So I Send You – To Whom?; Who Me?; Preachers Too

Dr. Roger S. Greenway herewith presents the remaining lessons in THE OUTLOOKS 1972–73 series on Reformed Evangelism entitled So Send I You. Dr. Greenway is Area Secretary for Latin America with the Christian Reformed Church’s Board of Foreign Missions. A hearty thank you is extended to Dr. Greenway, Rev. William Heynen, and Rev. Thomas C. Vanden Heuvel for the lessons they prepared for this series.


Read Luke 24:44–49

As we examine the New Testament record, one thing that stands out in regard to evangelism is the worldwide scope of the missionary commission. Jesus said: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19); “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15); “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest pan of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NASB).

It was because God so loved the world that He sent His only-begotten Son (John 3:16). The love of God in the Christian’s heart prompts him to share this worldwide concern. The dream which every evangelism-minded Christian dreams is that of a world in which every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:11). There is no nation or race, no city or inhabited island, that can be considered “off limits” to the Christian evangelist. The sphere of evangelism is the entire populated world, taken as a whole and in all its separate parts.

Not only is the whole world given to the church as sphere of evangelism, but this commission applies to the whole church, east and west, north and south. For too long we have proceeded on the assumption that the missionary obligation rested mainly with Western churches. Granted, we have more material resources. But the whole church is sent, and that includes churches of the Third World. The Lord’s resources are as worldwide as the challenge He places before us. One of the best things that could happen to some of the younger churches of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, would be to get involved in mission work in another part of the world. And I do not exclude North America as one of the areas where an African or a Latin American evangelist might be able to meet certain needs better than a national. Certain Oriental and Latin Christians are already doing this in our larger cities.


1) Once an indigenous church is established in a country, is our obligation completed and can we withdraw our foreign missionary endeavor from that country?

2) One large Presbyterian denomination in Mexico celebrated its centennial last year by sending home all the North American missionaries which were related to that church. Does a national church have the right to do such a thing in view of the tremendous unevangelized parts of the country where no one, either foreign missionary or national worker, is preaching the Gospel?

3) Could we use some foreign missionaries from other countries in North America?

4) Would it be a wise use of mission money to help a church, say in Argentina or Japan, send missionaries to another country?

5) What should we do when Caesar forbids mission work? What is our responsibility right now to countries such as Cuba, China, and Eastern Europe? Have we been unfaithful by not risking imprisonment and death in order to bring the Gospel to such lands?


When we talk about the “to whom” and “where” of evangelism we must face up to the thorny problem of selectivity. We might wish that we could avoid it. If our resources were limitless, we could do everything we would like to do. We could send evangelists to every city and country in the world. We could supply Bibles and literature in unending quantity, in every language and dialect, and for all the people on earth. We could assign a translator for every small tribe and dialect, and no level of society would be bypassed in favor of another. We could beam the Gospel on every radio station and purchase prime time on TV networks. There are so many good things we could if only our resources were not limited!

But we must face reality. Our resources are limited. Therefore we must be selective in the types of evangelism in which we engage and in the people and places to which we go. We simply cannot do everything that we might want to do. We must make certain choices.

If this is the situation, then what should be the basis of our selection? How do we choose one field and one group of people out of many possibilities? Why do we select a particular method and pass by or treat lightly some other approach?

Situations are always complex, and I am in danger of oversimplifying the issue. But I want to suggest that as Calvinists and as wise strategists, we should place our greatest efforts in the places where God is evidently working, where He has prepared the harvest and reapers need to be sent in. Christ did not send us simply to “reach people” and nothing more. He said, “As you go, make disciples” (Matt. 28:19). Not that we can change men’s hearts and make them followers of the Lord. No Christians should ever be deceived on that point. But the Lord is saying to us that disciple-making is the goal of evangelistic effort. God is glorified when men believe in Christ as their Savior and submit to His word and example. That is what we aim at in evangelism.

In the divine economy, harvest fields ripen at different times in different places. There are places today where evangelists can do abundant reaping. In other places, doors are closed and baptisms are almost unheard of. Sometimes the situation can change suddenly and unexpectedly, as occurred in Indonesia within the past decade. Ten years ago it seemed that Christian advance in Indonesia had come to a complete halt. Missionaries were sent home, communism was taking over, and the Muslim religion was in a highly favorable position. But God overturned that table in a most dramatic way. More converts are being won from Islam to Christianity in Indonesia today than ever before in history. Mission work is advancing, churches are growing, and the threat of communism is gone at least for the present. Reports tell of entire villages being baptized into the Christian faith, and denominations which a decade ago were having to send their missionaries home are now asking that missionaries return to teach and train native leaders for their rapidly growing churches. All this reminds us that God is in control of nations and events. He has His own timetable. Not all fields ripen at the same rate, nor is the harvest ready for reaping at the same time in all parts of the world. The secret of submission to God’s sovereignty in missions is to watch for God’s moving, to be responsive to His direction, and to enter where and when He opens the doors.


