What does the Bible actually say about evangelism? What is the average Christian’s responsibility with regards to evangelism? Each of our Sunday evening get-togethers this summer has ended up being like practical training on how to verbally share the gospel with somebody – but we haven’t really looked at all the Bible has to say about evangelism.
So now, we’re going to see just what Scripture says about evangelism. We’re going to look at what a Christian is actually called to do in terms of gospel distribution.
Shining the Gospel
As Jesus was getting into the famous Sermon on the Mount, this is what He said:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”– Matthew 5:14-16
Christians are the light of the world – we’re like light bulbs in an otherwise dark room. But what is this light we produce? Good works. Jesus mentioned some of them throughout His sermon: dealing well with anger instead of hating, radically fleeing lust, remaining faithful in marriage, being a person of their word. These things make us stand out from the world.
Now you might think, “No one’s ever been saved just by observing a goody-two-shoes.” And that’s true. But sharing the gospel starts with living like a disciple and following Jesus. If we want to be serious about evangelism, we have to be serious about living by the way of Christ.
(For more on this point, see “What Does It Mean to Be the Light?”)
Adorning the Gospel
Closely connected with shining the gospel is the second point: adorning the gospel. We are to make the gospel attractive. Titus 2:9-10 illustrates this:
Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
Through our behavior as Christians, we adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. The same way we pick out clothes to adorn ourselves, we adorn the truth of what we believe by our actions and attitudes. Our distinctive, Christian lifestyle sets us apart and reveals the darkness that’s out there. It shows just how dark the world is – it also makes the gospel attractive.
Unfortunately, the opposite is true as well. When we live like the world, we obscure the gospel and make it unattractive. Many people have nothing to do with church because of Christian hypocrisy. It’s extremely damaging – that’s why we have to start with actually following Jesus.
Answering About the Gospel
Colossians 4:5-6 says this:
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Answering is a responsive activity. You don’t start a conversation by answering someone – you respond to whatever they came toward you with. The idea is that, as you’re shining the gospel with good works and adorning it with your lifestyle, it will intrigue people. Others will ask, “Why do you live like this?”
Now, the attention you get for Christian behavior will not always be positive. Because your Christ-like behavior exposes they’re evil behavior, people might hate you for it. They might slander and revile you, but it’ll give you a chance to respond and point to Jesus (1 Peter 3:14-16).
Collaborating in the Gospel
So we’re supposed to shine the gospel, adorn the gospel, answer about the gospel and also collaborate in the gospel.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ …– Ephesians 4:11-12
Not everybody is called to be an apostle. And not everyone’s chief function is to be an evangelist. Paul didn’t write, “Why aren’t you doing what I’m doing? Why are you still working at home? Abandon that, board a ship, go to a foreign land and share the gospel!” Instead, he wrote stuff like this:
… aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.– 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
Not everyone is called to be an apostle. But, those who are not apostles should participate in the apostolic ministry in various ways (e.g., the believers in Acts 4; the deacons in Acts 6). You as a Christian have a contribution to make. What is this contribution? It may be hospitality, service, logistical support, prayer, faith, administration – everyone’s blessed in a unique way so things work together.
Proclaiming the Gospel
Our fifth point is “proclaiming the gospel.” It’s natural for God’s people to talk about Him because He’s awesome. We get to know Him and live in His presence every day – how could we not mention it to people?
In the New Testament we see non-apostles still speaking the gospel: Stephen (Acts 7), Philip (Acts 8), other Christians (Philippians 1) and the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1). Verbally sharing our faith becomes natural the more we grow in our love for Jesus Christ. It’s going to be unnatural to not talk about Him.
Trusting God About the Gospel
You can’t save anyone. You’re probably thinking about people you wish you could save, but you can’t. You’re not the Savior (John 6:44; John 12:32; Acts 2:47). God saves people through Christ, and He might use us in various ways through that process.
For some the gospel will be the power of God and for others it’ll be the stupidest thing they ever heard (1 Corinthians 1:18). So we should “not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting [our] opponents with gentleness” and leaving the work of salvation up to God (2 Timothy 2:24-26). We should share the gospel and not be ashamed of it (Romans 1:16).
These six points are at least a good start to a balanced, biblical approach to evangelism.
- How are we supposed to “shine” the gospel?
- What does “adorning the gospel” mean?
- As you’re shining and adorning the gospel, what questions might people ask you? How can you be prepared to answer?
- How is evangelism a group effort? Why is it important to know that not every Christian has the same spiritual gift?
- When have you had opportunities to proclaim the gospel?
- How should we trust God about the gospel?