Evangelism. Let me start off by saying how much I dislike the word – not because I dislike the act in and of itself, but because I hate the imagery it has come to incite: people standing on street corners, condemning people of their sin and calling down hellfire on them unless they repent and turn to Jesus.
I think that we can agree that often evangelism has not been the church’s greatest strength (slavery, anyone?), but the heart of it is still important and relevant for us as Christians today, so I will use the word anyway and ask that you please refrain from gagging at its mention.
However which way you feel about the imagery, and how it has been used historically, evangelism, at its heart, is important for every believer. You don’t find the secret to eating everything you want and not gaining weight and keep it to yourself – that’s just evil. And in the same vein, you don’t find the secret to life and keep it to yourself. But how do we go about sharing that light and life in a world that has been turned off by pseudo self-righteousness and hyper-religiosity? How do we share our faith in a world that not only looks at us like we stepped in dog doody when we mention Jesus, but also often condemns and persecutes us because of it?
I’ve been finding myself in this particular conversation a lot recently, about how hard it is to be open and bold about our faith in a world that sometimes (more often than not) condemns or looks down on us for what we believe. Another question along the same lines is, how do we be transparent about our faith and bold in our confession of Christ when we are going through hardship and our lives are seemingly a mess and everyone can see?
Basically, how do we step out of the shadows – whichever shadows they may be – and into the light to tell people about this amazing thing we have?
Personally, there are four things I do that keep me encouraged and bold in my faith.
Embrace the Struggle.
The first is the Apostle Paul. Now, forget the fact that he was once an anti-Christ crusader and murdered believers for a living – he lived on to become one of the greatest preachers and teachers of the gospel of Christ who ever lived. What’s even more amazing is that he did a lot of that under massive oppression. He was hunted, persecuted, arrested and placed under house arrest, and ultimately killed. How does a man like this continue to proclaim Christ when his life is an utter mess and a lot of the church around him are falling into a mess too?
In studying Paul’s letters to the different churches of the day I found the answer: he understood that our faith is not one without struggle.
The biggest barrier to success of any kind is the notion that it comes easily. That if you cross your t’s and dot your i’s, life shouldn’t be that hard. But life is hard whether you do everything right or not, and so is our faith because nothing worth having ever comes without a cost, and often times that cost is ‘self’.
Paul writes to the Philippians and says:
“…There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting. You’re involved in the same kind of struggle you saw me go through, on which you are now getting an updated report in this letter.”
Philippians 1:30 MSG
When you understand that that struggle you feel internally is not a sign of a lack of faith, but the result of the presence of it, you will no longer fear your fear or their opposition. You must recognize that pressure is always greatest at the point of great breakthrough. And when you embrace that fear and opposition – see it for what it is – not something that cripples, but a gift, an invitation for Christ’s strength – you will find the courage to proclaim Christ even in the most difficult of places.
James, the brother of Jesus, throws his two cents on suffering for the name of Christ into the ring in James 1:2-4:
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
Change Your Perspective
One of the most effective tools the enemy uses against Christians in their effort to spread the gospel of Christ is the idea that we are alone. He tells us that we are the only ones who believe what we do, and let’s face it: it is scary when you feel like the lone sheep facing a pack of wolves ready to devour you at the name of Jesus.
Because we feel like we are on our own, we feel like it is up to us to defend Christ all alone. And because we don’t feel prepared, or strong enough in our faith yet, we think it might be better to leave the gospel mongering to people a little more experienced than us. ‘They have all the answers,’ we think. ‘They will be Christ’s best defenders. We will just cheer from the sidelines.’
I have a few things to say about this one, and the first is that IT IS NOT YOUR JOB TO DEFEND CHRIST. Jesus is perfectly capable of defending himself. He is not some dead martyr we worship who needs us to fight his battles. He is living, and his spirit is living on the inside of us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened my mouth to talk about Christ and had no idea what to say or how to answer hard questions, and he gave me the words. In fact, I had no idea what I was going to write about when it came to sharing our faith, or how I would say what I wanted to say today (I really never do), but as I sat down, God poured the words into my heart, just as He’s always done (and I end up learning a thing or five too). Jesus is perfectly capable of equipping you to do the work he’s called you to do. You don’t have to do it on your own. He doesn’t need you to. He doesn’t even want you to try.
Secondly, you don’t have to know everything. You are not God. And it’s ok to tell people, ‘I don’t know.’ No one can strip your Christianity Card away from you for saying you don’t know the answer to something any more than they can strip my Black Card away from me for saying I don’t like Beyoncé (which I do – Hive, don’t come for me lol). We are all still working out our faith, and it’s ok to tell people that – you will be surprised to find that they will respect and appreciate you more for it. The world often sees Christians as brain-washed propaganda junkies, and to know that we are human and have questions too and that we serve a God who answers those questions and is upfront and honest with us? That’s refreshing.
