What comes to mind when you think of evangelism? Does it evoke memories of a billboard that reads, “The End Is Near – REPENT”? Does it make you think of a finger-pointing, stern-faced preacher who seems to be saying, “God is going to get you!”
For some of us it may resurrect memories of going door to door with a handful of religious pamphlets, all the while scared to death that someone is going to actually answer. For others of us, it creates a mental picture of someone with a bullhorn shouting Scripture verses at strangers in public. Maybe it makes you think of a TV evangelist who looks more like he should be on “The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” than a religious TV show.
It is amazing how a beautiful word like evangelism has taken on certain images in our minds. It has come to mean something that many Christians hate to consider. It’s one thing that makes many Christians and non-Christians cringe, EVANGELISM!
Why? Paul declares in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” As His followers, we should not be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. But we could be ashamed of some of the ways people try to share it.
Defining the E-Word
Wikipedia defines evangelism as “the practice of relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others who do not hold those beliefs.” This definition is YUCKY. Yucky is the Hebrew word for “It stinks.” (Not really) Evangelism is more than relaying information to someone of a different religious persuasion.
It is a joyful and bold declaration of good news. To evangelize comes from the Greek word euangelion – which means “good news.” It is the verb form of the word for Gospel.
The beauty of the Gospel is Jesus…
- Offering a thirsty woman living water that will quench her spiritual thirst.
- Answering a Pharisee’s question about how he could change his life by being born again.
- Explaining to a young businessman that having eternal life means selling all he had.
- Pouring forgiveness on an adulteress and letting her know she doesn’t have to keep sinning.
- Telling a thief dying on a cross that when he closes his eyes in death here, he will open them in heaven!
Why Many Christians Struggle with the E-Word
Fear is real and is a barrier to many things in life. Fear of rejection. Being afraid of being branded a Bible-thumping weirdo. Fear that we might mess it up.
I have experienced that fear. As a new believer in 1976, my church used the Evangelism Explosion course to prepare us to go door-to-door “evangelizing.” When a stranger answered the door, I would ask the canned questions we were trained to use: “If you were to die tonight, would you go to heaven or hell?” If they said, “Heaven,” I’d follow up with, “If God asked ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ What would your answer be?” I had people sic their dog on me, and one even threatened me with a gun. I arrived at the erroneous conclusion that evangelism wasn’t for me. But it was and is!
The problem was a lack of understanding of what true evangelism is. Simply put, evangelism is the power and ability to share your story. Most of our fears are irrational and not rooted in truth.
LACK OF RELATIONSHIPS WITH NON-CHRISTIANS
The longer a person is a Christian, the smaller the number of non-Christian friends they have. Look at the contact list on your cell phone, or your Friends list on Facebook. How many non-Christians are there?
“But Steve, I thought we are supposed to be separate, to come out from among them! We need to hang with our own kind!” If that is your position, you are going to have a huge problem with Jesus.
Luke 7:34 (NCV), “Look at Him! He [Jesus] is a friend of sinners!” Jesus went to their parties. He hung out with them! Jesus took the harsh criticism of religious people and wore it as a badge of honor. Jesus was aware that there is a difference between being separate and being isolated. We are supposed to have a different agenda for our lives that is reflected in how we live. But I am not supposed to be isolated from the people God is looking for.
This is a challenge. How do I develop genuine, lasting, and deep relationships with people who do not know Jesus, and being Jesus in their lives. Sinners loved Jesus! Some think the mark of holiness is how many people they can make mad. Jesus was the holiest person that ever lived – and SINNERS LOVED HIM!
Jesus became like us to reach us! If He is my Mentor, I must become like Him.
This is the worst reason of all because it’s an issue of the heart – “I really don’t care. I have my ticket to heaven. I go to church. I put a few dollars in an offering envelope. I have my kids in good programs. That’s enough, right?” No. It’s not!
When I became a Christian, I joined the mission of God, to bring reconciliation and hope to a lost world. To restore what the devil destroyed, so that people can have life more abundantly! F.B. Meyer said, “If there is one thing that pierces the heart of our Savior with unutterable grief, it is not the world’s iniquity, but the church’s indifference.”
Christianity is not a religion, it’s a movement. Which one of these three reasons is the one issue you are struggling with? Once identified, deal with it.
Re-Envisioning the E-Word
EVANGELISM IS NOT SOMETHING WE DO; IT’S SOMETHING GOD INVITES US TO JOIN
Many envision Jesus sitting on a throne saying, “GO. TELL PEOPLE ABOUT ME! I WILL SEE YOU WHEN YOU GET TO HEAVEN!” But the reality is that Jesus out in the world, crying, “HEY! IT’S GREAT OUT HERE! SO MANY ARE READY TO RECEIVE THE GOOD NEWS! COME ON OUT AND PLAY!” He’s not in the church building telling us to go, He’s out in the world inviting us to come, to join the team! We are not taking Jesus to the world – we are meeting Jesus in the world, because that’s where He is. He is the Lord of the church, but He is also the Lord of the harvest.
I love these words of Jesus that come to us from Matthew 11:29 (MSG), “Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” In essence, He is saying, “Come join me. I’m playing music over your friend’s life. Join the dance.”
EVANGELISM IS OFFERING GOD WHO WE ARE
“I am shy,” you say. “I don’t talk well,” you argue. You give God you! He will take the “you” you give Him, and use it to reach people. Romans 12:1 (MSG) tells us how to do it, “Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.”
This is how God made you? Then give Him you!
EVANGELISM IS NOT SLICK MARKETING BUT A SINCERE CONCERN FOR ANOTHER PERSON
We are not Gospel salesmen, we are travel guides, showing people what they need to see. Like Paul said in 2 Corinthians 2:17, “We do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.”
Evangelism is not something you do to people. It is something that happens when we are with people. If you will give yourself to God, then believe He has called you to join Him. There is music playing over your unsaved family member and friend’s life. God will use you to expand His Kingdom. Don’t miss the music – join the dance. This isn’t complicated.
Ask God for audacious faith. Write down the names of people who are around you that need Jesus. Pray audaciously that this is the year they come to God or back to God. When you’re around them, listen for the music. The music plays louder when the people of God turn up the volume through prayer.