By the Rev. Thomas Shepherd
Pastor, Stuart United Methodist Church
If I were to say the word evangelical what do you think of? Do you think of the flashy televangelist? Do you think of the Street preacher or the person who goes door to door? Do you think of the strange person with wild beliefs? It seems that the word evangelical has been turned into a dirty word, as if it were something bad. But what does it mean to be evangelical?
According to the Encarta Dictionary an evangelical is someone in a “Protestant Christian church that emphasizes the authority of the Bible and salvation through the personal acceptance of Jesus Christ.” It is someone who believes in “the Gospels of the Christian Bible” and it is someone who is “enthusiastic or zealous in support of a particular cause and very eager to make other people share its beliefs or ideals.”
So, let’s get this straight. An evangelical is someone who believes in “the authority of the Bible.” An evangelical is someone who believes in “salvation through the personal acceptance of Jesus Christ.” An evangelical believes in the message of “the Gospels” of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. An evangelical is someone who is “enthusiastic or zealous … and very eager to make other people share its beliefs or ideals.” That’s where we might lose a few because not every believer is “enthusiastic or zealous” to share the gospel.
So, are you an evangelical? Some say yes and others no. I believe that Paul was an evangelical. He believed in the authority of God’s Word, he believed in “salvation through the personal acceptance of Jesus Christ.” He preached and taught it until his dying day. And, lastly, Paul was certainly “enthusiastic or zealous” and he was certainly “very eager to make other people share” in his “beliefs or ideals.” As a matter of fact, some would say that Paul was a fanatic about the gospel. He even went to his death proclaiming the good news.
For Paul, being evangelical was what being a follower of Christ was about. As he shared the gospel, he met many who didn’t want to hear it or accept it and because of this he ran into problems. He called it the “great opposition,” but it never silenced him. Have you ever had someone mock or insult you for your faith? If you have, you may understand a little better what Paul faced. Paul could have quit, he could have thrown up his hands and said, “What’s the use no one wants to hear the truth.” And who would blame him? He was stoned, he was beaten, and he was thrown into prison and locked in chains and martyred yet, Paul never stopped sharing the good news even “in spite of great opposition”! Is your faith in Christ that strong? What stops us from witnessing to our faith? I guess it all boils down to what your priority is. Is it Christ and His Church or is it yourself?
Paul preached the truth of the gospel. How can there be “good news” unless there is bad news. The bad news is sin so, Paul preached about the bad and pointed to the good, thus he was not popular, but he preached anyway. Many didn’t want to hear it, but he preached the gospel and found a few faithful. Those who were offended by his message talked bad about him, but he preached the gospel. His character was scandalized, but he preached the gospel. Paul was only the messenger; he was an ambassador for Christ. He was the evangelist who was evangelical.
Sometimes, we are afraid to stand up for God’s righteousness, because we are afraid we will be in the minority. Paul continually preached the gospel despite the opposition and conflict. Paul said in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” We are taught in the Bible that man looks at the outer appearance, but God looks at the heart. Our motives should be for the right reason, to lead people to the savior Jesus Christ. We need to be lighthouses warning people of the danger that lies ahead and pointing the way to safety even in the opposition. Our motivation should be warning people of the consequences of sin and pointing to the one who paid the price for our sins, even in the opposition.
If you are a true follower of Christ, you will have to put up with great opposition, but stay the course. Remember who you are trying to please. Paul says in Galatians 1:10, “Obviously, I’m not trying to be a people pleaser! No, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to please people, I would not be
According to the Bible, every member is a minister and every member has been given gifts for ministry. So, are you making the personal investment that brings God honor? Every one of us has a responsibility to present the gospel. You are only fooling yourself if you are not actively involved in the ministry of the church in some way, for how can we be true to the gospel unless we are willing to share it? When was the last time you shared the good news to someone? When was the last time you were concerned about the salvation of those you know? Friends, until we are truly burdened for the lost souls in the world and make a personal investment in sharing the gospel with them, I wonder how pleased God is with us. Every believer has a responsibility to be evangelical.