Spirit-Empowered “Gospeling”

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Spirit-Empowered “Gospeling”

Spirit-Empowered “Gospeling”

In the book of Acts, we find several examples of boldness in witness that encourage us as followers of King Jesus. Perhaps none are more encouraging (and convicting) than Acts 8. Following Stephen’s martyrdom, “there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” (8:1). Persecution arises, and the church is scattered. What would be on your mind if you and your family had just fled their homes in the face of such persecution? While the early church undoubtedly pondered various concerns, how does Luke describe their greatest concern, their greatest priority in Acts 8:4?  “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word” (8:4). In their scattering, they were thinking about how their situation would bring about new opportunities to tell people about Jesus!

And yet, this may not be the most surprising part of the passage. Who are those God desires to use as his witnesses here? Who are “those who were scattered” in the context of the passage? Looking back to 8:1, those who were scattered were the whole church “except the apostles.” The ones scattered and evangelizing were everyone in the church except the church leadership! Of course, this doesn’t excuse church leaders from being witnesses, but it’s a reminder that the whole church, including every individual member of the church, is God’s evangelism plan for our communities. The apostles were faithful in their responsibility to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12) so that when the scattering came, the whole church was prepared to use it as an opportunity for evangelism.

What did their evangelism look like when they were scattered? Luke tells us that they went about “preaching the word” (8:4). In some Bible translations, one can find a helpful footnote indicating that this word can mean “to bring the good news.” The word is a verbal form of the noun “gospel.” My friend, Pastor Ray Castro, describes this verse as the church going out and “gospeling the good news.” Isn’t it interesting that for Luke, evangelism in Acts 8:4 is more about the message than the method? He doesn’t tell us if these Christians preached on a street corner, talked with a neighbor over a meal, or shared a story with a new friend. Whatever form of communication they used, the most important part was that it included the  Gospel message of Jesus Christ.

Why did each of these early Christians have this mindset for outreach? Acts begins with Jesus’ promise indicating his plan for Spirit-empowered believers to be His witnesses. We see His promise enacted throughout the rest of the book. In Acts 9:4-6, when Jesus himself appeared to Saul, he sent him to Ananias to hear his message. Why wouldn’t Jesus tell Saul himself? He’s right in front of him! Because Jesus’ plan is to use Spirit-empowered believers as His witnesses. In Acts 10:1-6, when God sends an angel to Cornelius, the angel tells him to send for Peter. Why wouldn’t the angel tell Cornelius the Gospel? He’s right there! Because Jesus’ plan is to use Spirit-empowered believers as His witnesses. The Christians understood Jesus’s promise and plan from Acts 1:8 – God’s means and God’s plan for sharing the good news to our communities is you, me, and every member of our churches.

What Luke describes is what we hope and pray for in our churches! We want every member to embrace their calling to be a witness to the good news of King Jesus! We desire our first and foremost priority to be that wherever we are, whatever we are facing, we want to look for how our situation can bring opportunities to tell people about Jesus! How do we cultivate this mindset in our churches and in our own hearts?

Building this culture of evangelism may look different in different types of churches and contexts. Depending on the size of your church, training in your church, location of your church, and many other providential factors, the ways of cultivating an Acts 8:4 mentality may look different. Yet building this intentional culture is the responsibility of church leaders to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12). While our strategies may look different depending on our contexts, our job is to help every church member understand their important role as a witness, part of God’s evangelism program for our communities.

At Woodward Park Baptist Church, we want to foster a culture where the church is God’s plan for evangelism in our community. We want to equip every member to have an intentional mindset that wherever they are scattered during the week, they are gospeling. We regularly use axioms reminding them, “Gospel prayer leads to gospel friendships that lead to gospel conversations.” We use visual reminders that the goal is for the whole church to be intentional wherever they’re scattered. We created rolling windows on caster wheels, where our members can use dry-erase pens to write down names of unbelievers in their lives whom they’re praying for, whom they’re developing friendships with, and whom they are engaging in gospel conversations. We celebrate not only professions of faith in baptism but also the intentionality of God’s people as witnesses. We celebrate these windows filling up with names, being reminded that we’re not the only one with this mission, and being spurred on to do the same! We brainstorm ways to use our traditions to give our members opportunities to engage with their lost neighbors, coworkers, family, and friends. This Easter, we got the idea from another church in town to buy 7-inch plastic Easter eggs and stuff them with candy (the good stuff) and invitations to our Easter celebration. We are giving each family unit in our church up to three eggs if they will use them to personally invite a non-Christian guest to attend our Easter celebration with them.

Our hope and prayer are to build a culture of evangelism at Woodward Park Baptist Church, where the whole church lives with intentionality to speak about the good news of Jesus, gospeling to those around them wherever they are scattered.

About the Author

Craig Shigyo
Associate Pastor, Woodward Park Baptist Church

Craig Shigyo serves as an associate pastor at Woodward Park Baptist Church in Fresno, where he helps oversee efforts to grow the church’s culture of evangelism. In addition to his role at church, he also serves as an adjunct instructor for Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from UC San Diego in Biochemistry and a Master of Divinity degree from Southern Seminary. Craig is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in New Testament at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

More About Craig Shigyo
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