Many Christians go their entire lives without being used by God to be the human instrument and means by which a person comes to Christ. My own calling is not as an evangelist, but seeing another human being come to Christ is the most meaningful ministry experience I've ever had.
I once was hired by a church to be the minister of theology, which meant that my job was to teach. They also added to my job description "minister of evangelism." I said I didn't know anything about evangelism. So, they sent me to a seminar to train in evangelism.
The minister leading the seminar talked about how to memorize an outline, how he uses key questions to stimulate discussion, and how there's a pattern to the way in which evangelism is to flow. The idea behind the method he used was to focus attention on the ultimate issue of a person's individual redemption—how can he justify himself before God? Most people will say that they have lived a good life; very few will say that they have been justified by faith alone in Christ alone.
Methods such as these have much to recommend them. They are easy to learn, and they make it possible for people to engage in discussions about Christianity, though care must be taken that one is not simply reading a script but rather is really connecting with the other person.
Ultimately, evangelism is less about the method one uses and more about the message one proclaims. Evangelism, remember, is the proclamation of the gospel—telling the story, announcing the news. Some fear that they don't know enough to evangelize. I say, "Tell them what you do know." Leave the defense of the truth claims to the apologist and hold forth the simple message of the gospel. Anyone who has the ability to speak about three or four simple principles can become an effective evangelist. This is where evangelism programs and training can help.
In this brief clip from his teaching series A Survey of Church History, W. Robert Godfrey gives a brief introduction to Athanasius, one of the key defenders of orthodoxy in the ancient church. Watch this entire message for free today.
Athanasius, one of the great heroes of the ancient church period, later recognized to be a saint by the Western and Eastern churches. Athanasius, a man of great courage, of great faithfulness, and of great insight into theological truth, and Athanasius would later become bishop of Alexandria, and become the key defender of orthodoxy, and he would actually be exiled five different times, thrown out of his church, and then called back, always defending the truth. And so, associated with Athanasius came the Latin phrase, Athanasius contra mundum – Athanasius against the world. He stood against the whole world in the name of truth and he ultimately prevailed.
From its earliest days, the church has proclaimed the truth of Scripture using the language of creeds. From one of our live Ask R.C. events, R.C. Sproul details the importance of creeds and confessions for the church.
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Could you imagine starting a building project that you know you will not finish in ten or twenty or even thirty years? It’s almost impossible for us to even think like that. Now try this: imagine starting a building project that you will not see completed in your lifetime. You won’t even see it completed in your children’s lifetime. And you won’t even see it completed in your grandchildren’s lifetime. Imagine a building project that would take not decades, but centuries to finish. If you can imagine that, then welcome to the building of a medieval cathedral.
Westminster Abbey, the iconic cathedral near the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben along the River Thames in downtown London, stands as a great example. The cathedral, begun in 960, is still having finishes and additions in the twenty-first century.
Cathedrals were such grand edifices that they were literally centuries in the making, and they exhibited a variety of styles. There are Norman cathedrals and English cathedrals. Some of the cathedrals have flying buttresses that support the great height and, of course, the significant weight of the cathedrals. Others have vaulted ceilings. The famous King’s College Chapel in Cambridge is one of the finest examples of the vaulted ceiling style. These are marvels of art and architecture.
These cathedrals also have many commonalities. We can speak of at least five shared elements and features of these cathedrals:
First is the narthex or vestibule. This is the part of the cathedral into which you enter as you come from the outside world, before you enter the sanctuary. The narthex is a transitional space to prepare you for entering into worship. In most cathedrals, these tend to be darker spaces without windows.
As you walk into a cathedral, that long center aisle is called a nave. Some think that it was named for a ship, from the word naval, and it comes from the shape of a ship. On each side of the nave are the aisles. The sides of the cathedral are considered the aisles.
At the far end, you have the apse. The apse is the semicircular, domed portion of a cathedral. There, you will find the pulpit or the altar. Usually, in the back of the apse, there are windows made of stained glass. And, since cathedrals are oriented to the east, as the sun rises, its rays penetrate that stained glass and flood the nave of the cathedral with light.
In front of the apse, the cathedral branches out to each side. These branches are called transepts. The word transept literally means “a partition across.” The transepts on either side form two arms, as it were, that extend out from near the front of the cathedral. If you look at a cathedral from above, you very clearly see a cross shape.
As you walk into a cathedral, your eyes are drawn upward by the columns and the architecture. Even the geometrical shapes within the cathedrals draw your eyes upward; they lift you off this human horizontal plane and point you toward God. These medieval cathedrals are wonderful feats of architecture. They are cross-shaped and heaven-focused.
This excerpt is adapted from 5 Minutes in Church History by Stephen Nichols.
The official blog of Ligonier Ministries, founded by theologian Dr. R.C. Sproul in 1971 to help Christians know what they believe, why the believe it, how to live it, and how to share it.