The Wednesday feature of the Worldly Saints blog is a Scriptural meditation whereby I take a verse or passage I have been pondering lately and seek to edify my readers with it’s promises, encouragements, warnings, rebukes, etc.
In Matthew 9:36-38, we read, “36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’”
There is a tone of desperation in those words aren’t there? There is no excuse-making. We are very good at coming up with excuses to not evangelize. Let’s think about some of the excuses we give and see if we can come up with some biblical answers to them.
EXCUSE – “I don’t have the gift of evangelism.”
ANSWER – It is true that Scripture speaks of some being especially gifted in areas of evangelism. Paul said he gave some to the church to equip and build up the body of Christ and he says he brought up apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors and evangelists (Eph 4:11).
The remedy is this: we are all called to evangelize without exceptions. No one just has one spiritual gift but a blending of giftedness. You could have a reluctant, racist prophet like Jonah who doesn’t want to evangelize help win ¾ million people to God or a faithful, godly prophet like Jeremiah never convert anyone. We all have a measure of evangelism in us. God never calls us to do something we cannot accomplish.
The early church interpreted the Great Commission (Matt 28:16-20) as binding upon all believers and not just the disciples.
And if that is not enough, consider Peter’s instruction: “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (I Pet 3:15-16).
EXCUSE – “I am too shy.”
ANSWER – Men like Moses or Gideon were very reluctant to step into the leadership role(s) God called them into, until something happened with both. Or better said, it wasn’t until God reminded them of a simple truth that they were confident to open their mouths for God.
For Moses, it came at the burning bush. God told Moses He would use him to bring about the deliverance of his people from Egyptian slavery and Moses responded with a question: “Are you sure you got the right guy.” God’s response: “… I will be with you … ” (Exod 3:12).
For Gideon, it came when he was called of God to lead an army against a huge Midianite army of ½ million with a band of 300 Hebrews. Gideon, the weakest man from the weakest tribe also wasn’t sure God chose the right leader and God said to him, “… But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man” (Judg 6:16).
Shyness can be defeated with an understanding and embracing of God being present with you, equipping you with words to say in His Scripture and then reminding you that the Holy Spirit does the actual conversion work.
EXCUSE – “I am never around unbelievers.”
ANSWER – This is a common excuse for mature Christians because we rarely have any significant relationships with unbelievers. It is too easy to build Christian bubbles: going to church, having Christians over for dinner, putting our kids in Christian schools or homeschooling them, only joining Christian sports leagues, etc. And then what happens is that we end up isolating ourselves from those who really need the Gospel.
Why was Jesus called the friend of sinners? He was called their friend because he didn’t shy from being around them. When others turned their heads, He walked towards them. He didn’t isolate Himself with church people. If He were alive today, He would invite His neighbors into his home, go to their block parties, attend their festivals, eat at their restaurants, engage them around the water cooler at work, etc.
The real answer is this: you are around many unbelievers. You probably don’t even need to leave your home or neighborhood to find a mission field. Peter tells us, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (I Pet 2:12).
EXCUSE – “God has already elected some to salvation.
ANSWER – Why would my sharing make a difference?” The argument is laid out this way: even before any of us were even born – including Adam and Eve – God laid out His Book of Life and wrote certain names in it. He predestined some to salvation and then purposed to elect them to salvation. And not even Satan could steal them in eternity past or present. So if people are going to come regardless, what is the point of opening our mouth to preach the Gospel?
The answer is given after the most “Calvinistic” chapter in the Bible – Romans 9. After Paul discourses on these truths about God’s awesome electing work, he says in Romans 10:14-15, “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!’”
Part of God’s calling men to salvation is using you and I. Calvinists should make the most faithful evangelists! We are to be on the lookout for the elect.
EXCUSE – “I don’t want to fail.”
ANSWER – Who does want to fail? No one. No one likes to lose an argument or fail in a sales pitch or get last in a relay race. We are all wanting to win or at least be more successful than not.
And what happens when we come into an evangelistic encounter is that we think we don’t know enough Bible verses or evangelism experience to convince anyone to come to Christ. We are scared we will be not able to answer their objections or questions. We are timid with the responsibility of representing God well to unbelievers.
So how do we deal with the fear of failure in our evangelism? By remembering that the only failure is by not opening your mouth.
Biblical failure is remaining silent. If you open your mouth and preach, you do not fail. You see we think failure in evangelism is measure by how many converts we have, but selfishness must be removed from the equation.
We are not trying to save people to ourselves but to God. It is God who does the work of salvation. He turns on the spiritual lights. We are not clever enough to illuminate anyone. God does that – “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor 2:14).
EXCUSE – “It may cause some problems at work.”
ANSWER – Yes, it may! When you are “on the job” you have a job you are being paid to do and 99% of our employers are not paying us to proselytize. It could be that our evangelism distracts not just ourselves but also other people or it could reduce our productivity.
But consider this as well: sharing the Gospel with a co-worker doesn’t have to take an hour out of your work day. Sometimes the simplest things that be a witness to a co-worker (e.g., not responding in spite when your boss gives bad news, not participating in gossip about a co-worker, not laughing at a dishonorable joke, etc.). Believe me: your unsaved co-workers will take notice and begin to ask you as time allows, “What makes you so different? Why aren’t you like us?”
II Corinthians 5:20 calls us ambassadors for Christ. That means we represent him in speech and conduct before others who don’t.
EXCUSE – “There are some other tasks or responsibilities that seem more urgent.”
ANSWER – We are really good at this. We are very capable of procrastinating the need for men’s souls: there are bills to pay, there are tests to study for, there is food to cook, there are emails and phone calls to return, there are books to read, etc.
Paul takes a spiritual 2×4 in I Corinthians 9:16 and tells us how it is if we put other things before our witness and to that often: “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”