Evangelism is not programs and schemes and slick persuasions. It shouldn't be getting all psyched up for a month. And it should not even be renting a large sports stadium and inviting a famous evangelist to come and speak. No doubt God has by His grace used most of those things to draw sinners to Christ. But that is not evangelism.
So what is evangelism?
It's the life of a believer.
So what is evangelism?
It's the life of a believer.
Let is cast our minds back to the early church. Believers had no New Testament in writing as of yet. There was no media, no tracts, no slogans, no books, no tapes, no Cds, and no large crowd evangelistic meetings. The spreading of the gospel happened at such great velocity because the lives of converts became so transformed that people took notice and that was a platform which magnified the message of the gospel. But in these post Industrial Revolution days we have developed an ingenious system which allows us to live unremarkable lives and still support some kind of evangelism which is some kind of program. A city wide crusade, or a bring a friend to church, or leave a tract, or bring in an evangelist for a service are some of the ways we can claim we support evangelism while not getting our “hands dirty”.
Living and speaking like Jesus must be an integral part of spreading the gospel. The gospel message received by faith is what saves a soul, but we must not treat our lives as something detached from the gospel process. Without a living witness that draws attention and opens hearts our words become just a part of an institutional process which figures out what can manipulate sinners and pile up professions without corresponding life changing manifestations. And after seeing an incredible amount of professions and even baptisms who then disappear so quickly are we so blind as to ignore the fact that something is wrong? Although I am decidedly not a Calvinist I have read and was challenged by John MacArthur’s book called “The Gospel According to Jesus”. And in that book he makes this stunning but accurate statement: “We preach such a watered down version of the gospel that even the non-elect cannot reject it”. But on the other side of the same coin our lives are so much like the unsaved that when we preach the gospel our lost church going neighbor does not see his need because his evangelical neighbor’s life mirrors his own.
Certain corners of the church world seek signs and wonders, and what they mean is what supposedly happens in some church or healing service. They are seeking some miracle which usually centers of physical healings. But they are blind to what should be the greatest miracle namely a life that is so changed and so transformed that no one can deny it. Many of these so called healings are suspicious to say the least, but even the unsaved can see a life that shines with the visible teachings of Jesus. No one needs to verify that with a doctor’s report. But since that has been so diluted over the decades we need evangelistic programs to stand in for what is lacking in the lives of believers.
As is the custom of western culture we tend to compartmentalize and specialize things. So many things are entries in a daytimer and not really a natural outflow of our hearts and lives. They must have a starting time and an ending time. We cannot just get up on Sunday morning and head to a gatherings place at any time. That would mean that some would arrive at 7:00 AM and others at 8:00 AM and 9, and 10, and so on. And we who hold times as a personal treasure would see that as undisciplined and chaos. In fact the “service” itself is constructed in a way which models a Broadway play so to speak.
You have your players, your main character, a beginning, and end, and some audience participation as they applaud sections they like and appreciate. And after the play is over people file out, get into their cars, and return home. And the western church has molded their gatherings into that which mirrors that kind of construct. Even the word “service” is quite curious. Webster defines it as:
“a form followed in worship or in a religious ceremony”
And true to “form” the western culture is uncomfortable with anything that does not conform to a specific time and place with a specific beginning and ending. And so we now have a form within which almost all churches operate on Sundays. And when you have established that kind of construct it inevitably finds its way into our minds and psyche. We, like certain animals, become accustomed to structure and when that structure is interrupted or changed it elicits wailing and gnashing of teeth.
The format for an average church “service” is convenience oriented. People will sit for two hours or more to watch a movie but a little more than an hour is their limit at church. And the more Sundays in which that construct is observed then the more entrenched it becomes in people. Men will appreciate the thrill of an overtime football game but they will complain if a church service goes overtime. In fact, just the term “overtime” reveals a carnal view of a worship gathering. You see, people arrive at the church building with an expectation of a certain time frame. They do not expect the Spirit to move in an unusual way and they desire the service to have the same elapsed time as it generally did on every other Sunday.
And that, my friends, is such an affront to all we say we believe about Christ and what He sacrificed for us. To think about what He suffered and then to lay out a constricted format which allows for some worship with a major time inconvenience is little more than a religious observance offered within a self serving configuration. For anyone to suggest we spend four hours in prayer and worship and communion and the teaching and preaching of God’s Word will not only be unviable in this modern church mindset, but it will lose many members, And how can we invite visitors into that kind of elongated gathering?
And if we lift the veil and become transparent we must see just how shallow and false our Christianity has become. We believe in and should be living in a reality which is above all fairy tales and creative imagery. We should be walking in a reality which is so far above anyone’s imagination and far beyond some Lord of the Rings kind of theatrics. We live in a spiritual kingdom which goes beyond what can even be conceived, and yet this kingdom and all which will be revealed is eternally true. Just read the New Testament including the Book of Revelation and realize what you are reading is a revelation of what is and what will be true. How can we actually profess such a things and yet still live as we do?
And in an attempt to hide our spiritual deficiencies we create all kinds of programs and structures which are supposed to project our eternal realities? Any unbeliever would claim we are hallucinating if we truly explained all the ramifications of our faith. And yet that kind of unreal vision should elicit lives that are remarkable within a culture of darkness. So how can we be imprisoned by politics?; how can we imprisoned by greed?; how can we be imprisoned by nationalism?; how can we be imprisoned by material things?; how can we be imprisoned by the temporal?; in light of what we believe how can we not be so free and so obedient and so heavenly minded that the things of this world grow strangely dim?
It should be life and lips which proclaim Jesus.
In fact evangelism is Jesus.