The Verbal Proclamation of the Gospel

From Genesis to Revelation, God has revealed himself to his people by his presence and in his word. As we see in Genesis, his word has creative power to bring order out of chaos, matter out of the void, and life out of mere matter. We, being made in the very image of God, also have great creative power in our words, especially as we proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ into the lives of those around us who are in chaos, darkness, and death.

Jesus Christ himself is the very incarnation of the word. During his life, he dedicated himself to the verbal teaching and demonstration of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God among us. He taught from the scriptures, with parables and teachable moments. His words are the very words of life, not just to be read, but to be spoken and communicated from person to person, just as he came in the flesh to embody and communicate his message.

Verbal proclamation must be the hallmark
of a healthy Christian community.

Verbal proclamation was not only a distinctive mark of Jesus’ ministry, but also of the early Church. Indeed, the early Church is a great example of how the proclamation of the gospel must always be accompanied by lives lived out as full testimonies to the gospel. However, the early Church also made it a priority not to neglect the preaching and teaching of the word.

Verbal proclamation must also continue to be the hallmark of a healthy Christian community today. From the very beginning, the Lord intended for the message to be communicated through individuals who are part of a community of faith to others—in word and in deed. In this twenty-first century with high technology, industry, and increasing busyness of life, there are many creative ways in which the gospel can be communicated—through internet evangelism, YouTube, testimonial blogs, podcasts, etc. However, the need to highlight the importance of the verbal communication of the gospel message, of person-to-person communication in real time, cannot be reiterated enough.

This past May, the Lausanne Strategy Working Group met in Southern California to focus on issues to be highlighted for Cape Town 2010: The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. In this meeting, the importance of both Christian social responsibility and evangelism was stressed as participants reviewed sections five and six in the Lausanne Covenant. In recent years, many such as Michael Jaffarian have critiqued the West as being too focused on evangelism and discipleship to the neglect of relief and development. There are also voices of caution, such as Stan Guthrie, who ask if there is “a hole in our holism,” and state that in our day of social action, we must not neglect the critical importance of evangelism.

In this issue of LWP, I am delighted to present to you several perspectives on evangelism; in particular, the importance of the verbal proclamation of the gospel. It is my prayer that as we engage further in thought and action, we will be inspired and spurred on toward the hope of the gospel for every people, nation, tribe, and tongue.

Doug Birdsall is executive chair of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. He served as president of Asian Access from 1991 to 2007 and continues to serve on their board of directors. Birdsall is a graduate of Wheaton College, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Harvard University. He is co-publisher of Lausanne World Pulse.