Evangelism is central to the Christian life and the life of the church. “Evangelism” means to preach the gospel, which is the good news that sinners are reconciled to God through Jesus His Son. Before ascending into heaven, Jesus tells His apostles to testify about Him in the power of the Holy Spirit and bring others into the church (Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:18-20). Since the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles” (Ephesians 2:20), it is obvious that we must continue their work of evangelism today.
Few Christians would deny the importance of evangelism. Even fewer, however, are active in sharing their faith. Few churches would deny the importance of evangelism; many attempt to be “seeker-friendly,” host outreach events and programs, and claim a “passion for the lost.” Even fewer, however, are growing as a result of frequent baptisms.
So if evangelism is important and Jesus expects us to do it, why aren’t Christians doing it? We could fairly blame Christians themselves. Many are too timid to preach the gospel because they aren’t taking seriously its claims upon their daily lives. They aren’t devoted to understanding and obeying it, so they feel inadequate to explain it to others.
But we could fairly blame the church as well. In an attempt to be evangelistic, the church has undermined evangelism by adopting practices that enable Christians to not share their faith. While done with good intentions, these practices must be replaced with others that equip Christians to preach the gospel.
Christians do not feel the need to evangelize because the church is doing it for them. The methods the church uses to preach the gospel are neither effective nor helpful; rather, they are creating quiet Christians with no desire or ability to share their faith. There are two specific practices the church must stop:
- Sermon invitations. Preachers often end their sermons by inviting the lost to be saved. They also plead for Christians to bring others to church so they can hear the gospel. This gives the false impression that the gospel can only be shared by a preacher in a church building.
- Church marketing. Many churches use various methods of marketing and promotion. The most popular is passing out “invite cards” – business cards with the church’s information and service times printed on them. These efforts are confused with evangelism and create a false standard by which churches measure their evangelistic success.
The early church in the book of Acts is our model for outreach and evangelism. The first Christians evangelized so well that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Here are three practices we can adopt to equip our people for evangelism:
- Foster the gift of evangelism. The apostles “testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” and devote themselves to “the ministry of the word” (Acts 4:33; 6:4). Jesus gifts some to be evangelists in order to build up the church (Ephesians 4:11). We must train people with the gift of evangelism to share their faith and give them opportunities to preach the gospel.
- Foster fellowship. While the apostles preach, the believers take care of each other and spend time together (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35; 6:1-7). Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). We must cultivate healthy relationships among our people in order to validate the gospel and make it attractive.
- Foster an evangelistic lifestyle. When the church was scattered because of persecution, believers “preached the gospel wherever they went” (Acts 8:4). We must prepare our people to explain what they believe about Jesus and why they believe in Him. We must also prepare them to see and take opportunities to share their faith.
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