There are so many “isms” in this modern world. Some are glorious. Others are evil. Many are misunderstood. There is one particular “ism” that seems to strike a raw nerve amongst many Christians. I’m speaking of “evangelism.”
Webster (a fine Christian fellow), tells us that evangelism is n.
- the preaching or promulgation of the Christian gospel.
- the work of an evangelist.
- missionary zeal, purpose or activity.
Let’s go a bit deeper. To promulgate is v.
- to put a law or decree into operation.
- to publicly teach a creed or doctrine.
- to make known.
An evangelist is n.
- a preacher of the Christian gospel.
- a revivalist.
Zeal is n.
- fervour for a person, cause, or object.
- eager desire, enthusiastic diligence.
So why the vocabulary lesson?
You know what evangelism is as well as I do but the fact remains that there are Christians who wax cold at the mention of it. Call me crazy but words like guilt, fear, and dread come to mind.
- Some feel guilt because they have never participated in evangelism (except for the tract they left at the diner that one night).
- Others experience fear because of the risk of rejection, anxiety about what to say, and the courage to get started.
- And there are others who dread the worst; “I don’t want to look like a nut from some cult,” or “I don’t want to push my beliefs on other people.”
- Then there are those who recite Ephesians 4:11 and are convinced that evangelism is a special calling for a chosen few.
To make things worse, evangelism is suffering from a lot of bad press.
Some people have been terribly traumatized by throat stuffers, while others have been badly bruised by Bible bangers.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are believers who leave thirsty people parched because they view faith as being too personal.
I grew up with that nonsense.
Nobody mentioned God because nobody had anything to say about God.
How can you fall in love and not tell anybody?
How can you have knowledge of a cure and not share it with those who are in pain?
How dare we minimize what Jesus accomplished on the cross? The Son of God hung nailed, naked, and battered.
Unfortunately, we have all witnessed the angry Christian sharing anything BUT love with the potential convert.
The average American TV viewer surfs the remote and hence, is able to observe a wide range of evangelical “styles.” In spite of the blows televangelism suffered in the past, I have great respect for most televangelists.
However, a few need to get off the air and back into the prayer closet.
I personally struggle with the guys who add a syllable to the Lord’s name . . . “Jeees-us-uh” . . . and with those whose hairpieces need revival.
How then, are we to respond to the Great Commission?
So, if both Christians and non-Christians are often uncomfortable about evangelism, how then, are we to respond to the Great Commission?
Although how-to-booklets, four-point-tracts, two-question-tests, and high-tech-videos have their place, there is no substitute for the efficacy of the human factor. I’m speaking of caring, one-to-one relationships. It’s called “lifestyle evangelism”—it takes time and costs more in terms of personal investment.
Are you willing to develop relationships with non-Christians or have you retreated to a comfortable Christian subculture? Separatism is one of those frightening “isms.”
We need to slow down in our life routines and show more of an interest in the people we meet.
- It took me nine visits to her line, but I have finally been able to share God’s love with the single mom at the supermarket check out.
- The house painters came every day for four days. I got a fresh coat and they got a fresh revelation.
- When we placed our children into a wonderful public elementary school last year and I invited the entire office staff and administration to a Christmas Tea with a sumptuous dessert buffet. I said grace and shared words of life and sent each kind woman off with a dessert in one hand and a devotional book in the other.
- The florist, the Fed Ex guy, the hair stylist, the person in the nearby cubicle, the wild cousin, the next door neighbour—people need the Lord.
Remember first and foremost that evangelism must flow from a heart of love.
The greatest of all Christian evangelists wrote, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation.”
Remember first and foremost that evangelism must flow from a heart of love. Paul called this love “a more excellent way.” Of all the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, love is the greatest. Love is not something we have to work up but it is allowing the Holy Spirit to love through us.
Love serves, love is active, and love is a sweet fruit.
A songwriter once admonished, “Don’t tell them Jesus loves them until you’re ready to love them too.” Are you ready? When you’re able to answer with a resounding “Yes!”—then evangelism will be a joy and communicating your faith will be something you cannot help but do.
Endnote: These are my favorite books on evangelism. I recommend them highly.
- Out of the Saltshaker and into the World by Rebecca Manley Pippert
- Gentle Persuasion by Joseph Aldrich
- Conspiracy of Kindness by Steve Sjogren
- How to Give Away Your Faith by Paul Little
- Powerful Evangelism for the Powerless by C. John Miller