Monday, 28 July 2008


Dr. Dallas Willard, author of THE GREAT OMISSIONThe Greek word for "Gospel" is evangel. Dallas Willard in his book, "The Great Omission", makes the point that there has been a change in what constitutes the term: Evangelical. Some people confuse the term "Evangelical" with "Evangelistic". While the two words are very similar and share some definitions, they mean quite different things. And this is something that Dallas Willard explores. His argument was that the two words used to mean the same thing. That is, both terms used to mean three things: (i) An awareness of sin, (ii) Spiritual conversion bringing forgiveness of sins, and (iii) Testifying to the work of God in a person's life.

But Evangelicalism has come to mean that a person (i) Believes that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, (ii) That Jesus Christ is divine, and (iii) There is salvation through no-one or thing, other than Jesus Christ. Dallas Willard says that this would be OK- if the Church was Evangelical AND Evangelistic. He lists the Church's general lack of applying the three traits of original Evangelicalism (conviction of sin, conversion to Christ by the Spirit, and testifying of God's work) as one of the great omissions of modern Christianity. He briefly surveys the history of Evangelicalism and makes the point that when the Church's preaching focussed on these three traits it often experienced what we now call "revival" or "awakening".
Mordecai HamHe cites the Evangelistic ministry of Mordecai Ham who influenced Billy Graham to become a Christian. Mordecai would often preach for weeks in a town before ever inviting people to accept Christ. He wanted to make sure that the town understood what sin was and that they felt deep conviction about it. Willard adds to this point by referring to John Wesley's method of preaching the Law first. "I must preach the Law first, then grace" said Wesley. He did this for same reason as Mordecai Ham. He wanted people to know that the Gospel was a solution- not merely an assessment of the problem.

¶ "What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
Romans 7:7

Willard laments that there are too many preachers who have made the Gospel about God meeting "needs" rather than about God. Our greatest need, he writes, is not to have what we want in order to be happy, but to be forgiven of sin so that we can have fellowship with God. This forgiveness of sin can only happen through regeneration by the Holy Spirit (this is what we call being born-again). When this happens, born-again (forgiven and transformed) believers testify to the world about God's work in their hearts. This is what Dallas Willard says is the essence of being an Evangelical Christian. This then becomes the launching pad for Evangelicals to transform society with their testimony. A vibrant Christian testimony will always transform a society.

"Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
Matthew 5:15-16

I pray that we will be an Evangelical church that preaches the true Gospel which proclaims our true, raw, condition before God; but boldly declares His forgiveness through the work of His Son- Jesus Christ; and upon receiving this eternally good news, we will testify to all who ask for the reason of our hope.

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
1Peter 3:15


Dr. Andrew Corbett

1 comment:

  1. Andrew - your comment is timely. On my blog a few days ago I posed the question whether the term means anything these days.

    Greg M.

    PS Look forward to seeing you at the conference on Tuesday 12th.