I Want to Go, But.....
Wanting to put pen to paper, today, I asked friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter for article suggestions. The suggestion I received from my friend, Chris Poindexter (pictured above) resonated with me. As anyone who follows my ministry knows, for years I have called Christians to take to the streets to proclaim the gospel from atop a box, or by engaging people in conversation, or through gospel tract distribution. But mine is certainly far, far from the best known voice making such a plea to Christians. Ray Comfort of Living Waters, for well over 30 years, has led the charge to mobilize Christians to obey Christ's command to make disciples of every nation (Matthew 28:18-20). Like an untold number of Christians around the world, I was one of those influenced by Ray to take the gospel outside of my comfort zone, onto the streets, and around the world.
Sadly, most professing Christians will never answer the call. They'll continue to live in disobedience to the Lord while insisting they're living their life in such a way people ask them why. They'll continue to live in disobedience to the Lord while insisting they need to earn the right from lost people to do what the Lord has commanded them in His Word: go and make disciples. They'll continue to live in disobedience to the Lord while insisting evangelism is not their "gift."
Then there are those genuine followers of Christ who want to obey His evangelistic commands. They want to take to the streets. They want to be part of the church's evangelism team. They want to distribute thousands of gospel tracts. They want to travel to other parts of the world to reach the lost. They want to go out and engage their neighbors, whether friend or stranger, in gospel conversations. They want to reach the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But circumstances in life, whether permanent or temporary, leave them feeling that they can't contribute to the Great Commission.
If this describes you, well then this article is for you.
Start by Never Saying "Just" Again
The Lord has opened up so many ministry opportunities to me over the last nine years I doubt I can remember all of them. He is allowing me to travel throughout North America and around the world to preach the gospel on the streets of large cities and small towns. He is allowing me to do something I love as much as open-air preaching, and that's coming alongside good churches to assist them in reaching their communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I love traveling to different parts of the world with the expressed purpose of serving under the leadership of a local church, assisting them as they shepherd their flock in the area of evangelism. A little radio show, blogging, videos, conference speaking, travel: all of these God-given opportunities have provided one of the greatest blessing of all--fellowship with the Bride of Christ, the Church, my beautiful Christian brethren who look different than me, and sound different than me, and live different than me.
When I meet Christians for the first time and they are familiar with my ministry, they often begin the conversation with telling me how much they appreciate what I do. This is always a little embarrassing and uncomfortable, but it is always appreciated. It is not uncommon for the brother or sister in Christ with whom I am speaking to begin to tell me about their evangelistic efforts. I love hearing their stories. It's always such a great encouragement to see the glint in their eyes and the smile on their faces as they tell me about where they go and how they go about making the name of Jesus Christ known to others.
However, I find myself all-too-often rebuking my brethren before they have a chance to really get into their story. The reason is they often begin like this:
"I just hand out tracts."
"I just talk to other students at my university."
"I just share the gospel online with people."
I just focus on making sure my kids understand the gospel and are raised with a Christian worldview."
I just.....I just.....I just.....I just..... It drives me crazy! And why do I rebuke them? The reason is that whenever they put "I just" before any form of biblical evangelism, before any form of gospel proclamation, they are unintentionally minimizing the message and determining the validity of their evangelistic efforts by the methodology they employ. In other words, they have bought the lie--a lie sometimes perpetrated by the open-air preaching subculture and the para-church ministries therein--that there is a caste system in evangelism. The highest caste being open-air preaching with all other castes, in descending order, beneath: Open-air preaching, followed by one-to-one conversations, followed by gospel tract distribution, followed by workplace evangelism, followed by, classroom evangelism, followed by, friends and family evangelism, followed by online evangelism, followed by everything else.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16, emphasis mine).The power in every evangelistic effort is the gospel. The power is not in the manner the gospel is communicated. The power is not in open-air preaching or the open-air preacher. The power is not in the Christian's ability to effortlessly strike up a conversation with a stranger. The power is not in the Christian's ability to convince most people to take the tract he is handing them. The power is not in the personality, profundity, perseverance, or passion of the Christian engaged in evangelism. The power is in the gospel.
Never use the word "just" as an adjective or an adverb when talking about your evangelism efforts. Whether you preach to a stadium filled with tens of thousands of people or hand a gospel tract to the cashier at the grocery store, your evangelism efforts are a beautiful testimony to the grace of God in your own life, and to the grace of God shown to the one who heard or received the gospel you shared. Rejoice! Rejoice that the God who saved you chooses to use you at all to reach the lost with the gospel. Rejoice that He has given you a heart to win souls. Rejoice that He has perfectly placed you in space and time to communicate the gospel with the specific people to whom you speak. Rejoice and be glad!
You never just share the gospel. You get to share the gospel!
If you continue to get hung up on thoughts of your intentional, loving efforts to share the gospel not being as good or as important as someone else's--someone you perceive to be doing more--then your issue is likely pride. If this happens or is happening now, repent and thank God for every and any opportunity He gives you to glorify Him through the declaration of His Son, King Jesus.
