My daughter tells her children to use their own words when they speak. When they get frustrated, angry, or disappointed, she tells them to use their own words so that she can understand what they are trying to say.
When I train Christians to verbally proclaim the gospel, I insist that they use their own words. I don’t provide a script to memorize. I don’t load them with answers to every question, nor prepare them to lead a multi-point presentation. In today’s world, people don’t want to hear my words given to somebody else, they want to hear the words that comes from a believing heart.
Searching people who are desiring purpose in their lives want to hear a believer’s reason for the hope they have in Christ. When the message centers upon the cross and what Christ has already done for us, God uses these words in a powerful way.
Evangelism requires words.
Here are three misconceptions about evangelism that can cause believers to refrain from using words.
- Evangelism does not mean being a light for Christ.
In the purest sense of the word, evangelism means proclaiming Good News. It means the act of transmitting, declaring, witnessing, or heralding the news of what Christ has already done for us.
It is important for believers to model Christ and not to be hypocrites. It is important to demonstrate our love for Christ through our words and actions. These are precursors for proclaiming the gospel that gives a person credibility, permission, and even the right to proclaim the gospel. But if all we do is try to be a good example in place of our verbal witness, people will never know the reason for the Light of Christ in us.
Concentrating solely on being a light for Christ and hope the Spirit speaks through our good works is a convenient way to hide our own fears, insecurities, and intimidation for verbally proclaiming the gospel. It doesn’t have to be that way.
- Evangelism doesn’t mean prejudging how a person will respond
In the parable of the soils, we see a farmer outrageously spreading seeds. He doesn’t seem to mind if some seeds land on hard, packed soil. He doesn’t seem to care if some seeds land in soil covered with weeds. He focused primarily on emptying the seeds from his bag.
Are we keeping the gospel seeds in our bag because we are pre-determining which hearts are ready to hear the gospel? Are we judging the inside of a person’s heart by what we see on the outside? Do we think, “Oh, my neighbor will totally reject what I have to say.” And thereby, choose to remain silent.
Evangelism requires believers to separate our responsibility from God’s business.
Too often, I have been surprised by grace. I have seen the most unlikely candidates receive faith and walk to the baptismal font of his grace. I have seen candidates who appear the readiest to receive faith choose to reject God’s grace.
Believers tends to place our nose into God’s business by prejudging the readiness of a person’s heart and mind to receive a gospel message. The great commission is not about judging the condition of the soil. It is about planting gospel seeds and unleashing its power to work in the hearts and minds of those who don’t know him.
When we refrain from verbally proclaiming the gospel, we are prejudging a person’s response. And that’s not the picture God provides for those who trust in him.
- Evangelism doesn’t mean we will always lose unchurched friends.
Sometimes it happens. We step out in faith to share our faith with somebody we care about, and they respond poorly. The friendship is soiled. A relationship is lost.
Nobody likes to be rejected.
The gospel is an exclusive message. On one hand, the message of Good News is inclusive. God desires all people to hear the gospel message to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. On the other hand, the gospel is exclusive. Only a few people will receive saving faith. The eternal reality of heaven and hell is something that we cannot hide. The eternal consequence of sin is the reason why Jesus died on the cross.
In a world that celebrates unity and inclusiveness, God’s law and gospel is a tough message that will always be branded as foolishness, unloving, and intolerant.
Yet, there are people searching for meaning and purpose. A recent survey discovered that four out of five unchurched people said that they would be willing to hear about their friend’s faith because they knew it’s important to them. God uniquely places believers in people’s lives for a purpose. He loves the unchurched, too. And the most powerful way to convey love is to introduce Christ through his Word with love and respect. It is worth the risk.
It’s time to step away from culturally induced misconceptions that are causing many faithful believers to refrain from verbal evangelism.
We do not need to be ashamed to proclaim the message of the cross nor fear what people may do to us in this age. (Hebrews 13:6)
We do not need to fear rejection nor surprised by it. Sadly, rejection and even scorn by the world is a by-product of a life rooted in Christ.
We have the Word and the Word reigns around us, lives through us, and resides in us.
The Word is Christ. And he desires for us to introduce his Word so that his power can be unleashed upon the hearts and minds of those who hear it.
Evangelism requires words.