Must All Christians Evangelize?

Introduction

OK, this one could get me into trouble, so let me state this up front: I believe that the Church should practice evangelism. OK? Please don’t forget that as you read the rest. The question is whether or not “the Church” means every single member equally.

The gospel is offensive to a world that thinks it is doing just fine and doesn’t want to have to deal with a sovereign God with demands that go beyond the world’s standards. Fair enough. But there is a growing animosity toward Christians today that was not the case 20-30 years ago that is making the evangelist’s job even more difficult. For many believers this makes the prospect of “going out witnessing” even more terrifying than than just its public speaking or objection answering aspects. Yet church members continue to be berated for their discomfort (because this is thought to indicate an unloving or uncaring heart!). The remedy is often training materials or classes, and some are quite good. Yet the problem remains.

I’ll be honest, when I evangelize (in the evangelical manner) it is usually out of guilt – plain and simple. I know many others would admit to having the same motivation. Why is sharing our faith such an issue? Is it just our flesh? (It’s not that I don’t want to talk to people about the truth – in fact I enjoy it. I just don’t want to have to start the conversation!) Is it fear of man? (For me at least it is not simply a lack of courage. I’d take on a room full of angry atheists over handing out tracts or knocking on doors  any day of the week!) Do we just need better techniques? (A lot of us don’t like knocking on doors or approaching perfect strangers for any reason, so no matter how good the latest method seems it’s still very uncomfortable and unnatural – like something is just wrong with the situation.)

Hmmmmm.

Sowing vs. Reaping

I have been doing some reading on evangelism that compares harvesting to sowing. Harvesting refers to the “soul winning” and focuses on the person who actually leads someone to belief in Jesus Christ. Sowing is the work done to prepare someone to come to faith and focuses on the work of the “pre-evangelist” (apologists, cultural influencers, friends, etc.). This is a biblical comparison (Jn. 4:35-38). The author’s argument is that the American Church’s typical evangelistic strategies are based on an outdated model that was only successful during a time when the fields were ripe. In other words, when America was a Christian-friendly nation (because of previous sowing), evangelism as an activity could be limited to harvesting – and the techniques of evangelism reflected that.

The time to begin re-sowing was reached nearly a generation ago but because the harvest was still going so well no one noticed. As the field began to show signs of barrenness, instead of preparing the ground for the next harvest time the Church simply asked for more (or better) harvesters. Meanwhile the world was busy sowing. It quietly undermined the foundations of Christianity so that today we are trying to harvest the “world’s field” so to speak. The typical non-Christian today is biblically illiterate, not open to absolute truth claims, and is sometimes even hostile to Christianity. Perhaps it is time to change tactics. Evangelistic strategy needs to be matched to the current cycle. If we don’t start sowing soon there may be no harvest in the future – and all the harvesters in the world won’t change that.

But many in the Church today still only see “true” evangelism as a proclamation / confrontation. After all, “gospel” and “evangel” are actually from the same root word – thus one is not truly evangelizing unless the gospel (e.g., 1 Cor. 15:1-11) is proclaimed right? So the goal is simply to get the word out and the job is done – what the hearer does with it is his problem. Now, this position assumes something that, just for fun, I’d like to question. The assumption is that all Christians are commanded to evangelize. (Before reading on, please remember my disclaimer from sentence one!). A good idea at this point might be to ask where we get this idea from (and maybe what evangelism even means).

Where We Get the Idea

In my typically academic manner I turned to that great bastion of scholarship, Google, and typed: “Are all Christians commanded to evangelize?” I read every web page on the initial search results page and found that discovering a universal command to evangelize is not as easy as one might think.

The Great Commission is often at the top of the list.

The first major issue that is often glossed over is that this commission was given to the disciples, not to any churches. Thus, an argument has to be made for universal application. But most of the time writers simply assert their conclusion: “Since the Great Commission is given to all Christians . . . (fill in the writer’s view of the Great Commission).” Argumentation is rarely offered as to how this command to the disciples equates to a general command to the Church.

