Coffee Is Not Evangelism: Defining and Engaging in Evangelism
Sam Horn: Well, I’m delighted today to have the privilege of having Dave Doran Jr. with me in the studio. Dave, you have had a phenomenal impact in my life personally over the years, and I’m delighted you’ve had the opportunity to come and do important messages on the gospel. I was blessed today as I heard you preach, and the message was incredibly relevant for my life. Out of that message I have a few questions I want to ask you.
Dave Doran Jr: Okay.
Horn: So the first is—tell us a little bit about your ministry. I know you’re pastoring an inner-city church in Detroit that you planted. I’d love for you to speak a little bit about that.
Doran Jr: Yeah, so we went to Lincoln Park, Michigan in 2015; we were sent out by Inter-City Baptist Church to plant Resurrection Church. And our task was fairly simple: to announce Christ and then pursue those who were responding to gather them into a body of believers and to begin to teach them to obey all that Christ had commanded. So my wife and I and a core team of a number of believers began to take up that process, and God’s been incredibly kind. So, in 2016, we formed membership as a church, and now here we are in 2019. We have a small group of believers that I think is making an impact for the name of the King. It’s been great.
Horn: And that pathway came through a time as a student pursuing theological education and serving on the staff of a church and now actually planting a church. And I love the name of the church: Resurrection Church. What a great joy.
Well, let me ask you, as you preached and as I listened and was impacted by the sermon, one of the things that I thought you did incredibly well was you defined terms. And you challenged us to define terms in our own thinking as we think about being gospel bearers. And one of the terms that you really spent time was “What does it mean to evangelize?” “What does it mean to be an evangelist?” So can you talk a little bit about that?
Doran Jr: Yeah. The term evangelism is really something that has almost turned into, in some churches, PR. And in other churches, it may mean events that that people can be invited to. There really is a lot of murky water about the topic of evangelism, and I think it’s very helpful for us to keep the definition of evangelism tight so that we know we can succeed in what Christ has commissioned us to do, which is to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ with the aim to persuade.
There’s a book by a man named Mac Stiles that really tries to drive that home—that this is proclaiming Jesus Christ with the aim that people would turn around and follow him. And when we have relationships—for instance, the term relational evangelism is a great term, but we need to make sure that the coffee is not evangelism. The proclaiming the gospel is evangelism. It’s a helpful distinction because sometimes we can in, for instance, relational evangelism—I love being relational. And you know the fight—you can be so patient that you never speak of Jesus. So if you can put that line out in front of you—No! I need to tell them about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Horn: And I think that was very helpful, David, to me in my own thinking about my own evangelism, saying, “Okay, am I really using the relationship to get to the point of proclaiming the actual gospel with the intent of persuading?” I think that was very helpful to me today.
Speak a little bit to us about the gospel itself. How do we understand the gospel itself that we’re supposed to proclaim?
Doran Jr: That’s another term that is crucial to define clearly. In fact, there are a lot of discussions about “What is the gospel?” And the Scripture uses that term “gospel” and “good news” in several different ways. I mentioned one that it was the biblical, theological meta-narrative—that there is the good news of the kingdom of God that is a theme across Scripture. And then you have the theological life narrative of Jesus—the Gospel of Matthew. But at the core—you think of a passage like first Corinthians 15, where Paul says, “Of first importance”—this is the gospel, and it’s the death burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And what’s interesting is they function something like Russian dolls, where you cannot have the gospel—the good news of God reclaiming his creation—without the gospel of Jesus crucified, buried and risen again—the center of Christ replacing us on the cross and resurrecting as our victorious King; that he lived perfectly the way we couldn’t; died sacrificially in our place; rose victoriously on our behalf; and he is coming again.
What we try to always remind people in our church is that He has two hands. He calls everyone to (1) turn from sin and (2) trust in him. And He holds out to them (1) the forgiveness of sins and (2) the power of the Spirit to follow him. That is the good news of Jesus Christ—his replacement of us. And that is the center. If you lose it, there’s a lot of people that want to talk about the evil of the world being driven out, but it can only be conquered through the sacrificial substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.
Horn: David, that that’s very powerful, and you unpacked it out of Ephesians one today in an incredible way. You know what stuck with me was the connection about how the Father planned, how the Son procured this, and how the Spirit of God applies this to all who, as you said, turn from their sin and repent and believe on Jesus.
Doran Jr: That is something that we—honestly, I think we lose a Trinitarian salvation often when we just we forget that before the foundation of the world the Father planned, Christ accomplished, and then the Spirit applied. It is a glorious gospel, not only about the person of Jesus Christ but our entire Godhead working to save.
Horn: That’s that’s astonishing, isn’t it? So as we kind of wrap up our time together, do you have any suggestions for somebody like me or somebody like the people that will be watching us talk about this in terms of how we can take the gospel that you’ve described so beautifully and in the process of proclaiming that to people with the intent of persuading—what are two or three practical ways I can do that even now.
Doran Jr: Yeah, so I would give two “S’s” that could summarize—the sovereignty and spirit. The first is that only the Holy Spirit can raise the dead. And so, if you don’t start there, you’re gonna have a tough time in evangelism because it’s an intimidating fact. But when you start there and you start with prayer, then you have incredible boldness to know that this task is accomplished by someone else.
So, the Spirit of the living God is the only one who can give life to the dead. But then, also, Paul talks about in Acts 17 that God arranged the nations so they might reach out and find him. That, I think, is very helpful for us to ask ourselves—”Where has God put me, and who do I know?” So I tell our church to think about their network and their neighborhood and then ask the Spirit to give them opportunities to talk about Jesus with the people they know and the place they’ve been put. And that that network-and-neighborhood mentality of looking up—in evangelism it’s not required to be extra, additional, or special; it’s just required that we be intentional. We already live amongst people and know people who don’t know Jesus so we need the Spirit of God to give us boldness and to create life in their hearts.
Horn: David, thank you. You’ve helped us today. And I hope that you’ve been challenged the way I’ve been challenged. I have a neighborhood, and I have a network. And, even as I’m sitting here, I’m asking God to help me this summer to get into that neighborhood to that group of people and do what you’ve challenged us to do. And I hope that’ll be true for you. Thank you, David.
Doran Jr: Thanks for the time.