1) Should we be concerned about results in evangelism? Since God alone can regenerate a dead sinner, is not our obligation fulfilled when we have simply proclaimed the Christian message to the best of our ability?

2) What should we do about evangelism programs which drain our resources year after year without producing much tangible fruit? By what standards should we judge whether such programs ought to be continued?

3) When methods used by non-Reformed churches and missionary agencies prove to be more effective in winning disciples to Christ than the methods which we traditionally employ, what should we do? Can we name any such methods?

4) If there is a fruitful field in a distant part of the world, and a relatively unfruitful field closer to home, and both appeal for greater support, how should we respond as responsible stewards of missionary resources?


Read Acts 1:1–11

Can there be a saving witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ without the message being spoken? My answer is a resounding, No!

One of the assumptions underlying this series of studies is that evangelism should be the concern of every Christian and that every Christian should in one way or another be involved in witnessing for the Lord. For this reason many of us were surprised and disturbed by an editorial which appeared in the December 15 issue of The Banner. The last part of Dr. Lester De Koster’s editorial is entitled, “Let us Not Love in Word or Speech.” Besides containing some remarkably strange exegesis, it represents a frontal attack upon the teaching that every Christian can and should witness verbally for Jesus Christ. From rcading the editorial it is almost impossible to escape the conclusion that verbal witnessing as such is not necessary because the “silently eloquent witnesses” of calloused hands and Christian conduct are all that are necessary. I hope that Dr. De Koster will return to this subject in a future editorial and will clarify his position, for I suspect that some among us have found in his editorial welcome support for their anti-missionary sentiments and an excuse for their complacent inactivity on the score of evangelism.

Can there be a saving witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ without the message being spoken? My answer is a resounding, No! The message of salvation must be verbalized. It must be spoken. Jesus Himself was no “silent Savior.” He spoke! He came preaching. His whole life was a witness but His witness did not end with His life. In order that men may know the truth, the plain and intelligible spoken word must accompany the witness of one’s life and work For that reason Dr. De Koster’s short barrage against the necessity of the oral communication of the Christian message by laymen is hard to understand. Could he have forgotten what Calvin said about the believer’s responsibility to witness to his neighbors:

Our Lord Jesus Christ was made like unto us, and suffered death, that He might become an advocate and mediator between God and us, and open a way whereby we may come to God. Those who do not endeavor to bring their neighbors and unbelievers to the way of salvation plainly show that they make no account of God’s honor, and that they try to diminish the mighty power of His empire, and set Him bounds that He may not rule and govern all the world; they likewise darken the virtue and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Jessen the dignity given Him by the Father (Mystery of Godliness, p. 199 ).

I am sure that Dr. Dc Koster does not want to leave the impression with the members of the church that either laymen are incapable of verbal witnessing or that good works are all that is required to bring unsaved people to the knowledge of Christ.


1) What is there in the Gospel that cannot be passed on by works alone but which requires the spoken word?

2) Is it possible to love your neighbor as the Bible teaches and at the same time let him go to hell without ever speaking to him about Christ and his personal need of the Savior?

3) What does I John 3:18 mean? Is the Apostle John forbidding the word-of·mouth witness of believers, or does he have something else in mind?


Key 73 and Evangelism Thrust, like their Latin American counterpart Evangelism-in-Depth, emphasize the total mobilization of the church for evangelism. This is good when it is correctly interpreted. Every member of the body of Christ should seek to discover, develop, and actively employ the gift or gifts which God has given him for the ongoing work of the kingdom.

Oftentimes, however, the idea is suggested that every Christian must be an “evangelist.” This implies that all Christians receive the gift and calling of an evangelist, and at this point I disagree. Not every Christian is so gifted, nor is every Christian obliged to function as an evangelist. Gifts and callings go together in the economy of the Spirit, and we make a mistake when we fail to relate the two.

The current reaction against an unhealthy kind of professionalism in evangelism is good if it is pitted against the false notion which has developed in some circles that the clergy should do all the work and the laymen should be quiet, passive recipients. The Reformation of the 16th century ought to have drowned that notion, but like so many other misconceptions it keeps popping up. At the same time, we must keep in mind that while all Christians are called to be witnesses, not all possess the office and calling of what the New Testament refers to as an evangelist. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:11 that “some are evangelists,” not all. All Christians are witnesses (Acts 1:8, where the thrust is distributive, not restrictive), and not to use our mouths and tongues in witnessing is an insult to the God who gave us these faculties for praising Him through spoken testimony concerning His Son. But this does not mean that all Christians have received the gifts required for the kind of direct evangelistic activity which the evangelist’s and the missionary’s calling assume.

Therefore I urge a word of caution. It is not Biblical to place upon every child of God an obligation to do things for which he or she has not received the required gifts. If this is all that Dr. De Koster intends to say in his Banner editorial in The Banner, he has a valid point. However, I do think that he owes the church a further word of clarification. The world has waited long enough for the church to open up and begin telling forth the Good News to every man. We do not need encouragement to remain silent. That, I fear, comes too naturally for many of us.

The Christian message must be verba1i7.ed, and every prophet, priest, and king in Christ can and should use his tongue for that end. Not every Christian is an evangelist or missionary; but every Christian is called to be a witness, including a verbal witness. Once we make clear this distinction we are on firmer ground.


1) I Corinthians 12 has a great deal to say about spiritual gifts and their exercise. Have we taken seriously enough the Biblical doctrine of the gifts of the Spirit and do we look for these in ourselves and in other members of the church?

2) How are gifts and callings related to one another? Compare I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 3:7; 4:11–16, and other such passages. Are the frustrations and ineffectiveness of some kingdom workers perhaps due to the fact that they thought they were called to a certain office but obviously do not possess the required gifts to function well in that office?

3) What can we do to prepare ourselves better for verbal witnessing? Is such preparation necessary? Have Reformed churches done all that they need to do in this area?


Read Romans 10

“Do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry,” Paul wrote to Timothy (II Tim. 4:5). The preaching of the Word is the chief task of the ordained minister and it is mainly through preaching that God works repentance and faith in men’s hearts. For that reason it is so important that preachers not fail to accept their responsibilities as evangelists, as heralds of the Gospel to the unsaved. One of the tragedies of modern Christianity is the loss of sensitivity on the part of ministers to the urgency and responsibility to preach the Gospel evangelistically within established churches. We should teach evangelistically just as much as we should evangelistic doctrinally. When these two things—doctrinal instruction and evangelism -are separated, the church will soon be in trouble.

I fear that we are losing this emphasis today. More and more the burden of responsibility for winning men to Christian discipleship and of extending the frontiers of the kingdom are being shifted to laymen, and ordained ministers are withdrawing from the front-line activity of preaching and teaching the Word in such a way that men are drawn to the Gospel and are saved.

I am not sure as to the cause or ca uses of this change, but evidence that the trend exists is unmistakable. With the exception of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, nearly everyone of the great evangelistic organizations of our time is controlled by laymen and is geared to train and support lay evangelism. And the methods they espouse most do not include preaching. Many of these organizations, in fact, display an indifferent and almost hostile attitude toward the ordained ministry and the organized church. And I fear that in many cases the feeling is reciprocated.

If you look at the whole field of missions and evangelism today, it seems as though ordained ministers are passing the ball to the laymen and to lay organizations. One thing to be appreciated in Key 73, and in the Evangelism Thrust program of the Christian Reformed Church, is the appeal which is being made to the pastors of congregations to get involved in evangelism and mobilize the full resources of their churches for this work. I have missed, however, any appeal for more evangelistic preaching in our church services. Have we lost faith in the preaching’s effectiveness in winning men to Christ?

We must face the fact that in today’s church world there is an ever-growing number of people who disparage the evangelistic role of preaching. The idea has spread -it’s virtually a dogma in some circles—that we cannot expect anything to happen evangelistically during the Sunday morning and Sunday evening services. They tell us that the church hour is the time when the saints are edi6ed, but certainly no one is going to be converted through anything so old-fashioned as the preaching of the regular pastor.

Some preachers have become so enamored by modern theories of communication that they have lost their convictions concerning the efficacy of preaching and the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit in and through the oral exposition of the Scriptures. This loss of faith has a direct effect on evangelistic strategy. It relates to both home and foreign missions. Instead of sending preachers, oral communicators, more and more emphasis is being placed on methods and types of evangelism which bypass preaching and in some cases ignore the established church.

But looking now at the other side of the issue, I believe that something should be done to improve the evangelistic quality of much of our traditional Reformed preaching. Is evangelistic preaching a lost art among Reformed ministers? I am afraid that our seminaries do not emphasize it, and some of our ministers seem to avoid it intentionally as though it were unReformed to be evangelistic. I have talked recently with a number of concerned laymen who are sincerely interested in inviting their unsaved neighbors to church. But they realize that traditional pulpit vocabulary and the thrust of most messages are not designed for outsiders. Seldom do we enjoy a really evangelistic service to which we can invite unchurched people with confidence, knowing that the message, the hymns, the prayers, and the overall tone of the service will have them in mind. I know that some readers will vigorously disagree with this judgment. But having served for many years on the mission field where the average service is both edifying, instructional, and warmly evangelistic, I sense deeply that this latter note is largely missing from services in this country. I know that many laymen want changes in this area, and I believe that we preachers should seriously consider it.

