I’ve heard it said before:
“He just has the gift of evangelism.”
And it’s famous counterpart:
“God just didn’t give me the gift of evangelism.”
On one hand I could probably agree with the unknown speaker of these hypothetical situations if I were to know the non-existent subjects of whom they spoke…but on the other hand I would want to press into what it was they were saying.
What is Evangelism?
Evangelism is the process of verbally sharing the full picture of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That doesn’t mean that evangelism is only verbal. It also doesn’t mean that the whole gospel needs presented in one fell swoop. But it does mean that evangelism is rooted in the verbal and necessary communication of the gospel and our needed belief in it.
Evangelism as a Gift?
It is also clear that God, in his great mercy, has given certain people specific “gifts” in the field of evangelism. In Ephesians 4:11, Paul is speaking about the skill sets that God has given the church. Among them are apostles, prophets, shepherds, teachers and evangelists. Some people were teachers, some were evangelists, but all labored to equip the saints for growth in Christ (Eph 4:11-13). Philip and Timothy are both referred to as “evangelists,” or someone who does the work of an “evangelist” (Acts 21:8, 2 Tim 4:5). Over the years I have ran into people who seem to leak evangelistic charisma. God has gifted certain people with a personality and an uncanny ability to evangelize. I am not one of them.
In my life as a Christian, I have taken more spiritual gift inventories than you can shake a stick at: “Evangelism” has never been one of my areas of strength. Now as a pastor, who loves to preach, I love to proclaim the glory of God through words. But sharing from behind a pulpit and sharing across the table are two completely different things for me. Here is the catch: even though I have not received an extreme “gift” in evangelism, I still have the gift of evangelism. What we Christians possess is nothing short of the greatest gift the world has ever seen.
We have been brought from darkness into light. Once we were not a people, but now we are a people. Once we had not received mercy, but now we have received mercy. Reflecting on this transformation Peter says; “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
God purchased us with the blood of Christ so that we may proclaim his excellencies. Even though evangelism may not come natural to me, or even easy to me, I am an evangelist. You see, what we know about God is greater than what we know about ourselves. I am an introvert, but introverts don’t get a hall pass on gospel proclamation. Moses had a stutter. David had a closet full of skeletons. Matthew was a swindler. Paul was a murderer. But Jesus made them proclaimers. Why? Because the message is greater than the messenger. God takes sinners, fills them with his truth, and unleashes them on the world.
I want to affirm people who are visibly gifted in evangelism. I am grateful for them. They are in my church, and in my ministries, and they thrill my heart. But I don’t want us to use the “gifting” of evangelism as a label which allows the non-gifted a pass on gospel proclamation. Because of the good news we possess in our hearts, we preach Christ.
For those of you who have been given the gift of the gospel, I want to encourage you in the innate gift of evangelism we possess in Christ. There is joy in preaching the gospel. There is genuine nerves and jitters. There are graceful and tactful ways to share, and there are awkward and clunky ways to share. But there is joy in sharing. Take heart in Isaiah 55:10-11,
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
Celebrate the task with the apostle Paul:
“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:14-15)
Yes Christian, you are an evangelist. You have the message of life for a dying generation. Christ’s word in you is greater than your fears, weaknesses and personality traits. So preach, proclaim, and evangelize for we have the power of God in salvation: the gospel of Jesus Christ.