I listened to the testimony of an adult woman from Guatemala. She is 2nd from the left in the image. Her journey to faith brought me to tears, and once again aroused my desire to help other people share the good news of Jesus Christ. As you read or listen her story, ask yourself this question: Where would you start with the gospel? Genesis 3, or Genesis 1? [Read more…]
A driving force behind personal evangelism is a sense of urgency.
Without a sense of urgency, evangelism loses one of it’s core motivations.
Without a sense of urgency, the persecutions that believers suffer for the sake of the gospel becomes something to be avoided.
The urgency of the gospel has propelled missionaries to all corners of the earth, often at sacrificial cost to their own lives, employment, and family.
Are we busy with trivial things?
We are busy in our churches with many affairs.
We appoint committee members who are focused on administrative issues.
We discuss issues ranging from the color of hymnals, women in ecclesiastical office, brand of coffee makers, to proper liturgy and what constitutes outreach.
Some committees are more like talking about a hobby than an actual team doing the work of the committee (not all!).
Many of these concerns are legitimate.
But we may become so preoccupied with so many diverse interests that we lose sight of God’s main interest – His desire that none should perish.
Bible verses that support the urgency of evangelism
The following Bible verses and themes are often used to justify the urgency of personal evangelism.
Jesus is coming back. Jesus, the One who says these things are true, says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!. – Revelation 22:20 (NCV).
World evangelism will signify the return of Jesus. The Good News about God’s kingdom will be preached in all the world, to every nation. Then the end will come. – Matthew 24:14 (NCV)
Hell is real for those who don’t know Jesus. And anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire – Revelation 20:15 (NCV)
But cowards, those who refuse to believe, who do evil things, who kill, who sin sexually, who do evil magic, who worship idols, and who tell lies—all these will have a place in the lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death. Revelation 21:8 (NCV).
The harvest is ready now. You have a saying, ‘Four more months till harvest.’ But I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields ready for harvest now. – John 4:35 (NCV)
We are to warn. When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ you must warn them so they may live. If you don’t speak out to warn the wicked to stop their evil ways, they will die in their sin. But I will hold you responsible for their death. If you warn the wicked and they do not turn from their wickedness or their evil ways, they will die because of their sin. But you will have saved your life –Ezekiel 3:18-19 (NCV)
So today I tell you that if any of you should be lost, I am not responsible. – Acts 20.26 (NCV)
So we continue to preach Christ to each person, using all wisdom to warn and to teach everyone, in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature person in Christ – Colossians 1:28
The Lord says, “Shout out loud. Don’t hold back. Shout out loud like a trumpet. Tell my people what they have done against their God; tell the family of Jacob about their sins. – Isaiah 58:1
Personal Responsibility. Telling the Good News is my duty—something I must do. And how terrible it will be for me if I do not tell the Good News – 1 Corinthians 9:16
Sin is universal. There is no one who understands. There is no one who looks to God for help – Romans 3:11 (NCV).
Christ is the sure remedy for sin. Christ took away the curse the law put on us. He changed places with us and put himself under that curse – Galatians 3.13 (NCV).
Today is the day of salvation. I tell you that the “right time” is now, and the “day of salvation” is now. – 2 Corinthians 6:2 (NVC)
Is it your fault if people don’t hear?
I believe there is one argument in often used in the urgency of evangelism that must be forever removed from our teaching.
If someone dies before you share the gospel with them, it’s your fault they are in hell.
I’ve heard this expressed in different ways to soften it’s destructive blow.
The phrase – It’s your fault -is often hidden or unspoken to soften it’s blow. It’s implied.
No matter how it’s phrased, this blame placing motivator to urgency is guilt driven.
- If you think a person needs 29 conversations with you before getting to the gospel, woe to you if they die before the 28th conversation.
- You might be the only Christian witness a person might ever see.
I think this guilt driven approach to urgency needs to be banned from our teaching.
It undermines the sovereignty of God, since you failed God’s ability to save.
It undermines the drawing work of God, since it implies that you are the only one ever in the life of that person to witness to the Good News.
It undermines the witness of the body of Christ, making you to be the only witness when other church members or believing friends could be in their life.