In his charming little book, Evangelism in the Home Church, Andrew W. Blackwood dedicates one chapter to what he calls “Soul·Winning Sermons.” He argues for sermons which “attract the sinner and bless the saint.” Great men of the pulpit have always been able to evangelize doctrinally and teach doctrine evangelistically. “In the work of the pulpit,” says Blackwood, “evangelism and Christian nurture belong together.” There should be no sharp distinction between the soul-winning sermon and the pastoral discourse. In the ministry of the true pastor-evangelist, the two elements are inseparable.


1) When was the last time that you heard an evangelistic sermon preached in your church? Did you find it edifying or did you feel that it was out of place in an established congregation?

2) Can we assume that every member of the church is personally converted to Christ? Do covenant young people need to hear the evangelical proclamation of the Gospel? Do older Christians need to hear it too?

3) Is a minister fulfilling his calling if he does not make a positive evangelistic appeal to the unconverted in his preaching?

4) William Barclay says in his book “Fishers of Men”: “The man whose evangelism cuts him off from the church is on the wrong way.” Is Barclay correct? If he is, what do we say about evangelistic agencies which draw Christians away from the church?

5) What can be done to make our Sunday services events to which we can eagerly invite unsaved neighbors with the expectation that they will hear the Gospel loud and clear, will see its gracious impact in the congregation, and will be urged to repent, believe, and be saved?

6) Have recent articles and discussions concerning modem theories of communication tended to strengthen or weaken people’s commitment to the expository preaching of the Bible?


In the same editorial mentioned above, Dr. De Koster raises the interesting question as to where we find the obligation set forth that laymen must verbally witness for Christ. Dr. De Koster says that he does not find such an obligation stated anywhere, neither in Scripture nor in the creeds and confessions. Not having found it anywhere, not even in the all-em· bracing obligation of love, he concludes that such a requirement is a “commandment of men” and should not bind the Christian’s conscience.

Jesus said: “As the Father sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21). How is that “you” to be understood? Was it meant simply for the disciples, for the Apostles of the first century, or for the ordained clergy? Are only the “professionals” included here? The Roman Catholic Church. historically, has had its own restrictive answer. Only in recent years has Rome produced a relevant theory of the lay apostolate. But have some of us fallen in step with Rome’s distinction between clcrgy and laity? Have we forgotten that the Spirit-power which the Lord promised (Acts 1:8) fell upon the whole church (Acts 1:3) and enabled the whole congregation to witness for Christ in the power of the Spirit (Acts 1:4 ff.)? The “you” of “you shall be my witnesses” is as universal as the “you” of “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you.” Whoever possesses the Witnessing Spirit is called to speak for his Lord. That, I feel, is our first answer.

Furthermore, let us remind ourselves that we are not under law but under grace! We need no law concerning evangelism such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses have. If Christians need a law book which requires that they witness, something is terribly wrong. The Holy Spirit is revealed in the New Testament as the witnessing, Missionary Spirit. Wherever His fullness is felt there is joyful, spontaneous witnessing. ·That is what happened in the New Testament church. Christians needed no haranguing on the subject of evangelism because men and women touched by the Spirit were turned into exuberant witnessing people. Paul writes to the Thessalonians:

You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the Word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything (I Thess. 1:6–8 NASB).

The prompting to evangelize is not first of all a Biblical “law” or a confessional statement, but the inner urging of the Witnessing Spirit. If it is anything else, it is false and will produce nothing of spiritual value. For this reason our prayer for Key ‘73 and for Evangelism Thrust should be that the Spirit of God will move in America’s churches. If this endeavor is not of God, it will fail. But if it is indeed a fresh breath of the Spirit, then God is giving America another opportunity, perhaps the last one, to make God her trust. Evangelism, by whatever name, comes not from man-made law-books, formulas, or promotion, but from the Spirit of God who dwells in the church and in all its members.


1) Has the so-called “Pentecostal Movement” in America resulted in numerous conversions, has it built up churches, and has it done for today’s church what the infusion of spiritual power did for the Early Church?

2) Would you say that the extremism of many modern Pentecostals and Neo-pentecostals has caused some of us to be unduly critical of any discussion of the Holy Spirit, of the Spirit’s fullness, and of the gifts which He gives?

3) Do you agree that the motivation to evangelize should come from within, or do you think that ministers should put pressure on church members to go out and witness?

4) As we watch Key ‘73 develop, what should we watch for? What are the signs that this movement is from God and that the Holy Spirit is giving to America a genuine religious awakening?

5) What are some of the things we should pray for during this year of special evangelistic endeavor?