It is also revealing that it is almost always the Mt. 28:18-20 version of the Great Commission and not Mk. 16:15-18 that is cited as a proof text (see also Luke’s version of the Great Commission: Acts 1:4-8 cf. Lk. 24:44-49). Are all Christians supposed to follow all these commands and have these miraculous expectations as well? Answering “no” would not seem to be out of line as there are plenty of specific commands that Jesus gave to the disciples that individual members of the Church feel free to ignore (practically if not theoretically). Here these include actually performing baptisms and discipling people. Of course, dereliction in some areas would not excuse further negligence – but it does call into question why only this command to the disciples is generalized to every member of the Church when the rest are not.

Finally, when argument is given for making this into a universal command it is usually based on the idea that the Great Commission was not fulfilled in the lives of the disciples. But this is debatable – more than once in the New testament the gospel is said to have gone worldwide (e.g., Rom. 1:8; 16:19; Col. 1:6, 23). So “world” here seems to indicate something less than the planet. Even if this were not the case, and should the disciples  not be considered failures, this might make it seem as though it simply MUST be generalized. But this does not do a lot for the issue, because a generalized version of the command does not necessarily have to go to every member of the Church – it might (as I will mention again below) just go to the evangelists.

The second major problem is that the word “evangelize” is not used in the Great Commission. The command is to “make disciples.” Of course, in order to be made a disciple one has to have a Christian to work with, which means that at some point evangelism had to take place. But that does not necessarily mean that every phase of the process is every disciplers’ job. Technically, someone who never shared the gospel even once, but who stepped in right after people’s conversions and taught them would be fulfilling this command. Thus, the Great Commission does not seem to require that all Christians practice typical “evangelism” (even if the command is generalized to all Christians in the first place).

Other Proof Texts

  • John 15:2 says nothing of evangelism. It is pure speculation that bearing fruit is “winning souls” and actually does not fit the context at all.
  • Rom. 10:14-15 is specifying Jewish missions, not the world’s. Further, it is stated that in order to hear someone must be sent. If someone (rather than all) is sent then others are not. And this is what the Church did – it sent missionaries, not every single person in the Church. If nothing else, this scenario fits the evangelize-when-gifted view so it cannot be used against it.
  • 1 Pt. 2:9 commands believers to proclaim God’s praises – this is not like typical evangelism methods.
  • 1 Pt. 3:15 commands believers to give an answer to those who ask – a rare method indeed!
  • 3 Jn. 5-8 is not praising Gaius for evangelizing (nor commanding him to do so), but for helping those who were evangelizing.

Now, bad arguments or misused proof texts do not make a conclusion false; but the fact that these seem to be the best people can come up with to support the idea that every Christian must be an evangelist (again, in the usual sense) make me wonder if maybe we’re missing something.

Spiritual Gifts seem to present something of hurdle as well. Some will point out that evangelism is a gift that not all believers have been given, and so reason that not all Christians need to practice evangelism. Now, it is clear that God commands certain people to do certain things based on their giftedness:

  • Acts 6:2-3 And the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.” But select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.
  • Rom. 12:3-4 . . . we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function.
  • 1 Cor. 12:7 To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the benefit of all.
  • Eph. 4:11-12 It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ.
  • 1 Pt. 4:10 Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of the varied grace of God.

The usual response is that Christians are still commanded to do things outside their specific gifting (like giving), so not being gifted as an evangelist is no excuse for not evangelizing (especially if there is a command somewhere that all Christians do so). But there are a few problems with this response.

First, in this particular gift list (Eph. 4:11-12) Paul is naming offices – not simply spiritual motivations or skills. No one makes the argument that all Christians should teach, prophesy, or pastor churches! Yet these offices are included in the same list. (Note also that evangelist and pastor are not the same gift, although these seem to be confused on Evangelical circles. In truth, evangelism ability is not listed in the requirements for an elder or deacon – see 1 Tim. and Titus).

Second, are these gifts given for building up believers or making people into believers? The specific reason these particular gifts are given is to “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ.” What need is there for a gifted evangelist among those who have already believed? It may be that the gifted evangelist is a trainer too – one who helps believers evangelize. It all depends on what evangelism is, doesn’t it?

What Is Evangelism?

Maybe what we have been taught to think of as evangelism is too narrow a definition. Perhaps the activity of evangelism is a process that includes both preparation and proclamation. Neither Jesus nor Paul “evangelized” at every opportunity. In fact, for the last half of Jesus’ ministry He kept away from the unbelieving crowds (even discouraged understanding for some – see Mk. 4:10-11) and focused on discipling the twelve. Paul spent years at some churches training them before he left on other missionary journeys. Yet one would hardly claim that Jesus and Paul were not evangelists!

If evangelism as a general practice is more than just the last step (harvesting), then both proclamation and preparation (sowing) are important and might give rise to different giftings. And if the harvester and sower have different gifts, and thus different responsibilities, then the roles of the both should be equally encouraged, taught, and supported by the Church.

This is not to say that a sower coming upon ripe fruit should not know how to harvest it – but the opposite is true as well. Harvesters that do not know how to sow may be attempting to pick fruit that is not yet ripe (and note the potential result in Jesus’ other comparison of evangelism and farming in Mk. 4:3-9). For although the harvester gets more accolades (although he shouldn’t – Jn. 4:37-38) and perhaps more satisfaction, in the end both will rejoice together (Jn. 4:36).

Conclusion

This does not mean that any Christian should simply decide to not share the faith. What it does mean is that one is not necessarily in sin for not doing so at any given time. It also means that no particular means of evangelism is required. God has many means to reach the lost, and He does not need us to save the lost (in fact, I think evangelism helps the evangelizer).

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35 thoughts on “Must All Christians Evangelize?

  1. I agree. I think each Christian has a special calling/area within the Body. Personally, I feel called to work toward Christian unity by helping Protestants enter full communion with the Catholic Church (how un-PC is that?!). But others feel called to evangelize–in one way or another–atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, or even to particular countries/regions (I had a good friend who had great gifts with speaking to Chinese and Korean people).

    Further, speaking of sowing/reaping, within the Catholic Church exist many contemplative and even cloistered orders whose sole purpose is prayer for the world/for priests/for atheists/for missionaries, etc. Their hidden lives are often thought to do more for evangelization than the “active”/apostolic work of other Christians.

    I also think you’re right that we have to take into consideration the state of our society/prevalent attitudes when deciding how to evangelize. Door-to-door cold calling may not be the best way. Maybe we should look longer term and figure out how to sow during this time.

    Finally, I read in Anglican scholar Alister McGrath’s book that the Reformers interpreted the Great Commission as having already been completed by the Apostles and their disciples, which was why Protestants for centuries didn’t evangelize (except trying to convert Catholics of course). So while St. Francis Xavier was leaving the European shores for Asia to bring the Gospel there, the great Protestants were making no efforts to do the same. Now that has radically changed, but McGrath said it is a relatively recent phenomenon within Protestantism, starting from around the 1800s.

  2. You mentioned people sometimes not wanting to start the conversation. I usually think beginning with a movie is a great way to begin the conversation. Someone should write a book about it.

  3. Brother -

    For a guy who was nailed by a chimneysweep, your short article is somewhat puzzling. Evangelists herald the euaggelion. They are a gift. However, chimneysweeps can do the same, with individuals, with a mix of apologia. I suppose that you got progressively more stupid as you advanced in your “philosophical” studies.

    In this day, the entree is easy -”How are things going”? “How about the latest war”? “How long have you been unemployed”? “How about japan now being uninhabitable?” “How about those two flooded nuke plants in Nebraska, on the Missouri River?” Or, one could simply ask if they know Messiah Yeshua/Christ Jesus. With Muslims, one merely need ask “How bout them Jews”? Conversation started.

    I had written more, but I don”t regard your article as serious, so I shelved the “more”. You CV doesn’t mention that you are a sissy. You might want to add that.

    Paulus mentioned an obligation, a debt to others (lost others, especially Jews). If you are not a debtor, you obviously do not understand what God has done through His Son.

    I’ll still call you “Brother”.

    You have MS13 in your city, and many others who have no hope. Kefa Sempangi in Uganda had an Amin assassin stick a rifle in his gut and calmly tell him that he was going to kill him. Kefa began preaching the GoodNews (that’s all he had) and the assassin believed and confessed his belief. He had murdered hundreds of men. He became one of the leaders in the church. Have the courage at least of a Hadassah. Just remember to ask Uncle Mordecai for instructions before you act. Gideon was a sissy too. We all have sissy moments. But, that is foolishness. How can “dead” men be sissies?

