What does it mean to “Gospelize” a person?

When you hear the word “evangelize” what comes to your mind?  How do you understand that word?  When I hear that word I think of it as explaining the gospel to an unbeliever and calling him to faith and repentance.  I think that is how most people use it.  My friend Mark Dever uses it that way.  Tim Chester and Steve Timmis use it that way.  My friend Lig Duncan uses it that way.  John MacArthur uses it that way.  I think it’s safe to say that many gospel-centered believers use it that way.  And there’s nothing wrong with using the word that way.  I’ve used it that way and will continue to use the word evangelism to speak of proclaiming/explaining the gospel to unbelievers and calling them to faith and repentance.

But Paul didn’t use the word that way.  P.T. O’Brien explains commenting on Romans 1:15-16 (Salvation to the Ends of the Earth, Andreas Kostenberger and Peter O’Brien, 183):

First, both contexts and Pauline usage require that the verbeuangelizomai be understood here as meaning to “preach the gospel” not to “proclaim” or “preach” in a general sense.  Secondly, although this verb is often taken to include only initial or primary evangelism, Paul employs the euangellion word-group to cover the whole range of evangelistic and teaching ministry – from the initial proclamation of the gospel to the building up of believers and grounding them firmly in the faith.

So when we use the term “evangelize” in English we mean what Kostenberger and O’Brien call “primary evangelism” or “initial proclamation of the gospel.”  Kostenberger and O’Brien are also stuck in the usage of “evangelism” in this way when they refer to the Greek word group covering both “evangelistic and teaching ministry.”  They distinguish between the two in English usage.  They assert here based on Romans 1:15-16 that the Greek word euangelizomai (where we get the English word “evangelize”) includes “building up of believers and grounding them firmly in the faith.”

Using “evangelism” in this “primary” sense exclusively move Christians wrongly think that the gospel is just for unbelievers or for the beginning of the Christian life. This is a very popular sentiment in Christian churches here in the U.S.  But Tim Keller says, the gospel is not the ABC’s of Christianity but the A to Z of Christianity.  Steve Timmis and Tim Chester, authors of Total Church, use the word “gospel” as a verb explaining how believers in their church are “to gospel one another.”  That is taking into account the broader use of the term euagelizomai.  I think the term “evangelize” is so locked into a certain usage that I’d much rather coin a new verb like Timmis and Chester have.  I now use the verb “gospelize.”

To gospelize is to proclaim and apply the gospel for the conversion of unbeliever AND for the building up and grounding of believers firmly in the faith.

What do you think of the term “gospelize”?

(originally posted at pjtibayan.wordpress.com on May 1, 2009)

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PJ Tibayan

6 Comments

  1. Since Timmis and Chester have become a big influence of mine, I have already incorporated the verb gospel into my own vernacular. I like it. It makes complete sense. It’s much easier to explain to both Christian and non-Christian alike. One of the teens (he’s not a follower of Jesus)who hangs out with our community already says stuff like this, “Yeah, I know. I could do that. But that’s the gospel way of doing things.” And that just brings a smile to my face and makes me love what we do.

  2. Hi!

    I stumbled upon crossview’s church website, then on your blog from there. Actually, my wife keeps visiting RubyEllen’s blog and that’s the place from where I found crossview’s church website.

    Anyways, I love this new word “gospelize” you have just invented. I think we need to keep applying the gospel to our lives everyday from our new birth and so on. Right now, I’m in training at my church in Gatineau, QC Canada and I’m a leader of 2 campus ministries in the area where I “evangelize” the students and where I also do discipleship with the ones who have repented and put their faith in Jesus. But with this new terminolgy, it would be much simpler to just say that I gospelize the students!

    I do my ministry in french so, I’m not sure how I could translate that in english. But we have the same issue with the word “évangéliser” in french which is also locked in the usage of simply proclaiming the gospel. The problem in french is that we don’t have the word “gospel” and the verb “evangelize”. We only have the word “évangile” and the verb “évangéliser”, which are both very close. So I would have to invent a complete new word in order to try to come up with a new terminology to cover both the proclamatino and the grounding of believers in faith.

    By the way, I was at the gospel coalition National Conference in Chicago last week and because I was there, I missed the 9 marks conference given by Mark Dever and some elders from Capitol Hill BC in Montreal, who came through the seminary I study with. I started listening to MArk’s Conferences in Montreal on CD today. They are excellent.

    My wife and I are planning a vacation trip to Escondido, CA next week (we’re leaving may 8th). I hope the weather will be nice!

    Keep on gospelizing brother!!

    Alex.

  3. the Gospel. that’s pretty sweet Pj. I appreciate this emphasis on the gospel continually in our lives. I am learning to apply the cross in my life more and more, not just as that one time initiation into the kingdom of God.

    NTI final tomorrow. See you Sunday!

  4. you made up this word? thought u just using it from someone else who coined it. anyway i’ve been using it so you got me. but i do think we can use gospel as a verb. im encouraged by Andrew Tsao’s comment

    • I’m glad you’re using it. I use it too. The “-ize” coordinates well with the Greek “-izo”. So the Greek word for evangelize or gospelize is “evangelizo”. To just use “gospel” or “evangel” is better than the truncated “evangelize” which excludes edification through the gospel. But if we have clear ways of making nouns verbs in English and it parallels the Greek very well, why use the noun (gospel) as a verb? It may unnecessarily confuse things. For that reason I’d encourage that we stick to “gospelize” at CrossView to not confuse others with more terms when we already have ones that work, and as I’m arguing here, work a bit better.

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