I can’t think of many items in the Christian life that cause more shame in the hearts of believers than the area of personal evangelism. Every time I hear a message about evangelism, an ambush of guilt just rushes over me. When I read in the Bible the commands to share the gospel, I make promises that last as long as when they are uttered. I pray for open doors, God delivers the opportunities, and I neglect them more often than not.
The fact of the matter is that I am simply too casual about other people’s spirituality.
I urgently want to be in the place in my life where I can say what Paul said when he claimed: “I am not ashamed of the gospel” (Rom. 1:16). And I want to love people enough that I will undergo personal uneasiness if it means telling them the changes that Jesus has done in my life.
Paul’s model for missional living is essential to how you can be the salt and the light wherever you are (Matt. 5:13-16). His approach is not casual, but it is effective. When Paul wrote to this church, he gave some helpful tips for those trying to live life with an intentional outreach in mind. He showed them that both the talk and the walk are important when it comes to sharing one’s faith.
First, he asked them to pray for him and his outreaching buddies that God would open up a door for God’s message to be delivered to those that are around them (Co. 4:3). Paul was not afraid to talk about Jesus by any means. In fact, he often was beaten, threatened, and a whole bunch of other things because of his inability to keep his mouth shut about Jesus (2 Cor. 11:23-28). But he still asked for these Colossian Christians to pray that God would open doors. Casual Christianity doesn’t open its mouth, but intentional Christianity decides to ask for doors to be opened in order to speak when those opportunities present themselves.
When was the last time that you asked God to open up a door for you to share what Christ has done in your life with someone? I’ll give you a warning: he will open the door! He keeps his promises. God isn’t like us; he doesn’t lie (Num. 23:19). So if God’s Word tells us to pray for open doors, then if you pray for them, they will swing open widely. If you honestly want to share, then stop even right now as you read this paragraph, and pray:
“God, will you please open a door today for me to outreach to someone who needs you.”
Secondly, Paul asked them that they pray for his clarity as he shared. That petition should reassure us greatly. The Apostle Paul, who refuted tons of brilliant people with the truth of the gospel, asked for others to pray that he portray Christ clearly. I know that I have personally struggled with the feelings of inadequacy when it comes to sharing Christ, but I rarely ask those around me to pray for me that I present him clearly. I would think that Paul would tell these Christians, “Get ready because we are going to holy roll our way through these people with our theological arguments,” but he didn’t. He asked for other believers to pray for him.
This prayer request is one of the reasons you need a good small group. If you regularly meet with a group of people whose sole purpose is to encourage you to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24), you probably pray for each other or at least collect prayer requests together.
My problem with most prayer times is that nobody actually prays for the things requested and most requests are centered on our comfort rather than God’s Kingdom.
What if we exalted Jesus to the place of being able to answer prayers outside of our personal needs or preferences, and we started praying that his Kingdom advance in our communities? Paul prayed for that. You should pray for that too.
After Paul asked them to pray for him, he was also concerned with the walk part of the outreach. He challenges these Colossian Christians to live lives conducted in a wise way aware that “outsiders” are watching (Col. 4:5). Paul understood that if we are saying something that contradicts the way that we live, it displays a distorted, ambiguous message. We must backup our message with holy lives.
It’s like naming a dog “Stay” and yelling at him, “Come here, Stay. Stay, come here.” It confuses the dog to a place of anxious hysteria. It’s a mixed message. So is the Christian guy who tells his friend to change his life, but he hasn’t changed his own yet. “Change your life, be just like me. Be just like me, change your life.” There is a huge problem when there is no difference. You have to live wisely.
The outreach is so important to your spiritual development, but you will more than likely fail at it unless you have a good entourage in place. If your best friends are people that are far from God and you are trying to bring them closer to God, you stand little chance for survival. But once you have the close group of encouragers, you have a group of people that you can reach out to and still make sure you’re safe because of your entourage.
So many Christians, on what seem to be good intentions, outreach to someone that they like hanging out with but who lives a little looser than they. The problem occurs when the one being outreached is more successful in his mission of bringing you down than you are of bringing him up.
You may not have thought about this concept, but people whom you are attempting to convert are also in the process of converting you.
