Whenever the word “evangelism” comes up, it’s not uncommon for Christians to experience some sort of emotional response that is less than pleasant. Eye rolling, ear plugging, or even church hopping are all strategies that some will employ just to avoid the topic altogether.
To be fair, many Christians just don’t know, or have never been properly taught what evangelism actually is. Worse, far too many pastors do not teach or expect their church to boldly live out the life-changing power of the Gospel. As long as the people show up, give their money, and keep the lights on, everybody goes home happy. Those are all necessary things, but is that really all that the church is supposed to do while we wait for the King to return? Hardly.
This type of common Christianity I’ve just described is barely Christianity at all. It’s maintenance mode, possibly even lukewarm! If a church won’t challenge its cruise-control Christianity it’s bound to become the church of the frozen few [no matter how many thousands fill the seats].
Most people view evangelism as a programmatic, door-to-door effort that that people are forced to engage in. It’s as though somewhere along the way church leaders thought it would actually showcase the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:8-10) to make evangelism a “drive by” activity like handing out tracks to strangers at the beach, or giving away free turkeys in poor neighborhoods. Are either of those bad things? Certainly not. But even the world can hand out marketing material and free food to the needy during the holidays. So what can the church do that no other thing on this earth can do?
The church can be the church!
That’s exactly how Christ intended it to be. Think about the way that the apostles laid the foundation with preaching the truth and living according to the truth. Peter didn’t dish out papyrus tracks or free pita bread to people and then invite them to come check out the weekend “experience” so that he could cross off “evangelism” on his to do list. The apostles and the early church lived lives that showcased truth, transformation, restoration, obedience, love, and sacrifice! That’s the life changing power of the Gospel in action.
The church has long since been established but the process of evangelism remains the same. The church lives the truth because it loves the truth, then people are attracted to the truth. For 2000 years people have been miraculously saved by this process and brought into right relationship with the Father under the Lordship of Christ.
This world doesn’t need any more clever evangelism programs or Christian gimmicks. What this world needs is for the church to be the church.
Do you want to spend less time being a one hit wonder on Sundays and more time being the church all week long?
If so, start by changing your mind about evangelism. Real evangelism isn’t a program, it’s a people! It’s you. It happens in your decisions, in your relationships, at work, at family functions, at weddings, at funerals, and even when you think nobody is watching. It’s not just the pastor’s job, it’s everybody‘s job. The body of Christ in the local church is responsible to be His ambassadors in every way possible and each member will stand accountable for how they represented the Lord one day.
Will you be standing before Him with your head bowed in repentant regret or will you fall at His feet with humble adoration claiming, “Master! Thank you for using this clay pot as a vessel for Your glory!”?
In his book, Marks of the Messenger, J. Mack Stiles offers some practical ways for every Christian to become a healthier evangelist. Here’s 10 based on his list:
Disclaimer: These are countercultural ideas. Be ready for pushback from people who say you take this “church” thing too seriously.
1) Attend a church that takes the gospel seriously (Hebrews 10:25). Treat form as secondary, the gospel as primary. Incense and candles, rock band worship, liturgy, Gregorian chants, a pastor with tattoos…these are “form” and therefore secondary. Clear Gospel presentation from the leadership is primary.
2) Become an actual member of a church. I’m serious; membership shows your loving commitment to one another. This is truly radical. Go against the grain and show that you are really crazy in love with Jesus and join a church. And just think, the less cool the church the more opportunity to demonstrate real love!
3) Turn down jobs that might take you away from church even if they pay more.
4) Arrange family vacations around your church’s schedule. Or better yet, take your family on a short-term mission trip with other members instead of a family vacation. This will blow people’s minds.
5) Move to a house closer to the church and use your house as a place of hospitality (Romans 12:13).
6) Practice church discipline. It’s biblical (Matthew 18:15-17). This is truly off the charts-radical. Church discipline is not usually what people think it is; the goal of church discipline is always to restore, not to punish. You may offend people, but then again you may save some people from living a hell on earth – or for eternity.
7) Respect, even revere, the authority in the church (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). Think about it. How many church people fall into the bad habit of bad mouthing their leaders over every little thing? So the sermon went 10 minutes too long and your pastor didn’t remember your 50th birthday? Thank God you got 10 extra minutes of truth and nobody found out just how old you really are.
8) Turn heads – really practice the biblical teachings of giving an receiving forgiveness. Be quick to forgive others (Ephesians 4:32). Be quick to say you’re sorry (Matthew 5:23-24). Forgiveness may be one of the most radical ways to express love and unity in a congregation, and it’s rarely practiced.
9) Pray for each other (Ephesians 6:18). Don’t just say you’ll pray. Actually put into place some ways to pray for each and every member.
10) Focus on caring for one another spiritually by discipling one another (Galatians 6:1-2). Though discipling only looks like having lunch, it’s secretly and subversively radical. Over a Caesar salad ask the dangerous question: “How are things spiritually?”
Do you have any idea how many questions people will ask you over the years if you live out just half the things on this list? Every single time you answer them with the truth you will expose them to the life-changing power of the gospel.
If a church will live, love, and labor like this, the results will be an evangelistic overhaul in the community around them. The power of the gospel is unstoppable and every Christian is an ambassador armed with that power when they walk in the truth.
Remember, evangelism is not a program, it’s a people!
Evangelism by J. Mack Stiles
Marks of the Messenger by J. Mack Stiles
The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever