he shares his story telling and gospel sharing skills in the later chapters. Even in his sharing of conversation skills, he emphasizes the importance of building trust, relationship, and community more than the importance to push for decision.
The subtitle of the little book written by Randy Newman is Engaging People’s Hearts the Way Jesus Did. “The Way Jesus Did” here is referring to the usage of questioning to trigger deeper rational thinking of the seekers. The author divides the book into three sections: Why asking questions, What Questions are people Asking, When aren’t questions and answers enough. However, though the title of the book suggests that it’s a book regarding evangelism through questioning, the content of the book is more focused on the second section which is using questioning skill to deal with questions raised by seekers. Instead of viewing it as a book about evangelism, I’d rather to say it’s a book of Apologetics.
Though the focus of the book sounds shifting, it’s still a good book on evangelism conversation skills. It’s very beneficial for the author to invest some chapters on the Biblical background of questioning in conversations. He not only showed us how Jesus did evangelism and conversation in New Testament, but also guided us through the conversation skills discussed and demonstrated in Wisdom books. These steps can help us to realize the value of using questions. However, I have to say it again that the subtitle of “the way Jesus did” is too big and not fit because Jesus also did other more important things like training disciples, healing and exorcism.
In this book, the author Dr. McKnight started with criticizing that American Evangelicals replaced the definition of “Gospel” with “Soterian” and are actively preaching the message of making a converting decision. This criticism is absolutely true. Dr. McKnight is definitely true. Evangelicalism emerged in the middle of last century from the previous generations of fundamentalism. It is said that the decision-based Christianity started from Charles Finney and D.L. Moody and later used by many evangelists and missionaries around the nation and later around the world. Majority of members in my home church back in Shanghai came to faith through this decision-based evangelism.
In this small book, Dr. McKnight suggested that the Gospel that Jesus preached does not include the salvation only. Instead, he suggests that the gospel is primarily framed by Israel’s Story and the saving story of Jesus as the completion of the Story of Israel. And secondly the gospel centers on the lordship of Jesus, not just the Jesus as the savior and many evangelical claimed. Third, Evangelism should involve summoning people to respond, to repentance, to faith in Jesus Christ, and to baptism. And finally, the gospel saves and redeems. The apostolic gospel promises forgiveness, the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, and justification. In order to validate the four points clear, he started with the historical creeds, then back in the Bible to find the Gospel preached by Paul, the Gospel described in the four Gospel books, the Gospel preached by Jesus, and the Gospel preached by Apostle Peter. Finally he revisits the problem of evangelism today and suggested to create and form the Gospel culture, instead of preaching a decision-based Christianity.
Abundant Life is a Chinese Bible study curriculum designed for new believers in the church. It is widely used not only among Chinese churches in America, but also among patriotic churches and house churches in China because it’s officially published by TSPM (Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the organization sponsored by the communist government to oversee all patriotic churches) headquarter in Shanghai. In North America, the author requires that only leaders trained by them can use the curriculum as a teacher. But due to the large number of churches in China, this requirement cannot work thus they published has both student’s workbook and teacher’s manual in People’s Republic of China. The author is anonymous, but many people believe it’s written by Rev. Zongqing Chen who is now the president of Blessing Cultural Mission Fellowship.
This curriculum is designed to help new believers in the church to learn Christian faith through 18 modules, starting from “What is a new life” till “Guided by God”. It covers basic doctrinal topics like repentance, faith, obedience, Bible, prayer, baptism, communion, church, etc. The author expects this curriculums being used in a Sunday school setting with committed students, or in a one-on-one based discipleship setting. The Chinese church that I’m currently attending on Half Day Road is using this curriculum in Sunday school and some cell groups.
According to the NIV Exhaustive Concordance, The word “WORLD” occurs in the whole Bible for 261 times, including “WORLD’S” and “WORLDLY”. This word has triggered a lot of arguments and debates not only among the theologians, but also among the lay believers. The theologians might argued whether the “World” in John 3:16 refers to the whole human race, or just the chosen believers. As for the lay believers, many husbands feel unfair to be described as “one loves the world” by their wives simply because of buying a new IPhone.
Occurrences in Paul’s Letters
Paul uses this word (including “world’s” and “worldly”) frequently in his letters. There are totally about 60+ explicit usages and 2 more implicit references to this word. The meaning of this word according to context can be categorized into 5 meanings: the world of space (the cosmos), the creation by God, this age, and the coming age.
