I found myself in Brazil in a huge well-known city. We were busy training pastors on how to plant churches. Well BASIC FACT: It is impossible to plant a church without EVANGELISM. Great was my surprise after the training session as we were getting ready to go out on the streets and do EVANGELISM. Pastor after pastor confronted me as I asked them to put into practice what we just taught. “Impossible”, they said. “Do you mean we have to go out on the streets? We as pastors? Right now?” They were theologically educated and sophisticated. They had struggling churches but were astonished as I challenged them to go out in the city. I didn’t give in and took them by the hand into the city. Most didn’t know how to interact with a lost soul. Many didn’t know how to start a conversation, although I just taught them how to use a evangelism model that worked extremely well. I gave them 2 hours and in the process 67 souls were saved. They were amazed! One pastor came to me afterwards and said: “I didn’t know as pastor that I was supposed to evangelize someone. My senior pastor never told me …. neither did the seminary who trained me.” I could see his unbelief …. and his tears.
As Christians, we hear all the time about how important it is to tell others about Jesus. Your pastor or small group leader tells you how the Bible says to go make disciples. They use the first Christians as examples, the way they devoted their lives to giving the Gospel to new people.
But do you really think evangelism is important? And if you do, does your life reflect that? Do your priorities, your actions, your words show you think your life is not only about your own faith, but also about others’? And even more than that, does your heart know this is what it’s all about?
The numbers say we don’t. We don’t think it’s important. Because we’re not doing it. Less than 2 percent of Christians are involved in evangelism. Only 30 percent contribute to it financially. Only 3 percent of people in full-time ministry work with unreached people groups.
Sure, we’ve got excuses. People might think we’re weird. People around us aren’t open for people telling them what to believe in. They are used to choosing their own truth, to believing what suits them most, so we don’t want to be the dark, controlling people that bring something we claim is truth. We don’t want to be the old-fashioned people who think we need a God to be happy. We don’t want do be judges telling others they’re sinners.
And it’s difficult. As soon as we start a conversation about faith we get questions and arguments thrown at us that are difficult to answer. And just explaining the basics in Christianity can be challenging to a lot of us. Where do we start? What can we say so the people listening see Jesus and not just a system and words? Do we even have the right to tell people a message that can turn their lives upside down?
And sometimes it’s hard to know if evangelism is worth the effort. It’s hard enough to keep our own Christian lives going, and being part of a church takes time and energy as well. Are we supposed to challenge ourselves and meet non-christians with the Gospel in addition to all of this?
With all these questions and excuses, the low numbers aren’t surprising. But they should still challenge us. It should hurt, because this is not the way it’s supposed to be. The Bible doesn’t tell us to go evangelize only if we feel like it and everything else makes it possible. The Bible tells us to go make disciples. Period.
The solution for this, I think, is not to tell ourselves, as Christians, how we should pull ourselves together and do what God wants us to do. We don’t need another church outreach program or to force ourselves to have a daily conversation with a stranger about Jesus. What we need to do is to get God’s heart for evangelism.
The thing is, God’s not after our efforts or initiatives. He’s not after the good words and the good deeds. He’s after our hearts. He wants our hearts to beat for the people who have never heard a word from the Bible. He wants our hearts to be filled with love and longing for the people we see on the street. He wants our hearts to break for the young adults that decide to leave the church they grew up in. Because that’s what His heart does. That’s where it all has to start.
Paul is a great example when it comes to being a missionary with your heart. He reveals his longing in Romans 10:1 “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.”
When we see other people, is our heart’s desire and prayer to God for them that they may be saved? Or do we see them as a project, as a challenging relationship, as somebody who’s attention and affection we need to receive?
In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul shares some of the motivation and background for his heart for mission. The first motivation, in verse 11, is perhaps the most surprising. “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.”
Fear. Paul is motivated by fear. That doesn’t sound right, but it is. Because Paul knows the reality of life, the fact that God is holy and is going to judge us some day, he sees how important mission is.
The second we start neglecting the facts of eternity, mission becomes less important. The minute our mission becomes only about doing good in people’s lives today, we’re missing something. It’s about eternity.
But that’s not all. In verse 14 and 15 Paul says, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
This shows Paul is also motivated by love. By the love he has experienced together with Jesus Christ—the love Christ showed when He died on a cross for all of us. Paul knows the answer to all our needs, both our needs in eternity and our needs today are met in Jesus. And he can’t keep this knowledge and experience of Jesus to himself.
He says in verse 20 and 21, “therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
We need to remember there is an eternity. We need to remember what Jesus did for all of us on the cross. And we need let that touch our hearts, so we can see the people around us the way Paul did, the way Jesus does: praying and longing that they will be saved. Because God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4).
So whether your life screams evangelism, or you’ve never talked to anyone about the Gospel, we all have to go to Jesus in prayer every day. We have to pray for Him to touch, change and fill our hearts so we feel our hearts break when we hear of people who have never heard the Gospel.
So that maybe, some day, we can say our strongest longing next to being God’s child is seeing others come to share the same wonderful faith and identity in Him.