Quite simply, to evangelize is to verbally communicate, proclaim or preach the Gospel message.
We preach the Gospel but allow the Holy Spirit to do the “work” (that is – to soften the heart, convict sin, lead to repentance, and assure salvation).
Evangelism isn’t a sales job. Evangelism is obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit so that He can work.
Should everyone proclaim the Gospel?
Absolutely! Check out Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-6; and Acts 1:8 for some examples of commands to preach the Gospel.
Did you read them?
Now, let’s explore the topic of evangelism a little bit further.
The local church is responsible for equipping, empowering and encouraging their congregation to live in response to the Gospel, so that people around them are impacted with the good news of what Jesus Christ has done for them. The local church should encourage her people to guide their passions, use their gifts and relate with others in such a way that God is glorified and the Gospel is proclaimed – because everyone has a role to play in preaching the Gospel.
I hold strongly to the belief that all Holy Spirit filled disciples of Christ ought to make disciples – this discipleship process begins by proclaiming the gospel of what Christ has done for us, so that people may believe. How will someone become a disciple unless they believe? How will they believe unless they have heard the Gospel preached? And how will they hear unless someone verbally communicates it to them (see Romans 10:14)?
We live in a time where people are dodging the joy and responsibility of preaching the gospel. Some think that when they live well or do good that their actions will preach for them. I understand where this mind-set comes from because I bought into this view for a long time. This “my walk will do the talking” philosophy stems from the idea that it is possible to “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words” (St. Francis of Assisi). I think this line of thinking is unhelpful because it conveys the idea that preaching is a non-verbal action. When this quote becomes our mantra we confuse and de-value both preaching and living in response to the Gospel.
Christians must, without a doubt, live in response to the Gospel at all times. Such a life will take seriously: Giving our possessions to the poor, caring for children (especially orphans), adopting kids who need adopting, helping provide sustainable solutions to homelessness, caring for the mentally ill, providing for and giving dignity to elderly people (especially widows), developing sustainable communities in areas where war and genocide have run rampant, and providing care for the millions-upon-millions of people worldwide who are starving and dying of treatable diseases every year – among other things! These are all critically important areas that Christians individually and churches corporately need to dedicate their time and resources to – but not at the expense of preaching the Gospel. The actions listed above are not examples of preaching the Gospel – they are actions that flow out of a life transformed by the Gospel.
If we continue confusing the Gospel message with the actions that flow from a life transformed by the Gospel we will continue to think poorly about both evangelism and social justice.
So, where does this leave us then? We know we should preach the gospel – but what does that mean? We aren't all responsible for preaching at our gatherings. Furthermore, most of us don't feel like we have the gift of evangelism - it doesn't come easy to us.
Here are three things that I think are important:
• Pray for those that you know personally that don’t know Christ personally
• Pray for those who haven’t had an opportunity to hear the Gospel – pray particularly that people would be sent to preach to them
• Be ready to tell the Gospel story to anyone and everyone as the Holy Spirit leads you to do so – because the gospel is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16a)
It’s critical that our relationship with God through Christ continues to be our ultimate goal. When God is our ultimate goal we will grow in our love and knowledge of the Gospel. When we grow in our love and knowledge of the Gospel we will begin to see evangelism less as a rule to follow and more as a privilege that God has given to us!
Praise God for the Good News of what Christ has done for us – and then tell someone who needs to hear about it!