Is it possible to have evangelization strategies? Is it biblical to talk about strategies?
Although there is no direct and express reference to the fact that the biblical evangelists followed precise instructions to carry out the evangelization of the regions, it is possible nevertheless to see in the accounts of the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles a sequence of methodical actions that characterized those who were involved with it.
In the case of Jesus, first of all, the gospels describe that the evangelization of Galilee followed a well-defined pattern of action which may well be considered as the strategy that Jesus used for the evangelization of the region. All the writers left evidence in their accounts that when Jesus reached a different population, the first place he visited was the synagogue of the place,
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. Matthew 4:23 (see also Matthew 9:35; 12:9; 13:54; Mark 1:21; 1:39; 3:1; 6:2; Luke 4:44; 6:6; 13:10; John 6:59; 18:20)
The writer of Luke’s Gospel clearly describes that this systematic activity of Jesus was the custom (ειωθος) chosen by Him to proclaim the Gospel message,
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom (ειωθος) was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. Luke 4:16
And although the wording of the description of this operational data in Jesus gives the idea that it is a habit rather than a strategy, the use of the term ειωθος breaks with this idea, since the term is used to define a “norm” rather than a “habit”. Ειωθος has its root in έθος where the word “ethics” comes from, and its use in the biblical text appeals to the idea of establishing something conveniently arranged in such a way that it is the way to carry out some project. A habit, συνήθεια, on the other hand, is a practice associated with a stimulus in many of the unconscious cases, as it appears in the following texts,
But ye have a custom (συνήθεια), that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? John 18:39
Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience (συνειδησει) of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience (συνειδησις) being weak is defiled. 1st. Corinthians 8:7
But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom (συνηθειαν), neither the churches of God. 1st. Corinthians 11:16
Note that Luke in his account where he describes the custom of Jesus to visit the synagogue of the place where he arrived, uses the term ειωθος, and not συνήθεια, showing with it in Jesus, that His way of proceeding was not a habit, but His usual way of proceeding; this shows that Luke identified in this way of proceeding of Jesus the strategy of evangelization that He used for the evangelization of Galilee. It was not a simple regional custom, was the trajectory that He proposed to reach the entire region.
The same happens with His visits to Jerusalem, although the writer of Matthew’s gospel did not use the same term of Luke, in the account of the apprehension however Matthew made clear evidence that this way of proceeding was also His custom (ειωθος) every time He went up to Jerusalem,
In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. Matthew 26:55
Later, in the accounts of the book of Acts of the Apostles, Luke recognizes that this same form of operation of Jesus was also used by the apostle Paul to evangelize the Gentile regions,
and Paul, as his manner (ειωθος) was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, Acts 17:2 (see also Acts 9:20; 13:5; 13:14, 15, 42; 14:1; 15:21; 17:1, 10, 17; 18:4, 7, 8, 17, 19, 26; 19:8)
The writers of the gospels also report that Jesus used to teach every time He stood before a multitude, either because the multitude sought healing for themselves, because they followed Him to hear His teachings, or because it was an occasional meeting; in any case, Jesus used the meeting to establish teaching on the Gospel of the Kingdom.
And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont (ειωθει), he taught them again. Mark 10:1 (see also Mark 3:7-8; 7:14; 9:25; 15:8)
So, yes, there are strategies of evangelization, they are biblical, and in the case of Jesus we have clear evidence of them.
In the book of the Acts of the Apostles we find another strategy of evangelization, in the account of when Jesus before ascending to heaven gave them instructions on the regions they were to evangelize,
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Acts 1:8
Jesus’ instruction on how to evangelize the earth from Jerusalem is undoubtedly a strategy of operation, from Jerusalem to the rest of the world, that is, from a geographical point to cover an entire region, and from there pass to another region.
This strategy of evangelization is clearly developed from the persecution of the church of Jerusalem just with the death of Stephen; the account describes that the doctrine of the Way, which was how the doctrine of the Gospel was known in its beginnings, had been centralized in Jerusalem becoming practically the capital of the Gospel; from the persecution in Stephen’s time the doctrine moved partially outwards, constituting other cities of Cyprus, Phoenicia and Syria in new regional capitals; the most important of them was Antioch of Syria, which with the arrival of Barnabas, Paul, and later with the visit of Judas (Barsabas) and Silas (Silvan), Antioch of Syria became a second capital of the Gospel. In later years the same development took place moving towards other Eurasian cities.
19 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. 20 And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. 22 Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. 23 Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. 24 For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. Acts 11:19-24
This was undoubtedly the evangelization strategy most used by the apostle Paul in each of his travels. In the first trip, the apostle covers three regions; the first, the island of Cyprus, and from there to the region of Pisidia, up to the region of Licaonia. The cities visited were Salamis and Phafo on the island of Cyprus; Antioch and Iconium in the province of Pisidia; and finally Lystra and Derbe in the province of Licaonia. On their return to Antioch from Syria, they preached in Perge, a city in the province of Pamphylia. In time, Antioch of Pisidia would become a strategic place for the apostle’s journeys, and also a strategic place for the projection of the Gospel from there to Galatia, Cappadocia and Pontus.