Thirdly, and most importantly, the notion that you are alone in this is a lie from the enemy. Because like any sheep, if you can separate it from its flock, then it’s more susceptible to predators. Every time I feel like I’m the only one doing this ‘share your faith’ thing and it feels heavy or I feel like there’s no one there to have my back, I remember the story of Elisha and his servant when the King of Aram surrounded them with chariots in a bid to take his life. The servant was freaked out because, well, they were surrounded. It was just the two of them against a multitude, and while he’d witnessed the man of God perform some miracles, Elisha wasn’t exactly a kung fu master or anything, so things were looking bleak. All the servant could see was the fact that he was surrounded by those who were against him on all sides and seemingly alone. And when he confessed this to Elisha, Elisha prayed for God to open his eyes to see that there were more for them than against them. And suddenly the man’s eyes were opened and he saw what Elisha saw – that those who surrounded them were surrounded as well, and by those who were FOR them.
See, the enemy would have you believe that the people of God are in the vast minority and are currently fighting a losing battle. But if you open your eyes – if you ask for God’s perspective – you will find that that is not the case AT ALL. There are tens of thousands of entire communities built around our faith all around the world all praying for the expansion of God’s kingdom on the earth – and it IS expanding. You are never alone in this. Don’t let the enemy have you feeling like you’re Wesley Snipes as Blade – last defender of all good things on earth. Sorry if this bursts your bubble, but you’re not. Don’t lose heart though: you are a very important and integral part of something much bigger than just you and your own strength.
I will also take this moment to say I am SO thankful for every one of you who reads my posts or comments or even just likes anything I put up on Instagram – and God bless you to the moon and back if you share it. Because those likes, those comments, those shares? They are not ego boosts. I don’t do this for the applause, and I don’t need any. They are reminders to me that I am not alone. I am just one of many walking this narrow road and trying to finish the race set before me, and there are people standing and running with me. Thank you, really. It makes all the difference in everything I do.
What’s the measure of a successful step out into evangelism? That the person gets saved and starts coming with you to church? Nope. The success of our declaration of faith is not something that can be measured in human terms or under the human eye. You are not always going to see the fruits of your boldness or your confession. People will not always agree when you tell them about your way of life or your beliefs – in fact, many times they will vehemently disagree. You will not ‘win’ every argument, but you will not let that deter you when you come to the realization that our faith is not an argument to be won.
When you truly believe in something – fundamentally at the core of your spirit, and even if you don’t understand it all yet – you will never have to argue it. You don’t argue about whether the things you know to be true are true or not – it’s pointless. And though people will try to argue with you and try to ‘disprove’ your faith, or call you foolish because of it, don’t put that in your books as a loss. Nothing you ever declare in the name of Christ can be a loss.
In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul writes to the church in Corinth and says this:
“Who do you think Paul is, anyway? Or Apollos, for that matter? Servants, both of us—servants who waited on you as you gradually learned to entrust your lives to our mutual Master. We each carried out our servant assignment. I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow. Planting and watering are menial servant jobs at minimum wages. What makes them worth doing is the God we are serving. You happen to be God’s field in which we are working.”
It’s not your job to get people saved. That’s God’s job. It’s your job to tell people about your knowledge of and experience with Christ. And that is ALL God requires of you. When someone declines an invitation to church that took you months to muster up the courage to make, as much as it may be a blow, never take it as a loss. It might have just been your job to plant a seed. To speak a kind word. To profess a truth. To lend a helping hand. And you may never see the fruit of that, ever. But just because we don’t see the fruit of our faith in action, doesn’t mean there isn’t any. There are some plants that sprout up in a day, and others that take decades to bloom – that’s just the way life is. Trust God when He says He can bring the good work He started in and with you to completion, and don’t let a couple hard hearts turn you away from reaching a thousand that are ready to encounter Christ.
Jesus tells us in John 6:44:
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him [giving him the desire to come to Me]; and I will raise him up [from the dead] on the last day.
The success of our evangelism cannot be measured by the human eye or in the human mind because it happens in the human heart. And only God can see and change hearts. Stop trying to change peoples’ minds, and plant seeds, trusting God to change hearts.
We GET to do this.
We GET to be apart of what God is doing in the earth. If that isn’t one sick ass motivator to tell people about Christ, then I don’t know what is. The God who created the universe and everything in it, and spoke the world into existence with mere words, ‘let there be light’, WANTS us to be part of what He’s doing. He WANTS to use us. Doesn’t have to – WANTS to.
I don’t know about you, but I always wanted to be the teacher’s pet. There was a level of power that came with the position (yes, even in 3rd grade). When you wrote someone’s name down on the talkatives list, there were repercussions for them. And when you commended someone, they got rewarded. It wasn’t your power on your own at work – it was the fact that your words and your actions were an extension of the one who had the real authority in that setting. And everyone wanted that power, but few got it, and it was a privilege. And with great privilege and power comes great responsibility.
To take it a step further, this salvation thing and the power that comes with it is one privilege we didn’t even earn. Evangelism is not a chore. It’s not something to check off on a list. Once you stop looking at it as an obligation and start looking at it as the privilege it is that God chose YOU to be His mouthpiece on earth, I promise you you’ll never stop talking.