In simple terms, evangelism is proclaiming the good news of the gospel. This has been commanded and exemplified in many ways in the Bible. Paul, in the book of Timothy, for example, encourages his son in the Lord, Timothy, to always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, and fulfil his ministry (2 Timothy 4:5). This is remarkable that one among the many things Paul wanted Timothy to continue doing in his life, is to proclaim the gospel. We also see Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 commanding his disciples to make disciples and teach them all that he taught them. What did Jesus teach? Jesus’ main message was the good news of repentance since the kingdom of God is near (Matthew 4:17). He taught it in Jerusalem and other towns (Luke 4:43).
Who Should Evangelise?
From what we have learned, we need to battle the question of responsibility. Whose work is evangelism? Was the command in Matthew 28:17-20 only for the disciples? Or did Paul only command Timothy to do the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5)? Since we know the scriptures were written for our benefit, even though not for us, we must reckon that every believer is charged with the responsibility of heralding the truth of God (2 Corinthians 5:18). As followers of Christ, all of us are, therefore, also Christ’s disciples (Matthew 16:24, Luke 14:33). The same command he gave his disciples before leaving is the same one he also left us with (Matthew 28:20). Paul explains to the church in Corinth that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, and this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself, not counting our sins against us but entrusting us with the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). Therefore we are, essentially, Christ’s ambassadors, and God makes his appeal to all people through us (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). Our contexts may differ, our gifts are definitely not the same, and the way we share the good news will never be the same, but please note that as long as you are in Christ, you are an evangelist.
Hard but Doable
Sharing the gospel can be an arduous task, especially in the world we live in today (Luke 21:12-13, Acts 8:1-4). However, our comfort should come from knowing that ever since the fall of Adam and Eve, sin has made everyone hostile to God and the things of God (Romans 8:7). So every time we face rejection, we should remember that we are not the first nor will we be the last to face opposition while sharing the gospel. Secondly, we should consider how Jesus himself was rejected, persecuted, tortured and brutally killed by the hands of lawless men (Acts 2:23) and be at ease with suffering as we evangelise (1 Peter 4:1). In all these things, we should be loving and kind while sharing the gospel, ensuring that we are only suffering because of what is right. Only then will we receive the blessing that comes with suffering. Let us, therefore, not fear to stand up for the Word of God because of suffering (1 Peter 3:14).
Benefits of Evangelism
Evangelism certainly plays a very crucial part in the life of believers. The best part is it brings benefits both here on earth and eternally in heaven, for beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news (Romans 9:15). Let us look at some five roles of evangelism.
- Firstly, we evangelise because it is a command from God. Nothing should be more pleasing to the soul of a believer than living by the good, acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2). God’s commands to us are his pleasing will for our lives since he is working in us to will and to do his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). Fulfilling God’s commands is the surest mark of a child of God, and among the commands of God in scripture is to evangelise (1 John 2:3).
- Secondly, evangelism deepens our knowledge of God (Proverbs 11:30). You will not go out to speak of anything if you do not know what it is all about. Sharing the good news about the Kingdom of God requires us to know the God of whom we preach. We know God by reading the scriptures and praying. Anyone with the regular discipline of sharing his faith with others should be in the habit of always studying scripture and praying for God to give him boldness and wisdom as he shares about him. Spending time with God in scripture and prayer enriches our knowledge of him (2 Peter 3:18). Henry Martin (1781-1812), an Anglican Priest and Missionary, said, “the Spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to him, the more intensely missionary we become.”
- Thirdly, evangelism grows our faith in God. Faith in God grows when our knowledge of him increases. Since sharing about God requires us to study scripture, it eventually brings about growth in our journey of faith (Romans 9:17). Our faith in God grows, especially when we go out and face critical questions about God. In such instances, the scriptures remind us that we should be ready to give reasons for the hope we have in christ in gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). The scriptures also encourage that when we do not know what to say, God will give us words to speak (Matthew 10:19). However, it is always God honouring, to be honest, and that might mean to say “I don’t know” when you don’t have an answer to a question raised during evangelism. When our faith grows, our love for God also grows.
- Fourthly, sharing the gospel encourages compassion for the lost. Going out and meeting people who do not know God and sharing the good news with them swells our hearts with love and compassion for those living in sin. Jesus had such an encounter. He saw a crowd and had compassion for them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). We, too, are bound to be overtaken by compassion when we evangelise to the lost. The late John Stott, an Anglican theologian, commented on missions and said, “social responsibility becomes an aspect not of Christian mission only but also of Christian conversation. It is impossible to be truly converted to God without being thereby converted to our neighbour.” Hence, evangelism’s purpose is to open our eyes to a people’s spiritual needs and their present physical needs too.
- Fifthly, the discipline of discipleship helps us to grow in boldness and presentation of the gospel. Your first time sharing the gospel will be scary, you may be shaky and unsure, but the more you share it, the easier it gets. Also, evangelism gives us an opportunity to build relationships based on God’s Word. The people we share the gospel to become our disciples eventually. They are the ones we continue sharing the truth of the gospel with and grow into Christlikeness with. Christ has not just called us to share the gospel and walk away; better yet, he asks us to make disciples–people with whom we meet and exhort in the Lord (Matthew 28:16-20).
Evangelism is clearly of immense benefit to every believer. As we strive to have a balanced Christian life, we should be careful not to ignore evangelism since, in doing it, we obey our Lord, Jesus Christ. So, how is your evangelism doing?