The topic of evangelism is broad, and I will not attempt to cover this topic comprehensively in this article. Instead, my purpose is show biblically that the discipline of evangelism is necessary to our pursuit of godliness. To do this, I will define evangelism and review three biblical truths about evangelism.
What Is Evangelism?
Evangelism is presenting Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit to sinful people, in order that they may come to put their trust in God through Him, to receive Him as their Savior, and to serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church.1
Here is a shorter definition.
Evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade.2
Evangelism is sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ to unbelievers in hope that they may accept it in saving faith. God has much to say about evangelism in Scripture. To help us understand evangelism as a spiritual discipline, the Bible teaches us these three truths.
1. Evangelism Is Expected.
God expects that Christians serve as his witnesses and evangelize. The four New Testament gospels conclude with Jesus’ command to evangelize (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46-47; John 20:21). Jesus commands his disciples and followers to be his witnesses throughout the world in Acts 1:8. Other epistles also exhort Christians to proclaim the gospel truth in this darkened world.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
A. Is the Gift of Evangelism Necessary?
God does give some a special giftedness in evangelism. These individuals may serve vocationally as evangelists.
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11–12)
However, this does not negate the responsibility that God gives to all Christians. God calls all Christians to proclaim his gospel message to everyone. God wants all nations to hear the gospel. The apostles and early church did not reach every single nation and people group. This task remains the responsibility of every Christian.
B. Is Training for Evangelism Necessary?
Why are many of us neglecting the practice of evangelism? Some make the excuse that they feel ill–prepared, unequipped, and untrained. But how much training did the blind man receive in John 9? Answer: zero.
Yet, the blind man in John 9 was a faithful witness, testifying to his entire city of the work of Christ. He did not formulate sophisticated arguments. He had no formal rhetoric training. What he did have was a genuine experience of Christ’s mercy and grace, and he testified faithfully to his unbelieving world.
If we have enough of the gospel to be converted, we have enough understanding to tell somehow else the gospel and how they can be saved.
2. Evangelism Is Empowered.
Three fears frequently hinder my personal evangelism.
- I fear what others will think and say.
- I fear initiating a conversation with someone I do not know.
- I fear the outcome of this serious conversation since heaven and hell are at stake.
Each of us wants the person with whom we share the gospel to come to Christ. We want to see people saved. But should conversion be the measure of success in evangelism? Jesus shared the gospel to many, and most of them did not receive and trust the gospel. Did Jesus fail? Absolutely not.
Sharing the gospel is successful evangelism. Our measure of success is the accurate delivery of the gospel message, not conversion. Whenever we share the gospel, we have succeeded.
The Holy Spirit empowers our evangelism. You may not feel it all the time, but the Holy Spirit gives us the power to witness for Christ. He uses our personality, our relationships and our opportunities. He empowers our changed life and makes us a fragrant aroma to draw people to Christ.
For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, (2 Corinthians 2:15 ESV)
Furthermore, the gospel is the power of God, and it is through the gospel that God gives the power to believe.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16 ESV)
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17 ESV)
Consequently, the power of the gospel is not dependent on our rhetoric, eloquence, and persuasiveness. God is the power of the gospel that leads to conversion. We cannot convert others; only God can.
So take heart. God promises to give us the power to share his gospel. When we biblically and accurately share the gospel, in God’s eyes, we have succeeded.
3. Evangelism Is Discipline.
Even though evangelism should be a natural outflow of the Christian life, we need to discipline ourselves to evangelize. Unless we make evangelism a spiritual discipline, we will seldom share the gospel. Let me give you three practical steps we need to take to discipline ourselves for evangelism.
A. We need individual contact with non-Christians.
Some of us do not have this problem. We may be completely surrounded by non-Christians at our workplace. But some of you may have insulated yourselves into a bubble with few meaningful contacts with unbelievers.
- Full–time church workers who only engage in sermon preparation, Bible studies, hospital visits, and committee meetings.
- Stay–at–home moms who only see their children and friends from church.
B. We need to find opportunities to share the gospel.
Individual contact with non–Christians is not sufficient. We need to engage in meaningful conversations so spiritual issues can be discussed. Contact with unbelievers lacks meaning when you do not take the opportunity to talk about Christ. We must constantly think about evangelism as we interact with our unbelieving contacts, co–workers, and friends.
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:5–6 ESV)
Here are a few possible ideas.
- Schedule and invite unbelieving neighbors to our homes.
- Engage purposefully with visitors to our church and Christian social events.
- Schedule time for conversation with co–workers outside of work hours.
- Break your insulated bubble. Listen and enlarge your heart for the unbelievers around us.
C. We need to pray to maximize our opportunities.
Pray for your evangelism opportunities. Pray for the unbelieving people around you. Pray that God will change you and give you a heart of compassion.
Earlier this year without any warning, my boss became ill with a serious, life–threatening illness. Initially, I started to just pray for her physical health for selfish reasons. I wanted her to get better because I liked her; she was a good boss.
Soon, my prayers changed to praying for her spiritual condition. As I prayed for her spiritual condition, I realize that for God to save her, she needed to hear the gospel. So I prayed that God would send someone to share the gospel with her so she could believe in Jesus as her Lord and Savior.
In these last few weeks, God has given me both the desire to prepare and to share the gospel with her. I want to listen and understand where she is at spiritually. I want her understand that my motivation to share with her is out of my concern for her well–being.
Final Thought on Evangelism as a Spiritual Discipline
“There is a correlation between the pursuit of godliness and a passion for God’s message. The more we pursue Christ, the more we want to proclaim Christ. But without discipline, our best evangelistic intentions often go unspoken.” (Donald Whitney)3
- Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (NavPress, 2014) 120. ↩︎
- J. Mack Stiles, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus (9marks: Building Healthy Churches) (Crossway, 2014) 20. ↩︎
- Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (NavPress, 2014) 140 ↩︎