What do you think of when you hear the word evangelism or evangelist?
Perhaps you picture a preacher in front of a church congregation yelling and shouting, “Amen,” every three seconds? Maybe you think of the many tele-evangelists that have occupied space on the television and now on the internet, that have swindled people out of millions of dollars? Others might identify the terms with hypocrites, people who claim to be Christians and preach one thing, but live in a completely different way.
For a variety of different reasons, evangelism is a subject that many people, Christian and non-Christian, dislike and would rather avoid. Admittedly, for many of the same reasons, evangelism is something that can be difficult and uncomfortable and a practice that I would rather avoid.
I heard a story about two church members who were going door to door, and knocked on the door of a woman who was not happy to see them. She angrily told them she did not want to hear their message and slammed the door in their faces. To her surprise, however, the door did not close, and in fact bounced back open.
She tried again, really put her back into it, and slammed the door again with the same result, but the door bounced back open. Convinced these rude young people were sticking their foot in the door, she reared back to give it a slam that would teach them a lesson, when one of them said, “Ma’am, before you do that again, you need to move your cat.”
The word and practice of evangelism has gotten a bad name and too often has been drug through the mud and while the most effective methods for evangelizing have certainly changed, we must still be committed to this command of Jesus. In it’s purest form, evangelism is simply telling people, all people, about Jesus and God’s amazing grace.
Matthew 28:19-20 records Jesus’ words, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
To be faithful to Jesus’ instruction, you must recognize that evangelism is required, not optional. The Bible says that when a person becomes a Christian, they are filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit and the primary reason for this gift, is so they will be equipped and empowered for the mission of God. God’s mission is the Great Commission, Jesus’ teaching to gointo all the world sharing the love, hope and forgiveness that is found in a relationship with Him.
Faithfulness to Jesus’ Great Commission also requires an understanding that evangelism is everyone’s job. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you have the same responsibility to share the message of Jesus Christ as any pastor. The “pulpit” from which you “preach” is different, but the responsibility and the message is the same.
While there are many reasons why every community has an abundance of stagnant and declining churches, a common reason in many of them, is that the members and attenders of those churches believe that evangelism is the job of the pastor. In fact, the mentality and rallying cry of many of those dying churches is, “We pay the preacher to evangelize.” Wrong!
The preacher has been primarily called by God to encourage and equip you to evangelize. Evangelism is the job of everyone! Following Jesus is an adventure, like being on a mission trip, in the sense that we are all called to be life long missionaries, sent to the places where we find ourselves living life every day. You can accomplish this through what has been called relational evangelism, that is intentionally investing in and building relationships with the people that are all around you in the places where you frequent.
Lastly, may we all be reminded, that evangelism is to be to every nation. This means that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Church, is for all people, every where and that your church should be for everyone. You and I do not have the right to say who gets to hear about Jesus or come to our church. Your church and mine, should be a place where all people are welcome and not just if they look, talk or act like us.
When was the last time you, within the context of a relationship, initiated a spiritual conversation with someone? How often do you personally invite someone to join you for Bible Study or for a worship service? One thing is certain, we can all do better, including me.
Why not start today?