by Donald Whitney from Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
Christ made it abundantly clear that He is sending us to go forth (John 20:21) and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). While it is clear that as Christians we are to evangelize, why do almost all Christians seem to disobey that command so often? Nothing causes an eye-dropping, foot-shuffling anxiety more quickly among a group of Christians than talking about our responsibility to evangelize. In fact, I’m sure I don’t know a single Christian who would boldly say, “I am as evangelistic as I should be.”
Some of the fear lies in the seriousness of the gospel. We realize that in talking with someone about Christ, heaven and hell are at stake. The eternal destiny of the person looms before us. Many Christians feel unprepared for this challenge. They may believe that they need months of specialized training to one day confidently witness. That confident day, however, may never come.
What is success in evangelism? When the person you witness to comes to Christ? Certainly that’s what we want to happen. But if we measure evangelistic success only by conversion, are we failures whenever we share the gospel and people refuse to believe? Was Jesus an “evangelistic failure” when people like the rich young ruler turned away from Him and His message (Mark 10:21-22)? Obviously not.
We need to learn that sharing the gospel is successful evangelism. We are like the postal service. Success is measured by carefully and accurately delivering the message, not by the response of the recipient. The most powerful ongoing Christian witness has always been the speaking of God’s Word by one who is living God’s Word.
The main idea I want to communicate is that godliness requires that we discipline ourselves in the practice of evangelism. The reason many of us don’t witness for Christ in ways that would be effective and relatively fear-free is simply because we don’t discipline ourselves to do it. Yes, there will be wonderful, unplanned opportunities for sharing the gospel in our lives. However, most Christians will seldom share the gospel if evangelism is not a Spiritual Discipline.
Unless we discipline ourselves for evangelism, we can easily excuse ourselves from ever sharing the gospel with anyone. You’ll have to discipline yourself to ask your neighbors or co-workers how you can pray form them or when you can share a meal with them. Many opportunities will be missed if you are waiting for them to happen spontaneously. The world, the flesh, and the Devil will do their best to see to that. You, however, backed by the invincible power of the Holy Spirit, can make sure that these enemies of the gospel do not win.
Regardless of how shy or unskilled we may feel about evangelism, we must not convince ourselves that we cannot or will not verbally share the gospel. No matter how well we live the gospel (and we must live it well, else we hinder its reception), sooner or later we must communicate the content of the gospel before a person can become a disciple of Jesus.
To go deeper in to this topic, read Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney.