HOW TO BE AN EVANGELIST
The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans 16:16)
Some 50 years ago, during the “Camelot” administration of President John F. Kennedy, there was begun a trend in both politics and education to belittle reason and logic and find answers to all of our problems through emotion or sentiment. The idea of “Situation Ethics”, propounded by Mr. Joseph Fletcher became popular, being taught in colleges and universities as doctrinal courses of study.
Even churches got caught up in the craze, and “Situation Ethics” was used by many churches as a course of “Bible Study.” Debate and serious study of God’s word gave way to various polls on what is popular in our society. Many congregations of the churches of Christ in the 50 states, trying to be relevant, took up the same trend and abandoned difficult study and hard thinking to adopt sentiment and entertainment.
The so called “Church Growth” concept took the place of evangelism. Church leaders became more concerned with what is practical than with what is right and true. The slogan became, “Whatever Works,” which meant follow whatever program that fills the pews. “Growth in numbers” became more popular in measuring success than real Bible study – never mind that the shallow thinking it promotes leaves people spiritually empty and fails to produce a body of disciplined members who are committed to “taking up their cross and following Jesus, the Christ” (Luke 9:23).
Money and time went for aerobic classes, yoga instructors, buildings made for sports and entertainment. Our worship assemblies were turned into a “pep rally” to work on our emotions rather than to praise the God of heaven. Under our government-controlled schools, everyone is taught that there are no absolutes. Right and wrong are subjective, so that what so that what is wrong to one person is right to another. And the worldly “scholars” are absolutely sure that there are no absolutes in morality or religion!
All this has resulted in religion being based on sentiment rather than revealed truth. Because of their conviction that absolute truth does not exist, many church leaders have designed their worship to appeal to the emotions. The focus is not on truth, but the design is to stir feelings. What is being overlooked in all of this is the one thing that was emphasized by all the prophets, the apostles, John the Baptizer and Jesus. Their message was repentance. “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
Repentance is the message needed to call people to a new kind of life. Repentance is necessary for all mankind; i.e., the common people, the rich and wealthy, and the religious leaders. Repentance and remission of sins must be preach in the name of Jesus to all nations (Luke 24:47). Near the end of the first Gospel sermon preached by the apostles, the people asked, “What shall we do?” God’s answer was, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38).
True repentance is never motivated by mere emotion or sentiment. It is generated by a reasoning process based on the facts of the Gospel and recognition of personal sin: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Roman 3:23). John the baptized stirred up the people to repent by laying before them the facts of the Gospel and the judgment to come (Matthew 3:7-120. The multitude who responded were not drawn by John’s personal “charisma and oratory,” but by the challenge of his message.
My vision for the church here in St. Thomas is simple. We are going to teach and preach the old tried and true Gospel of Christ to this whole island. We will continue to use this building, the newspaper, the radio and television airways, and our feet and voices to challenge the thinking of the people of on St. Thomas. Our goal will be to expose them to God’s eternal truths, not to evoke sentimental feelings or arouse emotions.
We are the Lord’s church. We are the light of the world. We should ever be exposing the sins of our society and calling people to a better way of living. But instead, we too often seek to be contemporaneous and acceptable to this society. Instead of giving the rebukes of John and the Old Testament prophets, we try to look like our society and go to various extremes to avoid offending it. To a great degree the churches of Christ have exchange reason for emotion and “good feelings.” These may be mistaken for faith and “religious experience,” but if it is not grounded in a belief based on reason and logic, it is powerless to change a person inwardly.
The power of God to “bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) is the Gospel, when it is understood and believed. When faith is not based on reason, one is led by what he “feels” to be right. Such feelings often result from the influence of the non-Christian world. If morality is based on sentiment – or how ones feels about something – then there is no sense of guilt toward God and hence no need for repentance.
Response based on sentiment and emotion can hardly be considered repentance. True and real repentance must be based on the reality of a consciousness of sin in view of the reality of God’s perfect nature and purpose for mankind. True repentance is brought about by a trust in the goodness of God that recognizes His rule in our lives. Godly repentance is the result of “Godly sorrow” – that is, sorrow for having offended God (2 Cor. 7:10).