  4. Alan,

    I usually dismiss rude, ignorant, illogical comments – but your response to my post so perfectly illustrates the problem in evangelicalism that I was addressing that I thought I’d let everyone see it in all its glory. In repsonse I have four points:

    First, there is absolutely no inconsistency in my being evangelized by a chimney sweep and my position that not every Christian is an evangelist. If you see a problem there you will have to make your case. Not all Christians with the gift of evangelism are paid professionals. The only thing I can figure is that you are confused over the difference between being an evangelist (by gifting) and simply presenting and defending the gospel. Since the chimney sweep defended the gospel he was obeying the command (to ALL believers, gifts not-withstanding) to be able to do so. If you would like to show me an equivalent command to ALL believers (again gifts not-withstanding) to evangelize, I’d be happy to have a look.

    Second, calling me stupid and a sissy and implying that I am a coward is simply uncalled for. You do not know me, and bet you’d be a lot less likely to say these sorts of things if you had to actually face me in a conversation (anonymity makes a lot of cowards appear brave). You clearly do not share the common and perfectly understandable discomfort (at least online) that most socially aware people have, given that you wrote a response like yours in the first place. Oftentimes the “gift of evangelism” is confused with a mere lack of decorum. Do not confuse my temperance with regard to awkward social interactions with lack of zeal. I have placed myself in posiitons that would make many people sick to their stomachs to have to face, and I do this gladly when my gifting can be used. My disagreement with you on appropriate methods of obeying the command to make disciples and defend the faith is not an indicator of cowardice.

    Third, I doubt very seriously that you would have responded with such rancor had I written the same article on any other spiritual gift. Would you have called me a sissy for not asserting that all Christians had to be administrators? Would you have thought me a coward if I wrote that not all Christians needed to prophesy? Would I be in the right to call you stupid because you cannot do what I am gifted to do for the Body of Christ? Of course not. But you, like most evangelicals, universalize the gift of evangelism without warrant is. If you have a principled, scriptural reason to do so then let’s see it.

    Finally, your name-calling is clearly in violation of Mt. 7:1 , and slipping in the ridiculously self-serving “I’ll still call you “Brother” does nothing to change that. Perhaps in the future you should try obeying actual commands first, and be more careful when judging others for not fulfilling your view of non-commands.

  5. Interesting. In my reading of Lumen Gentium it seems to be the view that the Great Commission was given to the Apostles and their successors. Thus, it seems to be another position altogether. I am not sure that the Great Commission can be legitimately universalized to just any believer (one reason why it’s always the Mt. 28 version and not Mk. 16 that is universalized!). Thus, keeping the command as a given to the Apostles and their successors might be a good way to recognize that it is not completely fulfilled, but that this fact does not warrant a simple universalization to all believers.

    As to the Protestant view – I think that since there are indicators that the gospel had indeed gone into the whole world in Paul’s time (Col. 1:5-6, 23; Rom. 1:8; etc.) there must be some recognition that the Apostles accomplished their commission. This does not mean that disciple making can cease, for the world continues on, but this fact alone does not justify universalizing the Great Commission to every single believer (and it certainly does not justify confusing disciple-making with evangelism).

  6. I feel strongly about charity and evangelism in the third-world. I like the idea that for less money and time, we can really make a difference in people’s lives — and we all only have so much time and resources. I’d advise most people to simply support the gifted workers and extroverted, likeable evangelists that are already in these areas, rather than go there themselves to try and do these things (I don’t believe in these costly, short trips some people/groups sometimes make… often, the cost of their plane tickets alone can be put to better use). I’m involved with Compassion Canada (they also have the Compassion International organization), and I find them a great agency for giving children aid, self-sustainance education, and faith. Now it would seem that a deeply rooted atheist or non-believer, are not likely to change by our efforts and that our time is better spent elsewhere. These people have had choice, and have chosen to reject Christ, and many have backed up their beliefs with many deep, ingrained fallacies on top of that. These strong holds need prayer, but as far as action goes, it’s very difficult to imagine where to start.

