“First, be willing to offend. If you proclaim the gospel, it will be offensive—there’s no way around it. There will be inevitable conflict. You must come to a point of being willing to offend or else you’ll never say much of anything,” (Elliot Clark).
The preceding quote is from a recent article in Christianity Today. Elliot Clark trains church leaders abroad. His article in CT was one of the most refreshing that I have enjoyed reading for some time now.
I did not merely skim it, but read each word deliberately in my attempt to discern his motivation for the title of the article. Obviously, it was the title that captured my interest, “The Apostles Never ‘Shared’ the Gospel, and Neither Should We.” While that doesn’t guarantee I will read the entire article, this time it did. And he’s right.
One could likely write a good-sized book on the origins of the word, “share,” and how we’ve used it throughout history. But I completely agree with his argument that the apostles in fact did not “share” the gospel; that is, strictly speaking.
Neither the apostles, nor anyone else, walk around the Galilean Sea asking people if they could share the Gospel with them. When the apostles arrived in any town, they proclaimed Jesus and all that he had done; to those gathered.
The Bible does not relate any accounts where the apostles (or any others) arrived in a town and asked for directions to the nearest Christian church.
The book of Acts records Peter standing and declaring Christ; “But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: ‘Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words,’” (Act 2:14).
It was the day of Pentecost. Peter did not ask if he could speak. The Holy Spirit had filled him, and he proclaimed Christ to all who were there, in what would become the first sermon ever preached. It is said they stood on steps leading up to the temple. They were not huddled in some out-of-the-way place where one might struggle to hear or see what was going on.
Peter was not addressing Christians. He had not been invited to the local Christian church to give a sermon. There were no Christians. The word didn’t even exist at this time.
When Peter healed the lame beggar at the “so-called portico of Solomon,” all the people around ran to him; “full of amazement,” the bible tells us. Peter didn’t blow horns or use a loud speaker. He didn’t call the people to him. The people saw what had taken place and the bible says, “all the people ran together to them,” (Act 3:11).
Next, the book of Acts tells us that “Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them,” (Act 8:5) (bold=author’s emphasis). Philip proclaimed and preached the Gospel.
I could go on and on, but you get the point. The apostles and all those who were witnesses to Christ were sought out wherever they went. Why? Because in Biblical times news traveled the same way as it does today, by gossip.
Yes, that’s right, gossip; plain and simple. And whenever an apostle or other witness was heard to be in town, the people approached them. There was no evening news or cable channel one could switch on, kick back on the sofa, and hear the day’s gossip.
It only traveled by word of mouth. And let’s not forget what gets lost in translation. When news reached the people that an apostle was approaching the city, excitement grew. People wanted to hear the good news for themselves.
The apostles and others didn’t “share” the Gospel. Wanting to hear of all the news for themselves, many insisted that they come to the local synagogue and other places and give an account of all that had happened.
Here in the 21st century, it’s not quite the same. People don’t often, if at all, get yanked off the street and implored to herald the news of Christ or anything else for that matter in a local church, temple, or synagogue.
Even preachers, priests, ministers and many academic theologians “share” the gospel. In fact, if you think about it, they are speaking to a semi-captive audience; to people who want to hear it.
Today it seems, that the only people “proclaiming” and “declaring” are politicians and journalists.
How would the world today deal with or respond to a dozen or so people walking around proclaiming and declaring Jesus as the Christ? Let’s even just narrow the question down to North America. Could 12+ people roam North America to preaching, proclaiming and heralding Jesus as the Christ today?
If they did so, how would they be treated? Would we listen to them? Would we ask them to tell us more? Would we call the local police and report them for disturbing the peace?
To be continued…
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