Some of the most rewarding times of my life have been during mission trips when I have done nothing but talk about Christ on the streets and in homes, with one individual or group after another, all day long. The same is true in my own locale—nothing so excites me as a conversation about Christ with someone who does not know Him. It can be an equally rewarding experience for any believer.
And yet nothing causes an eye-dropping, foot-shuffling anxiety more quickly among a group of Christians like myself than talking about our responsibility to evangelize. I know many believers who feel confident that they are obeying the Lord when it comes to their intake of Scripture or to their giving or serving, but I’m sure I don’t know a single Christian who would boldly say, “I am as evangelistic as I should be.”
Evangelism is a broad subject, and there are many things about it I won’t take the time to address in this chapter. The main idea I want to communicate about it here is that Godliness requires that we discipline ourselves in the practice of evangelism. Among the reasons we don’t speak of Christ more often is fear. We’ll think together about that a little later. But I’m convinced that the main reason many of us don’t witness for Christ in ways that would be effective and relatively fear-free is simply because we don’t discipline ourselves to do it.
EVANGELISM IS EXPECTED
Most of those reading this book will not need convincing that evangelism is expected of every Christian. All Christians are not expected to use the same methods of evangelism, but all Christians are expected to evangelize.
Before we go further, let’s define our terms. What is evangelism? If we want to define it thoroughly, we could say that evangelism is to present 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 serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His Church.1 If we want to define it simply, we could say that New Testament evangelism is communicating the gospel. Anyone who faithfully relates the essential elements of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ is evangelizing. This is true whether your words are spoken, written, or recorded, and whether they are delivered to one person or to a crowd.
Why is evangelism expected of us? The Lord Jesus Christ Himself has commanded us to witness. Consider His authority in the following:
“Therefore 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 will be with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20).
“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation’ ” (Mark 16:15).
“And repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47).
“Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you’ ” (John 20:21).
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
These commands weren’t given to the apostles only. For example, the apostles never came to this nation. For the command of Jesus to be fulfilled and for America to hear about Christ, the gospel had to come here by other Christians. And the apostles will never come to your home, your neighborhood, or to the place where you work. For the Great Commission to be fulfilled there, for Christ to have a witness in that “remote part” of the earth, a Christian like you must discipline yourself to do it.
Whitney, Donald S. 1991. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
We have just completed a 13-Part Study of Donald Whitney’s classic book, Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life. It is available as part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Lesson Subscription Service. It is also available on Amazon