  7. (continued)

    Youth, as well, are much more open to evangelism. Around 75% of Christians become so before reaching adulthood.

    @Alan, please make your points in a more polite manner. Thank-you.

  8. Many christians are burdened with guilt because they are continually lambasted for not “winning souls” even if they share the gospel but did not get a positive response ie. they did not get the sinner to say the sinners prayer, I believe the case you make in this article is enlightening and could help relieve many christians and release them into their giftings and make them much more productive. I believe there divine appointments ref. John 4:1-38. whereby God brings people across our path who are “ripe for harvest” so that a christian who is descipled and sensitive to the spirit of God (om 8:14) can just reap the harvest. I believe we must be prepared and be alert to this moments and exploit it to the max rather than trying “to win souls” or save souls. what about this verse about God demanding peoples blood from us because we did not evangelise? help me with that!

  9. Mr. Arthur, Thanks for the response. There is no verse that demands blood for those who do not evangelize. Perhaps you have been told that this is taught in Ezekiel 3:18 (“If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.”) But this is a command to Ezekiel, not a general command to be universalized to all believers. This is easily shown by the context – are all Christians supposed to eat a scroll (vss. 1-3)? Are Christians only to go to Israel (vs. 4-6)? Clearly not. Thus, this verse is not dealing with evangelization by Christians. Rather, this is a specific word to Ezekiel the prophet regarding that particular situation.

  10. Hi Doug, thanks for thinking abt it, made me think abt it, too.

    To evangelize or not to evangelize, that is the question!

    Isn’t it pride if we think we’re the ones who are to decide? Shouldn’t God be the one to decide? Listen to the audio Total Surrender by Corrie ten Boom (on the internet) on how to get filled to the brim by the Holy Spirit so that He can decide and you won’t have to!

    Getting there can take time, in the meantime this could also apply: We love to receive, through Jesus, salvation, deliverance and healing for ourselves. And we put time and effort into acquiring them for our own benefit. Now, if we are to love our fellow human beings as ourselves (Mt 22:39), then shouldn’t we want our fellow human beings to acquire salvation, deliverance and healing as well? And put time and effort into THEM acquiring those gifts?

    If we are believers we must be able to take care of the deliverance and healing part for them, because: ‘… these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; ‘…..they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover (Mt 16:17,18).

    On the internet you can find hundreds of youtube video’s of christians doing just that! Google youtube and ‘street healing’, ‘street healers’, ‘healing on the streets’ (or even: healing in the grocery store) etcetera. By the way, you will hear most of healers sharing the Good News before or after the healing (in Jesus’ name). They also state that THEY are not the ones who are doing the healing (you don’t have to have a ‘gift’ for healing, just be a believer).

  11. Hi Doug,

    I must say that I was skeptical of the article at first, but you do bring up some good points. I don’t think that I am convinced at this point, that is, I still feel that all Christians have the order (I would dare say, the privilege) to share the gospel, but I do appreciate your candor and scripture filled article.

    The thing that I keep coming back to is: “How can someone believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven and NOT have a desire to share their faith?” That one still boggles me. It seems to me that evangelism (in whatever form it may take) would be a natural outpouring of a changed heart. In the words of the atheist, Penn Gelette: “How much do you have to hate someone to believe that they are headed to hell and NOT tell them about it?”

    I don’t know. A lot to think about.

    God bless,

    Neil

  12. I think it is better to make a distinction between “sharing one’s faith” or (to use something closer to biblical commands) “being witnesses,” and “being an evangelist.” We can be just as fruitful for the Kingdom by being good witnesses as we can running around “witnessing.” (I, for example, have been far more influenced by the witness of believer’s lives than gospel tracts or street preachers.) It’s the formalization of witnessing that bothers me, as some method is always equated with evangelizing (“If you don’t do X, then you aren’t evangelizing.”). This is where I think the gift vs. the general position of the believer gets confused. The practices most people are uncomfortable with are not just talking about their faith – it’s the artificial methods demanded by certain kinds of evangelists that are uncomfortable. But some people are energized by such things, so good for them – have at it if you think it’s a good thing. But then to strong-arm people into thinking that if they aren’t banging on doors or substituting tips with tracts at restaurants or tackling every person they see on the street they aren’t fulfilling the great commission is just goofy. I know people who have been taken in by this kind of thinking, trying to apply completely unrealistic analogies (e.g., someone about to get run over by a truck) to everyone they see. The best one I knew burned out in a couple years and barely came through as a believer. This mindset is a product of 19th Century american revivalism – no one acted like that in Scripture and there are no commands to do so. I think it is a lack of trust in God’s providence and a pragmatic understanding of evangelism that is to blame.

