Kristin and I both grew up in the church. Her parents were Sunday school teachers. My mom was a Team KID leader and children’s ministry activist. Although it is still questionable as to whether or not she actually liked Kids. Anyways, you could say that I had a good start to church. I started Sunday school a little later but I picked up the basics and the common themes throughout the Bible. I weaved my way around the Bible picking up different un-relatable life lessons because let’s face it, the fact that David sent some guy out on the front lines just to steal his wife meant nothing to me. I was in elementary school. The worst thing that had happened to me at this point in my life was that recess got cancelled due to bad weather.
Not much changed when I reached the youth group. I was given a variety of stern “talking to’s” in Sunday school, followed by a “what not to wear” guide on Wednesday nights. Through all of this, I managed to gain an adequate knowledge of the Bible. I was able to reference different verses that linked well with the Sunday school topics. I was able to quote two or three psalms when praying out loud at certain youth events. I was even able to name the authors of over 75% of the New Testament (a helpful hint: one guy wrote thirteen letters).
I say all this not to discredit anything taught to me by the adults throughout my life in the church. The problem was not one individual person. It was a collective mindset that wound up having me major in church knowledge. I knew what to say, when to say it, and how to say it….in church. I knew proper church etiquette. I was taught how to dress nice. To stay quiet in the service. To do X Y Z because that’s just what you do in church. So, at age 18, I graduated with a B.S. degree in church relations.
As life became more stressful and more hectic, I found myself referring back to my church education less and less. I knew that God still loved me, I was just unaware of how to make him apply to my everyday life. Sure, I knew to read my Bible, go to church, worship, and tell others about Jesus, but how did that look in my everyday life?
It wasn’t until I stepped on a college campus that I realized my foundation in Christianity was rooted in something far worse than doubt, uncertainty, or belief in something not of god. My foundation in Christianity was rooted in church. Not the body of Christ, but the building. I was rooted in a false sense of who God really was. I thought God wanted us to be on time for Sunday school, not to wear promiscuous clothing, and wanted us to share a testimony of how He spoke to us on a winter retreat.
This is where things get personal. I know I am not the only one out there who has struggled with this. Countless times, on numerous occasions I have conversations with people my own age and I can see it in their eyes. They say all the right things, show up to all the services and events, and even volunteer in the children’s ministry. However, deep inside they still have pain. They still have sin they have not even begun fighting. They still do not know the one true God. As if all this wasn’t enough, they still have to go about their daily lives and tell others about this God who they do not even know.
Here’s the thing. After a little while I completely threw away that phony education I got in high school. I began to read the Bible for myself. I began to pray in privacy. I began to feel the presence of God wrap around my soul and give it life. Church no longer was a place where I put on a happy face and pretended that I did not have problems. It became a place where other believers used their gifts and talents to bring me to a place of worship. It became a place where sinners gathered and worshipped a God who could have judged harshly but instead paved a path to salvation through Jesus Christ. Grace became a real concept. Jesus became a real person with real power. Sin was actually being fought. Life, and life abundantly, was being given. All because I chose not to think with my brain but to feel with my heart. When this transformation happens, when cold hearts are melted, when dead souls are raised to life, that is when it becomes easy to share about. It becomes the only thing you want to talk to about. Evangelism no longer becomes a checked off item on your to-do list but instead becomes a daily habit overflowing from your personal relationship with God.
However, I understand that sometimes it can be a bit challenging. I understand that for the new believer and even the “not-so-new believer” that it can be challenging. We can grasp the Gospel and still struggle with evangelism. That’s okay! Because in the end, we are human. We have sinful natures. We are born sinning. No one had to teach you to lie. No one had to teach you to disobey your parents. No one had to teach you to hit your brother or sister. You just hit them in the face with a hairbrush naturally. I promise you that. So, we can take this one of two ways. The first way is to tell you how to evangelize. I can give you tips and tricks on how to work in the gospel in your everyday conversation. But I can also tell you how to work out to lose weight. The problem with both of these is this: You have to be motivated.
And building a foundation is the best way to get motivated. Knowing why you want to do something is half the battle. For example, Rocky was a small-time boxer but saw the opportunity to make himself into a “somebody” after being given the chance to fight the heavyweight champion of the world, Apollo Creed. Through numerous struggles, Rocky continued to train hard to compete. In the end, his training was motivated because he had more than money to fight for. In the same way, we must recognize that there is more to evangelism than doing what Jesus has commanded us to do in Matthew 28. The bible gives us some reasons why Jesus commands us to evangelize.