Live with Contentment Right Where You're At
Paul wrote the following to the Corinthians:
"Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God" (1 Corinthians 7:17-24).The popular phrase "bloom where you are planted" is not in the Bible. Some speculate that it might be an ancient Afghan proverb. However, Paul does say that every Christian should "lead the life that the Lord has assigned to [him]."
I know many Christians who, because they are in a particular season in life (like Chris who inspired this article) or because the life God has assigned them has placed them in a permanent physically limited condition, simply cannot take to the streets as much as they would like, or even once in a blue moon. They can't join the evangelism team during their weekly outings. They cannot travel far away to the large-scale outreach. They can't even go to the grocery store to hand a tract to the cashier.
Life happens. Life is hard. Sometimes where we are is where we're going to stay. Sometimes life is the way it is and the Lord, for good and glorious reasons known only to Him, is not going to change things anytime soon. If you think these truths, and maybe for you these realities, prevent you from being an effective witness for the Lord Jesus Christ, you're wrong. You are oh-so-very wrong.
Accept where the Lord has you, right now, at this moment. Thank God, even though you might not be able to see it through the haze of your circumstances, that He is more than able to use you to reach the lost right where you are. Live with contentment right where you're at.
With the above in mind, let's look at some simple, practical ways every Christian can live the evangelistic life.
A Knock on the Door
As I wrote this article, I noticed the following post come across my Facebook feed.
How many times does someone knock on your door, through the course of your day-to-day life? Every time someone knocks on your door, you have an opportunity to proclaim the gospel. Afraid that the knock on the door might be the nicely dressed members of the Watchtower Cult or the kids who call themselves "elders" from the cult of Latter-Day Saints? Then love the cultists enough to prepare yourself for that kind of knock on the door.
Whether it's engaging the person in conversation or simply handing them a gospel tract, don't miss or minimize the gospel opportunities God provides with every knock on the door.
"But, Tony. The knock on the door happens so infrequently. How could that ever be enough?"
Stop thinking about numbers. The "numbers game" is a blight on the history and reputation of American Evangelicalism. If the Lord tarries, future generations will look back on the American Evangelicalism of the 20th and 21st centuries and shake their heads at how unbiblical Christian churches and ministries were when it came to their focus on counting heads.
Love the one person the Lord brings to your door more than the thousand people you may never meet.
Stop Going to the Store to Buy Groceries
Living the evangelistic life means changing the way you look at every aspect of life, including the mundane things in life, like running errands. This one of many things Ray Comfort taught me. Ray doesn't go to the store to buy a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. He goes to the store to share the gospel with someone, and while he's there he buys a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread.
Stop going to the gas station to fill your tank with gas. Go to the gas station to share the gospel, and while you're there get some gas.
Stop going to the post office to mail a package. Go to the post office to share the gospel, and while you're there mail a package.
Stop being a "soccer mom." Go to the soccer field to share the gospel, and while you're there enjoy watching your kids practice or play in a game.
Stop going to school to earn a high school diploma or a college degree. Go to school to share the gospel, and while you're there study heartily for the Lord and get the best education you can.
Stop spending so many hours a day on social media to get your news, gossip, and attention fix. Go online to share the gospel. Go online with the intention of loving God and loving people.
Are you sick and tired of going to doctor and specialist appointments week in and week out? Then knock it off! Go to the doctor's office, clinic, hospital, or therapy session to share the gospel, and while you're there get the physical treatment you need.
Stop going to work to earn a living. Stop going to work to provide for your family. Stop going to work to improve your station in life. Go to work to share the gospel, and while you're there do your work heartily for the Lord. Be the very best employee and provider for your family that you can be.
Stop living for yourself and live for Jesus. Really live for Jesus.
Make every activity a conduit for gospel proclamation. Make every relationship secondary to your love for Christ and love for the souls of the people for whom you say you care the most.
Live the evangelistic life for the glory of God. You don't have to be a full-time evangelist, or even a part-time evangelist, to do that.
Stop Whining and Sniveling
Living the evangelistic life means changing your negative attitudes about daily inconveniences into opportunities for praise, worship, and evangelism.
You pull into the DMV parking lot, and what do you see? You see a line of people wrapped around the building, all not wanting to be there just as much as you. Instead of grimacing, looking at your watch, and pounding the steering wheel in frustration, rejoice and be glad. "Look at all of those people! I didn't think I was going to have time to share the gospel with anyone, today. I bet I can hand out at least 50 gospel tracts while I'm here."
When you live the evangelistic life, you no longer see a line of people as an inconvenience. You see them as lost souls--people to whom God has given you the special privilege of sharing the gospel. People who you once thought got in your way are now people you see as those God has put in your path.
There is only one thing stopping you from living the evangelistic life. It's not your schedule. It's not your circumstances. It's not your physical limitations. It's not your lack of talent or gifting. It's you. You're the only one stopping you from living the evangelistic life. Stop it! Knock it off! Quit feeling sorry for yourself. Quit being lazy. Quit being indifferent. Quit being unloving. Quit being self-absorbed. Quit fearing people more than you love people. Quit fearing people more than you fear and love God.
Those who truly live for Jesus, regardless of their lot in life, live life looking through the lens of the gospel. Make today the day you begin living the evangelistic life.