Have you ever been listening to a sermon and heard the word “evangelism” used and begun to squirm in your seat? Have you ever been told of the centrality of disciple making in the Christian life and felt a wave of conviction, guilt, and discomfort come over you? I know I have!
What is in us that causes so much angst when we discuss the need to verbally share the Gospel? Is it that we have images in our mind of the local “evangelist” standing on the street corner condemning each passer-by to hell? Is it that we think of a slick-dressed man standing behind a podium asking for monetary gifts? Why do we feel so much discomfort about the term and the task of evangelism?
Motivations matter, perhaps in this area more than any other. Why do we share the Gospel? What leads us to be joyful evangelists? How do we get over the painful pictures that we have in our minds so that we can effectively engage in sharing the hope of Jesus with those around us? It begins with examining our motivations.
As with any area of life, there are good and bad potential motivations (even for the same activity). Here are some bad motivations for evangelism:
- Obligation: “I have to evangelize because my pastor told me to do it.”
- Earning God’s Favor: “If I share about Jesus, God will overlook my sin.”
- Guilt: “God saved me. I’d be a terrible person if I didn’t tell others.”
Let’s be honest, we would never say those things because, intellectually, we know they’re wrong. However, we feel them regularly and they keep us from sharing the hope that lives within us. Bad motivation breaks down our passion and desire to share with others.
What if there is a better motivation? What if there is a different way of looking at evangelism that will help us move past obligation to joy? Here it is:
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Your motivation won’t be in some guilt-laden plea to try harder or be more intentional; it will be found in truly believing the Gospel and falling in love with Jesus! When you truly believe the Gospel and internalize its message, it will overflow naturally into your relationships and connections.
When was the last time you had a difficult time bringing up your kids in conversation? How about bringing up the show you just binged on Netflix? We talk about the things we love!
What if turning the corner in becoming an effective evangelist isn’t following a new strategy or even a firm kick in the pants, but taking time to soak in the good news of the Gospel for your own life? When you trust deeply in Christ and have an overwhelming love for Him, sharing the Gospel will overflow naturally into the relationships we have at work, in our neighborhoods, and in our families. Evangelism won’t be something you just have to try harder at; it will become part of who you are because the Gospel is a part of who you are.
Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching. You can’t commend what you don’t cherish.
— John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad
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