It undermines God as the author of salvation, since this makes salvation of someone else dependent upon your obedience.
I cannot stand this teaching. I believe it is harmful and guilt inducing.
Let’s get rid of the “it’s your fault” teaching when we teach on gospel urgency.
How does urgency affect evangelism?
I have great sorrow and always feel much sadness. I wish I could help my Jewish brothers and sisters, my people. I would even wish that I were cursed and cut off from Christ if that would help them. – Romans 9:2-3
Paul had a sense of urgency to his message. In the letter to the Romans, he expresses it with the words:
- great sorry
- Feel much sadness
Do I feel that way about family, neighbors, classmates, friends, or even strangers who are headed for a lost eternity? Do I grieve for them?
Are there people I desperately want to see come to Christ, or come back to him?
Am I willing to lay down my life, and even my resources, so that they might know that there’s hope?
It’s a very different emotional motivator than guilt.
Now, getting the gospel to as many people as possible is our urgent task.
- Is it urgent because hell is real?
- Is it urgent because we know Jesus is coming?
- Is it urgent because we must warn people about hell?
- Is it urgent because someone might die and live eternally separated from God because you didn’t share?
I’ve been thinking about motives recently.
I wonder,how does gospel urgency impact our personal evangelism?
Do we go to the streets with tracts and open air preaching? Do we preach a message of warning to passer-by who don’t hear the solution? Do we preach about God’s love to passer-by who don’t hear the problem?
Do we strive to speak in front of as many crowds as possible, a la Billy Graham or Cash Luna? (Not everyone is a gifted public speaker).
Do we make time in our schedule to talk about faith with strangers in the park, 1-1, with a scripted conversation, a la Way of the Master or Evangelism Explosion?
Do we find ways to share our faith at work, without being obnoxious, or other relational ways to open up faith sharing conversations?
Do we study books on apologetics to provide a rational foundation for our faith sharing discussions, a la Ravi Zacharias?
Let me ask you this?
How does one balance the urgency of the gospel with the time it takes to share the gospel in a friendship?
How does one balance the urgency of the gospel with the dreaded feeling of guilt that you’ve not done enough?
Michael Green has had a tremendous influence on my ministry through his books that I read while in seminary.
Michael gave the first talk at a recent confidence in the gospel event. If you have 18 spare minutes, listen to his challenge to us to be faithful to the Apostolic Gospel.
Michael Green provides the keynote address exploring the question, “What is the Gospel?”
He explores how the apostles approached the gospel by looking at the three word roots that are found in the New Testament for spreading the Christian message:
- euangelizō, meaning ‘to tell good news’,
- kēryssō, meaning ‘to proclaim’, and
- martyreō meaning ‘to witness’.
The consultation, entitled, “A Faithful Gospel: How should we understand what the gospel is?” is the first in a series of five, taking place as part of the Evangelical Alliance’s ‘Confidence in the Gospel’ initiative.
(Feed readers will need to click through to watch).
FOR SMALL GROUPS
- When we communicate the gospel, is it heard as good news? What can we do to ensure people see that the good news of Jesus is good news for them?
- How can we make sure we are staying faithful to the whole of the apostolic gospel, not just the parts that suit us?
- 2000 years later, how can we be part of the process of ‘bearing witness to the facts’ of the good news of Jesus?
FOR LEADERSHIP TEAMS
- How does the gospel we present compare to the gospel presented by the early Church? What is missing from our presentation of the gospel?
- In terms of how we communicate the gospel, what can we learn from Michael’s overview of the early Church’s approach?
- The apostles placed great importance on connecting the gospel to the Old Testament. How should we do this, when our audience has a limited understanding of the scriptures?
Free Download for further study on What is the Gospel?
More questions and a synopsis is found at the Evangelical Alliance Website:
Books by Michael Green:
- Evangelism in the Early Church, Michael Green
- Thirty Years That Changed the World: The Book Acts for Today, Michael Green
- Who is this Jesus?, Michael Green
- I Believe In The Holy Spirit, Michael Green
- “But Don’t All Religions Lead to God?”, Michael Green
I found the following article that I think might help answer the question
Did John Calvin have a heart for evangelism and mission?
