The Secret to Evangelism (It’s Not What You Think)
FEBRUARY 15, 2017
I’m not an evangelist. When friends wept over the lost, I didn’t weep because, frankly, I didn’t care. The whole world could go to hell and it wouldn’t bother me because I didn’t even know their names. Really, how can we weep over someone we’ve never met?
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always been faithful to the clear teaching in the Bible on evangelism. When God brought opportunities, I hardly ever ducked. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared the Gospel on an airplane, in a sermon, in a broadcast, in a book or in a passing relationship (sometimes under duress…but I did it). And I’ve been genuinely surprised at how many have come to Christ as a result of those encounters.
But I didn’t care.
Of late, though, I’ve been feeling a bit differently. It may be indigestion, but I think it’s the Holy Spirit. I’ve been thinking a lot about the lost and why they are so deaf to the Gospel of Christ. And believe it or not, it bothers me. Sometimes it even keeps me up at night.
A part of it is the disconnect between reality and what Jesus said would happen.
Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32).
But then there is the reality. The last time I checked, that hasn’t happened. It is highly unlikely that Jesus was wrong…so it must be us.
What should we do? Maybe we should have more courses on evangelism, pray for the lost more than we do, learn some new postmodern techniques or create another film that will point to Jesus. Maybe we aren’t effectively using mass communication or planning enough. Maybe we aren’t good enough or committed enough, or maybe we don’t know enough or can’t debate well enough.
I don’t think so. That’s not the problem.
Our problem is that we took something quite simple and made it complicated, hard and almost impossible to do.
What’s the Gospel? People are screwed up. If they go to Jesus, he will fix them, forgive them, love them and never let them go.
What’s evangelism? Somehow letting people know the Gospel.
That’s it? Yeah, that’s it. In its understanding and execution, it really doesn’t take a brain surgeon.
So if that’s true, why isn’t this happening everywhere and all the time?
We have (or at least, I have), missed an important truth.
Evangelism isn’t about what you do; it’s about who you are.
That doesn’t mean what you think it does. We’ve been programmed to react to a statement like that with guilt. We aren’t “walking the talk.” We simply haven’t lived up to what a Christian ought to be. We immediately think (it’s in our twisted DNA), Oh man! If that’s the problem, I must be more Christ-like.
Let me say pastorally and kindly, that’s from the pit of hell and smells like smoke. That kind of reaction is the very problem.
Paul defines Christians: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).
Paul isn’t telling us to do something, to pray for something or to work at something…he is defining who we already are. Paul isn’t saying that we should become more religious in order for people to see in us a new creation nor is he telling us to “get with the program.” He is defining who we already are.
The world really is run by people who just show up. That’s exactly what Christians are called to do—just show up and simply be who we are. With all our sin, doubts, fears, failures, neediness, laughter, freedom and forgiveness in hand…we need to show up. Evangelism is what happens when we are present and real. And that creates all kinds of questions for which Christ is the answer.
All we have to do is take off our masks, show up and not duck.
It doesn’t matter how much you know, if you know him. It doesn’t matter how trained you are, if you know him. It doesn’t matter how good you are, if you know him. It doesn’t matter how well you debate or answer questions, if you know him.
Just be who you are.
We are so obsessed with “doing it right,” never bringing shame on the name of Christ, and learning apologetics, we are always preparing and never doing…or better yet, being.
Every time Christians pretend to be anything other than what we are, every time we wear “religious” masks, and every time we work so hard at standing for Christ, motherhood, apple pie and the American way, we hide the reality of who we are…a new creation.