I have three basic goals for this blog series:
- To help people gain a better understanding of the art of evangelism
- To give us a clearer understanding of the importance of evangelism
- To motivate us toward more involvement in evangelism
So, what is evangelism?
Here’s my shot at a working definition:
Sharing/explaining/teaching/declaring the message of the saving Gospel with the intent the message be understood, received and utilized.
This process of evangelism can take shape in many forms, but the basic message is always the same: Jesus is fully able to save us from our sins and bestows upon us new life. To use a pair of theological words, the Gospel message is one of justification and regeneration.
But, here’s a dose of reality: many Christians are not participating in reaching others for Jesus.
Several reasons for this include:
- Lack of confidence
- Don’t feel qualified or equipped
- Don’t want to hurt/offend/anger someone
- Don’t possess a strong burden for those without Jesus
- Too wrapped up in the world to think much about spiritual realities
- Sometimes GOD’S sensibilities and values give way to OUR sensibilities and values (think Jonah)
That’s a long list! But nothing on this list negates the Bible’s teaching about evangelism.
So, where in scripture do we find the clear-cut directives that Jesus’ followers are supposed to be going out, rather than hiding out?
Consider these three passages of scripture. The first one comes from Jesus Sermon on the Mount:
Matthew 5:13-16: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Jesus chose two of the most basic elements of our world to make a point about influence: salt and light. Both have a way of getting our attention!
Ever been served a dish that was over-salted? As much as you tried to enjoy the meal, you just couldn’t get around the saltiness! It’s dominating!
And how about light? How many of us have had a hard time sleeping because a light is on and we just can’t seem to fall asleep
Jesus used these metaphors because they bring great power with their presence.
Now when it comes to these earthly elements, we can also see how they provide us pictures of we are supposed to provide the world with spiritual influence and impact:
- Salt makes people thirsty! The Christian’s presence in this world has the potential to stoke spiritual curiosity.
- Salt acts as a preserving agent! The gospel message we share holds the ability to reverse the dying and decaying that typifies much of what we see going on in the world. A world without Jesus is bound to fall apart!
- Salt helps heal wounds! The gospel message we both share and model can take our deepest hurts and greatest struggles and bring about peace, forgiveness and restoration to our souls!
- Light helps us determine reality! Light clears up a lot of mysteries. It also helps us know the difference between truth and falsehood.
- Light helps us know which way we should go! Consider the wonder and usefulness of a flashlight. In the same way, Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
Bottom line, Jesus wants his followers to going out and representing His gospel message in both word and deed. We are to bring influence and impact to the world around us.
Here’s the second passage of scripture, perhaps the clearest call for believers to actively share the good news of Jesus:
Matthew 28:18-20: And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The word used for “go” in this verse literally means go and keep going!
The instructions are crystal clear. Jesus says to his followers:
- Make disciples
- Baptize disciples
- Teach disciples
Of these verses, Warren Wiersbe wrote:
The Christian faith is a missionary faith. The very nature of God is not willing that any should perish. Jesus death on the cross was for the whole world. If we are children of God, and share his nature, then we will want to tell the good news to the lost world.
Responding to Matthew 28:18-20, Jonathan Hayashi made this challenging point:
“You are either making disciples or making excuses. Which one are you?”
The final scripture passage reminds the reader of the reach of evangelism:
Acts 1:6-8: So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He (Jesus) said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
These are the very last words of Jesus, spoken right before he ascended into heaven. And my hunch is that when it comes to famous last words, Jesus chose his very carefully. He wanted to imprint upon the minds of His disciples that one thing that should serve as their preoccupation!
They are to be his witnesses and take the message all around the world. Meaning, the gospel was never intended to be localized. It’s meant to invade every cranny and crevice of the earth. It’s meant to either fall upon the ears or be taken in by the eyes of every human on the planet.
So, thus far we’ve looked at three primary passages that focus on the importance of outreach and evangelism: Matthew 5, Matthew 28 and Acts 1.
Putting the message of these verses in a nutshell, I would put it like this:
Go…Go Everywhere…Go and Make an Evangelistic Impact for Jesus!
And I imagine us see this and we applaud!
But let’s be honest: in our current culture, this doesn’t seem to be happening much.
Meaning, only a small percentage of Christians are telling people about the good news!
As I shared early in this post, there are several reasons why this might be the case.
But our reasons (or our excuses) don’t minimize God’s call for us to spread the Good News.
What can be challenging for many of us is that some people are so good at going out and striking up conversations that inevitably turn toward spiritual matters. We might say that you are the people the Bible describes as having the gift of evangelism. But even if we don’t possess the spiritual gift of more easily bringing people to Christ, we aren’t off the hook! All of us are called to be involved in the great commission of Jesus that tasks us with taking the Gospel out into our world.
So, what is that will bring about a change in the percentage of believers?
As with everything else in the discipleship journey, it will demand our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and our obedience to the Word of God.
Remember what the book of James says? We are to not only be hearers of the Word, but doers.
(In the more literal NASB translation, James calls it being an effectual doer!!!)
Until then, things won’t change, because we aren’t allowing the promptings of God to have their effect on us.
The calling is clear to evangelism is clear. The implementation is often a little more challenging.