Dealing with predestination in the Institutes, Calvin does not directly address evangelism specifically, but neither does he describe it as unnecessary.
He does, in fact, write several times about the gospel being preached to the masses, resulting in the salvation of the elect and the hardening of the non-elect (III.23.10; II.5.10).
In other words, Calvin did not limit the preaching of the gospel to those considered to be elect. He explains his views more fully in his treatise on predestination:
Since we do not know who belongs to the number of the predestined and who does not, it befits us so to feel as to wish that all be saved. So it will come about that, whoever we come across, we shall study to make him a sharer of peace . . . even severe rebuke will be administered like medicine, lest they should perish or cause others to perish. But it will be for God to make it effective in those whom He foreknew and predestined.
Calvin clearly encouraged Christians to be involved in evangelism!
“It befits us” to desire all people to be saved.
The result of this proper desire should make us try to lead everyone “we come across” to faith in Christ, for that is the only way they could share in peace.
This is not to be a half-hearted effort. Christians are to use “even severe rebuke” if necessary to prevent others from ignoring the gospel and perishing. Christians must make the effort to evangelize everyone knowing that only God can save.
Read the rest of the article here: John Calvin on Evangelism and Missions
Jesus also said,
“This is what the kingdom of God is like.
A man scatters seed on the ground.
Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.
All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.
As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
If we think of evangelism in terms of process of a journey to the Christian faith, what might that have been like for the Apostle Paul?
Allow me to speculate a little.
The Seeds of Faith
First, here are some background events and influences that shaped his journey faith:
- Jewish scholar (likely with lots of discussions about meanings of texts).
- Pharisee of Pharisee (Acts 23:6)
- Of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews (Phil 3.5)
- Studied under Gamaliel (Acts 22.3).
The Lord uses our our background to shape the spiritual awakening.
One could compare that to lots of seeds that the Holy Spirit can use to awaken faith.
A seed doesn’t bloom to harvest instantly.
There is no “on-off” switch.
The seed needs time to germinate, grow, and mature through a natural organic progression.
Our job as a witness to watch for markers of the journey that our friends are on to faith in Christ and nurture them along into the next phase of growth. We can look for the seeds that are already there.
Possible Spiritual Thirst that Opens the Door
Then there are the event of the time when Paul first begins to appear on the scene in Acts:
- Present at Stephen’s speech and stoning (Acts 8:1)
- Trying to destroy the church, going from house to house (Acts 8:3).
One can reasonably speculate on how Paul interacted with the early Christian believers ready to suffer and die for their faith in Christ. We think highly of the witness of the persecuted church and it’s reasonable to assume that Paul saw that witness.
I can imagine him ruminating in late night hours as perhaps something bothered him about their witness.
- Maybe he heard them praying for him.
- Maybe he heard their witness to him.
- Maybe he even felt their love.
Likewise, if Paul’s teacher is the same Gamaliel of Acts 5:34-39, Paul may have observed that even his teacher may have been troubled by the genuineness of the early Christian movement.
Perhaps he knew his teach Gamaliel was puzzled as well.
This restlessness (speculation, I know) prepared Paul for his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road.
I can imagine how the Holy Spirit was using these life moments to prepare Paul.
This is the drawing process. (Read John 6:44)
We get to participate in the evangelism process
I’m convinced that the Holy Spirit draws people to faith over time.
Sometimes we get to plant, water, or harvest.
Each story I listen to of a journey to faith had more than one key turning point in the discovery of God.
It might have been a
- Invitation to a church or event
- Life circumstances
- Late night musings over deep issues.
So much of our evangelism training focuses on the conversion, we forget to allow for the process of maturity.
We need to allow our seeking friends time
- to make their decision,
- find answers for their questions
- become willing to consider the claims of Christ
- find healing for wounds caused by Christians or other people that harm their journey.
Evangelism is often viewed only as the proclamation of the gospel. In a technical sense – it is.
But when I think of evangelism as the process of faith awakening, there is a lot of potentially evangelistic activity.
What about you?
Answer this question: Is Evangelism a Process or Event? I invite your commentary below.