Evangelism is something that we know we are called to do but often struggle doing. In a 2012 Lifeway study, 80 percent of those surveyed believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith, but more than 60 percent have not told another person about how to become a Christian in the last six months. To make the point further, Lifeway identified eight biblical attributes that are consistently evident in the lives of maturing believers and sharing the gospel had the lowest average score among those surveyed.
What does this mean? It means that the majority of people have a biblical understanding about our responsibility for evangelism but an incorrect application of this understanding. In other words, we know what we are supposed to do but are not doing it.
It doesn’t just happen; nobody falls into evangelistic faithfulness. Living on mission means living on purpose. It looks like an embracing of a biblical identity and responding with biblical urgency.
Like most things in life, evangelism requires personal effort, endurance through difficulty, and the regular repetition of basic (unglamorous) tasks.
Two keys to help with this are identity and urgency.
Do you see yourself as one God has sent into your community with the gospel?
Many Christians don’t. This is a problem.
The Bible teaches us that all Christians are called to be a part of the work of evangelism. It’s not optional or only for the mature, extroverted believers.
Let me give you an example:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:19-21)
Jesus is telling his followers to go and make disciples. This means followers of Jesus. How do we make followers of Jesus? We do this by speaking the gospel to them. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ (Rom. 10:17).
But one might say, This is only for the apostles.
But it can’t be. Look again at the verse. We read that we are to make disciples and then to teach them all that is commanded of them by Jesus. Included in the textbook for the training for the Christian is the work of evangelism. This very verse is a command that Jesus would have us teach others. In other words, the identity of the Christian is one sent as an ambassador or representative of Jesus. We are sent by him and for him.
Typically, the word missionary refers to someone sent across cultural lines in order to teach and persuade people of the gospel. We refer to missionaries who go overseas or cross cultures. But I think it might be helpful to see ourselves as missionaries. At least from the standpoint of an identity.
In other words, imagine you were sent to live in China, Papa New Guinea, or the Dominican Republic as missionaries. How might you order your life? How would you pray? How might you read the newspaper? How would you interact with your neighbors? How would you talk to your boss or coworker? If you were sent there then, you would view your life and ministry as a missionary with the goal of reaching the people around you with the gospel.
Your life would be orientated around the mission. And this is the only way things actually get done. Nobody slouches into faithfulness. They do it on purpose. With our lives intentionally calibrated by the gospel and its expansion, we pursue what Christ has called us to do.
Nobody slouches into faithfulness. They do it on purpose.
So, look around. If you notice, unbelievers are all around us, but they are not flocking to us in church.
And, look in the Bible. We have a Savior who came to us when we wouldn’t and couldn’t come to him. This is one of the reasons why we must go to them. We are to speak the truth of Christ even as we intentionally go to them.
Our temptation when hearing this or perhaps rehearing this, depending on the case, is to agree and resolve to prioritize this reluctantly. Okay, I’ll make some changes here. I’ll do it in the new year.
But, the Bible won’t let us do that.
It actually attaches a sense of urgency. “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time” (Col. 4:5). This phrase translated making the best use of the time is perhaps more literally buy back. It means to purchase out or redeem. It is a similar idea to what Paul writes in Ephesians 5:15-16, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil.”
What does he mean here?
He means we should not squander our time but instead, steward it. Don’t presume upon time. We should not live as though we or others have an infinite amount of time. We don’t know how much time we have left. The people in our family, community, or office might only have a day or two left. We don’t know. We might only have a day or two left. We don’t know. We should not live in a way that presumes upon an infinite amount of time.
We should not squander our time but instead, steward it. We can’t presume upon time, living as though we or others have an infinite amount left.
We have already wasted time and shouldn’t do it anymore. Living as unbelievers, we were professional time wasters. We failed to live in any way as for the glory of God. Even now as believers, to our shame, we have wasted time. So the apostle here seems to be saying, you’ve already wasted time, don’t waste any more.
Urgency clarifies our thinking and priorities. Knowing the days are short (and evil), people are dying and going to hell, and that you have the message of eternal life, live with intentionality around unbelievers. Don’t waste your time but rather redeem it. Buy it back. Love God and others by ordering your life around the mission of the gospel.
If we want to reach people with the gospel, we must live with evangelistic intentionality. Evangelism, like most other things in life, requires personal effort, endurance through difficulty, and the regular repetition of basic (unglamorous) tasks.