DOES THE THOUGHT OF EVANGELISM TERRIFY YOU?
FOR SOME, IT'S A DELIGHT, BUT FOR THE MAJORITY IT'S A TERROR.
IT'S TIME WE WERE SET FREE FROM SUCH FEAR. WE WERE CALLED TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER - FULL STOP.
Let's look at what God really wants of us. It's demanding for sure and without the Holy Spirit we can't do it. But through him, all things are possible.
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14)
Sharing the good news is the privilege of the Church. It shouldn't be our awful burden. Unfortunately, many Christians today have been told that the words that God spoke to the Old Testament prophet, Ezekiel are a warning that applies to us all today if we fail to "witness" to our unsaved neighbours and family.
"Son of man I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked man, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood." (Ezekiel 3:17, 18)
We are not watchmen for the house of Israel. Another person's salvation depends on God and God alone, not on you or anyone else. You will be judged and rewarded according to the fruit you bear in your life. But your actions will not cause someone to lose their salvation. God (if you can believe it) has all the angles covered.
The result of this fear doctrine (another one of the root lies that today's western churches have swallowed) is either a) or b):
a) Christians witness under duress and it is a great embarrassment on all sides.
b) Christians fail to witness when they believe they should because it feels so forced but this gives them a terrible burden of guilt.
What God does require of us, however, is that we love our neighbours. There are times when this leads us to tell them about our love for Jesus and what he means to us. There are times when we just hug them and stay silent. Your heart will tell you what is right if you are close to the Lord and walking in his divine love. Legalism about witnessing has killed the joy of our relationships with non Christians. Too often, we aren't "salt" in the world; we are a lump of "holy huddlers" sticking to one another at the bottom of the pan.
Here are some points of truth that will set you free from your guilt trip imposed by insecure churchianity.
God isn't calling everyone today.
Otherwise he would be succeeding. Look at the verse from Matthew 24 quoted at the start of this section. The gospel is to be preached AS A TESTIMONY to all nations, not to save all nations.
God simply has not appointed all to believe the gospel now. If he had, do you think they would?
"When the Gentiles heard this they were glad and honoured the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed." Acts 13:48
Seems pretty clear doesn't it? (Perhaps I shouldn't say that. Because, of course, some have taken this to mean that God has chosen in advance that some people will be with him in heaven for ever and he has chosen some in advance to burn in hell forever. Despite the fact that this is unscriptural and an abominable slur on God's loving nature, some honestly believe it).
Let's go back to Matthew 24, which is talking about a time of great suffering.
"If those days had not been cut short, no-one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened." Matthew 24:22
Now the word "ELECT" means "CHOSEN". (The clue is in the word). It means that God will cut these days short for the sake of some people who have been chosen. In Romans 11 the Apostle Paul wrote:
"...at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace." Romans 11:5, 6
We who are saved are saved by grace alone, not our works and not by the works of anyone else either.
The fact is that God is calling some people now and some he will call later.
I am not saying that our actions have no effect on events, they do. They just don't have an effect on the final outcome. We can cause offence and we can bless others. Prayer is the most powerful force for good that we can exert. But it's not like most Christians believe. If you have a picture in your mind of bombarding heaven with your requests until God saves someone you have got it wrong. What do you think? That eventually God says, "Okay, okay, I wasn't going to save them, I had a place in hell prepared for them but as you keep on and on youÂ have worn me down." It doesn't work like that.
Prayer is about us turning repeatedly towards God in contrition and worship and absolute truth and emptiness. As we turn to him we (spiritually) behold his wonderful face and we are changed. Christ is formed in us and we begin to radiate some more of his love. We become channels of this divine love and God is able to do more through us. The spiritual balance shifts.
I am not dogmatic on this point but I believe that through such prayers a loved one may be called to the first resurrection who would otherwise be called to the second. (The first resurrection is a better one if you are called to it. Otherwise it isn't. Many of the last will be first and many of those who now oppose the gospel will receive higher rewards than some of us who have been called earlier. It all depends on what you do with what you have been given).
"Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:19, 20
Who was this spoken to? It was the eleven disciples. (see verse 16). These were the men that Jesus chose to be apostles (meaning "ones sent"). We aren't all apostles and we aren't all evangelists. We haven't all been sent!
Romans 10:15 says "How can they preach unless they are sent?" A good question! The answer is "Not very effectively." All the scriptures that are used to beat believers over the head with their "commission" to preach the gospel are verses that are referring to those sent ones who have that ministry. Certainly we should pray for them and encourage and support them in their ministry as we should support every brother and sister in Christ in all their respective ministries.
Those who God calls to preach, he also equips to perform that ministry. Some have gifts of evangelism and healing and signs and wonders. Not every believer is gifted in this way. They are ministry gifts that God gives to whoever he decides. The apostle Paul wrote, (talking about his own ministry):
"The things that mark an apostle - signs, wonders and miracles - were done among you with great perseverance." 2 Corinthians 12:12
I would think that implies that if you aren't an apostle you wouldn't be able to have all these signs marking you. What do you think?
