Devotional Thought: Evangelism’s Most Destructive Quote
St Francis of Assisi is often attributed with the pithy saying, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” It is doubtful that St. Francis was actually the one to utter these words, but it is less doubtful that the American Church has taken this advice all too far. What started as a nice sentiment for living out the Gospel has turned into an excuse for a lack of evangelism. We couch our apathy and indifference in the inoffensive language of “lifestyle evangelism,” claiming that we are spreading the Good News by how we live. The reality, however, may be that we just don’t want to share our faith, at least not enough to take any risks. Risks like stepping out of our comfort zone, being willing to strike up a conversation, and facing the possibility of rejection. But the truly startling thing is that we are more than willing to evangelize for everything we believe in except Christ. I will try to convince you that baseball is the greatest sport, but I won’t tell you that you are a sinner. I can make a compelling case for why my Civic is a fantastic car, but I don’t want to ask what you think about God. And I can try to tell you who to vote for, but I won’t tell you about who gave His life for you. In college I even avoided taking a class because I heard the professor required you to share your faith with someone. If I am so sure that Jesus is the way, why am I unwilling to point others toward Him?
Lately the idea of evangelizing has gotten a black eye because of the methods some have employed. If you walk downtown of most large cities you are sure to find someone with a megaphone proclaiming the coming destruction of all who don’t repent. The effectiveness, or even worthiness, of this method is certainly debatable. I once visited a church that was on the complete other extreme. They would instruct their members to not even mention Jesus’ name until they had known someone for at least a year, opting instead for the method of lifestyle evangelism. The truth, as often is the case, probably lies somewhere in between megaphone evangelism and lifestyle evangelism. We shouldn’t be vocal in a way that turns people off, but we should still be willing to be vocal.
In Ephesians, Paul tells us that evangelism is a spiritual gift. We all have met those people who can convince whoever sits next to them on a plane that they need Jesus. I don’t believe that God wants us all to become like those people, if He did He would have given everyone the gift of evangelism. But what He did give us all was a command, a command to go unto all the world making disciples. We may not all have the gift of evangelism, but we all do have the Spirit within us, and that is where we get the courage to share Christ with others. May we always live the Gospel in such a way as to draw others to the Father, but may we also be willing to share Him with others as we are led.
“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let No one go there unwarned and unprayed for.” -Charles Spurgeon
(For further reading on this topic check out Mark Russell’s excellent post, “Preach the Gospel Always: When Necessary, Use Words.”)