What is your gut reaction to the word “evangelism”? I would guess that many people feel negatively. Some feel they should speak about Jesus, but it scares them or makes them uncomfortable in some way. Others are against speaking about religion or trying to change someone’s religion or culture. Some just hate religion. Some hate God.
The word “evangelism” comes from the Greek word meaning “good message”. It is good news like, “You’ve just become a millionaire.”, or “You are cancer-free”, or “We’ve found your luggage.” It is fun to deliver good news. “Evangelism” refers to the best news possible: “God loves you and has created a way for you to avoid condemnation in Hell and have instead an eternal, glorious existence in Heaven and eventually also a New Earth.” Why would people hate that?
First, some think it just religion (and therefore fictitious), or cultural (and they already have a culture). The Gospel is real promise based on a historical event which impacts your actual existence and doesn’t dictate a certain culture. We also recoil a bit because of our sinful nature. We recoil a bit more because Satan works hard to poison our minds against the Gospel and thereby poison us.
That said, there are barriers to overcome to motivate oneself to speak the Good Message and to get people to listen to the Good Message. Which brings me to a question I have been wrestling with myself. As a disciple of Jesus, should I be initiating conversations about Jesus in public or do I wait for God to create obvious opportunities to speak? My personality is to sit back and wait. That is in part why I don’t completely trust my answer.
In Acts 2, the Bible describes the working of the initial Christian Church. They gathered together for prayer, meals, and teaching. They shared property and cared for each other. Then there is this enigmatic statement:
And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.Acts 2:47b (NIV 1984)
How? Did God just move people to come to the congregation of believers? Did this “adding” include believers in the community doing deliberate evangelism events? Clearly, only God can make a spiritually dead person into somebody connected to Jesus and heading for Heaven. How are we tools for this process?
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”Romans 10:14-15 ESV
Clearly, the people who already know the Gospel, believe the message, and are saved are sent. That is why we are still here. You don’t have to be a trained Church worker or have a spiritual gift of evangelism to speak a message that God can use. Timing can matter, however. We don’t want to get ahead of God. God sent Paul and his cohort to certain places in a certain order. It wasn’t just geographically obvious.
God sets things up and pulls you in. You speak as God needs you. Sometimes you are not the final person to speak before somebody believes. I still wrestle with how assertive I should be. Do I miss opportunities? Think about it for yourself. We are talking about doing something that could be the most impactful and important thing you do in your life.
I would suggest addressing God in prayer every morning about this. Remember to say, “Here I am, send me.” Then if you are ready, see what happens next.