Jim Petersen asks some probing questions in his book Evangelism as a Lifestyle (Navpress, 1980, tenth printing 1987). Just from the contents page these questions jump out at us:
Chapter 1) Facing Reality: The Unreached World; Are we moving in the right direction?
Chapter 4) Real Communication; Does our audience understand us?
That’s really where I’m at in this issue of evangelism or whatever we want to call it.
- We can call it outreach, but that sounds like a church program rather than an evangelistic lifestyle.
- Maybe we’d be better off calling it reaching out. That’s what the REACH OUT Bible in the 70’s was about. It was packaged to appeal to college students in particular.
- One large church (I read about in Leadership magazine) just a few years ago called it, “going and bringing.” I like that a lot.
- Of course there’s witnessing. One of the music guys in my high school camp wrote this song. “Witness (boom, boom), witness (boom, boom), witness for my Lord. My life’s a witness for the Lord.” I don’t know if it is copy written or not but it was a very simple reminder to us at Pearson’s Mill Christian Assembly in 1972 or73.
- Oh yeah, there’s “win them to the Lord.”
I’m sure there are other terms and phrases for evangelizing. Jesus used the terms “go, make disciples, and baptize them” as Matthew and Mark record them (Mt. 28:18-20 & Mk. 16:15-16). In Acts (1:8) Jesus said that you would his witnesses. There you go!
Paul describes us as ambassadors and ministers of reconciliation.
Now, there is no question here (I believe) in anyone’s mind or understanding that as a Christian, you are to evangelize, witness, reach out, go and bring, and win them to Christ! Yet, there are some issues at hand.
Only 8 or 9% of our society are considered “born again” Christians and that only 1 out of every 93 Christians ever share their faith in Jesus in their life. That’s only about 29-30 million people who are born again Christian, and that’s only about 322,000 people in America that have ever shared their faith. That tells us that Christians hardly ever evangelize.
Ouch. If Jesus was so intent that we be His witnesses and bring the lost to Him for salvation, why aren’t we doing it?
Let me suggest some reasons that are very common:
- You don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve been there before. Not really understanding it and add a little fear to being so unprepared and we become shrinking violets -Or-
- You don’t know the Scriptures that show who Jesus is and their need for Jesus and so you shrink away there too -Or-
- You don’t know how to relate Jesus and faith to other people’s lives -Or-
- You’re just a scaredy-cat -Or-
- You simply lack confidence.
There are other reasons that are just as troubling:
- You don’t have a sense of the lostness of the rest of the world -Or-
- You don’t care that others are lost -Or
- You don’t believe God will send anyone to hell so there is no need to “evangelize.”
- You believe in “unconditional election” and “irresistible grace” and so there is no need to evangelize.
Are you one of the 92 others who don’t share their faith?
There is another set of issues we have to deal with. This is where it gets a little harder.
Let’s say that we know the scriptures, that everyone is a sinner, that salvation is through faith in Jesus, that Jesus is the only way to be saved, that faith includes believing in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and repentance from one’s sins, and confessing Jesus as the Son of God, and being baptized.
How do we communicate that? How do we take our neighbor or our co-worker who is secular, without knowledge of and has no understanding of Biblical morality and right and wrong from their secular belief to believing in Jesus?
These are the questions I am seeking answers to for the times we live in.