The word evangelism is a loaded word for Christians. It can conjure up a myriad of feelings – guilt, fear, inadequacy, pressure etc as well as certain images – knocking on doors, standing on street corners, getting into arguments with people who are hostile to the faith.
One of the common I responses I have heard the concept of evangelism is raised is “I do not have the gift of evangelism.” When I hear that response I know that the person has been taught a wrong view of evangelism. The same person would never think of saying “I do not have the gift of the gospel”
And yet I would suggest to you that evangelism and the gospel are inextricably linked – they go together and you cannot separate them – the gospel cannot be given without evangelism and evangelism is about the gospel.
Yes, the scripture speaks of those who may have the gift of evangelism. But that is referring the person who has been called to a lifetime of doing evangelism AS THEIR VOCATION. Christians who are called to the be doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers, physicists, analysts, soldiers, bankers etc etc, are called to their vocation – but IN their vocation they are called to witness.
Today I want us to understand that we have put evangelism into a far too narrow band of door knocking, car washes, street corner preaching, intense debates with atheists.
I want to reframe what evangelism is using our passages this morning and to restate what is really important.
The first thing I want to say today is that evangelism should never be done for our advantage. The thought of performing the work of evangelism for money or for prestige or for advancing his reputation or the size of the church was repugnant to Paul. Now he is not saying that workers for the gospel should never be paid – thank goodness!!! He later says a worker for the gospel is worth his wages. His point is that this should not be our motivation or driving force. Nor should the driving force of evangelism be to increase our church numbers. The motive for evangelism IS THE GOSPEL ITSELF. Paul worked for the sake of the gospel and to see it’s increasing influence in the world.
In order for evangelism to be effective, truly effective, we need to understand that the gospel is the GREATEST GIFT GOD HAS EVER GIVEN AND WILL EVER GIVE – and therefore as a Christian it is the greatest gift we have ever received.
Do you know that there is nothing on this earth that you could possibly be given that could match or be greater that the gift of the Gospel.
And it is from THIS base, from this motive, from this feeling that we are to evangelize.
Paul says that Christians can evangelize in two ways – you can do it because of duty – because you are told to – or because of guilt (which is why people say “I do not have there gift of evangelism) OR you do evangelism from the deep, inward passion to share the greatest gift you and I will ever receive in our lifetime – offer of the cleansing of sin, the adoption into God’s family, the eternity of heaven, the privilege to call God Father and be called sons of the Father.
Paul’s passion and love for God is that he will do what ever he can, and be whatever he can, to share the greatest gift ever given to humanity so that some might receive this precious gift.
So, the first thing we must establish is that we evangelize not for us, not because it’s our job, or because it might increase numbers in the church but because it is the greatest gift God has ever given and we should want to share that gift.
Secondly, evangelism should be about involvement not just proclamation. Paul would come and get involved in the life of the people. He lived amongst them – he got to know them, he was involved with them day to day. I love 1 Thessalonians 2:8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. An evangelism which just proclaims a message to people is not true evangelism. An evangelism immersed in the daily lives of those whom you seek to reach IS more authentic. Hence evangelism and the proclamation of the gospel should be done in the daily life of each church member – at work, at the gym, at the grocery store, at Costco our walmart or Starbucks, or over bbq on a Sunday afternoon.
Thirdly, the goal of the gospel, the gift of the gospel is not health, or wealth, or material things but eternal life and the promise that death will not be victorious over us. Yes, God delights in giving us good gifts to us. Yes, God delights in doing wonderful things for us – He delights to heal us and to bless us and to guide us. God does these wonderful things for us to show us his love for us as a Father. BUT these things are secondary to the gift of the gospel. What do I mean?
Our story from 2 Kings illustrates this for us. Elisha strikes up a relationship with a Shunammite woman. He passed her house regularly to the point that she first feeds him and then provides a room for him. We are told something very important about this woman – she is wealthy. In other words she has NO needs materially. She is happy and she appears to know God – or at least she knows that Elisha is a man of God.
In his desire to reward the woman’s kindness Elisha wants to know what he could do for this woman. It turn out the woman has no son and her husband is old. This is significant because a husband and a son where no just providers (although she appears independently wealthy) but they were protectors and when the husband died she would have no protector. Elisha states she will have a child.
We are then told that later this child dies suddenly. There is a very important point to remember in this story – This wealthy woman had no needs when she meets Elisha. But the gift God gave her made her needy when he took it away. When we read an account like this for many the question is why would God give her the wonderful gift of the child only for the child to die? What is the point of allowing this woman to go though the emotional rollercoaster from needing nothing, to rejoicing in the miracle of a child she thought she would never have, to falling into the depths of anguish at seeing her beloved child die, and then to have the child restored to her. Why is this in the Bible? Remember 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness – this story is profitable for teaching and for training in righteous – but in what way?
This story is her to show us that gifts and our loved ones can be taken away from us – BUT the gospel never can. A miracle child given to a woman who was unable to have a child is wonderful – but it’s not the gospel. The woman, the husband and the child will eventually die. Their house will eventually fall apart. The dream job will come to an end. Wealth may be lost in a stock market crash. Popularity, fame, good looks will all fade. We have all to a greater or lesser extent experienced something of what this woman went through in 2 Kings – we have all asked – Why would God give this to only take it away again? This story is here to teach us that our dependence and security must NEVER be on what we are, on who we are, or on material things of this world – but on the security of the promise of the gospel.
The gospel can not be destroyed, fade, be stolen or diminish is any way. It is the greatest gift – it is an eternal gift. It is a forever gift. It is not dependent on what events or tragedy’s happen in life.
Jesus’ healings are wonderful. The church should expect God’s power to move through it and so we should expect to see God heal, do miracles, cast our demons.
BUT – even healings are secondary to the gospel. Notice in our reading this morning that Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law – and in the evening Jesus heals all who come to him.
But note what he says when the disciples find him the next morning having spent time in prayer – They disciples excitedly say “Everyone is looking for you.” In other words – Jesus you are so popular, you have started something wonderful, come on let’s take advantage of this. But Jesus says this 38 “Let us go on to the next towns, ….and so what? Does he say to Heal the sick, raise those with fevers? No, Jesus says that they need to go to other towns so that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”
Yes Jesus will do healings and cure fevers, and cast our demons and raise the dead – but the main issue is that he came to preach The gospel. Healing is a pat of the gospel – but let me tell you that I have personally seen people be miraculously healed by God – a clear miracle – only to refuse the offer of the gospel – the offer to give their life to Christ – and that is a tragic and terrible fate.
So, to recap – evangelism should never be done for our advantage; evangelism is about involvement not just proclamation and the goal of evangelism is the gospel which is eternal life.
I firmly believe that the corporate church does not do evangelism – no where in the Bible does the church of Corinth, or the church of Ephesus or the church in Galatia do community out reach. Evangelism is done on a one to one basis, getting involved with the joys and tragedies of peoples lives, not with any agenda to get them on the membership roles of a church, but to lead them into an understanding of the true gospel – eternal life, forgiveness of sin, and being back in a relationship with God.
That means here in this church we have 50-55 evangelists – 55 places where you can talk with friends, work colleagues, neighbors and those whom you bump into at the grocery store. 55 people who every day can gossip the gospel – offer to pray with people – offer to tell them the reason for the hope you have.
This is evangelism.