Yes. I am afraid. Every time I begin to share about Jesus with someone, millions of thoughts run through my head about how I may offend or be received wrongly. Have you ever felt the same?
This is the log jam in the discipleship process and to fulfilling the Great Commission: evangelism. Sharing our faith. Why? Often times it is because we haven’t seen it modeled, or haven’t been taught “how.” Even in our rigorous attempts at discipleship have not fixed the problem, because discipleship has come to be regarded as a practice without the necessary component of evangelism training or practice. However, treating evangelism as a necessary part of discipleship helps to grow mature disciples, and is absolutely necessary. I read a great article recently highlighting 6 reasons why. Here they are:
- Evangelism helps keep the gospel central in our lives and churches.
The gospel creates the church (Col. 1:5, 6), is its chief message (1 Cor. 15:1-3), and powers our growth in Christ (Phil 1:6). Therefore, we ought to do everything in our power to keep it central. We know that the world, our flesh, and the devil will do everything they can to move it out of view. D.A. Carson has said that one way we preserve the gospel is by working hard to pass it on to others. Evangelism helps us maintain the gospel message as the engine of a growing life in Christ.
2. Evangelism deepens our understanding of the most fundamental truths of Scripture.
Gospel conversations with non-Christians force us to better grasp the central, underpinning truths of God’s Word. Issues like God’s character, his holiness and wrath, man’s creation in God’s image, sin, grace, the cross of Christ, and judgment all come into sharp focus. We have to think through explaining these concepts to different people in different circumstances. And we learn better how these truths lace together all of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
One of the clearest verses on the discipleship benefits of evangelism is Philemon 1:6: “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”
Knowing something and explaining it to someone who doesn’t understand it or believe it are two different things. These treasured truths become clearer to us as we explain them to others.
- Properly motivated evangelism grows our love for God and neighbor.
All people are called to wholeheartedly love God and other people (Mark 12:28-31). Sharing our faith because we love God and people stokes the fire of this love all the more. I’ve never seen properly motivated evangelism do the opposite.
If you’ve not led someone to Christ, I can only describe to you the joy of seeing the transforming power of the gospel newly at work in a person. To see their heart broken for their sin breaks my heart more fully for my sin. To see them revel in the freedom of forgiveness makes me want to drink it in all the more myself. Experiencing the privilege of leading someone to Christ reminds us of how much more powerful, holy, and merciful God is than we often think him to be.
Likewise, when we share the message of gospel hope with others, Christ promises us that sometimes they will reject it and perhaps reject us as well (Jn. 15:18-20). When that happens my heart is more broken over the imprisonment and blindness that sin brings. I ponder the coming judgment with greater urgency. And I wonder again why God would save me, just as much a sinner as the person who rejected me and the gospel message.
- Evangelism prompts unexpected questions and objections from non-Christians, which can deepen our faith.
In the food court near our company’s offices I have spent many an afternoon befriending Muslims. Often our conversations will naturally turn to issues of faith, and I have had the opportunity to explain what Christians really believe. I cannot always answer their questions immediately but as I turn to God and his Word for answers, my faith is always strengthened. Sharing my faith puts me in a position to hear objections and find answers to questions that I never would have asked on my own.
- Evangelism protects us from mistakenly assuming that those around us are saved.
Unregenerate people cannot be discipled in any biblical sense. They do not and cannot grow in godliness (Rom. 8:5-8).
A great danger for the church today is assuming the salvation of people who simply claim the label “Christian” or are involved in church activities. Not being careful about who we consider to be “born again” often has its roots in unbiblical views of conversion. Or sometimes fear of man dissuades us from taking the risk of offending a professing believer by suggesting they may not be trusting in Christ after all.
But making the gospel a part of our everyday conversation will often result in nominal Christians actually being born again of the Spirit.
The sower spread the seed liberally, seemingly without consideration for where it landed (path, rocks, thorns, soil; Mark 4:2-8). We too should share the gospel broadly and without discrimination, allowing our sovereign God to use it however he sees fit, to save the lost as well as encourage the saints.
- Evangelism increases the likelihood of being persecuted for the gospel, which leads to our growth.
There’s a reason I didn’t start with this “benefit”! Still, consider Romans 5:3-5:
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
While we should not seek suffering for suffering’s sake, we should be prepared to embrace suffering for the gospel’s sake (2 Tim. 1:8; Rom. 8:17). In fact, suffering because of our evangelism should be an encouragement to us as it was to the early church (Acts 5:41). And sharing our faith helps ensure that we will suffer because of the gospel itself rather than because of unwise decisions or giving needless offense. Suffering for our proclamation of the gospel can deepen our faith as we look to our suffering Savior.
I hope this helps encourage you to incorporate evangelism efforts in your discipleship of others, or to seek training/modeling in evangelism!
For more tips on how or why, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.