First, David writes in the Psalms about the glory of God as a reason to evangelize. In Psalm 105:1, he writes, “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done.” (New International Version, NIV). Our first reason for proclaiming the Gospel is to glorify God. As Christians, this should be our foremost objective in living. God is glorified when His creation tells of His redemptive plan of salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.
Secondly, the Proverbs give us a thought on why we should evangelize as well. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life and the one who is wise, saves lives.” (Proverbs 11:30; NIV). Did you catch that? The fruit of the righteous—the blood of Christ had made us righteous (2 Cor. 5:21), a tree of life. The wise man SAVES LIVES.
Here is where I would like to take a moment to examine our heart as it pertains to evangelism. I read a story once about a pastor who had a member of his congregation that was blind. The pastor really wanted to see a miracle of God. He wanted to experience the real power of God in a hands-on way. He began praying each day for this man to be able to see. He prayed that God would give him sight to see. Soon, he began to realize that the only way this would ever get done is through God and through His power. The pastor could do nothing of his own accord to make the blind man see. He then began to realize that evangelism is in essence quite similar. In fact, as the story goes on, the pastor explains that evangelism is even more difficult than getting a blind man to see. Evangelism is, and always will be, sharing a message that gives life. It is a message taught to dead sinners to give them life through Jesus Christ. Yet, how often do we pray as if this was true? Jesus talks about this in the Gospels when He proclaims that He is the vine and we are the branches. Whoever abides in Him will produce much fruit. And just like Proverbs says, a righteous man is a tree of life. Now we see the similarities between these two. But to take it a step farther, we go back to the pastor who wanted a miracle. In his pursuit of a miracle, he testifies about the increase in his prayer life. He began to pray with a sense of purpose and a sense of power. He purposefully prayed that God would reveal His power by giving the church member sight. Is this not how we should treat evangelism? If he prayed more and more about something he says is not as difficult as giving life to the dead than should we not be on our knees praying constantly that God would grant us all the power and wisdom to relay a message of His will to bring the Gospel to sinners? My prayer is that we begin to treat evangelism like this. That we begin to understand that now that we have this Gospel we are not meant to keep it to ourselves but that we want others to experience the freedom that is knowing Christ Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Let us begin to pray with a sense of urgency for His power to be displayed as we evangelize.
The last portion of building a foundation is to understand that we are called to evangelize. It goes further and deeper than Jesus commanding us in Matthew 28, but that God has called us to this righteous task. In the book of Isaiah, the prophet is given a chance to experience the presence of God in a way that no one before him had. He writes of his experience in Chapter six, beginning in verse 8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ and I said ‘Here am I. Send me!’” (NIV).
Are you serious?
The prophet has entered into the presence of the Lord and He has given a challenge to Isaiah. A challenge to go forth and proclaim His glory among the nations. A challenge to become wise and save lives. A challenge that requires His power to accomplish. A challenge that raises the dead back to life. A challenge worth selling out to. A challenge that does not require nice clothes, correct spoken prayers out loud, or figuring out if it is the right song/time to raise your hands in worship. But mainly, it’s a challenge to go.
My new-found faith still did not quite fix my challenges of evangelism. However, through establishing a solid foundation rooted in Biblical truth, I can say that sharing the Gospel has become easier. I skipped the 101-intro course taught by the local “gospel-sharing-guru” that went on two out-of-state mission trips last year. Now, I picked up God’s Word. God’s Word taught me why we should be evangelizing. His Word taught me that before anything can be accomplished, we must pray to God—the One who gives power. His Word taught me that God has called me to proclaim His name. And His Word taught me that Jesus, a personal and intimate Savior, does not want me to bottle up the freedom I have experience from sin, but to teach others about this freedom. Let us not get caught up with the “how-to’s” of sharing the Gospel, yet let us look inward into our hearts and allow God to remind us why we share the Gospel with others.
Cite: Scanlon, Z. (2018). The Foundation of Evangelism. Faucett Journal. Retrieved from http://www.faucettjournal.com/articles/foundation-of-evangelism