In this week’s blog post, we are considering the habit or discipline of evangelism. In past posts, we have considered Bible intake, prayer and worship.
If you have not seen these posts yet, go ahead and click on the following links to catch up:
And remember that the primary motivation for these spiritual habits or disciplines is taken from Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:7, where he says, exercise or discipline yourself toward godliness. This applies to us just the same today and makes it clear that, if we wish to be godly, it will take work, discipline, and exercise. Just as an athlete, musician, or artist must exercise disciplined practice to become more proficient at their chosen field, so a disciple must exercise disciplined practice in these activities as means’ of grace to become more proficient at being godly. That is to say that, as we become more disciplined in the practice of these habits, more of God’s grace is available to us which will change us.
Only the joy of being lost in the worship of God is as exhilarating and intoxicating as telling someone about Jesus Christ. And those who do embrace this habit or discipline report that some of the most rewarding times have been during missions trips when they have done nothing but talk about Jesus, on the streets and in homes, with one individual or group after another, all day long. I can put you in touch with several MFM team members who will tell you that this is true.
Yet, nothing causes more foot-shuffling eye-shifting anxiety among disciples like talking about our responsibility to evangelize. I know many believers who are confident that they are obedient in the area of Bible intake, giving, or serving, but I don’t think I know of a single person who would say, “I am as evangelistic as I should be.”
What I want us to see is that godliness requires that we discipline ourselves in the habit of evangelism. I’m convinced that the main reason that most of us do not witness for Jesus in ways that would be effective and relatively fear-free is simply that we do not discipline ourselves to do it.
Evangelism is expected
Most of us reading this post will not need convincing that Jesus expects each of us to be involved in sharing the gospel with those around us. Because there are many methods of evangelism, it is not expected that believers would all do it the same, but He does expect all disciples to be fishers of men.
What do I mean by evangelism? It is always good to make sure that we are all on the same page in terms of what we are talking about and having a common understanding of the terms will help us understand what is being said.
Evangelism is presenting Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit to unbelievers so that they might come to put their trust in God through Him, to receive Him as their Saviour, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church.
More concisely, we could say that all New Testament evangelism is communicating the gospel. Anyone faithfully relating the essential elements of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ is evangelizing. Evangelism occurs whether the words of the gospel are spoken, written, sung, or recorded.
Jesus has commanded us to witness. Consider these five references:
And consider this final exhortation from Peter. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.” (1 Peter 2:9) I think that we usually view this reference in terms of establishing the priesthood of all believers. But we may also identify it as one that challenges each of us to a kind of prophet-hood of all believers. God expects each of us to “proclaim the excellencies” of Jesus Christ.
Evangelism is empowered
So, if it is so obvious that we are to evangelize, why do almost all western Christians seem to be disobedient?
Some may think they need a lot of specialized training to witness effectively. They might be afraid to speak about Jesus until they are confident in their knowledge of the Bible and/or their ability to deal with every potential question or objection.
Think about the blind man that Jesus healed in John 9. What if he had felt this way? Would he ever have felt ready to witness to the hoity-toity Pharisees? No way! And yet, within hours or minutes of receiving his sight he gave a compelling witness to his new reality; “He put mud on my eyes and I washed, and I see.” “Once I was blind, but now I can see!”
Sometimes we may be afraid that if we speak about Jesus that people will think we are strange and reject us. And for many, this will probably be true. Jesus told us that this would be the case in at least some of our interactions with unbelievers. But it is not a good reason to do nothing.
Another reason for inaction might be the fear of not being successful in witnessing. So, what exactly does it mean to be successful at witnessing? When the person you are witnessing to comes to Christ? I mean that’s what we want to see, isn’t it? But if we measure evangelistic success only in terms of conversions, does this make Jesus or Paul or the other apostles unsuccessful when many people rejected what they preached? Obviously not. So we also are not failures. We will not be held to a higher standard.
We need to learn that sharing the gospel is successful evangelism. Certainly, we should also be passionate for souls, and plead with God to see more people saved, but ultimately only God can produce the fruit of evangelism called conversion. We are like the postal service. They measure success by the careful and accurate delivery of the message, not by the response of the recipient. Whenever we share the gospel accurately and clearly, we have succeeded. In the truest sense, all biblical evangelism is successful evangelism, regardless of the results.
Remember this; the power of evangelism is the Holy Spirit. From the instant that He indwells you, He gives you the power to witness. Jesus made this very clear in Acts 1:8 when He said, “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.” Jesus expects evangelism from every Christian because the Holy Spirit has been given to empower every Christian to evangelize. All believers have been given the power to be witnesses of Jesus Christ.
Not only is the witness empowered by the Holy Spirit, but the very gospel we share is also embedded with the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul said in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” This is why people can be converted whether they hear a teenage teacher at VBS share the gospel, or a seminary trained PhD; whether they read it in a book by a scholar like CS Lewis or a simple gospel tract. The gospel is empowered by God. Therefore your evangelism is empowered.
We can be confident that some will believe if we will faithfully and diligently share the gospel. Abundant gospel sowing is our responsibility. And the seed we sow, the gospel, is empowered by God Himself.
Evangelism is a habit or a discipline
While evangelism is a natural overflow of the Christian life and every Christian needs to be able to talk about what God has done for him or her and what He means to him or her, it is also a discipline in that we must discipline ourselves to get into situations where evangelism can occur. We must not just wait for witnessing opportunities to happen.
Jesus told us in Matthew 5:16 to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” The implication is that you will be in a place where this light can be seen.
Again, I think the main reason we don’t witness is that we simply do not discipline ourselves to do it. Yes, there may be those unplanned or unexpected opportunities that God brings our way to give a reason for the hope we possess (1 Peter 3:15). But I still believe and contend that unless we make evangelism a discipline or a habit, most Christians will seldom share the gospel.
So let’s make evangelism a discipline and a habit. Let’s all become recipients of the soul-winners crown.
Since evangelism is expected, will you obey the Lord and be a witness?
Since evangelism is empowered, will you believe that God can use your words in the salvation of others?
Since evangelism is a discipline, will you plan for it?
Without discipline, our best evangelistic intentions often go unspoken. May we discipline ourselves to live so that we can say with the apostle Paul, “I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:23 ESV)