Why should Christians do evangelism? What are our motives?
When asked, most Christians quickly reply:
- It’s the Great Commission.
- Jesus tells us to.
Guilt is not a motive
I’ve seen guilt used as a motive.
When well-meaning preachers and teachers hammer home obedience to Great Commission too hard, people feel guilty:
- for not obeying enough,
- for not doing enough evangelism,
- for not leading enough people to the Lord.
Some faulty presentations leave us on the hook for someone else’s eternal separation from God.
This leads to enormous guilt!
Guilt can be a pretty powerful motivator, but this motivation will only take us so far. Maybe one conversation and then we quit.
Desperation is not a motive
Other times, church leadership will declare the need to do evangelism because the church needs new members.
One pastor told me he wanted to receive new Presbyterians who have moved into the neighborhood.
Evangelism is sometimes motivated by church survival, membership recruitment and budget provision.
Evangelism becomes a means to church survival, not expanding the kingdom of God.
A Better Answer is Needed
The fundamental question is “Why do Evangelism?”
We need to find an answer that is not rooted in guilt. Guilt drags one along like a bridle can drag a horse.
We need to find an answer that is beyond church survival. Survival drags one along but only so far.
What is foundational teaching about evangelism that can propel us from behind, like rocket fuel blasting the Space-X Falcon9 into space?
Can evangelism be something that is not fearful?
How does one joyfully do evangelism… where evangelism can be joyful, ordinary, and fun?
What understanding of the discipline of evangelism can motivate us so that “out of the overflow of the heart, our mouth speaks?”
Other Motives for Evangelism I have heard
Some other motives for evangelism that I’ve heard over the years that are similar to the motivations above:
- We are losing members and need new ones.
- I might be the only person in their life to explain the gospel to them.
- Your friend might die on their way home tonight so share!
- We need more money from new donors.
At a teaching session at mission base in Panama, my students gave the following list of answers:
- Obedience to the Great Commission
- If you have something so awesome, why not share it?
- God gave us compassion for the lost.
- Pastor says so.
- Fill the pews.
- Selfish not to share.
These lists are not exhaustive, but I’d love your recommendations of insufficient evangelism motives to add to the list.
Digging for What Motivates My Evangelism
A question has been stirring in my heart for a long time.
What motivates me to share my faith on a consistent basis?
“What is the fuel for evangelism?”
How do I find the “overflow of my heart” that propels my mouth to speak?
It has to be more than just obeying a command to “go.”
I can obey a command
- because I want to, or
- because I have to.
Just observe any child and see the difference between “want to” and “have to.”
My Motivation for Evangelism
It is found in a simple verse. “Because God loves us, we ought to love one another” 1 John 4.8.
It’s because God loves me.
The deeper that sinks into my soul, the more I want to tell others about His love.
What fuels me to do evangelism
- is more than the great commission;
- is more than a passion to see people apart from Christ get found by Him;
- is more than a concern about people’s eternity.
What fuels me is that I’m convinced that God loves me, and this theme in Scripture stirs something indescribable in my heart.
Peter speaks of an indescribable joy (1 Peter 1:9ff).
It wells up from within and overflows. It’s the deep [in me] that cries out to deep [in God]. It overflows.
It’s subjective, no doubt. I can’t put words to it.
But it fuels me all the more — I can “feel” the good news. I can feel the irresistible draw of God’s love.
I can enjoy God! God enjoys me!
I can have all the tools I want about how to evangelize.
But without the passion of relishing in the love of God for me, I’m just relaying information hoping to convince somebody of the truth.
Delighting in God’s love for me gives me the passion that communicates conviction of truth.
I’m not sharing what some speaker or teacher has taught me to repeat. I’m communicating what I believe and have discovered in life.
It’s the truth that has sunk into the heart and then oozes up from the heart with an intoxicating quality.
Just as I know the gospel (information, facts, theology, etc), I feel the gospel (passion, compassion, concern). The left brain and right brain together.
Truth with passion. Passion propels me to invite people to discover the truth with me.
We are told to “Always be prepared to give the reason for the hope that is within you.”
I wonder if that “reason” is unique to the work of God in your life.
Jesus loves me!
Getting lost in the love of Jesus, experiencing it in its richness, exploring its depths as I read the Word and meditate on it, gets me lost in the wonder of worship.
I can describe it, I can experience it.
My favorite Spanish worship song by Jesus Adrian Romero contains the line
“Si no fuera por tu gracia y por tu amor”
which translates, “if it wasn’t for your grace and your love.”
