A driving force behind personal evangelism is a sense of urgency.
Without a sense of urgency, evangelism loses one of its 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, proper liturgy and what constitutes outreach.
Some committees simply treat evangelism as a hobby, rather than an actual team doing the work of evangelism (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. Examples:
- 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?
Another good article. I’m going to push back again though on the guilt issue. While you make some great points in that section, the passage from Ezekiel 3:18-19 I think directly contradicts this. I think guilt and shame have a place in pushing/encouraging us toward obedience. We should feel guilt and shame to some degree when we sin or fail to do what God commands. We don’t have to live in that guilt because of God’s grace, but I think it is a reminder of our disobedience. I think we’re seeing our culture embrace this no guilt, God is love and acceptance, non-judgmental attitude and it just isn’t Biblical.
I want to share what’s been going on in my life as it’s very relevant. I have been meeting with a group of Christian guys every Tuesday morning at Steak N Shake for the last 2 months. I’ve been attempting to get to know the waitress a little but am not having much success. I had brought some of my gospel tracts to show the guys last week and was considering leaving one for her but chickened out. Thursday of last week, I heard the restaurant had been robbed at gunpoint. This week I learned from another server, that Olivia (our previous waitress) was incredibly shook up and most likely will not be returning to work there. I could feel in my gut what I would describe as guilt and regret for not somehow sharing with her or giving her a tract. I was able to talk with the manager who was also involved and see it shook her up some too. I am now going to try to track down Olivia at her other job and share with her. I should note, I am also very thankful God didn’t allow anything to happen to them and has made more real to me the issue of urgency.
I realize my situation doesn’t make my opinion on the guilt issue true or not true. Ultimately, we need to look at what scripture says. I would like to hear what you have to say, especially concerning Ezekiel 3:18-19.
I’ve started putting my thought’s out the use of this passage, in an rather lengthy article:
I’ve still not settled on how best to express what I want to say, but I think some discussion there would be helpful.
As for us not feeling guilty if somone passes that we have not shared with, consider Ezekiel 3:18-19, “When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.”
the Bible sure seems to say that us failing to share the Gospel is to be held against us. That is a share, not 28 times, but we need to share it. I also believe this shows that the church has the blood of the unreached nations on our hands.
I see that you did deal with this. I apologize.
I’m glad to followed the link to
to see my longwinded analysis of that passage.
Tnx for d word
For years I experienced extreme guilt over evangelism because for the most part I wasn’t evangelising. A bit here, a bit there, but mainly I wasn’t doing much evangelising. I felt like I should have been evangelising 24/7, but (a) I felt I wasn’t cut out for it, (b) I didn’t know how to go about it and (c) I was scared to evangelise to people. I was OK at apologetics up to a point, but not so great at evangelism.
I felt so guilty because I thought people were going to hell and it was my fault because I wasn’t evangelising to them. How can someone live with such a burden of guilt? After about 4 years I felt like I was going stark raving mad. I then started drinking again. It came easily to me, because I’d been a heavy drinker before getting saved. I simply could not live with the guilt of not sharing the Gospel with people. How could I live with myself? I’m OK Jack, I’m saved, but you’re going to hell. How can anyone live with that level of guilt? I couldn’t, so I went back to the booze. In fact I went so heavily back into it that I was drinking far more heavily than ever before.
After quite a few years back on the booze, I came to a point where I became convinced that I myself was going to hell because I’d reached a point where repentence was impossible for me (because of Hebrews 6:4-6 and 10:26-27). I’ve since come to believe that those verses in Hebrews refer to the sin of Jewish Christians repeatedly going back to animal sacrifice as a means of forgiveness rather than relying on the blood of Christ, but for a long time I was convinced I was going to hell because of those verses. Being convinced you’re going to hell is the most awful feeling in the world. It is hideous.
Looking back, I’m very annoyed with the ministers who made me feel guilty about evangelism. One in particular kept going on about how many people lived in our town, and the unspoken but implied message (to me anyway) was “So why aren’t you sharing the Gospel with them and getting them saved?” None of these ministers actually taught anyone how to actually evangelise. But it never stopped them preaching about it.
Re Ezekiel, he was given a specific mission by God. Can his mission be translated to all people at all times? I don’t think it can be, and by doing so it’s placing a burden of guilt on people that in my opinion should not be placed on them. Also, God told Ezekiel that if he didn’t tell the Jews to repent then their blood would be on his hands. What does that actually mean? That if any Jews didn’t repent and died then they would go to hell and Ezekiel would follow them? If not, and Ezekiel didn’t follow them to hell, then his having their blood on his hands didn’t mean much, did it? The unrepentant Jews would go to hell, but Ezekiel (despite having their blood on his hands) doesn’t? Doesn’t make much sense to me whichever way you look at it.
