Slogans to awaken the Church

Sayings about world evangelism to stir hearts and move people to action

2. Pay it forward

"We are debtors to every man to give him the gospel in the same measure in which we have received it" -- P.F. Bresee, key early leader of the Church of the Nazarene

Debtors? How can be be indebted to someone from whom we've never received anything and with whom we have no contractual agreement whatsoever? To be sure, Bresee wasn't the first person to make a statement like that. To the church in Rome, Paul wrote: "I owe something to all men, from cultured Greek to ignorant savage" (Romans 1:14, Phillips)

To understand how Bresee could feel indebted to people in terms of evangelizing them, think about Catherine Hyde's phrase "pay it forward." That's how she titled her book that promoted the idea we should repay good deeds not to the ones who did them but rather to other people. By paying good deeds "forward" rather than "paying them back," we keep the good deeds moving forward.

The relevance of "pay it forward" to statements by Bresee and Paul is clear. Paying it forward is exactly what God expects of us. We have received the Gospel. Biblically, that puts us under obligation to pass it on to everyone else in the world.

Bresee, a founding father of the Church of the Nazarene, did not say we were indebted to "our near-neighbors." He did not say "people like us." He said, "every man" (or in wording more common today, "every person").

Because we embrace God's great grace, we have become debtors on a global scale. Let's follow Bresee's admonition. Let's "pay it forward" by doing whatever we can to see that everyone on earth clearly hears the Good News that God has come in Jesus Christ to reconcile the world to Himself.

    -- Howard Culbertson

"If we believe what Bresee said is true, then every man is owed E-1 evangelism1." -- Thom Fish, pastor

More 500-word mini-essays in the "Slogans that awakened the Church" series published in Engage magazine.

1Missiologist Ralph Winter gave the label "E-1 evangelism" to evangelism that reaches "our kind" of non-Christians, i.e., people who are culturally or linguistically our counter parts. It is evangelism that takes places outside of the church body, but within the same culture. E-1 evangelism is communicating the message of Christ to people of one's own culture and language. It is people communicating the gospel to family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

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