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By Dr. Ken Baker
Mass evangelism is like hunting rabbits with a brass band,” one Christian author said.
What do you think?
The metaphor that Jesus used was altogether more subtle: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
Recently, I read St Patrick’s take on this. “…We ought to fish well and diligently, as the Lord exhorts in advance and teaches, saying: Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men. And again He says through the prophets: Behold, I send many fishers and hunters, saith God, and so on. Hence it was most necessary to spread our nets so that a great multitude and throng might be caught for God.” (Confession)
He takes a rather loose translation of Jeremiah 16:16 to give the two sides of the issue: fishers wait and hunters pursue.
BUT WHAT DOES EVANGELISM LOOK LIKE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT?
When Jesus sent out His disciples two by two, the list of instructions was short: 1. Preach. 2. Cast out demons. 3. Heal.
The opening gambit of Jesus’s public ministry is carefully recorded in Luke 4. Jesus opens the scroll of Isaiah at the synagogue in Nazareth and reads from chapter 61. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor…”
That’s a fairly regular translation of a vital verse, but the translation misses one interesting point. The phrase “preach good news” is actually one word in Hebrew, basar. There’s nothing really wrong with the translation into “preach” except for what that word has come to connote. It is, nowadays, a “preachy” kind of word, a bit stuffy and sanctimonious. No one wants anyone to “preach” at them outside of a very specific setting.
Imagine any use of the word “preach” outside of the hallowed halls of pulpiteering, and it conveys a quality of nagging, condescending, or belittling, whether or not you intend that.
The King James Bible uses the phrase “bring good tidings.” This is better, but no cigar, because the word basar in Isaiah 61 carries the strong implication of cheerfulness. This is something to get happily excited about!
Strong’s Concordance says the word means “to be fresh (figuratively cheerful), to announce, bear, carry, preach, tell good tidings.” Verb: “to bear tidings, to be glad, joyful; he rejoiced him with the message of the birth of a son.”
Did you get the gist? Here it is: “Rejoice him with the message of the birth of a son”! Something new, wonderful and exciting. No wonder all the worry-lines have been smoothed away. This is good, good news… the very best!
I remember when my adopted son first called me Dad. The memory still makes me cry with happiness. I remember the births of my next three, and the special input of the dozens that we fostered. My kids. My joy and crown. Such joy is life itself. Jesus came to rejoice us with the message of the birth of a son!
When you speak of news like this, it’s difficult to keep still. When Jairus put his arms around the daughter whom he thought he had lost forever, he was not sober and restrained about it.