Fundamentals of Evangelism
Do you ever feel guilty that you’re not reaching out enough to those who are lost? I do. Whenever I stop and think of the final fate of all who continue to fight against God’s wonderful works of salvation, the fear I have for them causes me to shudder.
At Wheaton Graduate School, I had an anthropology class taught by a former missionary to Africa. He was talking about how we need to be careful about using guilt when dealing with people. A young woman piped up, “So what’s wrong with people feeling guilty? I think people should be made to feel guilty!” The class got very quiet as the professor took a moment to ponder what the woman said. Then he exclaimed how her comment had profoundly changed his outlook in this area and that he would contemplate further on the issue of guilt. It had the same effect on me.
Of course guilt that leads to inaction and pure reflection can cause emotional devastation. And there is a far superior motivator than guilt. And that is love: the type of love that is so appreciative of God’s love to us, that we want to share this same love with those around us. That is the ideal motivation for evangelism.
But, ideals don’t always pan out. And we tend to equate love with those warm mushy feelings. So, if the warm mushies aren’t there what happens to evangelism?
This brings us to the very basic reason for evangelism which is God’s command to each believer.
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15
Of course, to evangelize you have to be highly trained, right? Let’s see what Jesus did. He sent out mostly illiterate, poor people, what some of us might call hicks. The only requirement that they all held in common was that they had to have been with Jesus (Luke 9:1-6; 10:1-20); which is the same for each Christian who has Jesus with them all the time.
… for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. Hebrews 13:5b,6
So the call is to each believer and is for today and every day in the future:
… behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. II Corinthians 6:2b
If you talked to someone about the Lord today, and that person asked a question you couldn’t answer, you merely need to say you don’t know, try to get a way to contact them, and tell them you will research and get back with them. And if you do that, guess what just happened? Not only did you witness to someone, but you will end up getting further educated so that you will be more knowledgeable in the future. You don’t need a Bible School or Seminary education to witness. Every believer has that responsibility every single moment of every single day.
Just how are we to go about evangelizing so that it becomes both premeditated and natural?
Jesus says we are to be the salt and light of the earth:
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16
Unfortunately, most churches tend to draw Christians in like gigantic magnets or black holes. In that force field, they train and pray and sing songs till you’re ready to pop. Sometime, they even do the evangelism services where everyone is supposed to bring in unbelievers into the black hole. Now there is nothing at all wrong with these activities, but if the churches aren’t blasting their people out into the world as salt and light, they are keeping our warriors locked up from the major battlefield. It would be like keeping all the soldiers in training camp and never putting them out into the battlefield. No one has ever won a war that way no matter how well trained the troops are. Salt just sitting in a salt shaker does no good at all. You have to shake it out of its container to make that steak burst with flavor.
So, getting back to the previous question: Just how are we to be out evangelizing? So far, this negative information doesn’t appear to get us anywhere.
What’s nice is we don’t have to invent anything new. Like Solomon said,
… and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. Ecclesiastes 1:9 b,10
We just need to look at the “Great Awakening” period in American History and look at a great revivalist like Jonathan Edwards or early in the 20th Century at the revivalist Albert B. Simpson. As good as they were in their own ministries, the revivals had to be a concerted effort with most of the Christians getting out as the salt and light of the earth. We don’t have all the details as history tends to focus on the “superstars” but, Simpson set up mission stations throughout the city he ministered in. Hence, he used the methodology of scattering the Christians throughout the city to impact every life no matter their walk of life.
So? I’m not a “great evangelist” with a lot of clout! How do I get out into the world and evangelize?
The answer is both easy and hard. I believe its important to try and go out with a minimum of two people as Jesus sent his disciples out by twos. Unfortunately, the hard part might be finding a willing and compatible partner. Here is one area that prayer is a must.
The easy part is to set an evangelism goal and break it up into manageable parts. Most places already have the breakup for you and it is called “blocks.”
I am going to take the worst case scenario to show you how this might work. Let’s say you set a goal to evangelize a one square mile of your city that contains 100 blocks. Then, you find a partner to walk one of the blocks for as long as you live in that area.
