A.J. Gordon Heritage Project
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Evangelism - March 2011

March 2011–Evangelism  
The Heralding of Good News 
Jaclyn Beck '07

“We live in the lives of others more than our own.” ~ A.J. Gordon

I will admit that I spent about 45 minutes on Facebook today. I spent 15 minutes looking through and commenting on a friend’s photo album of her cross country road trip, I logged on between work assignments to refresh my newsfeed, and I spent another 10 minutes on the site when I got home from work, while I ate my dinner. I’m going to log on again at the completion of this paragraph because my Blackberry told me I have a new notification. And in general, every time I log onto Facebook, I get a little irritated when nothing has been updated. 

It’s true that we pay attention to other people’s lives more than our own most of the time. This isn’t a bad thing at all. In a way we should be doing that. We should be building relationships, sharing joys and sympathizing with pains, and spreading the good news of Christ. But, for a long time I thought that my role in showing Christ to the world would be fulfilled by just living my Christian life. Jesus would be in my heart, and just by observing me, people would wonder what it was that made me different, and come to the conclusion that it was Christ. After all, if I’m paying such close attention to other people’s lives, I can assume that they’re paying close attention to mine. They’ll see Him, and that will be my work for Him. 

Bill Boylan, the head of Byfield Parish Church in Georgetown, and a 1966 graduate from Gordon College said that this is a misconception to what true evangelism is. He says that true evangelism involves a life in service to Christ, a declaration, and an opportunity to demonstrate both in order to win souls. “True evangelism is the announcement of what the King of Heaven has done,” he says. “It’s not so much philosophy as it is news. We preach Christ. And my role as the head of a church is not to always be preaching, but to equip the flock to tell the news.”

Large type Christians

“It’s true that we can talk all we want but if we don’t live it, it’s lost,” says Pastor Boylan. “But, imagining that because we live a certain way people will identify us with Christ is a misguided effort. People will get confused that we are the message. Christ has to be identified.”

Byfield Parish Church receives nearly 100 Gordon students on any given Sunday, and was the first congregational church in America. Pastor Boylan received his call to preach while on Gordon’s campus, and says that an evangelist’s role is to be God’s instrument, by first completing in our hearts what Christ already is.

A. J. Gordon drives this home with a Watchword article that talks about a need for “Large type Christians.” He supports the fact that we do live in the lives of others, and preaches that we must do more and show more than just a daily existence with Christ to win souls. We should be eager to share it. “We have many who are truly Christians,” he says,  “more than the world knows— but not so many who are visibly, clearly, largely, unmistakably Christ like in spirit and conduct. If the graces of the Spirit, though real, are small and stinted, and especially if they are overshadowed by a rank growth of vanity, worldliness, self-pleasing, and such like, they will never be seen by those who most need their evidence. The careless passenger will class you according to the earth. Unless which is large in your life, and will not be at pains to search for the heavenliness, that which is so small that it must be searched for will not be found. We address Christians, and our warning is — although the light of life be within you, if it is choked and hidden by an abounding worldliness, you are, in point of fact, thwarting the purpose of the Lord, and hindering his kingdom in the world. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

“Another reason, Christians, why the epistle of your life should be large and fair, is that the readers are not skillful,” A. J. Gordon continues. “They seldom take pains to overlook what lies on the surface, and search the true meaning of a Christian's walk. In many instances they are blind, and cannot see; in many they are prejudiced, and will not. Ah, there is no good ground to depend on the skill, or fairness, or earnestness of the world, as if they would stand still and study, and discriminate, and read our lives aright. We must labor, with the help of God, to make the meaning so large and transparent, that they shall be compelled to read it while they run — run past in carelessness, or away in hate.”

A new awakening

Pastor Boylan witnesses Gordon students’ faith on a weekly basis, and sees that the College is connected to and respected by surrounding communities in a way that fosters evangelical opportunities. “Gordon isn’t a sub-culture,” he says. “It has a good relationship with the city of Salem, and is connected to its culture, and it seems to have done so without comprise to it’s identity in Christ.”

“Gordon College has always had zeal to teach the evangelical message,” says Pastor Boylan of his past and present experience with the College. “The school has always been very conscious that the students going through it would certainly understand the faith and be witnesses. The atmosphere is just very ‘missions-minded.’ Faith has been nurtured. I think the College will have a direct impact on the next evangelical awakening.”

For Gordon College this means we have a responsibility to be in other people’s lives in a way that will bring them to Christ. We should become a friend, build relationships with people, sympathize with them in their troubles and celebrate with them in their happiness, so that we can have the opportunity to identify Christ and introduce Him into their world. 

Pastor Boylan pointed out that in 1 Corinthians 9, Paul says he became a slave to people in order to win souls to Christ. “Paul didn’t live for himself, he lived for the world,” says Pastor Boylan, “He suffered for them. He said ‘To a Jew, I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To the weak I became weak, so as to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all means possible I may save some.’” 

The value of an opportunity

A. J. Gordon encourages us to always be alert for opportunities. “It is never out of season to sow the seed of life,” he says, “for there is never a moment when there may not be near us some heart which the Lord has opened to receive the Word. God, to keep us vigilant and alert, is springing opportunities upon us at every turn and at every moment of life. We have a double watch, as Christians; we watch for Christ, and watch for souls. How does the Master keep us watchful for his coming? By concealing the time of this coming from us: ‘It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in his own hands,’ He says, ‘Watch, therefore, because ye know not at what hour your Lord doth come.’ 

“And the word ‘opportunity’—what a fact it represents. It is swifter, often, in its coming, than the lightning's flash. It comes, and is gone, in the twinkling of an eye, and it is the one thing in God's universe which, if ever missed, can never be overtaken. A man, by a motion of his hand, deprives another of his life, when he might have saved that life. An accident had happened to a person which a doctor's skill could have instantly relieved; and as the doctor, riding swiftly to the help of the patient, came to a point where two roads met, he inquired of one standing there which road to take to the sufferer's house. The man pointed in the wrong direction, the physician was carried far out of his way, and before he could get back the patient was dead. The opportunity was forever lost; the moment when a life might have been saved by pointing the finger, was lost, to be recalled no more.”

“And, friends,” he continues, “we are all of us standing daily where two roads meet — the way of life and the way of death. If, as some perplexed, uncertain soul is asking the question of himself: ‘Which road shall I take?’ the index finger of your example happens to be pointing wrongly, you may be the death of a soul, when you might have been its life. These junctures of life, where a single act done or left undone, where a single word spoken or unspoken is like the movement of a switch, sending men upon a track that shall lead off in ever-widening divergence and in ever-increasing distance from the true terminus of blessedness!

“At such moments eternities are born in the souls of men — eternal death, perhaps, if we fail in our duty; eternal life, certainly, if we drop the Word of Life into a receptive and believing heart.”

 

Jaclyn Beck is currently an editor at HCPro, Inc. in Marblehead, MA. She graduated from Gordon College in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in Business Administration. She can be reached at