Recently, I’ve discovered I don’t like this word. I don’t like the common connotations that accompany it. I find myself rephrasing a sentence to preface and give a good name to it before I actually say evangelism. Even in my own mind, after being on the missions field for 9 months with an organization KNOWN to evangelize, I STILL find myself having to defend this word, not only for others but myself too!
Why is that?
This is my theory: evangelism (the word, not the verb) is linked to religious duty; what we HAVE to do as believers. It’s almost a “necessary evil”; something we grudgingly do out of obedience. (This was actually my team and I at the beginning of outreach in Cyprus.) But what I’ve come to know as evangelism isn’t what the world knows it as. YWAM has shown me that evangelism is sharing and demonstrating the love of Christ in any situation in various ways.
You see, our God is a personal God. He is Father to all the people we are coming into contact with. I personally think it can be dangerous to impose a “one size fits all” mentality when evangelizing. *It’s important for me to note that I do believe there is a time and place for evangelizing to a group which can be just as effective.* The point is, GOD KNOWS HOW BEST TO REACH HIS CHILDREN. That is why it is so extremely important to seek His heart for a person or group of people when we are in a ministry role. He knows everything about them: how best to love them, what they need in that moment, what they DON’T need, what would be most significant to them, etc. We are called to be vessels, constantly yielding to the Spirit to release an accurate portrayal of God and His loving Kingdom wherever we go.
He is such an intimate God that I believe that we’d be doing Him an injustice if we didn’t reveal a glimpse of that personal love.
My friend Novella and I were sitting on her porch the other night, talking about how powerful it is for someone to step out in faith. We were discussing a story of a young Christian man was visiting a bookstore when another young man approached him and said “I don’t know why, but I feel like I’m to share this verse with you…” After he left, the young man realized that what he felt like Father God had been saying to him was just confirmed through a complete stranger! [REALITY CHECK]: We have the same Spirit who knows WHAT we need and WHEN we need it and HOW we need it.
My hope in sharing that short story with you is to show how the Spirit can move and the power of stepping out in faith.
My Turning Point
Earlier, I stated that my team struggled through a few weeks of evangelism at the beginning of our outreach. We take turns leading worship and intercession and devotions, and I was on deck for devotions the next day. So, I asked Jesus if He had any ideas of what would be helpful to us and I came across a video of Todd White. For those who aren’t familiar with that name, he is a known Christian evangelist who came to Christ was he was 35 years old; he was a drug addict and an atheist for 22 years! (His testimony is insane.)
Anyway. In this video he talks about a dream that an atheist had: In this dream, this atheist saw a large field with Satan and his followers on one side, and Jesus and His followers on the other. There was a fence down the middle of this field separating these two groups and this dude was standing on it. Suddenly all of the followers disappear and left remaining is Satan and this atheist.
Satan (to the dude on the fence): There you are; I’ve been looking for you!
Dude (still on the fence): Oh no, I didn’t choose a side. I didn’t choose Him (Jesus) and I definitely didn’t choose you!
Satan (pointing to the fence): Well sure you did – the fence is mine.
When I heard that for the first time, it struck something in me; it struck my heart in a very real way. Todd goes on to suggests that when we get to heaven, there will be a sheep line and a goat line; in the goat line will be the people who we were afraid to talk to – who everyone was afraid to talk to! And Todd wonders if those people will look at us, in pain and anguish, and ask, “why didn’t you say anything? What were you so afraid of?”
»Here’s the link to this video: Todd White on Evangelism *This link is set up to start at the 5 minute mark, where Todd is talking about the above story*
After spending some time digesting this new perspective, my outlook on evangelism shifted in a very subtle but powerful way. The following 6-8 weeks of outreach, my team and I were able (and more often challenged) to put into practice what we declared we believed. Daily evangelism looked different many days, ranging from intentionally visiting coffee shops to strike up conversations with people, to worshiping on the streets, to walking up to people, point-blank, and saying “God loves you” or delivering a prophetic word. Through whatever avenue He led us to take, we adopted an approach of being so in love with Jesus, and inadvertently receiving His heart for our lost brothers and sisters, that our own fears and insecurities PALED in comparison of knowing we could’ve shown them a glimpse of the love Father God has for them.
What does this mean for you?
Just as personal as He is towards His prodigal children, He is with us. You’re way of showing the love of Christ might look different from someone else’s, and that’s the way Abba designed it. Sure, all of us are fully capable of doing street evangelism, but let’s not limit evangelism to that method alone. We all have a unique ministry: with our reach, our personality, our location – wherever God has you in this season, you can minister to people in a unique way. Whether that is pre-purchasing a coffee for the person behind you in Starbucks, or smiling at someone who could use some cheer in their day, or deciding to believe the best in someone, or cooking a meal for your neighbor, or having a bible study, or encouraging that coworker you know who is having a bad day, or praying before you eat your lunch in the cafeteria – they are all ways of ministering God’s love to people, or EVANGELIZING.
Google defines evangelism as “zealous advocacy of a cause”. Woah.
»We should be evangelizing because we are DESPERATE for people to experience the love that we have found in Christ Jesus… not out of religious duty. « And if we aren’t there yet, that’s okay! Jesus is always calling us into a deeper relationship with Him, the Father and the Spirit.
God loves you so flippin’ much and my prayer is that you come to a place where you’re willing to receive His powerful and liberating love, so you become passionate in releasing that love to others.