The World of Space is a geographic usage of the Greek word kosmos. It can be translated to “the earth” or “the universe”. In Romans 10:18, when Paul quotes Ps 19:4 that “to the ends of the world”, he is indicating the earth. In some cases this word might mean the Promised Land instead of the planet earth.
God’s creation is a generic usage of this word. While the word is used in this way, it’s talking about the creation of the God. “The World” then is a neutral word as the object of God’s divine creation. Such usage can be found in Romans 1:20, 25, 4:17; 1 Cor 1:28, etc.
An assignment for New Testament Survey
In Mark 15:21, when Jesus was led to the place where he was going to be crucified, the soldiers forced a passerby named Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross for Jesus. It is also recorded in other two synoptic gospels, Matthew 27:32 and Luke 23:26. I was asked several times by some believers in the church on the significance of this person. I also found different interpretations on the figure of Simon. Some even explain that this insertion indicates that sometimes strangers need to sacrifice because of the persecution to Christians, while some claim that Simon’s act is a deed of sympathetic magnanimity.
So we fist need to know why Simon took the cross over from Jesus. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:41) Jesus says “Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” According to many commentary books, the Roman rule over Israel of the 1st century was a very oppressive and dominating government. Craig Keener says in his commentary on the situation: “Because tax revenues did not cover all the Roman army’s needs, soldiers could requisition what they required. Romans could legally demand local inhabitants to provide forced labor if they wanted and were known to abuse this privilege.” In the same way, Simon was forced by a Roman soldier to help carry the cross that crucified Christ. Betz notes that “the victim of such a despicable request was legally obliged to comply.”
Cultural / Historical Background: SBL assumed that the book uses a future orientation to challenge the situation of the original readers. Osborn (2002: 1) thinks there are two important attributes associated with the book of Revelation: a. they are predominantly futuristic in perspective, and (b) it is a disjunctive fallacy to take an either-or stance regarding different views and interpretation on a given text. Revelation speaks of certain stability in the situation of the churches but it also indicates a fair amount of persecution. It should be noted that there are both prophecy and apocalyptic in the letter. Prophecy tends to be oracular and apocalyptic visionary. Both center on salvation for the faithful and judgment for the unfaithful.
Contextual Background: Chapter 19 is an illustration of final victory, which is the end of the evil empire at the parousia (19:6-21). It’s the second part of the section of Final judgment at the arrival of the eschaton (17:1-20:15). There are four topics in the section of final judgment: A. Destruction of Babylon the Great (17:1-19:5); B. Final victory (19:6-21); C. The thousand-year reign of Christ and final destruction of Satan (20:1-10); and D. Great white throne judgment (20:11-15). The chorus is indicating the view of believer who is joyful for the returning of Christ. In the selected text, we see the parousia from the view of unbeliever (Osborn, 692).
Cultural / Historical Background: The book of Hebrews is a balanced combination of doctrinal exposition and paraenesis. The audience and author of the book are unknown, but according to the content of the book, traditionally many scholars think it’s written primarily for jewish-Christian audience. The letter was written as an attempt to prevent a relapse into or a failure to move completely out of Judaism (Attridge, 10). However there are other factors involved in this letter, including persecution, the delay of Parousia, and the general fatigue, doubt and lassitude that naturally developed in a community grown too accustomed to its initial commitment.
Contextual Background: the text of 12:1-11 is part of a big chunk starting from 10:26 and finishing at 12:13. It’s the 4th main point of the letter as an exhortation to faithful endurance. It’s the rhetorical climax of the epistle, also contains the author’s last major teaching, and his final general appeal to the readers to avoid apostasy. 10:26-28 is the Paraenetic prelude, 11:1-40 is an encomium on faith, then 12:1-13 is a homily on faithful endurance. The concluding exhortation of the whole book starts from 12:14. The major focus of the text is the virtue mentioned at the end of chapter 10 – the endurance. Particularly toward the conclusion of chapter 11, the endurance here is linked to the endurance of persecution.
Structure: The text has three major sections. The first section is vv. 1-3, talking about Jesus the inaugurator and perfecter of faith and endurance. Then vv 4-6 is a citiation of the Scripture, followed by an expository application of vv. 7-11. I would rather segment it into three metaphors: metaphor of race (vv.1-2), metaphor of wrestling (vv.3-4), and metaphor of discipline (vv.5-11).