Friday, January 12, 2007

How high should evangelism be on your priority list?

I hear it all the time. I hear people in various churches saying things like, "We need to be a Great Commission church." I hear sermons about the dire need for people to stand up and tell the world about Jesus. "When was the last time you shared Jesus with someone," they'll ask. "Jesus gave his all for you. Are you ashamed of Him?" Evangelism programs have been cropping up everywhere for years: F.A.I.T.H., G.R.O.W., The N.E.T., and the list goes on. When one program gets old and enthusiasm withers, the pastor will attempt to re-energize the congregation with the latest program designed to win the world for Christ. They'll say, "If you want to recommit yourself to sharing Jesus, then come down to the alter and pray. Pray that God will give you the boldness to share His gospel with the world. Commit yourself to sharing Jesus by participating in [Place Evangelism Program Name Here]." And here they'll go. They'll go in droves. Why? Because if you stay in the pew then you don't want to commit yourself to sharing Jesus. If you stay in the pew then you don't want boldness, and you don't want to share Jesus with a lost and dying world. If you stay in the pew, then you don't love Jesus.

The question I have is this. If evangelism should be so high on the priority list, why doesn't Scripture say more about it and how to do it effectively?

When I read the New Testament, I see a tremendous amount of instruction on the nature of holiness and right action, but I don't see any substantial instruction on how to share the gospel. I see commands left and right in the Epistles, but they all seem to address the living of a holy life. Not once do I hear Paul say, "And I hear that you guys aren't sharing Jesus with anyone. Have we been raised to walk in newness of life to sit on our tails and not share the gospel? May it never be!" Not once do I hear the gospel writers chastise the body for not going door-to-door or participating in some evangelistic initiative. Why is that?

I believe that Scripture makes it absolutely clear that the greatest gospel presentation any member of the body will ever give is a life lived for Christ. A holy life is a living testimony to the power of the gospel. Go back through Scripture and see how many times members of the church were approached by people who wanted to know more about the lives they were witnessing. People saw something in Paul, John, Peter, and others that they had never seen before, and they wanted to know what it was, where it came from, and where they could get some. Were the pioneers of the early church fishers of men? You can bet they were, but a great deal of the time the fish were jumping into the boat. Evangelism wasn't so much an activity that they engaged in as it was the light of the Holy Spirit radiating from within them into the surrounding darkness. It is a trustworthy saying that those remaining souls that constitute God's elect, those that are still lost and groping in the darkness, will quite naturally make their way toward the light; but there must be a light to make their way toward.

If you walk away from this post thinking that I am against evangelism, then you are dead wrong. I am simply trying to follow Scripture and put things in the proper perspective. How does Scripture say that we should share Jesus? Through F.A.I.T.H. or through faith?

6 comments:

Lew A said...

Gary,

I came to your blog prepared to read "Do you believe that evil serves the greater good?" I discovered, however, that you have recently posted this blog. I know we have talked about things similar in the past, but recently I have quietly been thinking through some of this same stuff.

You are absolutely right, there is little in Scripture about evangelism and how to do it. In fact, even what people call the "Great Commission" seems to have little to do with what we would consider evangelism - even though it is that very text that people use support their evangelism tactics and programs.

Gary, in this post you passively mentioned a few things that I would like to point out.

Re: Programs -
In my opinion, programs have very little effect on changing someone's lifestyle of communicating the gospel. Generally, when the programs are done, the people are done. I think this is why we have new programs cropping up from time-to-time. However, I think if you closely examine the programs, you will find that they really do not vary all that much. So instead of discipling people to be trained in righteousness, have have discipled the people to be trained in being involved in programs.

Re: Altar Calls -
I have made a decision, a while ago, to never go up to the "altar" for an altar call. I do this for several reasons, which are 1) The altar was done away with about 2000 years ago with Christ's work on the cross; 2) Accordingly, the altar holds no spiritual or redeeming value; 3) I don't buy into the guilt trip (i.e. I want to look like a "good" Christian, so I need to go down to this altar). - As if staying seated affects your righteousness.

Re: "Why doesn't Scripture say more about it and how to do it effectively?"
Gary, I have been pondering this questions lately. There is so much focus on programs and buildings to reach every person in a community. Yet, when I read the Bible (esp. the epistles) I see the focus on being a Christian community, to be salt and light to the world.

Do we need to share the gospel? Absolutely - but I believe sharing the gospel is a natural thing that stems from being the Church of Christ.

Lew

Drew said...

Gary, I'm also not a fan of evangelistic programs, especially since most (if not all) teach the participants a deficient gospel presentation (in my opinion). My question: are you saying that there is no place for confrontational evangelism, or just that it should not be our primary evangelistic method?

Gary Harris said...

Drew,

I like your question so much, that I am going to dedicate a blog post to it. I will be posting something shortly that I hope will answer your question.

Gary

Raborn Johnson said...

Good post! I like what Jesus said:

"let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

It seems to me that "seeing" our "good deeds" directly leads to others praising our Father in heaven. Is this not evangelism?

Gary Harris said...

Raborn,

I think that the passage you chose supports your point beautifully.

Thanks!

Gary

Patrick said...

Luke 9:57-62

[57] As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go."

[58] Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

[59] He said to another man, "Follow me."

But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."

[60] Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

[61] Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family."

[62] Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
Jesus Christ comes before everything. Nothing in my past life gave me any lasting peace or satisfaction. I was always looking, searching; all my vain attempts to be noticed, appreciated, loved, or respected, ended in ashes. I’ve had it all – marriage, kids, house, car, & job security - & lost it all through, sin. My purpose in life is to proclaim the kingdom of God, without looking back on my past life. I am a sinner who deserves to go to hell but Jesus has delivered me from my inequities, through his death on the cross. His love lasts forever. I was lost but was found by Jesus. I love Jesus, so much. Oh! Merciful Jesus! Praise the Lord!!

Peace Be With You
Patrick