  13. Hi All
    Matthew 22 37 and 39 Jesus answers the question as to which is the greatest commandment ” You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and the second is like it you shall love your neighbour as yourself . The Parable of the good Samaritan tells us who is neighbour, Therefore all Christians in demonstrating their love for neigbour(all in need of your help) would of necessity be required to tell all persons in need of salvation the good news of the Gospel . by whatever means or opportunity that the Holy Spirit affords them so to do .
    Blessings

  14. I think this is a good article, thank you for sharing it I have found in all honesty one of the worst things about being a Christian is sharing the faith. I have spent over 35 years doing so with very very little success. It has alienated some people also. So I am left wondering whether the best thing is to love people, work hard, be a good example – and if someone ASKS me why, then I will tell them. But to constantly feeling the pressure and guilt of “witnessing” almost makes it unsavoury to be a Christian (sure be GREAT if all this witnessing and evangelizing led to conversions – unfortunately it doesn’t)

  15. Evangelism is proclaiming the gospel, sharing one’s faith, witnessing for Christ, both sowing and reaping included. The only fix method is telling others about Christ. As you have said, sowers must know how to reap. If a Christian should or must participate in the sowing, he should likewise participate in the reaping, just as what actual farmers or laborers in the farm are doing in reality. There is no need to look for what verse exactly commands all Christians to evangelize, it is already given and/or understood by several words or teachings by the Lord Jesus and His apostles. This is clearly understood by the fact that Christians are members of the body of Christ, and that we have Christ and must put on Christ. If we have Christ and putting on Christ, then we and and all Christians should do the work of Christ. That’s Christ in us doing the business of His Father, who is also our Father.

    Further more, it is what we call “paying back” and/or “paying forward”. If in the actual field laborers sow and reap for the pay, Christians should do it for what they have already received, their salvation. If Christians should be ready and be willing to sacrifice even their lives for Christ to the point of death, just being incovenienced by mere talking and sharing the gospel is a very small thing or a very small price to pay when compared.

  16. The problem I see is the confusion about what it means to be an evangelist, or to be a witness. Some helpful distinctions have been made in the comments about evangelism and witness, but it must be pointed out that modern understandings of evangelism have been more molded by men like Charles Finney than by Scripture. Notice, there is no place, other than in sermonic form to crowds, where there was ever an encounter with any individual – anywhere in the Bible – where a list of Gospel essentials were listed like some Amway presentation then followed up with a clinching sinner’s prayer. Nothing of the sort extists anywhere in the Bible. Yet, this is exactly what people think evangelism is! Its nuts! Evangelism has become some sales presentation as opposed to ministry to a person’s soul. We are to minister to people, speak words of hope and peace about Jesus, not try to sell them a narrative that depicts our favorite Gospel ideals. Evangelism properly done looks more like Jesus’ ministry to individuals through the Gospels – maybe not so many miraculous fireworks – but will certainly reek much less of used carsalesman attempts at shaming and manipulating people into agreeing with our understanding of 1century history.

  17. Being a person who can talk about God, Jesus and how my life changed dramatically at my baptism, I would guess that I am an evangelist by nature. I have shared my faith out of guilt in the past, but now I am more inclined to do so because I see people who are harassed by this life and their own choices as I once was. My husband and many of my friends are completely intimidated by speaking to others about God and inviting people to church. I see myself as an ambulance and Church as the hospital and those at church as the more advanced care. I have the gift of gab and I am bold, but I lack a lot of skills that can meet a person’s needs. Everyone should strive to see the needs in this world. It will make us all more like Jesus. As for what I call cold contact sharing, some times it works for me, some times no. Door to door has never worked for me that I remember. No one should feel pushed into sharing, rather a person should share out compassion and by faith while relying on the Holy Spirit. All should remember the example of the good Samaritan and the 2 greatest commands… Love God and love your neighbor as your self- not out of guilt, but to Glorify God and to mature in Christ.

