Why Biblical Languages Are a Seminary Priority

I was once a young and zealous seminary student. Every class I took was considered through the lense of “How can this help me on the streets.” I experienced the significant dissonance between academic approaches to the Bible, church history, doctrine, apologetics, etc. My initial response was, “Who needs this?”

This knee-jerk response was unhelpful in two ways. First, the mind does need to be trained, even in areas one considers unimportant at the time. Second, if evangelistically-minded students shun higher academia as unnecessary or unimportant, then they will not funnel-up to replenish the ranks of Bible commentators, church historians, and theologians who train up future generations of students.

I once complained to my father about having to take Greek in seminary. He responded to me somewhat sarcastically, “Then why not go to this other school instead!”

At the time, I did not understand the importance of the study of biblical Greek. It did not cross my mind the depth of the Word of God that can never be fully translated into the English language. My feeling at the time was, “We have the Great Commission. What are we waiting for?”

Now, more than 30 years after having received a Master of Divinity, I view things very differently. For example, consider the power and impact of Moses’ polytheistic education in Egypt:

“And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds.” Acts 7:22.

Here are some thoughts that may benefit the current seminary student who has an evangelistic heart.

First, keep and nurture an evangelistic heart. Do not let your passion die. Plan into your schedule weekly times of initiative evangelism. A heart for the lost can easily become static or stagnant. Plan weekly opportunities for eye-to-eye contact with lost people for the purpose of sharing the gospel.

Second, do not underestimate the importance and power of a deep knowledge of the biblical languages. Without a knowledge of the biblical text, verses that encourage evangelism or clearly affirm the gospel can be changed without your knowing it. For example, evangelistically important verses are often the first to be altered in Bible translations.

When Jesus sent out His disciples in evangelism, He told them to be careful:

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16.

We may too easily be “gentle as doves” without first being “wise as serpents.” In order to remain vigilant for biblical evangelism, depth of education is crucial.

Third, consider that evangelism and evangelists are often framed out of many topics of study. Whether these omissions are purposeful or unintentional, I will let the reader decide. In order to maintain a Great Commission approach in every subject, the student will need to intentionally seek it out and sometimes reinject it into the topic—if it is difficult to ascertain. This last step must be done with humility and gentleness, just as Jesus stated, in one’s own private study of the topic at hand.

As to evangelism and evangelists in church history, in the study of doctrine, and in ecclesiology. The Great Commission is always there—if Christ is truly Lord of His church. The words of Christ have always been obeyed by some in every generation!

Lastly, don’t give up on the Christian higher education that a seminary provides. The topics taught in seminary are crucial and valid. Especially fall in love with the biblical languages and with every word in the Bible. Become a servant of the Word of God—allow the words of the Word to rule over you. If you do that, then everything else will fall into its proper place, including proper obedience to Christ’s Great Commission.

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Ideas for Effective Church Evangelism

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It is one thing to know how to share your faith and it is another thing to lead an entire church evangelism program. Let me recommend several ideas for church evangelism as we enter a new Fall of church ministry:

Never Badger Your People

Pastor, as a husband to a wife, you should never badger your church family to lead them into evangelism. You need to encourage them and build them up. Focus on the good that they are already doing, and lead them forward.

Set the Example

Be the evangelist that you want others to be. Or in the words of Paul, “Do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim 4:5). Don’t expect them to do what you yourself are not doing already.

Provide Many Levels of Opportunities

Not everyone is ready or able to be involved in door-knocking or in other ways of meeting new people. So you will need to have a wide variety of opportunities available for your church family to be involved in evangelism.

Some Examples of Opportunities at Different Levels

Here are some examples of types of involvement that people can have in outreach on the local church level:

  • Baking pies or cookies to be delivered to first time guests
  • Forming a prayer group to pray specifically during outreach events for those being reached
  • Visiting those who have just visited the church for the first time
  • Visiting those who are M.I.A. (Missing In Action)—those who have missed church meetings from 3-5 weeks
  • Visiting those in the community through door-to-door.