This selection of a strategic point to project from there to other regions becomes more evident from the second apostolic journey; in the account of the Acts of the Apostles it is observed that Paul wanted to launch himself towards a greater projection, towards the northern provinces, that is, towards the provinces of Bithynia and Ponto, it is here that the strategic position of Antioch of Pisidia is observed, because his project was initiated from this point. The writer of Acts refers that he did not reach the provinces of Bithynia and Pontus because the Spirit did not allow them; however, in their eagerness to project themselves further north they reached the city of Troas,
6 Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, 7 after they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. 8 And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. Acts 16:6-9
From here we will dedicate ourselves to highlight the evangelization strategies that the apostle Paul developed in his effort to reach out to the Gentile communities.
A very unique evangelization strategy at the time was the constitution of churches. This was a disposition of the apostle Paul, there is no documented record that the church constitution was an administrative disposition of the Jerusalem church.
Although the believers of the day knew about the church because it was associated with the teachings of Jesus, the term in the beginning of preaching appealed to a spiritual rather than an institutional concept.
In fact, the term ἐκκλησίας (church) was not new to them, the term was not coined by Jesus, the Jews of the time knew what a church was, but they knew it as a festive gathering of the people not as an institution of the Gospel. The Septuagint translates into the following texts, “assembly” (קָּהָֽל qahal) as church (ἐκκλησίας),
and the Lord delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the Lord spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly (Heb. קָּהָֽל / Gr. ἐκκλησίας). Deuteronomy 9:10
according to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly (Heb. קָּהָ֖ל / Gr. ἐκκλησίας), saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. Deuteronomy 18:16
Furthermore David the king said unto all the congregation (Heb. קָּהָ֔ל / Gr. ἐκκλησίᾳ), Solomon my son, whom alone God hath chosen, is yet young and tender, and the work is great: for the palace is not for man, but for the Lord God. 1 Chronicles 29:1
So, church had to do with the gathering of the saints when they gathered together to celebrate their faith, and this they usually did every Sabbath, which was the custom among them according to the custom inherited from their participation in the synagogue. The churches were instituted by Paul as a permanent center of faith identification.
21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, 22 confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. Acts 14:21-23
Paul instituted churches from Jews, the first converts to the faith in each city visited came from the synagogues, and were Jews and/or proselytes, from there were added Gentile converts. Paul’s purpose for establishing churches was not because it prevented believers from becoming contaminated with the doctrines of the Jews who had disposed not to believe the Gospel; the church for Paul was a unique strategy for the evangelization of the provinces. Paul wanted them to go out preachers of peace to new regions, in the same way as Jerusalem was for Antioch.
The rationale for this strategic arrangement can be clearly seen in a fact that appears as part of his defense before King Agrippa,
10 Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. 11 And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. Acts 26:10-11
The apostle confesses that he persecuted the believers in Jesus and removed them from the synagogues. This fact is important; it is also described by Luke in the original account,
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2 and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. Acts 9:1-2
Note that both accounts, the references are about Paul’s action, formerly Saul, against the believers in Jesus, that is, the persecution of Saul against men and women of the Gospel of Jesus; they are not just any Jews, they are men and women whom he himself later calls in his epistles, “saints” Why does he take them out of the synagogues? One might think that if they were believers in Jesus they should be in a church, right?
These texts demonstrate that when a Jew professed faith in Jesus did not see the need to leave the synagogues, they continued to congregate in it as before having made confession of faith for Jesus. In fact, in the account of the persecution against Stephen, Luke is careful to relate two important facts; the first, that the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem; note that in the description Luke is careful to describe that it was the disciples who multiplied, he does not present it as the church was growing. Second, in the account Luke also takes care to describe that those who rose up against Stephen are part of the synagogue.
Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. Acts 6:9
Why do members of a synagogue rise up against Stephen? Simply because no Jewish convert left the synagogue as part of their decision to follow Jesus. This is overwhelming proof that early believers did not see Christianity as a new and different doctrine; they did not see it as something apart from the Law, nor apart from the synagogue.
Those converted to the faith in Jesus did not see the need to leave the synagogues and form churches; it was Paul who instituted them, mainly in the Gentile regions, as part of his effort to reach the whole provinces from them. Not all, however, saw this strategic purpose. Eventually some were assimilated back into Judaism, others included pagan doctrines, and others completely dissipated into centers of idolatrous assembly. It is surprising that of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation, only two were considered to be churches with sound doctrine.
