Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Every Christian - an Evangelist

Giving Evangelism its Proper Place

evangelism

by Dennis Pollock

For evangelical Christians, evangelism is a really big deal. We have strong Biblical reasons to feel this way. Our Lord Jesus has told us, "There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance" (Luke 15:7). He went on to share the story of the prodigal son, in order to make the Father's love and concern for His straying creation crystal clear. For the baseball player it is a grand-slam home run and for the golfer it is a hole in one. The football game erupts when there is a game-winning eighty-yard touchdown pass, soccer fans go gaga at a last minute, game-winning goal from an overhead bicycle kick at twenty yards. But for the born-again Christian, nothing surpasses the thrill of leading a man, woman, or child into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Knowing that we played a significant role in someone's eternal destiny, that they experienced the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life because we opened our mouth and said some things about Jesus – well, it just doesn't get any better than that.

Sadly a lack of understanding has brought many Christians into unnecessary guilt in this area. Some have confused evangelism with a particular type of outreach such as knocking on neighborhood doors with your hands filled with gospel tracts. Such activities strike terror to their hearts. They would rather suffer a beating or walk on hot coals than face such a fearful situation, which makes them feel they must surely be second-rate Christians and puts the entire business of evangelism in such a light that they would prefer not to think about it too much or too often. Sometimes we think of evangelism in terms of a certain type of personality, usually the individuals who are so outgoing and spiritually aggressive that they end up getting to know and sharing the gospel with every individual they ever stand in line with, sit next to on a bus, subway, or airplane, eat lunch beside, or pass along the sidewalk. Such folks talk non-stop about Jesus to every bank teller, Wal Mart cashier, grocery store employee, tech-support person, post office worker, mechanic, librarian, bus driver, flight attendant, insurance salesman, shoe salesman, and auto salesman that they encounter. From the first day they move into a new neighborhood every neighbor has heard the gospel, and even the policeman who stops them to give them a speeding ticket is not immune from their gospel presentation.

Spiritual DNA

While we must commend and admire such individuals for their evangelistic passion, most of us will never share Christ in such a wholesale fashion. Nor is it necessary to assume that this is Christ's command and will for us. We are all called to make evangelism a huge priority in our lives, but we will not all do it the same way. Jesus has called us all to be fruitful in our abiding relationship with Him, but we must remember that we do not all produce the same kind of fruit. Orange trees produce oranges, apple trees bear apples, and melon vines yield melons. Try as they might, with all the positive thinking they can muster and all the positive confessions they can make, watermelons will never be able to muster even the scrawniest little apples, and orange trees will find it impossible to bear grapes of any sort whatsoever – green, red, or any other color. The same sun, water, and soil that make apples appear on apple trees make the beautiful grapes appear on the grapevines. The exact same environment produces totally different results – due to the unique DNA of the plants.

As with plants, so believers possess a spiritual DNA which makes them unique and determines their calling and gifts. These gifts given us by the Holy Spirit at our new birth will yield good and plentiful fruit as we abide in Jesus and follow His perfect plan and calling for our lives. As we live out our days in that abiding relationship, evangelism must always be held as a major priority, but the precise manner in which we contribute to advance Christ's kingdom and family will differ greatly from individual to individual. As members of the body of Christ, feet must never attempt to function as eyes, nor ears try to serve as hands. However, regardless of calling or personality we must all carry a burning passion to see souls won to Jesus; we must all share Christ's passion and priority for those sheep that have strayed. We will not all be evangelists, but we must all be evangelistically minded.

C. S. Lewis

One example of a non-evangelist who has been instrumental in bringing many souls into the family of God is C. S. Lewis, the British author of the twentieth century. Lewis was a brilliant thinker, Christian apologist, and writer. His book, Mere Christianity, was named the best book of the twentieth century in a poll of Christian leaders by Christianity Today. Author, minister, and Christian spokesman Chuck Colson came to Jesus in part as a result of reading a C. S. Lewis book given him by a Christian friend. By most people's standards Lewis would have been something of a nerd. He read Greek Literature and Norse mythology. If anyone could ever be called "bookish" it was C. S. Lewis. Had you loaded him with an armful of gospel literature and sent him out to go knocking on doors and soul-winning, it is doubtful that he would have done all that well. But put this man alone in a room with some reference books, a lot of paper and a couple of pens (there were no personal computers in those days) and he could churn out amazing, thoughtful, nearly irresistible logic and arguments that have broken down the stubborn wills of sinners the world over, and led them into the arms of Jesus Christ.

