Evangelism Isn’t About Us
With missions Sunday just behind us, I thought it an appropriate time to share some of my reflections on evangelism. These are not the reflections of a missionary or a theologian, just an ordinary Christian stumbling through conversations (and life) and who, by God’s grace, is growing more and more in the spiritual discipline of evangelism. With that said, I hope that these reflections and especially the scriptures mentioned will cause you, as they have me, to lean more and more on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in the joyful task of evangelism.
What Evangelism isn’t about
Evangelism isn’t about our ability to affect people.
“I would share, if I knew just a little bit more…”
This is a common response people (including myself) often give when exhorted to share the gospel with the lost around them. They argue that if they where equipped with one more intellectual tool, then they could obey Christ’s command to share the good news with others. This response reveals an underlying assumption we often make regarding evangelism. It shows that we often fall into the trap of believing that it is ultimately up to us to convince people that Christianity is true, and that we can do this through skillful and clever arguments. Yet throughout the holy scriptures we are reminded again and again that it is the Spirit who sovereignly and graciously opens the ears and hearts of rebel sinners to hear, understand, and receive the good news.(Acts 16:14) ( (Ezekiel 11:19) (Ephesians 2:1-10) (1 Corinthians 15:10-11). In his letter to the Corinthians Paul states “ I, when I came to you brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”(1 Corinthians 2:1-2)
So while we as Christians should always be growing in our knowledge of God’s word, and in wisdom, the Scriptures repeatedly show us that as soon as our dead hearts are made alive and are able to take hold of the gospel, we should be taking it to others. For though the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, to us who are being saved it (not us) is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18) Brothers and sisters, may we lay aside the weight of thinking that it is up to us to do what only God can do and instead humbly proclaim the good news to everyone, resting in the assurance that the Great Shepherd will call his sheep by name, and they will follow him, for they know his voice.
Evangelism isn’t about the affect others may have on us.
“ I really want to share, I’m just worried they might think I’m weird.”
This is another common response to the call to share the gospel with those around us. What often lies behind this statement is a sense of fear or anxiety, and often behind that, the sinister root of pride. This is difficult to spot at first, because even to us, it has the appearance of humility by conveying a sense of smallness and weakness. Yet if we’re honest with ourselves, our fear of evangelism is usually not do to an overwhelming sense of humility, but a controlling preoccupation and concern with how others view us. We see an example of this in John chapter 12 where Jesus is teaching. John writes that “many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”(John 12:42-43) The people who believed Jesus would not speak about their belief in him because of the cost of such an act. They did not want to be shamefully removed from the synagogue and loose their honor and esteem. We as Christians should pray that God would guard our hearts from pride and remember that following Christ will be costly (especially as our society grows more antagonistic to biblical Christianity). There are times however, when we will feel genuinely inadequate when it comes to sharing the faith. During these moments, we must remember that Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations was followed by a promise that he will always be with us to the end of the age.
What evangelism is about
Evangelism is about loving God
When a lawyer asks Jesus which is the greatest of the commandments, Jesus responds, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”(Matthew 22:37) One of the ways the people of God express their love for and delight in him is through evangelism. We see throughout Jesus’ ministry that when people are transformed and made new by Jesus, they can’t help but tell others about him. In some instances people even continue to tell about him, despite being charged to keep quiet (Mark 7:36-37). In John’s vision of the New Heavens and the New Earth recorded in Revelation, we see this pattern of evangelism as worship continue, only at a breath-taking scale. Here the redeemed from every tribe, tongue, and nation are gathered around the throne confessing the gospel of Christ’s kingdom back to their redeemer and to their fellow saints, as they sing, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”(Revelation 5:9-10) May we work and pray towards the realization of that vision in our own lives and the lives of others.
Evangelism is about loving our neighbors
If we trust God’s word when it tells us that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6), we cannot faithfully obey the second of the two great commandments without sharing how they can be saved. After all, if you put yourself in the shoes of your unbelieving friend, wouldn’t sharing the gospel with them be the most loving thing you could do? I have seen that my apathy towards the lost is often due to a lack of urgency. We often lack urgency when it comes to sharing with the lost because our thoughts are absorbed in the present moment and we give little if any thought to what awful and righteous judgment awaits those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. I’ve often found that if I’m nervous about sharing the gospel with a friend, reflecting on the true nature of hell, where my friend is headed unless they turn to Christ, will quickly reveal how insignificant and selfish my fears are. In light of this, perhaps wrestling with the biblical truths of hell will actually make us more Jesus-loving and people-loving Christians. I’ll leave you with a quote from Charles Spurgeon, who poignantly illustrates the the heart of the gospel minded Christian towards the lost:
“Oh, my brothers and sisters in Christ, if sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies; and if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay, and not madly to destroy themselves. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”
May the Spirit give each of us the wisdom, boldness, and love to proclaim the gospel to all creation.