Peter Cushman, Outreach Pastor at Inter-City Baptist Church (Allen Park, MI)
Peter continues our series on "Preparing for Ministry" by focusing on evangelism. Click here for previous posts about preparing for ministry overseas or church planting, as well as preparing for ministry as an emerging adult or when you don't know your calling.
A Way Forward
I think evangelism is one of those areas in which we all want improvement. Probably every person who will read this wants to do a better job of evangelism. So what’s holding us back, and how do we push forward? Here are a few suggestions.
Get over yourself!
When I’m not telling people about the Lord Jesus like I should, it’s because I’m selfish. I care more about myself than God and others. I value what people think about me more than love for God and neighbor.
Often, it’s the foolishness of the cross that deters me from telling others about Christ. Paul says that, “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing” (1 Cor 1:18). Spiritually dead people see the cross as a symbol of weakness, humiliation, and shame. When they consider the cross, they’re not impressed. In fact, Paul goes on to say that God intentionally designed salvation in this way so that he would receive glory (1 Cor 1:25, 31)! Through the cross God humiliated the intelligence and self-sufficiency of this world (1 Cor 1:20).
God is not impressed by what the world considers impressive. We value status, power, comfort, pleasure, sex, popularity, beauty, innovation, youth, and the list goes on. The cross is none of those things. The Roman Empire reserved crucifixion for the worst people in society. Listen to a Roman historian’s description of crucifixion, “To bind a Roman citizen is a crime; to flog him is an abomination; to slay him is almost an act of murder; to crucify him is–what? There is no fitting word that can possibly describe so horrible a deed” .
There is nothing venerable or respectful about the cross. The cross is repulsive, not attractive. The cross is a symbol of abject shame (Deut 21:23). Jews believed that someone executed in this way was cursed by God. Romans believed that someone executed in this way was the worst kind of criminal. Jesus endured unimaginable shame and reproach as He hung on the cross (Phil 2:8; Heb 12:2), and He calls us to associate with Him (Heb 13:3).
I think this is part of what’s going on in the exchange between Peter and Christ in Mark 8. After Christ explained that He came to suffer and die (8:31), Peter rebuked Him. In turn Christ rebuked Peter saying, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (8:33). Peter prioritized and valued the concerns of the world, status, power, comfort, etc. (This is indicated by the demand of James and John in Mark 10:37). Jesus prioritized and valued the concerns of his Father, his mission “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
When I don’t share the gospel like I should, it is because I’m setting my mind on the things of man. I want to impress people, and the cross isn’t impressive. So the first step towards sharing the gospel is to get over yourself! Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if people perceive you as strange, weird, ignorant, narrow-minded, backwards, etc. Remember, “the world is passing away along with its desires” (1 Jn 2:17). Who cares what the world thinks about you?
Move towards someone.
Think about the people whom God has put into your life. Have you ever considered that God brings people across your path so that they will hear the gospel from your lips? Acts 17 tells us that God assigns when and where people live so that they will reach out for Him (17:26–27). In evangelism, the best place to start is the people you already know, neighbors, coworkers, someone from the gym or coffee shop, someone in the same special interest group, etc. Who do you know who needs Christ?
The next question is, how are you going to spend time with that person? If I don’t schedule something, then I don’t do it. If it doesn’t get on the calendar, then it doesn’t get done. When and where are you going to connect with the person that you’re reaching out to? Make plans to attend the same workout class together at the gym. Schedule a tee time together. Show up at the same coffee shop at the same time, praying that you bump into the same person again. I did an evangelism Bible study with a guy like this for 8 months. I knew that he came to Starbucks on Wednesday mornings at 7:30, so I planned to be there at the same time, hoping he would sit down and chat with me. I have a neighbor named Mohamed who loves to hang out in his backyard. He invites me to join him every time I pass by. If I’m serious about reaching him with the gospel, then all I need to do is walk back there. I need to move towards him. Who will you move towards? Who will you intentionally spend time with for the sake of the gospel?
Talk about Christ.
This one is obvious, right? It’s almost a nonanswer. How should you evangelize? Open your mouth! In some ways I think it really is that simple.
The gospel is news which must be shared, announced, proclaimed, preached, etc. The gospel is not your lifestyle, your testimony (although that involves the gospel), or your charitable deeds. The gospel is the good news about Christ, who he is and what he has done! This news requires proclamation and explanation. No one is going to deduce the gospel from your lifestyle. No one will come to Christ by simply observing your manners, your clothing, and the fact that you go to church on Sunday. Of course these thing can adorn (or contradict!) the gospel message. People must understand the meaning of the death and resurrection of Christ in order to be saved, and they will only acquire this understanding if we tell them! So we must speak of Jesus!
Again, I think sometimes we make this more complicated than it really is. Tell lost people what Christ has done for you. He has liberated you from sin and death! He saved you from the eternal wrath of God. He wiped out your sin debt forever. He restored you to fellowship with God, and He is the only mediator between God and men (1 Tim 2:5). Obviously, each conversation will be different. There is no one-size-fits-all presentation. Just move towards someone and pray for opportunities (Col 4:3).
I don’t evangelize nearly as much as I should, but I want to improve. I think you’d agree with me concerning your own life. Let’s push forward together!
 Cicero Against Verres, in the Verrine Orations, trans. L. H. G. Greenwood [London: Heinemann 1928–1935], 2.5.64, par. 165
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.