Evangelism is one of those words used in church that almost never gets used in general conversation with people outside of the church. In the context of church, the word evangelism or evangelize is defined as: “the spreading of the Christian gospel by public preaching or personal witness”. In reality, it is how Christianity has spread and survived for 2,000 years. Christians sharing their faith through sermons and personal witness.
The Bible tells us that some people are gifted or called to the role of evangelist. It is an “office” of the church like pastor, prophet, apostle and teacher as mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. Many of us could name people who have filled this role and in doing so affected the lives of hundreds, thousands or maybe even millions. In modern times, Billy Graham is the most recognized name to have filled the role of evangelist.
One of the dangers of recognizing people who are called or gifted as an evangelist is that we tend to abandon our own responsibility to evangelize the world. I have frequently mentioned that evangelism is not one of my gifted areas. I do fill the role of pastor or teacher, but have never felt like I was an evangelist. I have always felt more comfortable helping people become a better disciple rather than leading them to an initial coming to faith or belief in Christ. The reality is that I cannot help people become a better disciple of Christ unless they first believe in Christ. Each of us has to be concerned with evangelism.
I recently read a quote by Charles Spurgeon in which he said “Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you’re not saved yourself, be sure of that!” All of us must be concerned about the spreading of the gospel and the sharing of good news. That may not come easy to you. It is possible that it did not come easy for Timothy either. The Apostle Paul would write to him in 2 Timothy 4:5 that he should “do the work of an evangelist”. He did not say he had the office or a gift, but he did tell Timothy he was obligated to do the work of evangelizing. Work is not always fun or exciting, but it must be done. In Christianity, evangelism is work that must be done.
There are things we can lean on when we do not feel like we are an evangelist. For example, all of us have been given the the task of, or the ministry of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18 (NLT) says, “And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.” Because we have been reconciled, we have the task of reconciling others to God. Because of what we have received, we are obligated to participate in the same process with others. Admittedly, the current climate of our world can make it even more intimidating to share our personal story of faith with others. The flip side is that it also provides significant opportunities for us to speak into people’s lives as they seek answers for turbulent, violent and hate-filled situations.
If you ever wonder how unbelievers feel about evangelism, I want to share with you a quote I heard from Penn Jillette. Penn is the talking half of the show “Penn & Teller”. They have a standing show in Las Vegas but are known worldwide for their magic performances. Penn Jillette is a very outspoken atheist, but he shares an interesting story about a man who brought him a New Testament and placed it in his hand one night after a show. He talks about how kind and considerate the man was. Though it did not change his belief or cause Penn to come to faith in Christ, something he said about that event made an impression that has always stuck with me. He was asked if evangelism was offensive to him and Penn Jillette responded, ““How much do you have to HATE somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”. Even a devout atheist believed that if you think you have the answer of eternal life, you are obligated to share it.
I challenge you to do the work associated with evangelism. Tackle the task of reconciling people to God. Each of us has an obligation. Let’s love the world and not hate it.