I find that common sermons and messages intended to goad Christians toward becoming more effective evangelists tend to produce more shame than they do disciples. Evangelism is perceived by many as a frightening, highly skilled part of being a Believer that only a select few can do, which simply isn’t true. I believe that if someone like me, a former cocaine addict and boyband member can become an effective evangelist, then anyone can. We simply need to demystify the myths and become equipped.
Ephesians 4:11‒14 is a Scripture passage often quoted when evangelism is discussed:
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the [a]edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…
Some people interpret these verses to mean that certain Christians are called to be evangelists, and therefore, not all. However, a more accurate interpretation that considers the whole passage leads many to believe that those who are naturally gifted with these abilities, including evangelism, are meant to use that gift as well as equip other Christians to do the same thing. This is excellent news because it means that evangelism can always be learned.
No matter your personality or level of biblical knowledge, you must understand the following principles about evangelism in order to be able to lovingly and fearlessly share the Gospel.
We Share, He Shakes
Evangelism is often compared in the Bible to harvesting and reaping. Note that harvesters don’t necessarily plant and water but they gather the crops. When equipping Christians to evangelize, I encourage them to visualize people as apples on a tree. The Holy Spirit is the one shaking the tree. He knows how hard He has to shake to make certain apples fall off the branches. We can help ripen those apples by sharing the Good News and being there to catch them when they fall off the tree to lead them toward the next steps of giving their lives to God.
I think what often deters people from evangelizing is fear. Whether that is fear of what the receiver may say or do or the fear that they have to share the Gospel with everyone they meet. But just as it isn’t our job to shake the tree, we need to keep in mind that these apples don’t belong to us but to the Father. When someone rejects our attempts to tell them about Jesus, we should honor their wishes. God is sovereign over hearts; He is gracious enough to use us in the process, but only He can change a person. Sometimes an apple has to be shaken numerous times before it's loose enough to fall.
Proclamation Over Personality
Just as Moses contested that he was not a good speaker after the Lord called him to lead the Jews out of Egypt, Christians today come up with similar excuses for not being evangelists.
“I’m just not outgoing.”
“I don’t think I am called to do that.”
“I don’t know enough Scripture to teach the Gospel.”
If we allow them, excuses like these can inhibit us from playing a needed part in salvation stories. The truth is that we don’t need a seminary background to share the Good News, be naturally charismatic or feel especially compelled to evangelize. Evangelism is obedience, and the Great Commission was a command that we’re called to obey. The power is not necessarily in how we portray the truth but in the proclamation.
God does not call us to be clever or popular to be used for His purpose: He is looking for the humble and obedient.
Sin is Universal, And So is the Holy Spirit
A few months ago, I was in Portland doing street evangelism at the peak of the Black Lives Matter riots. I’ve been to many places around the world evangelizing, and being there that day was by far the most spiritually oppressive environment I had ever seen. Armies of Antifa lingered everywhere, and flames and shouts filled the streets. It hardly seemed like the time or place for sharing the Gospel, but the Holy Spirit is not dictated by the movements of men.
That day, we led two people to Jesus, one of whom had traveled to Portland from L.A. specifically to join the riots. Little did He know that God was leading him there to encounter the love of Christ instead. The other individual who accepted Jesus surrendered his life while standing on the obelisk, which was the spot of ground that had been a stronghold for local witches and warlocks and the place they carried out their incantations for the riots.
It didn’t take long before our presence there reverberated throughout the crowd, which was hardly surprising, considering that light shines brightest where it is darkest.
I say this because every Christian at some point will find themselves in a similar sort of environment where the evil feels so dense that it is difficult to even imagine sharing the Gospel. We have to keep in mind that not only is the Holy Spirit universal just like sin but He is much stronger.
Evangelism is simply being willing to love more. The greatest two commandments were to love God and to love our neighbor (Matt 22:36-40). What’s the best way to love somebody? Introduce them to the one who IS love (1John 4:8).
Don’t buy into the lies about sharing the Gospel: the Lord can use you to fulfill His purpose, and He will if you let Him.
Scott McNamara is a street evangelist and author of “Jesus at the Door: Evangelism Made Easy.”