I had a lengthy and productive conversation with a church member yesterday on the topic of evangelism. Our church constitution states that we are supposed to have a commission that oversees the evangelistic work of the church. So we are working to get the commission up and going. As part of that, we had to work through what we actually expected the commission to do, what the responsibilities and goals would be. Here’s what I took away from our meeting – as we are working out how to do and be church in our setting, I emphasize that this is where I understand myself to be now. Further conversations and/or personal reflection may nuance or utterly change these ideas. And, as in the disclaimer, these are my own ideas, not the church’s.
- Internal and external.
Evangelism is the telling of the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world. It is not just the unsaved that need to hear it, rather all of us do – including current active members and attenders as well as those who have attached themselves to the church in some way but, for whatever reason, have become disconnected. So the work of evangelism is not just reaching the lost, but restoring the wayward and encouraging the faithful.
- Words and Actions
In our tradition, evangelism is often equated with the actual presentation of the Gospel message using a tract such as the Roman Road or The Four Spiritual Laws or one of the other myriad options. However, I think missional-minded churches have a great corrective with their focus on living out Christian life in the community – and not just the community of church members. Evangelism certainly is walking someone through the Roman Road. But it is also mowing a elderly couple’s lawn or getting together a pick-up game of basketball with people from inside and outside the church. It is sending cards and building houses. It is worship on Sunday mornings and chit-chat at the water cooler on Mondays. I think we need to expand our view and understanding of what evangelism is – and of what counts as evangelism. There is a place for weekly door-to-door visitation programs. But there is a place – and a great need – for much more than that.
Evangelism does not happen accidentally. We don’t fall into it. We don’t achieve or accomplish the Great Commission by stumbling into it. We aim for it. We strive for it. We put our effort behind it. Then, by the grace of God and with His Spirit working with us, in us, and through us, evangelism happens.
Like words and actions, evangelism is supporting those who do active evangelism, such as the missionaries the church supports, but it is more than that. We the Bible speaks of some having the gift of being evangelists in Ephesians 4, Jesus gave the call to “Go and tell” to every one of us who seeks to follow him, be called by his name, and stand before our righteous and holy God with the veil of his redemption around us. We must each of us do evangelism in the specific ways that God has gifted us. Romans 12 is appropriate – however we are gifted, fulfill the Great Commission that way. Carpenter? Work with Habitat for Humanity or find out about some needs in the community to do repairs for those who cannot do it themselves. Storyteller? Share your faith verbally. Financial whiz? Fund others and show them how to manage their talents and gifts to the glory of God. But whatever you do and whatever you enjoy doing, do it in such a way as to intentionally, personally work for evangelism.