True repentance means that one will no longer take part in the ungodliness of the world. Turning to God our Father means turning away from the modern idols of society and seeking to please God (1 John 2:15). This means that a Christian will not feel at home in the popular culture of the unbelieving world, but will be as a stranger and sojourner (Heb. 11:13-16).
It only takes a few moments of self-examination and reasoning for one to change his mind – which is exactly what repentance is – a change of mind that leads to a change of actions. As the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13-16), it is the Christian’s place to awaken people from their media-induced stupor and tell them the truth of Christ and the gospel of salvation. That is evangelism.
Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). It is this truth that will produce repentance and make people free – free from sin, free from guilt, and free to live for Christ.
YOU CAN BE AN EVANGELIST
A former tax-collector, a political activist, and a few fishermen — eleven common Hebrew men. Having no organization and no resources but their faith in the promises of Jesus Christ, these first-century citizens of Palestine were charged by our Lord to do the impossible — go evangelize the world. What an awesome task — what an awesome responsibility!
But each one of the eleven, with the later addition of two more, served their Master nobly, fulfilling his command and dedicating their lives, and the lives of their families, to bringing the gospel of Christ to the nations.
And the charge now comes down through the centuries to us. We must evangelize the world. We must not allow our friends and loved ones, or strangers afar, to pass from this world without hearing the good news — that Jesus will save them from their sins.
So, are you an evangelist?
Every Member IS an Evangelist
Moses didn’t want to do it. He couldn’t imagine himself being God’s spokesman before Pharaoh. But God “convinced” him to take the job. He would provide whatever was needed for the task at hand. Moses just needed to understand that Jehovah wasn’t requesting that he go back to save the children of Israel. He was commanding him to go.
Similarly, we need to understand that the Lord didn’t just ask that we help him in saving others, he commands it. If you’ve been saved from your sins, it is expected that you will help the Savior find others to save. It is expected that you will be an evangelist.
The term “evangelist” refers to one who proclaims the good message, a gospel herald. Often, the term is used in the New Testament in a restricted sense — equivalent to a gospel preacher, a minister (cf. Acts 21:8; Eph. 4:11; 2 Tim. 4:5). In this sense, a woman cannot serve as an evangelist (1 Cor. 14:34; 1 Tim. 2:12).
But in a general use of the term, any person, male or female, who brings the gospel to others through various means, is an evangelist. And every Christian should be involved, in some way, in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ through evangelism.
The Reward of Evangelism
Within twenty-four hours, Jesus knew he would be dead. What would you do during your last day? Jesus took the time — valuable, precious minutes — to wash the dirty feet of his disciples. Why did he do that? To impress upon them the fact that “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14).
Christianity is a religion immersed with service and sacrifice — from our King, down to the most humble member. We serve, because he serves us. We are commanded to serve our brethren in Christ, and even our enemies. When we render our sacrifices of service, we help others find their God and their way home.
Perhaps the most ironic thing about the type of service demanded by the religion of Christ is that by serving others, we find our own greatest fulfillment. You will never be more contented than when you help someone else improve his station in life or, more importantly, improve his relationship with the Creator.
That is why the best thing you can ever do is to serve others by being evangelistic. By being a messenger for Christ, you will receive the ultimate reward — the satisfaction of knowing that you were able to help Jesus find a lost soul.
Christ promises great rewards for those who serve in this way. His recognition and praise should motivate us to want to become his evangelists.
You may not be able to fulfill the role of a preacher, or teacher, or elder, or deacon. But in the general sense, you can be an evangelist. Here’s how.
Go About Doing Good
With great attention Cornelius listened as Peter told him about Jesus, the man from Nazareth who went about doing good (Acts 10:38). With Christ as our example, one of the best ways you can begin to be an evangelist is to go about your day-to-day activities looking for good things to do.
Paul summed it up this way:
“And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. So then, as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:9-10).
For years, the Boy Scouts were known for their habit of performing a daily “Good Deed.” The young scout was encouraged to begin straight away with a daily Good Deed; nothing spectacular, but just something which otherwise he would probably not do.
What a wonderful, practical implementation of this principle for the Christian evangelist, not just daily, but, as the Paul noted, at every opportunity. There can be no better compliment than to have it said of you, “He is always going about doing good.”
Good deeds are your first tool of evangelism. They open the door. They let someone know that you care. Master the example of Christ (Acts 10:38), and you’ll be well on your way to being a first-rate evangelist.