Evangelization strategies also have to do with choosing the right command centers. In the early years of ministry, Paul used the faith community of Antioch in Syria as his command center,
and thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. Acts 14:26 (see also Acts 13:1; 15:22-23; 30; 35)
As the trips multiplied and the time spent in each of the cities visited was longer, other places were chosen for this purpose. One such place was Ephesus, the apostle resided in Ephesus for two full years and from here covered the entire province of Asia.
8 And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. 9 But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. 10 And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. Acts 19:8-10
Another place chosen by the apostle as the command centers was Troas. In Troas, a maritime city, was where the apostle received the vision to pass into Macedonia; in Troas was where the young Eutichô fell from the third floor, and the point of return of the third apostolic journey. Troas was the place chosen by the apostle to engage in the study of the Word. The apostle recognizes that Troas was an open place for the Gospel.
The command centers must be places with easy access to the region with which they are working. The main reason why the apostle left Antioch from Syria was because the city was too far from the newly opened region of Asia and Macedonia. New regions of evangelism demand new command center.
Although not expressly mentioned, one strategy of evangelization in Paul was his multiple epistles. Not everything Paul wrote survived the time and/or was jealously guarded by some families so as not to make it public. As has been the case, Paul was a prolific writer; the apostle Peter recognizes that among his epistles there are some that are difficult to understand, which shows that there were epistles that circulated widely and to which many people had access.
Paul wrote many epistles not because he wanted to consecrate himself as a writer, not even because he saw the need to give shape to the Revelation he had received; Paul wrote many epistles because he saw the need to correct the course that some communities of faith were taking in the face of the growing threat of apostasy with which they were being attacked.
Another reason for Paul to write epistles was because of the impossibility of being able to move quickly to reach different regions. Many of the apostle’s journeys by land were practically on foot, in many cases on extremely dangerous roads,
25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. 2nd. Corinthians 11:25-27
Thus, the epistles that Paul wrote were also his strategies of evangelization for the Gentile regions; it was much more strategic to write epistles because by sharing them with other neighboring regions, he reached other regions while at the same time visiting others,
And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. Colossians 4:16
The epistles are not only instructions on how to bear life in Christ, they are also instructions on how to evangelize the area where they are located.
but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 1st. Timothy 3:15
in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26 and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. 2nd. Timothy 2:25-26
For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: Titus 1:5
There are Epistles of the Apostle Paul that can well be considered as a short course of the process of development of life in Christ, such as the case of the Epistle to the Romans; in the Epistle the reader is led to understand the meaning of the Law and how Jesus is presented as the one who reconciles Law and Justification through faith. Another similar epistle is the Epistle to the Hebrews, which presents a summary of the Mosaic Law, and explains why Jesus is considered the High Priest who offers a perfect, unique sacrifice with which to enforce the entire Law. Each epistle has a specific purpose, and as the same apostle points out in one of them, is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
Another evangelization resource that should be mentioned as an evangelization strategy characteristic of the apostle was his strong emphasis on being accompanied in all his travels by a ministerial staff. No other New Testament preacher had such an emphasis as that shown by Paul in this matter.
This ministerial characteristic appears as a form of work that eventually became his ministerial seal, and with which he was able to cover a vast region, from Jerusalem, and around to Illyricum, as he himself confesses. In his first apostolic journey we see Barnabas and his nephew, John Mark, forming with him an evangelistic team, at least until they leave the port of Paphos in Cyprus; from then on, by the way the writer writes, the story suggests that “others” who were not necessarily Barnabas and John Mark had joined him to accompany him for the rest of his journey.
We read in Acts 13:13: Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: Notice how the writer changes his way of writing by using the expression, company. The writer describes the experience as follows, οι περι τον παυλον (TR1550): those (who were) around Paul, in an apparent reference to Barnabas and John Mark, which most versions translate as Paul’s companions; however, if you look at the entire account before this fact, John Mark was their companion from the time they left Antioch, yet at no point was it shown in the writing that he was part of the group until he decided to return to Jerusalem; so, why use the expression now, οι περι τον παυλον: those who accompanied Paul, if the group was always made up of the same members all the way?
The wording implies by the use of this expression that “others”, definitely residents of the island of Cyprus, had joined them to continue with them for the rest of the journey. We must not lose sight of the fact that Cyprus was inhabited from the time of Stephen’s death by a group of disciples who had come from Jerusalem,
Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. Acts 11:19
There was a considerable community of faith, expatriates from Jerusalem, who settled in Cyprus, and who moved the apostles to visit them as part of the efforts to remedy the persecution which Paul developed against the disciples. On the other hand, who were the elders whom Paul constituted as the rulers of the newly founded churches of the provinces of Pisidia and Licaonia, if they, the disciples of those provinces, were practically neophytes?