  18. Dava,

    Thank you for your thoughts, I think they are right on point. Everyone has different gifts and our sharing of our faith will reflect that. Thanks so much!

  19. Do you think the reason the Matthew rendition of the “Great Commission” is preferred over Mark’s is because the authenticity of the verses after Mark 16:9 are disputable and possibly added by later church fathers?

  20. Hi. I’m preparing to do a Bible study on Col. 4:2-6 and it occurred to me that Paul was asking for prayers for himself in declaring Christ but not directly telling the Colossian church to do so themselves but instead be able to “answer each person.” So I wondered where the direct command for all Christians to evangelize was and went back to the Great Commission in Matthew. When I read it was given to the disciples, I thought about it some more and when I noted the part where Jesus says “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”, well, this would naturally include the preceding command to go and make disciples (which includes not just discipling after someone becomes a follower of Christ but also sharing the Gospel so that discipleship can happen). And if there was no one more suitable to do so, I think I can definitely baptize another believer, layperson that I am.

  21. Aravis,

    I think that the answer lies in what the apostles actually ended up teaching. They were given special roles that their disciples would not take (All are not apostles, are they? 1 Cor. 12:29). So part of what they were teaching was what people with different gifts / roles were to do. As it turns out, it seems that they did in fact include evangelism, but not of the miraculous apostolic sort. I think that evangelism is indexed to one’s gifts. To the more prophetically gifted, maybe it’s standing on a street corner or going door-to-door, to the more service oriented, maybe it’s working in a soup kitchen. As long as we don’t try to force the individual members of the body of Christ into one form we’re OK.

  22. Hi, interesting article.

    What do you make of examples, in Scripture, of people being changed by Christ and then going out and sharing that change with others?

    The woman at the well is one of the most clear examples, of course (John 4:21-42)–verse 39 says (KJV): “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.” It continues with more coming to believe after meeting with Christ himself, from her testimony.

    The believers that were scattered by Saul’s persecution “went everywhere preaching the word.” (Acts 8:4)

    I wouldn’t be quick to discount what the Old Testament has to say about proclaiming God’s works and truths to believers and unbelievers alike. (Psalm 40–particularly verse 3; Isaiah 6:8-13–this one is interesting…it does not seem like a particular “gifting”…it is willingness on the part of Isaiah…workers needed for the harvest? Also, about the Isaiah passage, it is quoted by Jesus in the parable of the sower)

    BTW (sorry, I’ve thrown this response out in an unorganized way, but its late and I want to go to bed haha):

    Romans 10–what about verse 12? It seems like it is not necessarily a specific call to Jewish evangelism.

    Lastly, I feel like it is a common thread in the Scriptures of God putting at fault those who, knowing of a coming calamity, do not warn those who are unaware of it, while also being pleased with those who do attempt to warn others (Noah, Lot, Jonah, Rahab). I would see some of the more vague verses in the New Testament through that light: Paul’s thing about being free of the blood of others (Acts 20:26), for example. Or Paul’s assumption of Philemon’s sharing of his faith (Philemon 1:6).

  23. David,

    Excellent thoughts, thank you. What I was getting at was not that all Christians need not be witnesses in some way – rather that we are not all Evangelists by gifting / vocation. Again note that Paul credited the Philippians for their work in the gospel when what they were actually doing was supporting him financially. The title of the article was meant to get attention – it was more in response to those who think that full-contact evangelism is the only legitimate purpose of being a Christian. There are lots of ways to witness though – teaching, preaching, helping the poor, etc. It is not just the Billy Grahams and door knockers who are fulfilling their responsibility.

  24. That’s true. That was the clear message in your article. I meant to touch on that with the last paragraph I wrote, but I didn’t make my point clear. I don’t know if the importance of individual, verbal sharing of God’s Word (particularly of man’s coming condemnation, and God’s grace and means of salvation) should be diminished at all. Knowing the truth and speaking it, is a concept the Bible supports pretty thoroughly I think.

