Mark #5 of a Healthy Church: A Biblical Understanding of Evangelism
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
~Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)
Evangelism is a topic that makes many Christians - myself included - uncomfortable. But why?
Why do I - a woman with a degree in communications - get tongue-tied when an unbeliever asks me about Christ?
Why do I - a woman who's not given to fear - quake in my proverbial boots when given the opportunity to share the Gospel?
Why do I - a sinful woman who's been given much grace - not shout from the rooftops, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (John 4:29)
I don't believe I'm the only one. Evangelism may be one of the most misunderstood practices of the modern church. Mark Dever lists common misconceptions we have regarding evangelism. I believe the first three are the cause of my fear. We mistakenly believe that evangelism:
~is imposing our beliefs upon others, rather than simply telling someone the truth
~is defined by its results, rather than the faithfulness of the message preached
~is sharing my personal testimony, rather than the story of the life, death & resurrection of Christ
~can be accomplished through political involvement or social action, rather than focusing on meeting spiritual (not physical) needs
~is merely answering questions & defending the faith, rather than intentionally sharing the Gospel
Without an accurate understanding of evangelism, we will be ill equipped to actually evangelize the lost. Dever offers these biblical guidelines, many of which seem to be missing in churches today:
Tell people with honesty that if they repent and believe they will be saved - but it will be costly. Are we handing out easy-believism tickets to heaven? If we aren't honest about the cost of discipleship, are we sharing the truth of the Gospel?
Tell people with urgency that if they repent and believe they will be saved - but they must decide now. No one knows when they will take their final breath. We may be giving them the final opportunity to be saved.
Tell people with joy that if they repent and believe the Good News they will be saved. However difficult it may be, it is all worth it! The blessings of salvation far outweigh the costs of discipleship.
Use the Bible. Let people know we're not sharing our own words or ideas, but those of God Almighty.
Realize that the lives of individual Christians and of the church as a whole are a central part of evangelism. To quote Dever, "Our lives, individually and as church congregations, should give credibility to the Gospel we proclaim." (p. 129)
Remember to pray. Salvation is God's work, not ours. Prayer is vital.
I don't yet know if our new church offers formal evangelism training or programs geared to "soul-winning " (a term I do not care for, at all). I do know that in the past four months our pastor has been going through the book of Acts, he has consistently highlighted Paul's methods of sharing the Gospel and encouraged us to put these methods into practice in our own lives. He has given me a much clearer understanding of what evangelism is and isn't. The implementation of the lessons is up to me. Perhaps Dever's words will help me to overcome my trepidation,
We need to understand how radical the Gospel is, and how radically bad the human situation is, because if we do not understand this we will obscure the Gospel. Evangelism isn't all about our ability to hawk our religious wares. I know that the discouragement can be painfully sharp sometimes as we do our best to share the Good News and it is received either as unimportant or incredible. But that's where we must remember that it is our part simply to give out the message; God will bring the increase. (p. 143)
This summer, I'm blogging through Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. Find out why here.