None of my pursuits for God, none of my worship, none of my evangelism and good works would matter to a hill of termites if it wasn’t for God’s grace — shown in His love for me.
I’m firmly convinced that experiencing God’s love propels us towards evangelism.
Guilt compels, grace propels.
Let me ask you this?
Why motivates you do or practice evangelism? Consider posting your answers in the comments portion.
If you want to prioritize evangelism, learn some simple steps of where you can grow.
Get the download copy of my teaching “Simple Steps to Personal Evangelism” ($).
With your copy, you’ll have the right to share this valuable teaching with your entire team.
In this 70 minute MP3 AUDIO recording on personal evangelism you will learn:
- How church invitations are part of evangelism
- How to discover and share your own journey to faith
- What you can say about the gospel message.
- How to personally lead someone to faith in Christ.
It’s a 70-minute audio file that takes just a few minutes to download, but it may help you answer the question:
What can you do in the next 90 days to grow your evangelism skills?
That is such a good question. I would love to have no fear when it comes to evangelism, but it seems to always come in some form. I love people and I really want to reach out to them, though.
Excellent ministry. Passionate and intelligent presentation of the gospel
The mission of the Church may be defined as “what God has sent the Church into the world to do.” This includes both evangelistic and social responsibilities. Many speak of our mission, but what about our motivations for mission? Scripture has much to say about not only our actions, but also about the reasons and motives behind these actions. It is God who tries (Jeremiah 12:3), knows (Psalm 44:21) and searches (Jeremiah 17:10) the heart. He does not judge by outward appearance. Indeed, even in our worship he discerns whether we are worshipping with both our hearts and our lips (1 Samuel 16:7; Matthew 15:8). In 2 Corinthians 13:3, Paul declares, “If I give away all I have and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” In Philippians 1:15-17, he acknowledges that the gospel can be preached from motives of goodwill and love as well as from envy, rivalry, selfish ambition and insincerity.
The Love of God
It should be understood that the Church’s mission is more than a good or even a great activity that the Church does. Christian mission springs from the very heart of the Godhead. Both the Old and the New Testament have much to say regarding the missio dei and both reveal God’s love for humankind in its spiritual and physical dimensions. The “love of God,” as a motive for mission, contains at least three elements significant for mission:
(1) God’s love for us,
(2) our love for God, which is proved by our obedience to God (John 14:15) and
(3) God’s love working through us to reach others.
The love of the missionary God is seen in the act of the Father giving up his only begotten Son in the incarnation, and his Son being willing to live a life of self-sacrifice and ultimately to die on the cross for humankind (John 3:16; Romans 8:32; Matthew 20:28). In 1 John 4:19 we are also reminded that “we love because he first loved us.” If our response is to truly love Christ in return for what he has done for us, we must obey his commands. God expects his disciples to be motivated by his love. We can do this because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts (Romans 5:5). Jesus, who commanded us to love one another, also promised that if we obeyed him, the world would know that we were his (John 13:34-35).
This love is more than just a fleeting emotional feeling; it is an act of the will and a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:1). This love also compelled Paul in his mission (2 Corinthians 5:14). Jesus Christ said to his disciples “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). As disciples, we are obliged to follow his example. Our love for God must be shown in “incarnational mission.” We are to identify with those we seek to reach, entering their worlds, their pains and their sorrows.
Many Christians list obedience as being a primary motive for fulfilling the missionary task. I would agree; however, obedience should necessarily flow from our love for God. John R. W. Stott once said that “loving obedience to God and his Christ is the first evangelistic incentive” as obedience is “the fruit and proof of love.”1 If obedience does not come from a heart motivated by the love of God, there is a danger of the missionary task becoming legalistic and lacking God’s blessing.
The Fear of God
It is sometimes perceived that the “fear of the Lord” (meaning, to be concerned with a God of judgment) is not relevant for those living since the New Testament era. It is true that the fear of the Lord seems more prominent in the Old Testament than the New Testament. Nevertheless, the New Testament still concerns itself with this important subject. God is still holy (Hebrews 12:14; 2 Corinthians 7:1) and there is still a final judgment (Matthew 25:41).
The fear of the Lord means living our lives to please the Lord. While on earth, Jesus sought to please his Father. Christians must also seek to please God and live a life worthy of him (Colossians 1:10). In 1 Corinthians 5:9, Paul writes that it was his goal to please God. Why was he motivated as he was? Verse 10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” As a result, Paul encouraged his readers to “persuade men” (v.11).
