What is Evangelism?
Evangelism comes from the Greek εὐαγγέλια λέγειν euangelia legein which means preach the gospel (good news).
As the church, our primary purpose is to Glorify God by building up and equipping Christians through the study of the Word, prayer, fellowship, and participating in the sacraments. The reason that we do all of these things is first to honor and glorify Jesus Christ. The reason we do these activities in a church fellowship is not to get a dose of religion each and every week. The purpose of the Church in the world is to carry out the mission that Jesus Christ left us to do. To properly honor Him, and accomplish His purpose, we must take this training that we receive inside the walls outside the walls of fellowship to the people in our community primarily. This is not the job of the Pastor, only. This is not the job of the gifted evangelist only. This is the job of every Christian. And it is a job that we should take joy in doing as it should be the most natural thing that a Christian does.
In Acts 1, Luke tells us of the last days of Jesus on this earth before His ascension into heaven. He is with the disciples, sharing with them and teaching them, giving them undeniable proof that He is alive. They are still concerned with when God is going to bring the kingdom back to Israel, when the promise many of them were still seeking was going to be fulfilled. They did not understand that they were going to be the body of Christ on this earth. They did not understand that they were going to continue to carry out the mission of Jesus Christ. Before Jesus goes, He gives this little ekklesia, this group of called out ones, a promise:
"For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. hen they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Acts 1:5-8
The promise is that though they are not privy to what the Father is going to do and when He is going to do it, they will be given power to complete the mission Jesus has for them to do, and that is to be witnesses. The word witness GR martus and it means not only someone who saw something, but would speak about it, placing his reputation on the line. This is why this word martus is the root of our word martyr, for death was sometimes the penalty for telling the truth of what you saw and experienced. The ekklesia was called out to be witnesses and sometimes to be martyrs. The call for the Christian, indeed, the call for us today is to die to ourselves, to our interests, to our reputation, and even be willing to lose our lives for the glory of our King Jesus.
" And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." Acts 1:9-11
The disciples were given a promise and a command by their Lord Jesus, and they just stood looking at the sky. I am afraid that many in the church today are guilty of the same behavior. We are looking for Jesus to return, we believe that He will, but we are not following His commands as far as what the church is supposed to be doing. It should not require an angelic appearance to get us moving in the direction we are already supposed to be going. Since the day of Pentecost, every believer has the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit already that is promised in Acts 1:8, and therefore we are already responsible as the church to be pushing back the darkness by bringing the light of Jesus into our world.
"Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren." Acts 1:12-14
The disciples finally returned to Jerusalem and waited. They waited and they prayed. There is a time for prayer, that is to be sure. But prayer in the book of Acts is followed by action without regard to consequences. The church prays, and the church must pray, but the church also is required to be deployed in the field, as the Lord Jesus commanded. Imagine if our military, with all of its equipment and all of its power, just sat in the pentagon and made strategy all day every day while the enemy forces advanced. Seems silly, but that is like the modern church that sits back while the World system is advancing. Look what happens when the church prays and the Holy Spirit empowers the church:
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." Acts 2:1-4
The people were meeting and praying together, and the Holy Spirit came down on the place. These followers of Jesus were totally emptied of themselves, they were all in agreement (not in a mid-sized Japanese vehicle). The Holy Spirit came down in a unique way on them, described as a rushing wind and tongues of fire. Just because we do not see that manifestation today, the Holy Spirit is on each believer and empowers us to do what we have been called to do. What all of us have been called to do without exception is to proclaim the Gospel. I am not talking about methodology here, I am talking about a lifestyle where we bear witness to what Jesus Christ has accomplished in your life. If you are a Christian, you realize that you used to be dead in your trespasses and sins, but by the grace of God, you have been brought to repentance, which is a turning from your way of sin and death to the the way of Jesus. Jesus has thus paid the penalty by His death for your sins. Everybody you know is either justified or under condemnation. We have a big responsibility, and we have been given the power to accomplish our purpose as the church.