"May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you." 1 Thessalonians 3:12
For an evangelist an expression of this love for non Christians would undoubtedly involve sharing the gospel message with them. For a housewife and mother it would undoubtedly involve acts of service such as a homemaker might perform. For all of us there would be times when we share our love for Jesus when the opportunity arises.
"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." 1 Peter 3:15
This is quite a different picture from the one painted by those who would insist we must all be out evangelising, isn't it?
Only God! It's a miracle. The Holy Spirit has to open a person's spiritual eyes to see Jesus. Jesus himself said:
"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws himâ€¦" John 6:44
That's pretty plain. Now, as I said before there are things that we can do to help or to hinder the work of God in another person's life.
Sometimes the ramming of our particular brand of Christianity down their throats hinders it.
The apostle Peter wrote in his general letter to the churches:
"Wives in the same way, be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives." 1 Peter 3:1
I like that. Again, the love that Christians have for one another in their fellowship together is powerfully evangelistic. When unbelievers see what love the members of the family of God have for one another they are drawn to the source of that love.
Love alone must be the motive we want to have. Evangelism can be a snare, especially to carnal western Christians and church leaders. Yes, it's God's will that the gospel is proclaimed, but false motives displease God. Some of these are:
It shouldn't be because it certainly isn't God's. Otherwise he would be doing it. The book of Romans explains what God is doing. Why not read Romans 10 and 11 and see how clear it is. After saying that all Israel will be saved Paul writes:
"For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all." Romans 11:32
Doesn't this clearly show that he intends to show mercy to those who are (now) disobedient? Hellfire for eternity doesn't seem like mercy to me.
If God loves everyone and respects their freedom and integrity, surely we should too? Our ministry is to just love all men, especially the family of God and let God deal with their hearts. He's good at it. He's the greatest. In fact, he's the only one. He is literally holding everything together by the power of his word. We are in safe hands, relax.
God is at work in everyone's life. Atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, Agnostics etc. They are all on a journey and God values their human character just as he will later value their Christian character when they turn to Jesus. We are no better than them. We have come to know Jesus and to whom much is given much is expected. Those who have been given less but have done more with what little they have will receive a greater reward than those who have been given more but have done less with it. (Read the parable of the talents). Those who come in at the last hour can receive the same reward as those who have "born the heat of the day".
God even uses situations where someone witness out of misguided or carnal motives and will even save sinners through their ministry. That doesn't necessarily put his seal of approval on their methods or their heart motive. He gifts some people with evangelistic gifts and we must pray for those among us who are gifted in this way.
We all have different ministries. Some are in the background and rarely see outward fruit from their ministry whereas others see "converts" and "manifestations" etc. For those who see the direct result of their ministries in this way we have a duty to pray:
This is so different from the prayers that many western Christians pray for their leaders whom they put on high pedestals. If we idolize a man because he is anointed of God and we pour money into his ministry and set him above others so that he believes he is led by God alone and not accountable to his brothers and sisters - we do him a great disservice.
There are no great Christians. We are all sinners saved by grace. Pray for one another that we don't forget this truth and fall into error.
The primary part that we have to play in evangelism is turning continually to Jesus throughout our lives. As we look to him and increasingly experience Jesus as our all in all, we are changed. Christ is formed in us by the beautiful work of the Holy Spirit. We come to know deep inside that without him we can do nothing but that through Christ in us we can do all things.
We come to a place of rest in him whereby our carnal cravings and lusts are quietened and we see that he is truly all we need. At last then, we are free. Free to think about others and love them instead of ministering out of our own egos and our desperate needs. Whatever state we are in we are now content, because we know that we know that Jesus has everything in hand. Everything is working for our good whether it appears to be good or bad. We no longer resist events and people. They can't harm us because we know that God is for us.
This is easy to describe but we only come to this place through suffering. We must make the decision to turn repeatedly and quickly (yet gently) towards Jesus with every moment. We come to see that Christ being formed in us is our goal and only God can do it. It's a dying process for the carnal nature and our flesh resist it every step of the way. It screams out for us to "do" instead of the "be".
Our church leaders can help. Those who have gone ahead on this journey can encourage the little ones to take the lower road. We can miss God's purpose if we are too busy with our programmes of fund raising, evangelistic outreaches, socialising, and teaching programmes that are designed to try to hold our churches together by getting them to adhere to the group norms.
This journey of dying daily to self and living to Christ is one that we are to encourage one another in by daily bearing each other's burdens. This means praying for one another. It also means sharing with appropriate close sisters or brothers our struggles and joys. It means the teachers expounding the word of God for the flock to enable them to grow up in Christ. (This isn't doctrinal knowledge primarily but rather intimacy with him.)
The church is meant to be evangelistic by its very nature. That nature is Jesus in his people. As he is lifted up in our fellowship the Holy Spirit will draw men to Jesus.