What made Lewis evangelistically effective was that he wrote about Jesus – a lot! He wrote about His life, His death, His resurrection, and His deity. He wrote about why men should come to Him and why they don't come to Him. His fantasy book, called "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" was a parable about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And it was because Jesus played such a prominent role in Lewis' thinking and writing that men and women have been so profoundly influenced and drawn toward Jesus through his writings, and still are today. Lewis was born with the gifts of a brilliant mind and a writer's bent. Whether he lived out his days as an atheist or became a Christian, these gifts would have always been present. But when Jesus filled his heart and life, and saturated his writings, lives were touched, souls were saved and evangelism took place. Lewis, who could hardly be considered an evangelist by either personality, habits, or calling, ended up winning far more souls to Christ than most evangelists who stand behind pulpits and preach traditional evangelistic sermons.

Heart of the Matter

Cross of Jesus

This brings us to the heart of the matter. Evangelism occurs when the members of the body of Christ function in their designated gifts, with hearts aflame for Jesus Christ and a deep respect and appreciation for His death and resurrection. "If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 4:11). When singers make sure that their concerts include songs related to the redemption of Christ, and take time to address and exhort the non-believers in their audience to come to Jesus, evangelism takes place. When Sunday school teachers deliberately plan certain lessons which explain the necessity and nature of the new birth, the Holy Spirit is given the material to work with that can result in transformed lives. When mothers determine that their children will know the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus just as well as they know the alphabet and the names of the colors, you have evangelism. That mother of those three small children may not preach in stadiums and give invitations which bring thousands streaming to the front to receive Christ, she may not be going from door to door giving out tracts and telling people about Jesus, but in her own station and calling she is making evangelism and the Lord Jesus Christ a priority in her life and in her home. It is out of the abundance of the heart that our mouth speaks. When hearts are filled with a love for Jesus and callings are pursued with diligence, evangelism and the building and advancement of the kingdom of God will always be the result, either directly or indirectly.

Susanna Wesley, the mother of the great British preachers, John and Charles Wesley, is a great example of a non-evangelist who made a huge evangelistic splash in the world by being faithful to her calling. Susanna raised ten children and was a full-time homemaker if ever there was one. She had no time nor opportunity to evangelize. Her duties were the mundane tasks all mothers have known from time immemorial: changing diapers, stopping quarrels, insisting the children clean up their messes, and so forth. But Susanna added another task to her list that many mothers neglect. She determined that her children would know and love the word of God, and the Savior of whom the word faithfully testified. Two of her sons, John and Charles, were especially impacted by their mother's teaching as well as her strong Christian example. If her only converts were her children, one can hardly fault her. She fulfilled her task admirably, and England was changed because of her.

In my own evangelistic missions in various nations, we are able to do what we do because of generous American donors, who give sacrificially to our ministry. It is likely that many of these folks are not particularly gifted as evangelists themselves. They would not be able to preach Christ effectively before large crowds. Some of them would probably have trouble speaking to small groups. But because they love Jesus and have seen the value of evangelistic efforts, they give generously and enable us to go in their place. It would be foolish to condemn them for not preaching Christ themselves. They are preaching Christ by their generous gifts which enable me to go. I have no doubt that many of the eternal rewards for much of my ministry will go not to me for preaching, but to them for making it possible for me to do so. Through their work and their gifts to support evangelistic missions they are functioning in their own unique gifts and callings every bit as much as I am, and are no doubt every bit as pleasing to Jesus.

Marines & Christians

In the Marines there is a saying, "Every Marine is a rifleman." What this means is that every Marine, regardless of his particular assignment, must have sufficient skills to use a rifle and defend himself and his company if needed. Of course this does not mean that every Marine is assigned to the infantry and will fight on the front lines. The Marines, like every other branch of the military, have need for computer operators, desk workers, cooks, administrative workers, surveillance experts, postal clerks, logistics specialists, and all sorts of other positions. For most of these men and women, using a rifle is not going to be a part of their normal day. But they must be trained and skilled in using a rifle nonetheless, because one never knows when the need will arise.

There is a parallel to this in the body of Christ. Every Christian from the little old granny to the strapping young construction worker should have the knowledge and skills to lead a soul to Christ. Not all will function as evangelists of course; in fact most will not. But all should possess the fundamental knowledge to be able to lead a co-worker, a family member, or a casual acquaintance from darkness to light and from the dominion of the evil one to the kingdom of God. And every believer must fully recognize the incredibly high priority our loving God places on the souls of men and women. We must do our part in building the church of Jesus Christ. Whether we are assigned to the front lines or work somewhere in the rear in administrative duties, let us do our part with diligence and joy, and let us make sure that we serve our God with hearts full of Christ, honoring His gospel, exalting His death, magnifying His resurrection, and promoting His cause through our own unique and special gifts in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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