"But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:" Acts 2:14
What Peter, the fearful fisherman did with that power is that he preached. He proclaimed the Gospel to the thousands who were in town for the feast of Pentecost. These were people who honored the Word of God in the Old Testament, indeed the celebration is tied to the giving of the Ten Commandments and thus bears the name Matin Torah or "giving of the Law." Jews believe that it was exactly at this time that God gave the Torah to the people through Moses on Mount Sinai. So Peter stood up before those who knew the law and the prophets and proclaimed the truth of the Lord Jesus whom the prophets had foretold. These God-fearing prophesy-knowing Jews that had gathered responded to the proclamation of the risen Christ:
"Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Acts 2:37-38
The result was that 3000 turned from their trust in the law and the prophets, indeed from a trust in their own self righteousness to repenting and trusting in Jesus Christ. They were saved from their efforts at religion and brought into fellowship in the ekklesia. 3000 new called out ones were baptized on that day. And they wasted no time getting into fellowship together. And they did not stay there, they lived in fellowship with one another, going from house to house, listening to the Apostles’ teaching, praying, fellowshiping, and sharing in the breaking of the bread, as we have studied over the last weeks.
"Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Acts 2:47
The result of their Christian living, the proclamation of their lives and the Gospel drew favor from the common people, at least temporarily. Likely, the common people saw the miracles and the healing and wanted some of that for themselves. Later, both the common people and the leaders began to strive against the church, as Jesus had promised. As we progress through the book of Acts, we see people continue to be saved (5000 more in chapter 4) as the church continues to be the church. What is very common in this historical narrative is that the church would be gathered and praying, and the result of their prayers was that the Holy Spirit filled them and they went out of the fellowship and proclaimed the Gospel. People would get thrown in prison, and the church would preach the Gospel. Nothing, not even the threat of death, stopped the early church from preaching the Gospel. They were common people, filled with the Holy Spirit, doing what came naturally to them, because they had a new nature.
Perfect love casts out all fear. This means that as believers we can approach God without dread of judgment. But it also means that we are willing to lay down our lives because we love God. We do not have the fear of death. We have been promised much as believers. We have been regenerated, that is, brought to life by God. We have been justified, that is, our sins have been paid for and we have been given the gift of the righteousness of Christ. We are being sanctified, set apart from the world. The problem, I fear, is that many of us have lost our first love. We have lost our passion and our commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. We just want to ‘get along’ with the world. The Bible is very clear:
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." 1 John 2:15
Loving the world can mean many things; from the fear of losing the respect and honor of men to being so focused on the things that the world provides that we forget about our primary purpose. The promise is this: All these things that the world provides are temporary and will pass away. The one who does the will of God will abide with God forever. The will of God for the Church- again, the body of Christ which is composed of individual pieces- you and me- the will of God for the Church is to be the living witness of Jesus Christ on this earth. We have the gift and the power of the evangel- the Gospel, and we are not under any circumstances to keep that to ourselves. This is a gift that requires re-gifting. To hold the Gospel to yourself is to deny the very nature of the gift. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. There is no other name under heaven by which men can be saved other than that of Jesus Christ. We are not to be ashamed of the glorious Gospel, because to do so, we are being ashamed of Jesus Christ. If we deny Him verbally, or if we refuse to acknowledge Him verbally, He will deny us. I will close with a quote from JC Ryle:
"The wickedness of being ashamed of Christ is very great. It is a proof of unbelief. It shows that we care more for the praise of men whom we can see, than that of God whom we cannot see. It is a proof of ingratitude. It shows that we fear confessing Him before man who was not ashamed to die for us upon the cross. Wretched indeed are they who give way to this sin. Here, in this world, they are always miserable. A bad conscience robs them of peace. In the world to come they can look for no comfort. In the day of judgment they must expect to be disowned by Christ to all eternity, if they will not confess Christ for a few years upon earth. Let us resolve never to be ashamed of Christ. Of sin and worldliness we may well be ashamed. Of Christ and His cause we have no right to be ashamed at all. Boldness in Christ’s service always brings its own reward. The boldest Christian is always the happiest person."~ J.C. Ryle