Talking to Friends
Do you have friends or family members who are in need of salvation? Many times, it’s difficult to talk to someone about their spiritual condition. Here’s a formula you may find helpful.
Instead of trying to “win an argument,” try just letting them know that you’ve been praying for them. Or that you’ve been thinking about them — that you’re concern about their welfare. With a genuine sense of care, they cannot help but want to reassure you that they’re all right.
Perhaps, at that point, you can set up a Bible study “just to make sure.” Wouldn’t it make you feel better if they allowed you the time just to present the gospel to them? Or, if they would promise you they would read something and consider it.
Perhaps it would be helpful to focus on expressing concern, asking for a fair hearing, and providing them the opportunity to hear the gospel. Whether through the preacher, a tract, an article, or a tape, you have fulfilled your loving responsibility to bring them the message of Christ.
Helping Evangelistic Works
The Philippian Christians were so eager to help Paul fulfill the Savior’s plea. Paul responded,
“I thank my God upon all my remembrance of you, always in every supplication of mine on behalf of you all making my supplication with joy, for your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:3-6).
Generally speaking, most of us have somewhat limited spheres of influence. We have our families, those with whom we worship, our friends at work, neighbors we live near, and acquaintances we run into from time-to-time. But there are a lot more people out there — about 5 billion.
We cannot go individually to every person in the world. We are limited by the demands of living, the responsibility of family, and our geographic location. We can, however, cooperate and help others expand the borders of the kingdom. Collectively, we can reach far more people than we can individually.
Many congregations support missionaries to spread the gospel too far away places. These dedicated people do not receive the praise and gratitude they deserve in this life (the Lord knows, though). They often sacrifice comfort and convenience in order to carry the gospel to those distant lands. And, too often, their safety is in jeopardy as well. The missionary is a noble servant, indeed.
You can do no better service than to help someone else teach the gospel. Through the combined efforts of Christians, thousands upon thousands of souls have been saved in this manner — souls that were doomed and would not have been rescued had good Christians not supported a mission work.
You may not have the ability to make the sacrifice to go, but you can surely do as the Philippians did. Be an evangelist — support a faithful mission work.
Encouraging Your Church Leaders
Your local ministers and leaders need your encouragement. It may not look like it, but it’s true.
Consider your local ministers — so much is expected from them. They must lead the congregation in the study of God’s word. Whether the message encourages, rebukes, or instructs us, it is a demanding job that requires skill and dedication.
The preacher is expected to visit the sick, the elderly, and the weak. He waits at the bed beside those who soon will meet their Maker. He often labors under criticism — sometimes valid, sometimes not. Frequently he sacrifices his personal “family-time” for the interests of the church.
Your church leaders labor similarly — because they love the church of Christ. You can be an evangelist by being an encourager of those who have dedicated their lives to the work of evangelism in your local congregation. Your partnership — through support, kind words, and thoughtful gratitude — mean so much.
“Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:19-20).
The Lord is depending on you. You can do it. Be an evangelist.
A Few More Practical Thoughts
1. The leaders should dedicate the Wednesday night Bible class to teaching various methods of evangelism; that is, teaching the members how to be soul winners. The members will be encouraged when they are taught a few new soul winning songs. Teach them how to use videos, handouts, one-on-one studies, on-line Bible studies, Bible correspondence courses, and any other method to spread the truth of God’s word. When they find the method that is most comfortable to use, encourage and help them begin using it.
2. Ask those who attend all the Bible classes when possible to make an extra effort to encourage our brethren who do not attend the Bible classes to begin attending. The seed must be planted and watered in their heart if they are to grow into maturity.
3. Encourage the preacher to begin a radio program, and/or begin writing a weekly evangelistic article in the local newspaper that will challenge the denominational leaders and their members to respond to our teachings.
4. Make more visible your worship and teaching activities through free and paid advertising. Use posters, fliers, tracts, and other handouts.
5. Implement an updated Brother’s Keepers program. Involve as many families as possible on a rotating basis. Be sure to involve the now “not so new Christian” as soon as possible.
6. A Sunday morning sermon should be dedicated to evangelism at least once per month.
7. At least three times per week, as many members as possible should walk through your neighborhoods, meeting the residents and inviting them to visit your assemblies and begin studying the Bible with you.
8. Pray without ceasing.