Here is how a typical walk might progress: Two Christian men meet for a time of prayer before heading to their chosen block. They drive to the location and begin walking and observing or talking to each other. They drop into a shop and say “Hi!” to the owner, getting to know him little by little. If he wants to engage in conversation, they let it run its course and hope and pray for it to move into an area they can begin to get into spiritual subjects. If not, they move on and down the block. Nothing else might happen as they travel around the block a couple times in the next hour or so, but this day they find a teenager who needs help fixing his bike tire. They introduce themselves and help him get it fixed and the boy rides off to meet his friends. As this boy gets to know these two men through the years, they hope he will come to them for answers to the many questions he might have. These men are not banging on doors, but just getting to know the people and letting them get to know them. This is important because they know they are the salt and light of the earth and by just being there, they are reflecting Christ’s love. As the years go by, they get to know most of the people and share in their problems and dreams. They tell their evangelism group about various needs that a specialized evangelism team might be able to implement in some targeted program. Soon, there are more and more Christians in this block ministry helping to meet some dire needs and sharing Jesus at the same time. The salt permeates the blocks in ways no one could have imagined, spreading the wonderful Good News about Jesus. Soon there are some from this block ministry who have teamed up to walk the blocks in other sectors of the city. The transformation of the city is barely perceptible at the beginning, but through the years, the change comes nothing short of dramatic. The salt has changed the city forever. Praise be to God!
In the scenario above, I mentioned evangelism groups. This can occur if the outreach spreads and there develops specialized teams that can help meet specific needs. Of course you are only covering 1 of the 100 blocks in your primary responsibility goal. That leaves 99 other blocks and means you would also try to recruit others to take a block. Soon you would have block 2, then 3, 4… until finally there are at least two Christians covering every block you set a goal for. There is no need for a complex organization because you only require a small team of two people. You don’t bang on doors and irritate people. You are the salt that savors the community; that helps to bring light in the midst of darkness.
Now your goal of 100 blocks might not be met. But, just 3 or 4 blocks or even just one can make an impact and you would still be fulfilling the Great Commission. This is as simple as it gets, but powerful. Imagine if every Christian took just one block how the countries of the world might be transformed. People need exposure to Christians and that can only happen if we are out there in the world.
You might be excited about this simple idea that’s been around for a long time. But let’s not forgot about our adversary the Devil. As soon as anyone tries to be the salt or the light, Satan is going to try to hammer you into submission. Again, there is no need for elaborate methods of dealing with this problem. It too is also very simple.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. II Corinthians 12:9,10
All we need to do is use the “reverse Jesus accelerator”. The normal accelerator works by providing more motor energy the more the accelerator is depressed. The Jesus accelerator supplies more power when our energy gets more and more depleted. When Satan attacks us, he tries to wear us down to the point we want to give up. We become so weak and discouraged that we want to throw in the towel. But this is exactly the point where the power of God can explode in unbelievable proportions.
Here’s a scenario: You feel depressed and don’t want to go walk the block. Your partner says he just doesn’t feel like it either. Nevertheless you decide to get together and pray. You feel even worse after prayer, but reluctantly decide to go walk the block anyway. When you get there, there is no one around and as you come around the block, you see someone has slashed one of your tires. You almost curse, but bite your tongue. You throw up to God the most meager of prayers making you feel like a hypocritical Pharisee. After changing the tire your partner says they might as well go around one more time while there. You get in the car and pray and the cloud of depression gets almost overwhelming. Nevertheless, around the block you go. This was the first time you’ve walked twice around without ever seeing anyone. For some reason though, the cloud of despair has lifted and you leave with a strange feeling that you were supposed to be there that day.
Now here’s what might have occurred that same day: Carlos, a Mexican migrant worker, has lost his job, his wife is threatening to leave, and his kids are constantly getting into gang trouble. Angry at the world and himself, he sits, poised to slice his wrists with a butcher knife. Then he sees these two Christian guys pull up and walk by. He becomes angry at God for the two guys with their nice car and nice lives. As they round the corner, he runs out and slashes one of the tires. A smirk of satisfaction remains on his face as he savors one last moment before ending his miserable life. The two guys eventually come round the other corner. Carlos grins even more as he sees them look at the slashed tire. They look worn and dejected causing Carlos to emit a chuckle. After they change the tire, Carlos spits in their direction, hitting the window curtain. As they get into their car Carlos shouts, “Go back to your cozy houses you #@#*.” Placing the knife against his wrist he feels the cold stinging pressure. A quick slice and it will be all over, he thinks. Looking up, he sees the two guys still there and having their heads bowed. Carlos knows they’re praying. Now he can’t take his eyes away as the two guys get out and go around the block again. The pressure releases off his wrist and for some reason, his problems don’t seem that big anymore. Hidden from everyone a powerful blast tears its way into Carlos’ dimension from the spiritual. A demon shrieks in agony. Michael the archangel, sword drawn, called by the two men’s unwitting faith, sends Carlos’ demon back to its lair. Carlos is safe for now. A tiny seed was planted and Jesus would soon be gently tending it.
When we consistently move in faith and obedience to God, especially at the worst of times, this unleashes the unimaginable power of God. Before long, a battered Satan will leave us alone with the hope that we will rely upon our own power.
God has made things so simple that a little child can understand (Luke 18:17). We don’t need to be professional. We don’t need to be super organized. We just need to get out there and be the salt and the light of the earth.