These are just a few examples to prime the pump.

Always Be Open to New Opportunities

As your church members begin to be involved in outreach, other ideas and opportunities will develop that are church-specific and community-specific. Make sure that your leadership style is open to new ideas, so that people will feel valued and encouraged in their gifts and abilities.

Make Use of Week-by-Week Schedules

I have found that church families can become burned out on some evangelism programs that are rigid and leave them feeling guilty if they do not participate weekly. For this reason it is important as a shepherd to the flock to give them seasons of feeding and rest.

Here are some ideas for monthly scheduling of evangelism events that I learned from doing evangelism with inner-city churches:

  • First Saturday of the month: visit a nursing home
  • Second Saturday of the month: visit a local prison
  • Third Saturday of the month: door-to-door visitation
  • Fourth Saturday of the month: visit a homeless shelter
  • Fifth Saturday of the month: enjoy a breakfast together, fellowship and a prayer time 🙂

Consider a Month-by-Month Outreach Schedule

Some inner-city churches have very effective evangelism programs that do not burn out their members, and also take into account the patterns of life in the annual calendar:

  • June-July-Aug: Designated as evangelism months
  • Sept-Oct-Nov: Designated for new member assimilation
  • Nov-Dec: Christmas and holiday activities
  • Jan: Designated for the annual Bible Conference
  • Feb-Mar: Evangelism training with planned outreach
  • Apr-May: Revival preparation and implementation

Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan

As important as is being personally intentional in evangelism, it is also important to be intentional in administering evangelism. Make a workable plan. Do not burn out your people. Rearrange the plan if it does not work. But remember if you plan nothing, then you will reach that plan. So using these and other ideas, consider planning for evangelism.

Acts 18:9-10, “Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.’”

God has many people in your city that need to hear about Jesus. So let’s pray for one another that we will be intentional and gentle as we plan our evangelism schedules for the Bride of Christ.

 

For more information on this topic see: “Toward a Local Church Evangelism Strategy” at: http://www.evangelismunlimited.com/documents/evangelizology/evangelizology-2014-chapter-29.pdf

13 Top Verses Using “Evangelize” in 7 Languages

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The following lists the top New Testament verses where the translators have determined to use the word “evangelize.” The totals are derived from the following 28 versions in five modern and two ancient languages that use “evangelize” at least once (for a combined total of 312/1540 fifty-five NT uses, or about 20%).

  • 10 French Versions: LeFebvre, Olivétan, Louvain, Genève, Martin, Ostervald, Darby, Segond, Nouvelle Segond Revisée, and La Colombe;
  • 7 English Versions: Wycliffe 1st and 2nd editions, Etheridge, Darby, Douai-Rheims, Holman Christian Standard, and MacDonald Idiomatic;
  • 5 Portuguese Versions: J Ferreira (1969 and 1993), Sagrada, Corrigida Fiel, Modern;
  • 3 Italian Versions: Buona Novella, Geneva Nuova Riveduta, San Paolo;
  • 1 Spanish Version: Castelian;
  • + 2 Ancient Versions: Latin Vulgate and Occitan (13th Century).

[I have used an existing English translation below when available]

15 total combined uses:

Acts 8:40 (Holman), “Philip appeared in Azotus, and he was traveling and evangelizing all the towns until he came to Caesarea.”

14 total combined uses:

1 Cor 1:17 (Holman), “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to evangelize—not with clever words, so that the cross of Christ will not be emptied of its effect.”

13 combined total uses:

Luke 4:18 (Etheridge), “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because he hath anointed me to evangelize to the poor, And hath sent me to heal the contrite in heart, To proclaim to the captives release, And to the blind, vision, And to assure the contrite by remission.”

12 combined total uses:

Acts 8:25 (Holman), “Then, after they had testified and spoken the message of the Lord, they traveled back to Jerusalem, evangelizing many villages of the Samaritans.”

