Evangelism involves using various means, methods and measures to move a person who does not love God with all their heart to do so. This is a complex task because people (moral agents) and love are very complex. There are at least five things that are always involved in this task – God (the Holy Spirit), the Christian worker, the sinner, truth and love (speaking the truth in love). Evangelism is not simply trying to convince a person to give Jesus permission to take them to heaven when they die. Evangelism involves leading a person to repentance.
Those who are in possession of truth about God’s desire and provision for all to be saved (1 Ti.2:4) need to share whatever truth they have. We must continue to study in order to gain more truth, a more accurate understanding of the truth we possess and more effective ways to communicate this truth. Though some might take offense at my emphasis on man’s role and responsibility in leading others to conversion, I do not discount God’s role. I am confident that God is always doing what He is supposed to be doing, but I am not confident that people are. Therefore, it is appropriate to challenge and encourage one another to do what we have been commanded to do.
I find God’s words to the prophet Ezekiel pertinent to this subject. “When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand” (Eze.3:18). If we know that the wicked are in danger of eternal damnation, we are to warn them. We are not responsible for whether people receive the truth we share, we simply have the duty to share it (Eze.2:7). When, where and how we share such truth is a matter of wisdom, discretion and sensitivity to the calling and guidance of God. Why we do not share truth we should is most often associated with the fear of rejection, we would rather “protect” our reputation or avoid putting a “friendship” in jeopardy.
It is true that God has not called all Christians to be evangelists but all Christians are to do evangelism on some level. Evangelism, on its most basic level, is sharing truth about the appropriateness (necessity) of right relationship with God, ultimately encouraging people to love and honor God with all their heart. It involves addressing things that prevent right relationship with God, speaking of what right relationship with God is and, both how and why one enters into right relationship with God. One specifically called to be an evangelist specializes in this activity while all Christians should seek and take advantage of opportunities to speak to those in their sphere of influence.
Even where and when evangelism is practiced, the common evangelistic approach characteristic of the current Christian community is sorely deficient. A major reason for this is the lack of clarity regarding the nature and necessity of repentance and the process that leads there. More and better teaching on the Biblical concept of the heart and the importance of one’s motive in genuine conversion would also prove to be helpful. It is also helpful to have awareness of the process people go through when moving toward a genuine change of heart, repentance. Leading sinners to conversion requires wisdom (Pr.11:30). These and other associated topics will be the focus of upcoming posts.