The topic of evangelism is a big one and will require a lot of talk, thought, needed change, and processing. I’ll work to simply bring to light what the scriptures teach about evangelism with the hope that the church will better understand the subject in order to faithfully evangelize.
There is a ton of information out there about “evangelism”. Evangelistic methodologies have been widely created, discussed, wrote about, argued over, and implemented. But if I can be frank with you, I want to know PRIMARILY what the Bible teaches about evangelism and how the quintessential Early Church evangelized. That’s not to say we throw out all insights and information successfully evangelizing churches contribute, but we as a church desperately need to get back to the Word of God as the basis for faith and practice.
In response to all of the evangelistic information out there we need to ask questions like these: “Do I see this evangelistic practice in the Word of God? Did Jesus and the apostles evangelize this way? Did the early church evangelize this way? What does successful evangelism look like from a biblical perspective?” and so on. We need to look to the Word to formulate our evangelistic methodologies and practices.
Much of contemporary evangelistic practice finds its authority in the wisdom of the world. God’s Word is cherry picked for verses to substantiate a practice rather than being the blue print and basis for an evangelistic practice.
Why do we do this?
Well, we humans love to be comfortable. In fact, we love to be comfortable so very much that we will build theological and philosophical systems that work in line with our desire for comfort, not against it. It’s just what we do. We also redefine clear biblical teaching in order to make room for our innate desire for tangible success stories.
Evangelism has not hidden from this manipulation.
If theological doctrine as a whole were a body, then biblical evangelism would definitely be the wax nose of that body. The church (and others) has twisted, reshaped, and simply redefined what the scriptures clearly teach about the subject. Why? Because we want to be comfortable and we want to be successful in the eyes of men. Oh yeah, I already said that, but it bears repeating.
We’ve redefined evangelism so we don’t have to physically go to a lost person and share the gospel—that’s just not comfortable. We’ve also validated “effective evangelism” based on the number of people we get to come to a church service. If it doesn’t get folks through the doors of the church then it’s not “effective evangelism”. Pragmatism has disastrously won the day in many circles. Pragmatism is the belief that whatever brings about the desired results must be good and right. Evangelism distorted by pragmatism sounds like this:“I don’t care about doctrine, I just want to say and do whatever gets people through the doors of my church” (an actual quote from a pastor I met awhile back).
Can you see how pragmatism reshaped this man’s evangelistic perspective? Sadly, biblical evangelism is simply not being practiced by and large due to redefinitions and extra biblical qualifications.
So what is biblical evangelism? It’s very simple. Biblical evangelism is the practice of sharing, either verbally or in writing, the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world around us. That’s it. It’s not rocket science.
It’s not overly complex. It’s the practice of spreading a message to the world (let’s just start with our friends and family and then we’ll tackle the world). The Greek word for evangelism means “good news”. If we are biblically evangelizing, then we are consistently and faithfully sharing the good news of who Jesus Christ is and what He has done to save sinners from the penalty of their sins.
There is much ground to cover, but let’s just start at the bottom floor and work our way up. I can very confidently promise you that the subject matter we’ll cover will not be difficult to understand. Along with our innate desire for comfort, we also have a desire to receive praise from the people around us. This is one main motivation why Christian writers make Biblical topics hard to understand. Biblical doctrines are dressed in fine sounding words in order to gain applause from people. It’s just what we do. It feels good to be praised so we do what we do to acquire it. Overly complex writings on biblical matters are often used for selfish endeavors.
This road we’ll travel on together won’t require any learning aids. It’ll be clearly straightforward much like the commands of a good Captain leading his men into combat. He wants his men to accomplish a mission, not give him an applause for how well he articulated the details of the mission. If the Captain overly complicates the mission layout, the men will lose confidence and fail.
So many of us aren’t even attempting the mission of evangelism because the mission layout has been needlessly complicated and confusing.
Let’s start here: the gospel is a message. Biblical Evangelism is communicating the message of the gospel. It isn’t a lifestyle, a good deed accomplished, or the fixing of societal problems.
- So, if we are living an exemplary Christian lifestyle but aren’t verbally or in writing sharing the gospel, we aren’t evangelizing.
- We may do an innumerable amount of good deeds each day, but if we aren’t sharing the gospel with either our mouth or our pen, we aren’t evangelizing.
- We might build a plan that combats hunger, poor education, and homelessness in our community, and succeed in solving these problems, but if we aren’t sharing the gospel, we aren’t evangelizing.
All of the above noble efforts are great, but they can all be done without communicating a message. A staunch atheist can feed the poor and successfully work to fix community issues, but we would never ever say he was evangelizing. I mentioned these practices because many believe they are evangelizing by doing these things and they are wrong.If accompanied with these efforts was the communicating of the gospel then their work should be applauded. But, if the gospel does not make an appearance in what we say or do, we are not evangelizing.
Biblical evangelism is simply communicating a message. When you check your messages on your phone, your voicemail replays the message it received. Evangelizing Christians operate very much like the voicemail on your cell phone. We receive and understand the gospel message (a message not our own but given to us from Christ through His Word) and we relay this message to the lost. This is the essence of correct evangelism. Think about this for a second. If biblical evangelism is from start to finish conveying a message, then it can and should revolutionize the way you think about evangelism if your definition of evangelism is weighed down with anchors.
One anchor that slows the sailing of many who desire to evangelize is the anchor of intellectualism. When our evangelistic endeavors are stalled by the anchor of intellectualism, we think thoughts like these:
“If only I had a degree, then I’d be able to evangelize.” Or,
“if I only knew as much as Joe Shmoe, then I’d be able to effectively evangelize.”
What we’re doing when we think this way is adding unneeded requirements to the task of evangelism. I’m not saying we shouldn’t increase in learning and personal education. Nor am I saying we shouldn’t sharpen and hone our communicative skills. What I’m saying is that when you know the gospel message, you know it, so share it. You do not have to be an intellectual brain to evangelize.
When Jesus and the early disciples would share the gospel, often the crowds would be stunned and amazed because they were not formally educated. Maybe life hit you and you weren’t able to go to school. Don’t worry! God uses the uneducated. Don’t let the anchor of intellectualism keep you from evangelistically sailing to those who need to hear the gospel!
The Captain of our salvation is commanding His church to evangelize. We must attend to this most important task, now. Get into the Word and study for yourself what it looks like to properly evangelize. Don’t take my word for it, or allow my words to shape your thoughts, butplease allow God’s Word to make needed changes or adjustments in how you look at evangelism. Don’t let pragmatism, redefinitions, or unbiblical requirements stall your efforts.
Next time we’ll talk about how we determine success in our evangelism. Until then, people are walking into eternity without Christ.
Go share the gospel with the lost.