The Forgotten Commandment
There she was. On a subway train with a bible in her hand, trying to gather herself. I sat at a distance on the same subway car and watched as the fear and apprehension seemed to overtake her. I could sense what she was dealing with, because I’d experienced this type of fear before. What to say? How to say it? What if someone does not like what I say? What if someone has questions? I watched her and began to pray for her silently. I don’t believe anyone else on that car knew what was happening. But I did. As I recall, she did pass through the car passing out tracts, and saying ‘God bless you.’ When she got to me, I accepted the tract and looked directly at her smiling, hoping to encourage her. She went on to the next car. I never saw her again.
In its simplest form, evangelism can be defined as being the active transmittal or communication of the gospel from a saved individual to an unsaved individual. Whether it be one on one verbal witnessing, by tract, or by preaching from the pulpit, evangelism is the forgotten commandment. Nowadays it seems the church is more concerned with ‘bettering’ itself. From ‘health and wealth, to ‘name it and claim it’, to ‘blab it and grab it’, and now the so-called grace ‘revolution’, the unsaved have gotten lost in the shuffle. While the church continues to be seduced by these doctrines of demons, the lost are perishing. Where is the gospel? We would rather dance and shout and leave God’s house ‘feeling good’ because we ‘had church’; folk actually leave the church still in bondage and need of a Saviour.
Jesus’ words in Mark 16:15 are explicitly clear, and they should pierce us. He said ‘Go ye.’ This was not a passing thought or idea. It was not a good suggestion. It was a command; plain and simple. He expects us to evangelize, and any excuses are feeble at best.
The reasons why Christians do not evangelize are varied. The reasons can range from fear, ignorance, or just plain apathy. Whatever fear Paul and the other apostles may have had was replaced by boldness when the power of the Holy Ghost came upon them. Ignorance cannot be claimed if one knows what Jesus said in Mark 16:15 and other places, and if that is the case, then its open disobedience-or maybe rebellion is a better word. In most cases apathy rules. Not that we do not care at all what happens to the unsaved; in most cases we know what scripture says. It also cannot be said that we are oblivious and have a total disregard for the lost. So what’s the problem? I believe that we are simply unwilling. Unwilling to go the extra mile. Unwilling to put our time and effort into it. Unwilling to (in some cases) put ourselves in peril. We want to fit in and not really make any waves. The quiet life. Live and let live. You do your thing and I’ll do mine. Invite folk to come to your church every once in a while, or to a concert your church is involved in. That’s about as far as many will go.
The proclamation of the true gospel will turn heads. It will cause the masses to do a double take. The true gospel will cause people to reassess and rethink all that they’ve known and heard. The true gospel, through the power of the Holy Ghost, will convict the world of sin (John 16:8).
The following is an overview of the meaning, purpose, content and results of Spirit led and inspired evangelism, taken from Acts 17:1-10.
Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:
• EVANGELISM TAKES YOU WHERE THE PEOPLE ARE. Be led by the Spirit of God. (Acts 16:7). Whether it’s at school, on the job, or wherever you find people-that’s where the Spirit will send you.
2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
• EVANGELISM IS THE HEARTBEAT OF CHRISTIAN MINISTRY. Evangelism is what Paul did; He had an occupation as a tentmaker, but this was his calling. This was his manner or his custom. Wherever God places you in the secular world, you are only there as a means to spread the gospel where you are. More often than not, we get caught up in the culture of the job, and our Christian witness suffers because we become ‘one of them’. The gospel needs to be at the center of all we do in Christian ministry-regardless of our ministry. Whether you sing, sweep or simply sit, evangelism is something all of us should do. Also note he reasoned with them, ‘out of the scriptures.’ A working knowledge of scriptures pertaining to salvation is vital. Do you know how to lead someone to Christ through scripture?
3 Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.
• EVANGELISM IS THE PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL. This verse contains all the components of what the gospel is: the fact that He lived, He suffered, He died, and He rose again-He is the Anointed One (1Cor.15:3-4). The gospel is actually the message of the cross. 1Cor.1:17 states, For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. The gospel is not about me or you or what ever church we go to and what is done there. The gospel is about Jesus.
4 And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.
• EVANGELISM IS MEANT TO BRING AND CAUSE CHANGE. The whole idea behind evangelism is to point lost people to Christ. When the gospel is presented, it will ultimately either be received or rejected. Let the Holy Spirit work. Leave the results with Jesus. If you give your testimony to someone, it is only as a means to point them to Christ and what He has done. Make sure you do not become the showcase and highlight as you speak. Keep Jesus at the center.
5 But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.
• EVANGELISM IS AN INTRUSION INTO ENEMY TERRITORY (SATAN’S KINGDOM). Because Satan is the prince of this world, many are hardened in their lifestyle and thought. Everyone will not believe and all will not receive. Remember the words of Paul in 1Cor.1:18: For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. When opposition is encountered, it is an indication that the Word has touched a nerve; the Holy Spirit is doing His ministry of convicting the world of sin.
6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;
• EVANGELISM ACCOMPANIED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL TURN THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN. A watered down version of the gospel message will be embraced by the world, but the undiluted gospel message will either draw men to Christ or repel them. Jesus said, And I if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me (John 12:32).
7 Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus,
• EVANGELISM HAS KING JESUS AT ITS CORE. Paul states in 1Cor.2:2, For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Remember what we said previously-we are not the focus, and our testimony is only a means to point people back to Jesus.
8 And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. 9 And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go. 10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.
• EVANGELISM WILL TURN YOUR WORLD UPSIDE DOWN. Once you begin to take the gospel message to heart, and understand the need and purpose for it, and get a burden for the lost, it will change your life; how you respond to, and relate to the unsaved. The question must be asked, why did Paul and the others do what they did, with a seemingly reckless abandon, continually disobeying the powers that were at the time? I believe that they were thoroughly convinced, and were responding to the call and burden placed in them by the Spirit of God. It was a ‘woe unto me if I preach not the gospel’ mentality (1Cor.9:16). It was something they had to do. They understood the ramifications of not knowing Christ, and did not want to see anyone enter into eternity without Him.
So, at the heart of evangelism is the belief that people are spiritually lost and that the only remedy for this spiritual ‘lostness’ is Jesus; not therapy, not psychology, not ‘happy words’ telling them that they need to discover the ‘champion’ within them. The gospel endorses Jesus. Rather, the gospel is Jesus. He is the only answer to man’s dilemma. Do you believe that? Or have you forgotten this great commandment? And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).
That’s the Word. Take it with you. God bless you.