I recently wrote about the four potential knock-offs of evangelism. This raises the question, what is evangelism? I believe that evangelism is “the communication of the gospel message with the goal to persuade sinners to respond to the gospel message.”
Someone once said, “preach the gospel always, and when necessary, use words.” I think I understand the intent behind the statement. We are called to live holy lives. We are called to live out the implications of the gospel in our lives. However, no one will come to faith from merely watching our lives. When our non-Christian friends stand before God, our holy lives won’t be enough for them to receive entrance into glory. We’re not Jesus. Our lives aren’t enough to grant salvation.
One of the major themes throughout Scripture is communication. We serve a God that communicates to His people. “The Word of the Lord came” is referenced 109 times in Scripture. The phrase, “Thus says the Lord” occurs 417 times. “The Lord said” occurs over 200 times in the Scriptures. God frequently spoke to His people in order that they might live according to His will. We see this throughout Scripture that the Word of God was spoken so that His people would begin acting like the children of God.
Paul picks this up in Romans 10. He says,
“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching (proclaiming)”
How will people call on Christ if they have never heard of Him? How are they to hear unless someone proclaims His Word to them? We see throughout Scripture that the Word of the Lord creates life. We must proclaim His Word if we wish to be faithful in evangelism.
What are we communicating when we evangelize? We are communicating the gospel message. What is the gospel? the gospel is the good news of how rebellious people can be reconciled to a Holy God. When we evangelize, we communicate that God is creator, sustainer, and that He is Holy, righteous, and just. We communicate that by man’s willful rebellion in the garden, they rejected God and now we all stand condemned before God.
However, God sent His son Jesus Christ to deliver the wayward from His wrath and that by Jesus’ death on the cross, he has accomplished this for His people. We speak of Christ’s resurrection and its implications for our salvation. Since Christ has been resurrected, we know that we too, one day, will be resurrected (1Thess. 4:13-18/1 Cor. 15). We proclaim that there is going to be a time when God makes all things new through Christ at the consummation.
This is not an exhaustive explanation of the gospel message, but we get the picture. We’re not advocating for self-help principles or adopting a support group methodology; we are proclaiming the holiness of God, the depravity of man, and the work of the Son and Spirit. If we are not communicating the gospel, we are not evangelizing. If we are merely telling people “3 steps for healthy living,” we are not evangelizing. The gospel must be central in our evangelism. We are to be witnesses about Christ (Acts 1:8), not the latest Christian celebrity or self-help ideology.
We are working towards something in our evangelism. We are working towards seeing people respond to the gospel message. This is our end goal. This is important for us to understand, because if we don’t have a goal, we’ll be tempted to follow the objections and concerns of the one with whom we’re sharing down a variety of rabbit trails. We must know where we’re heading in our evangelism, and we must discern what will help us get there and what will detract us.
If there’s no goal, why evangelize? If there’s no desire to see people respond to the gospel, why do we proclaim it? If we’re simply trying to check off an item on our spiritual checklist, we’ve missed the purpose of evangelism and demonstrate a lack of love for others, a lack of love for God, and a lack of understanding sin and grace.
I don’t like the word “persuade” because it gives off some negative connotations. It seems from the word persuade that we might be manipulating others to believe in Christ. However, the Apostle Paul says, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others (2 Cor. 5:11).” When Paul uses the word “persuade,” he means that we use every argument and reason in our conversation.
We reason with others in our conversations. We point them to the folly of their unbelief and point them to the truths of Scripture. It must be noted here that in order to do this effectively, you must know what you believe and why you believe it. If you have no reason for your belief, it’ll be difficult for others to see the need for belief.
We must seek a response from those that we are evangelizing. This may be done in directly asking them to respond, or their ending the conversation. We don’t want to communicate the gospel and then walk away. We should desire to see a response from them. If it’s a response of repentance, praise God! If it’s a negative response, praise God! I know that might sound unloving, but I don’t mean it in that way at all.
God’s Word will accomplish its purposes. It will not return void. We are not responsible for the outcome of our obedience, but simply being obedient. A failure to repent does not mean that we have failed in our evangelism. We are not the Holy Spirit. God saves, we don’t. We didn’t save ourselves, so why do we think we can save others with our words? We are called to be faithful in our proclamation of the Gospel and leave the rest to God.
However, we are seeking a response. Positive or negative, we must be working towards some sort of decision. Again, if the conversation ends abruptly and the person walks away, that’s a decision. I am simply advocating for the fact that we must be working towards seeing something, otherwise what’s the point?
If you would like to study more on this topic, here are some great resources for you to pick up and read:
Soli Deo Gloria
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