This Sunday at New Beginnings I will be preaching from Acts 8 and the story of Philip preaching Christ to the Ethiopian eunuch. Did you know that Philip is the only individual in the entire New Testament who is called "an evangelist" (Acts 21:8)? Timothy is exhorted by Paul in 2 Timothy 4:5 to "do the work of an evangelist" and fulfill his ministry as a young pastor serving God's people. God apparently gave the church certain individuals who were especially gifted to share the gospel of Jesus with the lost (Ephesians 4:11). Yet, it is clearly evident from the New Testament that the responsibility for telling others about God's love and salvation in Christ belongs to all believers, not just a select few (Mt. 28:19-20; John 20:21; Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 2:9, 3:15).
I came across some of these alarming statistics that I will be sharing in my message on Sunday:
- One report stated that 72% of Americans don't know their next door neighbors
- 95% of all Christians have never led another person to faith in Christ
- More than 80% of Christians do not consistently witness for Christ
- Less than 2% are actively involved in a ministry of evangelism
- Only about 30% of Christians regularly give financially towards world evangelization
- In 2008, only 34% of American adults identified themselves as "born again" or "evangelical" (76% of adults identified themselves as "Christian")
We all know the most common excuses for why well-intending Christian people are not more engaged in evangelism. 1) Fear of rejection - Nobody likes to be rejected, so why put yourself out there?; 2) Lack of "knowledge" - Even people who've been a part of the church their whole lives fear that they will be "stumped" by hard questions or objections to the faith, so they stay silent.; 3) "I'm not gifted that way" - Some still maintain that it's "the pastor's job" to do all the witnessing...it's not a matter of who's gifted and who's not; it's a matter of who's obedient and who's disobedient; 4) "I let my actions speak for Christ" - True, we are to live the gospel. There's no doubt that many people do a decent job of "lifestyle evangelism". However, if we do not verbally engage people with a) the reality of their sinfulness, b) the reality of a savior, and c) the need for repentance and commitment to Christ, then are we really sharing the gospel?; and 5) Complacency and Carelessness - Sharing your faith takes a great deal of time and sacrifice. Many people lament that they don't have time, etc., to witness. But, they sure have enough time to enjoy their favorite entertainments. A real understanding of God's grace and love will lead to a growing commitment to sharing these precious truths with others.
John Stott in THE LIVING CHURCH states, "...to evangelize is to make known by word and deed the love of the crucified and risen Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that people will repent, believe and receive Christ as their Savior and obediently serve him as their Lord in the fellowship of his church" (p. 47). In his book he also states that the church is the only organization in the world that exists for the benefit of its "non-members". But, is that a true reflection of our practice as the church today? How much of our time, energy, and resources are spent "on ourselves" as opposed to "reaching the lost"? How many Bible studies does one Christian need to attend in a given week (I know that may be a strange statement coming from a pastor)? Seriously though, are we ready and willing (a.k.a. obedient) to be sent into the world with the message of grace and salvation?
When was the last time you shared your faith with an unbeliever? How are you presently involved in the ministry of evangelism (beyond giving your tithe at church)? Is your study of God's Word leading you out of your comfort zone and into the places of need in your family, your workplace, or your community? What are your thoughts on this subject?