And when they had ordained them elders (πρεσβυτερους) in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. Acts 14:23
Although the term was originally used to define people with gray hair, the term “elders” in New Testament texts is not used with the literal meaning of elderly people, although in many cases the coincidence was present. The term “elder” is an honorable designation in recognition primarily for their ability to judge.
The “elders” were an administrative body of the church, constituted in parallel with the instructions upon which the government of Israel was built,
1And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the Lord, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off… 9 Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel:… 14 And he said unto the elders, Tarry ye here for us, until we come again unto you: and, behold, Aaron and Hur are with you: if any man have any matters to do, let him come unto them. Exodus 24:1-14
Thus the “elders” whom Paul instituted as pastors of the “churches” in the visited regions must have had a great trajectory in the faith in Jesus, greater than that attained by those disciples of Pisidia and Licaonia who had just believed the message; these “elders” must have come with Paul, joined him from Cyprus.
But why would these Cypriot disciples have wanted to join him on the journey? The answer to this question is given by the account of the healing of the impotent man of the feet in the city of Lystra. The writer emphasizes that the healing of this man was so notorious among all the inhabitants of the city, so much so that the multitude threw themselves into the streets with an attitude of making sacrifices to Jupiter; the writer explaining this detail writes in the following terms: “ they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia”
The text is forceful in ratifying that the people of those cities spoke the Lycaonia language. How did Paul communicate with them? Paul needed translators to make himself understood. In other words, those who accompanied Paul did so because Paul knew very well that the regions they would visit did not speak Greek or Latin, which were the languages of the Roman Empire.
So we came to the point of understanding why Paul’s emphasis on being accompanied by a ministerial team; the people who accompanied him also fulfilled a function of translators, so that the work team turned out to be also an evangelism strategy.
Not all regions spoke Greek and/or Latin; the expressions scytha and barbarian, for example, are terms for foreign languages and not so much for nationalities; so, the purpose of gathering around oneself and being accompanied by a ministerial staff, was because Paul needed for all his journeys “interpreters” to translate for him while he visited regions whose languages were not the languages he mastered.
Thus, we will see from his second apostolic journey how Paul “recruits” Timothy to accompany him for the rest of his journey; Timothy became an interpreter for Paul. The account of Paul’s encounter with Timothy describes that Timothy had good testimony from those of Lystra and those of Iconium, which if we review again the case of the healing of the impotent of the feet of the city of Lystra, we can recognize that Timothy spoke the Lycaonia language, which is why Paul takes him; Timothy was initially a translation resource for the apostle.
Later on, as the regions visited multiply, Paul is accompanied by other companions who spoke the regional languages to assist him in the translation of the message. For example, let us look at the following references:
And there accompanied him into Asia Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus. Acts 20:4
This reference describes four different regions, which, for the purposes, represent four different regional languages.
However, this strategy of evangelization also had a twofold purpose. On the one hand, it sought to remedy the apostle’s linguistic deficiency in the native languages which he did not master; but over time these same translators became carriers of the message, some of them transcended so much that they became apostles just like Paul. This purpose of ministerial training can be observed in almost all of his epistles,
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. 2nd. Timothy 2:2
For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: Titus 1:5
And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. Acts 14:23
Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be enquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ. 2nd. Corinthians 8:23
for Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. 2nd. Timothy 4:10
So, in conclusion, there are strategies of evangelization, they are biblical, and it is convenient to define them to develop much more effectiveness within the ministry that the Lord has given us. We should not confuse them with evangelization methodologies, which are inappropriate since the nature of the Gospel is spiritual. Strategies are ways to cover geographical areas, they are forms of penetration before natural obstacles such as language, culture, the accesses of the place, etc., that without a good strategy some places can be unreachable.
Peace of the Lord!
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All biblical quotations are taken from the King James Version.
Pastor Pedro Montoya
 Acts 15:22
 Acts 13:4
 Ídem 13:14
 Ídem 14:6
 Ídem 13:5
 Ídem 13:6
 Ídem 13:14
 Ídem 13:51
 Ídem 14:6—7
 Ídem 14:25
 The word קָּהָ֔ל (qahal) appears 50 times throughout the Old Testament.
 Read only the references in the epistle to the Romans. Romans 1:7; 8:27; 12:13; 15:25-31; 16:2, 15.
 Acts 6:7
 Galatians 1:5-7
 1st. Timothy 1:20; 2nd. Timothy 2:18
 1st. John 2:19
 Ídem 16:7—9
 Ídem 20:9
 Ídem 20:25
 2nd. Timothy 4:12-14
 Idem 2:12
 2da. Pedro 3:16
 2nd. Timothy 3:16
 Romanos 15:19
 Hechos 13:13
 Acts 14:11
 Colossians 3:11
 1st. Corinthians 14:11
 Hechos 16:2