Evangelization is a funny word

For those of you wondering what the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization is (especially that last word), go ahead and substitute “witness.” It is not that “evangelization” is a meaningless word. It comes from medieval ecclesiastical Latin evangelizare, which means to spread the gospel (evangel in the New Testament). But if the “-ization” part gets in the way, sounding rather mechanical or crassly tactical, then keep in mind that the first global congress on world evangelization, convened by Billy Graham and John Stott in Lausanne, Switzerland, was all about the robust, universal, strategic spread of the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. And so we come to Cape Town 2010.

Today we more typically use the word “witness,” which is, of course, central in the teaching of Jesus. “You will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8; cf. Acts 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39). What an incredible responsibility he left his followers. Think of it this way: in a court trial the decision often comes down to the credibility of key witnesses. Those who can say: this is true. We know it because we saw it, we heard it, we experienced it. One generation was able to say we saw Jesus, we heard him, we lived with him. And all these centuries later the followers are able to say: we too know this Jesus. All these years later, we too experience him as the living Lord and Savior. He has the answers to the deepest issues in life and he has the power to straighten out life’s entanglements. He judges evil, wickedness, and injustice, but in his compassion he does not snuff out a smoldering wick or break a bent reed. He is still the incomparable one. And in the world of the 21st century in which we have almost given up on hope for a center–he is that center. We are witnesses of all this.

One week from today, as thousands of delegates from 200 different countries come to Cape Town to talk about the meaning of Christian witness in the world today, we must all humble ourselves, be willing to repent of our profound shortcomings, and rediscover the joy of leading people to him.

[Connections with Cape Town 201 through Elmbrook here and here.]

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