Michael Green notes, “This fear of which he speaks is not the craven fear of the underdog, but the loving fear of the friend and trusted servant who dreads disappointing his beloved Master.”2 He goes on to write, “This fear was a contributory factor in the ceaseless evangelistic activity of the apostle Paul.”3 In seeking to persuade men, we can begin to understand Paul’s concern for those who were not in Christ. Paul saw himself as similar to the prophet Ezekiel, who had been called to be God’s watchman. Similar to Ezekiel, Paul declared to the Ephesian elders, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26). He believed he was “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (2 Timothy 1), a herald and teacher (1 Timothy 1:11) and an ambassador of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).
He was like Isaiah, who having seen God in his awesome majesty, could not refuse his invitation to “go and tell this people” (Isaiah 6:9). Like Jeremiah, Paul could not hold in God’s Word. This holy compulsion was a combination of both the love of God for the people and a grave concern that the trust committed to Paul should be discharged (1 Corinthians 9:17). The Church’s mission should still be motivated by a healthy appreciation of the fear of God, which will give to the Church a sense of its own holy calling to reach the lost. The Church will then become fearless in the midst of fierce opposition. Paul the great missionary had to endure great sufferings in order to fulfill the ministry to which God had called him.
The Glory of God
Perhaps the greatest motive for mission and evangelism is for the glory of God. As with the love of God, the glory of God can have more than one dimension. The first is that we evangelize in order that God would be glorified. The second is that we evangelize in order to receive glory and praise from God (as opposed to man). Both motives are important and biblical. First, we will look at evangelizing to receive glory or praise from God.
John said of the Pharisees that “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43). Jesus himself declared that he did not receive glory from men (John 5:41); rather, he was approved by his Father at his baptism (Mark 1:11) and exalted because of his obedience on earth (Philippians 2:9-11). The idea that we should not strive for a reward from God is unbiblical. The Bible is clear that all will be judged by Christ (Daniel 12:3; Romans 14:10,12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:12,15). Though there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1), it would appear that judgment for believers is for reward instead of punishment. Luke 19:17 implies there may be different degrees of rewards for believers for service rendered. Paul in his ministry was careful to build with quality material so he would not be put to shame when God put his work to the test (1 Corinthians 3:15). Whatever our reward may be, it should be a strong incentive for evangelism and mission.
We will now look at what I believe to be the purest motive for mission: that God himself would be glorified and honored. God the Father “exalted (Jesus) to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Philippians 2:9-10). Paul instructed the Corinthians that even ordinary things should be done for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 3:1). How much more should we seek to honor and glorify the name of Jesus Christ in the work of evangelism! The Church also seeks to win over those under the control of Satan, that they may serve and honor the true and living God. As Elijah declared himself to be “very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts” (1 Kings 19:14), so Paul also claimed that his own ministry was “for (Christ’s) name’s sake” (Romans 1:5). Likewise, the missional Church as the bride of Christ must be spurred on with a holy jealousy to bring honor to his name. M. Thomas Thangaraj rightly points out that “an adoration of God leads to a profound sense of love and gratitude to God, which in turn motivates us for engagement with others in mission.”4
The prophet Jeremiah warns us that “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure”(Jeremiah 17:9). It is not surprising that an assessment of motivations for mission should prove to have a sobering effect on the Church. The Church should therefore be prepared to listen to both the Word and the world in its criticisms of it, so as not to become self-deceived (Hebrews 4:12; Proverbs 18:13). The three positive motives for assessing mission listed above naturally intertwine like a threefold cord (Ecclesiastes 4:12). Mission and the motivation for mission should be seen as originating from God and should result in the Church following the example of Jesus, who in holy obedience, love and seeking to glorify the Father, came “to seek and save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).
1. Stott, John. 1967. Our Guilty Silence. London: Hodder and Stoughton. 18.
2. Green, Michael. 1995. Evangelism in the Early Church. Guildford: Eagle. 29.
3. Ibid. 297.
4. Thangaraj, M. Thomas. 1999. The Common Task. Nashville: Abingdon Press. 149.
This is such a great newsletter Chris.
I’ll keep you in prayer Brother.
This message was great to hear when we are practicing social distancing. Our joy in God’s love for us can still be seen via the media of our choice, with co-workers, or others we may encounter. We may find we have more opportunities to share our joy!
Thank you, Chris.
Thank you Jen for the encouragement. I found that working on that article actually had an effect of fueling my movitvation again.
Thanks Stan. Always good to run into you online.
Thanks Ron for stopping by and for the encouragement this morning.
Thanks Andrew for sharing one of your posts. I do find the love of God for me a compelling personal motive. The more I relish in his love for me, the more I’m motivated to share that Love with others.