Jesus calls all of his followers to make disciples, to follow the Great Commission, to share the good news of the gospel. To those with whom we share the gospel, there will be some who will want nothing to do with it but there will also be those who are drawn to the message.
We can’t assume that people know the gospel. And that’s always been true. There has always been the need for personal evangelism.
But our society used to have more of a church culture where it was easier to assume that a person was at least familiar with the gospel. That there was some common ground. That people were churched.
The struggle of evangelism
I think that’s at least part of the reason why personal evangelism has become such a struggle. Because for a long time, people didn’t think it was necessary. It’s not that churches would overtly say that evangelism was unnecessary.
But when one perceives the society as largely already being Christian, then the need for personal evangelism seems less pressing.
Sure, it might be needed in other countries where they don’t have the gospel. Missions were important. But did we truly look at our own household, our own workplace, our own community as our own mission field?
Undoubtedly, some did. I’m not saying no one shared the gospel. But what I’m saying is that America had become so saturated in Christendom that we lost a culture of evangelization. Perhaps we never had it.
Our society is becoming less religious. And Bible believing churches are now dealing with the fallout of a society where evangelism was not emphasized in the past and where evangelism skills were not taught.
Again, I’m speaking in broad generalities. It’s not like no one has practiced evangelism. And some churches did a better job than others with outreach. But overall, evangelistic efforts lagged.
The industry of evangelical Christianity
Over the last 30 years as we’ve seen declines in the church in America, we were also seeing a greater industry of Christianity.
Entire TV networks dedicated to televangelists, an explosion in book publishing, popular Christian music, Christian movies, Christian conference, Chrisitan celebrities. There was a rising megachurch movement.
The emphasis with these things was often in being “practical.” Tips on raising good kids, tips on dating and finding a good spouse, tips on marriage and having a good marriage, tips on finances.
Many churches became a place to hear a self-help message rather than the message of Jesus who calls his followers to die to self.
Again, it’s not that all churches became this way but those churches became the popular churches and it influenced other churches.
Sermons that lost their theological weight. Music that was emotive, self-centered and shallow. Youth groups that were more concerned with entertaining kids than teaching them about Jesus.
In the Bible, Jesus calls us to count the cost before following him. Jesus also tells us to take up our cross and follow him, but this was replaced by a prosperity Jesus who asked little of us.
It took more of an inward focus rather than living in the world as a disciple and a herald of the gospel message.
The practical Christianity industry did not necessarily focus on preaching the gospel, let alone sharing it with others.
And so we have a command of Jesus and many well-meaning Christians aren’t equipped and don’t know how to follow it.
Why do people share the gospel?
Motivations to evangelize
Two reasons comes to mind. And they’re not mutually exclusive. One is a sense of obligation. That’s a fine reason to share the gospel. It is, after all, a command of Christ.
But there’s a second reason that’s also important and that is because you have such a love for God and a knowledge of the grace of Christ and see such beauty in the gospel of his grace that you want to share that with others.
Obligation, you can force yourself to do. And that can work. I have no doubt many people have been led to Jesus by those who were faithful to share the message but who, in that moment, didn’t really want to. And we should praise the Lord for those who are faithful.
You can force yourself to do something from obligation.
You cannot force yourself to have a genuine love for the gospel and a passion for making Jesus known. That can only come as the result of a love for Jesus and a life that is centered around Jesus.
Walking with Jesus
Towards the end of the Book of Galatians, Paul will talk of walking in step with the Spirit so that we will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).
Paul talks about the fruit that the Holy Spirit produces. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
We don’t create that ourselves. It is a supernatural work of the Spirit.
In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul talks about the transformative effect of looking to God.
we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Looking to God, knowing the truth of God, serving God, praying to God, having a constant God-centered mind is transformational.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks of the person who is blessed by living as kingdom people in the world. I won’t read them all but among them, Jesus says;
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
And on and on. The Psalmist says taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).
As Christians, we need to live a life where you can be the kind of people who love Jesus so much that you want to share him with others.
If you look at evangelism as merely an obligation, then maybe you’ll talk to people about Jesus sometimes. But to evangelize out of love must come from living for Jesus as a way of life.
Is your faith something that you just sort of attach onto your life and ultimately doing what you want to do? Or is it what drives you?
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