But all the above aside, how is any Christian to know what is expected of them by God when it comes to evangelism? I refuse to believe any more that my not evangelising to someone will mean that he/she goes to hell and it’s my fault. I refuse to live with that level of guilt any more. It totally messed me up thinking that way. And in any case, God can save who He chooses to save. If people’s salvation is dependent on fallible believers who may or may not share the Gospel with them, then how is that fair on anyone? As the paramilitaries in Northern Ireland used to say “Kill ’em all and let God sort them out”. It may be profane, but I think it expresses the idea that God is sovereign and God has the ultimate say.
The Bible doesn’t say that people get a chance to repent at the moment of dying (or just after), but I hope to hell that’s the case. Otherwise all the people who died without having a chance to respond to the Gospel will be condemned to hell if you take a strict interpretation of the Bible. Can that possibly be right? How can anyone live with that level of guilt?
I agree with the previous comment for reasons, even I can relate to. And to support his report and testimony – I so can relate in sadness to that sense that in fact, it gets so bad you might as well be DEAD (!) (but guess what, it can work in a way to know Him in a way you never thought possible before too! So there is plus if we press through it)..consider: “He Who descended is the very one who ascended above all the heavens, in order to fill All Things. And it was ‘He’ Who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to ‘equip the saints for works of ministry’ , to build up the body of Christ,… this clearly shows that not ALL are ‘MEANT” to evangelize.” In fact, The LORD said: My Yolk is Easy and my burden is Light”…Has he given you a ‘mission’? We are to be ready in season and out of season, with words salted with flavor…the issue might be a misappropriation of what the word, ‘evangelize’ even means in the first place. I don’t know of any instance where Jesus actually confronted a person saying something like, ‘believe in me or you’re going to hell’. It never happened that way. I know of a guy where I live who goes up and down the beach walking up to them and saying almost that same thing…and sends out emails telling everyone about how much ground he has covered and how many people he has ‘converted’..something just doesn’t sit right …no one converts anyone, only God. Or part is in our daily lives to Out The Life in word and deed and being Awake to particular people places and situations where it will naturally work in, and He does put is in such places…I know of that because of when after I’m no longer in that situation i realize it to late. RATS! Urgency is important too..but we need to ‘speak’ in our own words from our own hearts and not go out there and just recite scripture…that ends up coming off like your ‘telling someone what to do’..that is ‘speaking AT a person…and not with them..
Good word Stephen… to add: if we share the gospel so we can only say “there I did it whew” but done in lovelessness , and then we turn around and feel self righteous because we did a good deed not a God deed. We should speak out of passionate love. Love that is instilled within us by God not words that were given to us by “the world” God might have us wait patiently to reach out to keep a sheep from falling in a well but urgency by man might rush him into the well. We must be sensitive and responsive to a living God, a God that can guide or steps through this evangelical phase. Each step counts, each step could cost a soul, we may want to wait and God says go! We may want to go! And God says …. be patient.. I was patient with you, don’t you forget.
I’m am a new convert thank the Lord 9 wonderful months! And I to have banged my head on the wall for a lot with theology with understanding with people with pastors and only about a month ago now I’ve read Corinthians 2 now but this time I come to 1 Corinthians 13 and I was like wow how have I not payed close attention to this chapter and the good Lord just cleared it all up for me now Paul says everything we do and know is imperfect we can only see God like a blurry picture in a mirror an that on top of our faith and hope Love is greater I was mind blown like when I found out that God is Trinity where is the love is what we got a ask in every good work we do for the Lord not out of compulsion come on doesn’t the word also teach that God loves a cheerful giver and what about mark when he left Paul and Barnabas how much blood was left on his hands? And Peter when he denied Jesus 3 times not only did he withheld the gospe of Jesus he denied it and when Jesus sent his disciples out 2 by 2 I think I remember him saying and don’t talk to anyone on the way there… Lets focus on Jesus guys who is perfecting us not man who can decieve us search for God first love him first with everything you got and love one another ….love you guys keep reaching who you can reach for the glory of the Lord for neither the planter or waterer are important but him who makes them grow in our Lord and Savior Jesus christ and our Father God who deserves all the Glory for ever Amen.