11 combined total uses:

Acts 14:21 (Holman), “After they had evangelized that town and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch.”

Acts 16:10 (Holman), “After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to evangelize them.”

2 Cor 10:16 (Etheridge), “and be progressive also beyond you to evangelize. Not as within the measure of others in the things that are prepared will we glory.”

10 combined uses:

Luke 9:6 (Wycliffe 1st), “Sothli thei gon out, cumpassiden bi castels, euangelisinge and heelinge euerewhere.”

Luke 20:1 (Etheridge), “And it was on one of the days, while he taught the people in the temple and evangelized, the chief priests and scribes with the elders rose up against him.”

1 Cor 9:16 (Wycliffe 1st, second use), “Forwhi if I schal preche the gospel, glorie is not to me, forsoth nede lith to me; forsoth wo to me, if I schal not euangelise.”

Gal 4:13 (McDonald), “You know that in the beginning of our relationship when I evangelized you, I did so while being physically debilitated.”

Eph 2:17 (Johnston), “And He came and evangelized peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near”

1 Pet 4:6 (Etheridge), “For on this account the dead also have been evangelized; that they might be judged as men in the flesh, and live with Aloha in the Spirit.”

The reader will note the impact of the Geneva presses of Estienne and Crespin during the Protestant Reformation. Geneva published and still publishes Bibles in a variety of Southern European languages impacting Bible translation in Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish, as well as in French.

This author was not able to find any German Bibles that used the verb evangelize.

*Data gleaned from a revision of two available charts: “A Translation History of Translating Evangelize as Evangelize” and “A Study of the Translation of Evangelize in Other Modern Romance Lanugages”; available at: http://www.evangelismunlimited.com/documents/evangelizology/evangelizology-2014-chapter-07.pdf; pages 354-362.

Ode to a Street Preacher

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Keep Pressing On!

“For you have need of endurance,

So that when you have done the will of God,

You may receive what was promised.”

Hebrews 10:37

Standing on the sidewalk

Sharing Jesus Christ

With passers by

Tears running down his face—

Few seemed to care,

He wondered why.

Angry looks of hatred,

Eyes of steel hiding

Hearts of stone.

Anxious look of longing

Shows a searching heart,

Open to the Lord!

Samuel, my friend,

Don’t you get yourself discouraged,

He never said that there would be no pain.

Keep pressing on,

Don’t you stop your persevering,

The love of Christ is everybody’s gain.

Three Amazing Uses of the Verb “Evangelize” in the HCSB

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The editors, translators, and publisher of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) are to be congratulated for their pioneering spirit as concerns the translation of the verb “evangelize” in the HCSB.

The HCSB is the only English language translation to use the English verb “evangelize” more than twice since John Wycliffe’s first edition of 1382. It is truly a phenomenal breakthrough worthy to be celebrated.

In Wycliffe’s first edition, Wycliffe translated 36 of the 43 Latin uses of evangelizo as “evangelize” in English. In actuality, the Greek New Testament (NT) used at that time had 55 uses of the verb evangelize—an exact transliteration of evangelizo.

After Wycliffe died in 1384, another version was given his name, the “Wycliffe” second edition of 1388. In this second edition uses of the verb “evangelize” were reduced to only 3 uses. After the Protestant Reformation, when William Tyndale translated the NT from the Greek as the original (Wycliffe translated from the Latin), Tyndale used a variety of verbs to translate “evangelize” from the Greek. He primarily used “preach,” but he also used “preach the gospel”, “show”, “bring tidings”, “bring glad tidings”, and “declare”. Tyndale did not ever use the verb “evangelize.” Other Reformation era translations continued in this practice: the Bishops, the English Geneva, and then the King James Version.

Tyndale’s decision, not to use the verb evangelize, has continued to influence all English translations up until the HCSB. The HCSB includes the verb seven times in its 2009 edition. When I first held the HCSB NT in my hands at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary I was elated to see the verb “evangelize”! The following are three of my favorite uses of this verb to give a small taste of its importance in translation work.