    For example, if the woman at the well had stopped committing adultery…perhaps the man she was currently with may have asked why she decided against it. Or if she showed kindness and mercy to those around her, people may have eventually began seeking God in some way. However, her choice to spread the Word of what Jesus had done for her, directly led to many meeting with Christ–a thing of great pleasure to God, who is not willing that any should perish.

    I think it is certainly true that there are some that God has called to travel from place to place teaching the Word, and others that He has called to live a godly life, show His light to a dark world, and perhaps raise a God-fearing and honorable family. But if a believer is aware of others near him/her, who do not know of the Truth, and who are living in sin, I think it may be unwise to tell Christians that it may not be their duty to verbally and clearly inform them of the situation, in love.

    There are so many people around me that do not know the gospel, that I could spend all day sharing the gospel and do nothing else. I know that if we use the “warning people that the building is on fire” example, the question will be raised as to what point we must stop warning people and live our own life. I honestly don’t know the answer to that. I just know that if God lays an individual on my heart that is near me at the coffee stand or in the park, then I pray, and then go talk to them. I feel like that is the very lowest expectation of how a Christian should behave. I have found that the more I am in His Word, and the more I seek His face, the more people my heart makes me aware of (perhaps being filled with His Spirit enables us to see the world more through His eyes?).

  25. Also, there is a pretty clear thread of God using people who do not have the talents to necessarily carry out the task He has given them, of course. Whether some of us are, with great ease, able to speak to strangers, or some of us an ability to speak with clarity and power that others do not possess, doesn’t necessarily change our duty to God or others.

    If some of us have a gift of a merciful spirit that readily shows compassion and hospitality to others, doesn’t mean he/she should not verbally share the gospel as well, though it may be more difficult for them, any more than one who is an Evangelist shouldn’t learn to be hospitable and kind to others even if its not necessarily in their nature (perhaps Jonah could be an example–mercy wasn’t his gift?).

    What do you think of this?

    P.S. I am not a bold speaker by nature, and have forced myself to go speak to others, despite my annoying lisp and habit of mumbling. Nonetheless, when speaking of the gospel, it is amazing to see a person that is speaking to me, interacting with the Spirit of the Lord instead, and being convicted by Truth, not the presentation of it. I would strongly recommend boldness in the Gospel as being a discipline more than a gift.

  26. Well, I am also not convinced that “silent witnesses” are really doing evangelism – not until they talk at least. :) (And before anyone misquotes St. Francis – no, he did not say that!). My issue is that all of these same arguments could be used for any other gifting, so why is evangelism the only one that ever is? All of this might sound very intuitive – but where is the biblical command? I have yet to see one. Further, the burning building ideal seems clearly flawed. No one in the Bible acted like evangelism and saving people from a burning building were analogous – otherwise no one would ever do anything else, ever! Not even Jesus or Paul (clearly archetypical evangelists) acted as if this were the situation. While I can appreciate people’s feelings on the matter, that is simply not a biblical attitude. God will get the job done through whomever or whatever means he wills – he is not bound by our actions. Like I said, I do think evangelism in general is something all Christians ought to be involved with, but that is a different thing than saying all must be evangelists proper.

  27. Reading this very thoughtful and well-written article and (all but one of) the responses was very helpful! I’ve been grappling with the same concerns. Paul’s “heart’s desire” was for his own people to know the righteousness God had provided in Christ. I WANT to want the gospel blessings God wants for others….but it remains for me an aspiration easily dulled by shyness, fear and inertia. (and a kind of depression triggered by things like that one response—-is THAT typical of the “religion” I’d like to “sell” to anyone?!). So thanks to all who reasoned together about this important matter. May God help us all “shine” for him in whatever ways he wants. I don’t know re: methods—but i think we all know when we’re drawn to someone who seems to live in and from Jesus’ love. Signed—-one who admits being a bit of a sissy and a coward!

  28. Pingback: Stupidity is Not Spirituality | Soul Device

  29. Pingback: Biblical Arguments for Arguing Biblically | Soul Device

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