Evangelism for the Rest of Us
It’s not about our personality, gifts, skills, training or courage. God has to do it, but we get to help.
by Judy and Neal Brower
Evangelism pretty much is the “E” word. If you are among the majority of good, church-going Christians who do not have “the gift”; who have never led another to Christ; who, if the pattern continues, probably never will; it may very well be that you have an allergy … to evangelism.
Like me, you’ve spent quality time feeling guilty about all the opportunities you pass by. Once in a while, we pastors wax eloquent on the subject from our pulpits and then go back into hiding in our offices, relating almost exclusively with believers.
Am I striking any cords here? Am I finally saying what no one’s been able to admit? Is it just me?
We know the Bible verses: Acts 1:8, Matthew 4:19 and 28:19, Mark 16:15, 2 Timothy 4:5, Romans 10:14 and more. But still we wonder: How many opportunities have I let go by? How’s my light shining? Have I ever seen someone come to faith through my influence?
Part of our problem is just how dependent we’ve become on church programs, including evangelism events and materials, to do the work for us. We’re dependent on the “professionals” (pastors, missionaries).
But there’s always that voice in the back of our head, God’s voice, saying, Hey you: You are the light of the world.
“But,” we contend, “I am not an evangelist. It’s not my gift.”
We cannot persuade, convince, love or share anybody to Jesus. We cannot save a soul.
That’s precisely why I call this “evangelism for the rest of us.” The ungifted. The untrained. The novice. Those of us not so good with words. The unpersuasive. The mother, the contractor, the athlete, the teacher, the businessman, the realtor, the soldier, the clerk, the burger flipper, the introvert. Even the pastor.
Each of us needs to grasp: We cannot persuade, convince, love or share anybody to Jesus. We cannot save a soul. The famous Great Commission—Matthew 18:18-20—offers power as well as a promise: He is going to do it and we get to go along for the ride.
God does the inviting
I’m reminded of when Jesus invited His disciples to feed the crowd of 5,000 (Matthew 14:13-21). It wasn’t because He needed a staff of servers. He could have created lunch ex nihilo, you know, like He created that other thing: the universe. Instead, Jesus used a sack lunch and some resentful fishermen because He wanted them to be part of a miracle.
Jesus was anticipating that moment of unrivaled joy when gown men stood in a circle, thousands of full-stomach-folk behind them, silly grins on 12 bearded faces and said: “Let’s do it again.” When Jesus got through with the disciples that day, they had a taste of eternity in their mouths, and now only eternity could fill their stomachs.
Just as with the loaves and fishes, God invites us to participate in the miracles He is working all over the earth as the gospel takes hold of people. Not because He needs us, but for our relationship and the thrill we’ll get in taking part in the only thing truly worth living for.
He knows, in advance, every mistake we’ll make. He will use our failures and brokenness as effectively as He uses our talents and wholeness.
It’s not about our personality, gifts, skills, training or courage. Remember, we can’t do this crazy thing God has invited us to do. God has to do it, but we get to help; He uses what we bring to the table. If we will firmly believe this, then the Great Commission becomes a “great invitation.”
What a relief. What a privilege. What a life purpose.
Imagine every believer in your city praying for the movement of God’s Spirit as they work, play and live in it. Imagine each of us considering our own “presence” as more about people finding Jesus than whatever we happen to be doing. What if we believed that praying a quick but profound prayer as a way of life would change the landscape around us?
Throughout the day, we voice what we’ve taken to calling “the five-second prayer,” containing two very important parts: “Father, please send Your Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of these people. Draw them to Jesus and make them kingdom laborers.”
I can’t help but smile when I think about people having no idea that I’m praying for them and that God is at work in them.
This prayer can focus on someone as close as your mother or as distant as the guy standing over the manhole cover. In the first part, we’re asking that God would do the heart work and bring someone from darkness to light.
Each person is on a journey, and how the Holy Spirit works to bring about salvation is a unique process. So we respect that process. We’re praying for the soil of each heart to be prepared so that the seeds of the gospel can some day be planted there and bear much fruit. As God has promised about the gospel: “In all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing” (Colossians 1:6, New American Standard Bible).
In the second half of the prayer, we are asking God to thrust someone into the ripe harvest field as a kingdom laborer (Matthew 9). If someone comes to faith but is left without vision for others, then his faith essentially dies with him.
You are an evangelist when you are praying this prayer, even as it puts all the responsibility and burden on God. And this Pray & Watch lifestyle is satisfying in a fun sort of way too. I can’t help but smile when I think about people going about their life having no idea that I’m praying for them and that God is at work in them.
We ask the Holy Spirit to go to the heart of people. If you believe He went, you’ll live with anticipation, watching for evidence of what He is doing.
Write it down. Then anticipate.
The most practical way to remember our ever-increasing number of people is to simply make a list. When we do so, we begin to see divinely appointed connections. (Read one example of such a connection at EFCA Now.)
When you share something personal regarding faith with someone on your list and you sense tension or withdrawal, you know the soil of that heart is not yet cultivated. It’s not yet ready for the planting of seeds. So just keep praying and watching. And remind yourself that you can’t save a soul; God is at work. One of these days, you’ll probably get to see the fruit of it. If not here, in heaven.
Any way you slice it, you are watching with anticipation for evidence of the invisible in the context of the visible.
What if each of us were living the Pray & Watch lifestyle—living and breathing, working and playing with respect and love for those yet to find Jesus in our circle of opportunity? Nothing else in all of life matters as much as people finding Jesus. We’re asking you not only to believe in it, but also to live in constant awareness of it.
Adapted with permission from Pray & Watch: Find what’s worth living for, by Neal and Judy Brower.
Neal and Judy Brower are disciplemakers in their neighborhood in San Francisco, California, where Neal also serves as superintendent of the EFCA Western District.