“After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to evangelize them.” (Acts 16:10)

One of the classic uses of the verb “evangelize” in the NT has to be Paul’s Macedonian call. In Acts 16:6-8 Paul and his team were seeking God’s will for their mission trip—with closed doors, road blocks, and no permission to preach the word. Then came a vision in the night, a man from Macedonia asking for help. And, in a classic statement off the pen of Luke, Paul concluded from this vision that “God has called us to evangelize them!” The HCSB provides Christians a powerful statement of Paul’s view of mission by translating this verb as “evangelize.”

“My aim is to evangelize where Christ has not been named, so that I will not build on someone else’s foundation.” (Rom 15:20)

Here at the close of the Book of Romans, Paul continued to describe his sense of mission. His aim was literally to “Go where no man had ever gone before” with the gospel. He did not want only to go with the gospel, but to verbally proclaim it. His aim was “to evangelize” where the Christ’s name had never been uttered or heard. That evangelizing should be at the heart of Christian world missions is infused in this text by the excellent translation work of the HCSB.

“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to evangelize—not with clever words, so that the cross of Christ will not be emptied of its effect.” (1 Cor 1:17)

A third amazing use of “evangelize” in the HCSB is found in 1 Corinthians 1:17. In this verse Paul places evangelism above the first ordinance of Christ, which is Baptism. Paul makes a statement of priority. In his mind, evangelizing was more of a priority than Baptism. This statement then begs for definition. What is evangelizing in relation to Baptism? Evangelizing is the proclamation of the gospel leading to the first hearing of faith of the person being evangelized. Or, in the order of Matthew’s Great Commission, evangelizing is found between the “going” and the “making of a disciple.” After a disciple is made, then the decision is made public through Baptism.

Three amazing uses of “evangelize” in the HCSB. This translation has pioneered a new era in English language translation by unearthing a term that was effectively buried since the 1388. 619 years of English Bible translation history were altered when the HCSB used the English verb “evangelize” seven times*—Amen!

*The seven uses are: Acts 8:25, 40; 14:21; 16:10; Rom 15:20; and 1 Cor 1:17.

Three Types of Evangelism to Avoid

Johnny Appleseed

This morning I purchased flowers for my wife because our 31st Anniversary is tomorrow. The florist, however, appeared condescending and unhelpful. It was not a great experience. I was reminded about the importance of being loving, genuine, and caring in evangelism. With these attitudes in mind, let me share about some unhelpful approaches to evangelism.

1) Patronizing Evangelism

Patronizing Evangelism comes from an “I’m better than you” attitude. In Patronizing Evangelism we forget that we are sinners saved by God’s grace alone. We do not merit salvation any more than the next person. So, why be proud of being born again and look down on others?

“For if I evangelize*, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I evangelize* not!” (1 Cor 9:16)

*The phrase “preach the gospel” is often used to translate the 55 New Testament uses of the Greek verb “evangelize.”

Paul had no reason to be inflated in his evangelism. Rather, he made himself “a servant of all to win the more.” (1 Cor 9:19) Paul’s evangelism kept him humble!

While it is far less stressful to evangelize children (especially inside a church or at VBS), poor people from a different country, or those who we are serving in some way, it does not make these the preferable or only means of evangelizing. While reaching out to children, the poor, and needy is valid and necessary, we must avoid becoming patronizing as we share the good news of Jesus.

2) Johnny Appleseed Evangelism

Johnny Appleseed Evangelism encapsulates the feeling of “having a positive view of the future.” Perhaps giving out apple seeds was Johnny’s introduction to evangelism, and if so, I do not want to demean his method. But on the other hand, if his main message was “plant an apple seed and smile at the future,” then the message avoids the death and resurrection of Christ as the foundation.*

*Further research leads me to the insight that John Chapman, aka. Johnny Appleseed, was a Swedenborgian missionary. This group apparently denies the Vicarious Atonement and the Trinity among other things.