If you are developing a friendship with someone who is not currently following Christ, he might seem curious behind some of your stands on certain issues. He might think that it is odd that you don’t do some certain things and other things you make a habit. He might even become interested in what you say about Jesus, but if he doesn’t want to adjust his life to match up with the claims of the Bible, he only has one option: convert you.
If he is successful to bringing you down to how he lives, not only does he no longer have to worry about someone trying to change him, but he now has a great excuse of why he doesn’t need to become a Christian: because the Christian to whom he is the closest lives exactly the way he does. This type of defeated outreach does not have a void spiritual impact; it impacts the person in a negative way. In fact, it hurts other people’s attempts to reach them.
Paul warned to live wisely among people to whom we are outreaching. He also told us always to be wise with how we used our time with those people (Col. 4:5). It is wise to use that time to get to know that person, to make that person feel comfortable with you. It is wise to open up to that person and to befriend him. But if you never do the wisest thing – intentionally share with him concerning a relationship with Christ – what real benefit are you doing him anyway?
Paul continues on to say that your speech should be gracious always being aware of exactly what to say to each specific person (Col. 4:6). To know how to respond to each specific person, you need to truly know each specific person, and it has always intrigued me that he said we are to respond to people. We evaluate where they are spiritually by what they say, and we use our experiences, our knowledge, our own relationship with the Lord to respond to them.
I served a summer in St. Louis working for a Christian camp called MFuge while I was in college. While I was there, the Holy Spirit was really dealing with me concerning my apathetic state concerning other people’s salvation. I remember praying while I was driving a van through St. Louis. I just confessed to God how inadequate I felt about verbally sharing my faith with other people.
I’ve never heard an audible voice of God. Sometimes I wish that I had so that I could be clear concerning direction. Other times, I believe that if I really heard his voice, I would be terribly petrified and peaceful all at the same time. That day wasn’t an exception. I didn’t hear the voice of God, but I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart and asking me this question: “What is so hard about bragging on me?”
Evangelism consists of bragging lavishly on God.
I can do that. I’m not the best when it comes to developing theological arguments concerning the existence of God, but the reality is that not many people are arguing that anymore. I’m not the greatest Bible scholar in the world, and someone could probably stump me on some philosophical question.
There is one thing that no one can ever argue with me about: Jesus changed my life.
And Jesus changed your life. No matter how much someone may not like the fact that he did, he cannot argue with a transformed life.
Someone can resort to arguments, but he can’t argue with results.
No one can argue with the fact that Jesus changed your life. They can argue about facts until eternity arrives, but they are unable to negate what Jesus has done in you.
And that is what you are called to proclaim. You are to respond to each person wisely with the truth of what Jesus has done in your life. It’s not prepackaged. It’s never the same. But it’s always Jesus. In every conversation, you try to find a way to get to Christ.
The open doors come from everywhere. If you begin to pray and ask God for them, they are going to be opening everywhere. But will your life be ready for the scrutiny that could come with those open doors? Are your prepared to make the most of every opportunity to respond to people about the gospel? Do you have enough material to brag on Jesus in every situation you come into?
Peter did. In fact, right after Jesus was taken into heaven and the Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples in such an amazing way that all people heard the gospel in their own language, Peter and the other disciples were threatened to stop talking about Jesus. Peter listened to the threats that he knew could possibly be backed up by stoning, imprisonment, or death, and he responded that it was simply impossible for them to stop talking about what they had experienced (Acts. 4:19-20).
He understood if they wanted to kill him for talking about Jesus. If what he was saying was truth, the crowd was going to have to turn their lives upsides down to follow Christ. But for Peter, it wasn’t a matter of life or death.
He was simply unable to stop talking about Jesus.
Do what they must, but he was unable to stop bragging about Jesus. It was impossible for Peter to hold it in. He used to be stubborn, but now he was obedient. He used to be a coward, but now he was courageous. He used to be condemned, but now he was forgiven, and it was all because of Jesus.
And that is what you are called to do. Regardless of how people respond, you are called to brag on Jesus. You tell people what he has done for you. You tell people about how he turned your life upside down.
And then tell them that he can change their lives too.