It seems like Johnny Appleseed Evangelism remains stuck on God sending rains and harvests, without moving into the message of Jesus. Yes, Paul did use the message of God’s sovereign care over mankind through nature when addressing the Gentiles in Acts 14 and 17. But he followed it up with the person and work of Christ, when he was given that opportunity.

In Acts 14 Paul’s healing of a lame man, his stopping the sacrifice of a bull to himself, his message of God’s creative care, and his call to “turn from these vain things” led him to be stoned and left for dead. In Acts 17, in Paul’s famous Mars Hill sermon, when he spoke of the resurrection of Christ he was interrupted by hecklers.

Johnny Appleseed Evangelism in and of itself is not enough. We must go beyond God’s creative care in nature and move to the death and resurrection of Christ even if we face ostracism and persecution.

3) Mister Rogers Evangelism

Another form of evangelism that is easy to fall into is a Mister Rogers approach to evangelizing (no offense to the late Mister Rogers).* In what I am calling the “Mister Rogers Approach” we seek only to put a smile on the face of those with whom we share. A discussion of sin and judgment are not a part of the Mister Rogers Approach, because these topics may offend the person with whom we are sharing.

*Apparently Fred Rogers, aka. Mister Rogers, was an ordained Presbyterian minister.

However, when Paul spoke of evangelizing, he wrote to the Galatians:

“For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” (Gal 1:10)

While being cheerful and friendly are important in evangelism, we must avoid merely tickling the ears of those with whom we are speaking. Ultimately we must please Christ who sent us out—and be willing to call men to repentance:

“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30)

Christ calls us to share His death and resurrection with love and humility, as well as power and boldness. So let’s also obey the Great Commission as communicated off the pen of Luke:

“Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.’” (Luke 24:46-47)

Two Harlots and the Fate of the Evangelist

Solomon showed his amazing wisdom in helping distinguish between the mother of a dead child and the mother of a living child. It is actually an interesting account with ramifications to evangelism:

“And the king said, ‘The one says, “This is my son, who lives, and your son is the dead one”; and the other says, “No! But your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.”’” Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to one, and half to the other.” Then the woman whose son was living spoke to the king, for she yearned with compassion for her son; and she said, “O my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him!” But the other said, “Let him be neither mine nor yours, but divide him.” So the king answered and said, “Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him; she is his mother.” (1 Kings 3:23-27)

Here, the mother that bore the child had compassion for her child. The mother who did not bear the child had no concern for the life and development of the living child.

These two mothers are actually examples of two types of Christian leaders. There are leaders who have enough love to lead people to Christ. To become their “father” as it were. Paul said the same in 1 Corinthians 4:

“For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” (1 Cor 4:15)

And yet already in the days of Paul, certain leaders, who had not “begotten them through the gospel” came in by stealth. They sought to rob these newly born Christians—and to take away from them any gratitude they had toward the person who had “begotten them through the gospel.”

Solomon needed to ask a question to distinguish between the true mother and the false mother. Likewise, Paul set up a dichotomy in 1 Corinthians 4: the true father and the instructor; the evangelist through whom they came to Christ and someone else.

Notice then how he came back to this same idea in 1 Corinthians 9:

“If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ” (1 Cor 9:12)

Just like the true mother in Solomon’s wise counsel, Paul did not want to take advantage of his “right in the gospel.” His concern was for the unhindered spiritual growth of the newly converted Corinthian believers.

However, the other teachers, “ten thousand instructors,” had little care for the spiritual welfare of those led to Christ by Paul. Their primary care was for themselves. In this way, this second group of teachers is more like the heartless harlot who wanted the living child to be cut in half.

Is a heart for evangelism important for the Christian leader? Yes, it is! It is urgently necessary. For, a lack of evangelistic fervor may lead a Christian leader to become like the heartless harlot—fleecing the sheep led to Christ by someone else. Meanwhile, sometimes, the true evangelist must needs be willing to step aside in follow-up, agreeing with the harlot of the living son, “O my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him!”