The Terror of Evangelism
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” Mark 16:15
The average Christian in the United States is so dreadfully afraid of sharing the Gospel that I doubt he would even click on an article like this. Let’s be honest, we tend to view the verse above far more as a suggestion than as a command, am I right? In our hearts we question whether Jesus was serious when He commanded us to actually speak about Himself to people. I mean wouldn’t that just be oppressively imposing your own religion or dogma on some poor soul? Can’t I just have my truth and you just have your truth and we don’t bother each other? Shouldn’t we only love people and live for Jesus without preaching the Gospel and let people see the gospel in our lifestyles?
We love these excuses, and pretty much all Christians have had some of these questions floating in their minds at some point. We wish that the Bible actually supported the very famous and unbiblical directive for us to “preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words,” and we go day after day after day, interacting with the same people, using the same excuses, silent. Every single day thousands and thousands of Christians interact with non-believers and keep their mouths shut about the God who can save their souls. And what happens when this becomes the norm? People die every day in America without knowing Jesus and without an accurate understanding of the Gospel. I mean, if we actually believe in Hell, Heaven, devastating sin, dying love, and amazing grace, wouldn’t the people around us know that? If we believe God’s grace for undeserving sinners is so amazing, wouldn’t we want to talk about it and share the knowledge of it? I want our generation of young men and women to be the generation that starts caring about this, and I want us to be the generation that boldly takes a stand for Jesus Christ. Paul declares that:
…everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 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 10:13-15)
I heard a pastor once use an analogy of a fat man comfortably eating tons of food and not sharing any of it with anyone in his starving village. The fat man would be seen as appallingly selfish to any Christian in 21st century America. Imagine that the fat scoundrel shuts the blinds to his windows to avoid glimpsing the malnourished, dying bodies that he ought to rescue. Imagine that the fat man turns up his music at home so that the shrieks of starving babies do not instill feelings of guilt in him over his gluttonous atrocity. Imagine that he could easily save the village by opening his door and directing people to the food, yet he chooses to stay indoors out of laziness, cowardice, apathy, and selfishness.
How much more selfish are we, who have the legal right in the United States to share the Gospel with everyone, when we who have functioning vocal cords and leather bound Bibles, choose to be silent like the fat man in the middle of a dying world? Not only that, but Christians do not just believe that sinners are dying outside of our walls, we believe that if they die without Christ, they will spend all eternity in Hell. In our hearts we try to drown out the wails of the lost, and in our minds we try to neuter the reality that there are dying people on their way to eternal Hell who we refuse to warn. I know its awkward and embarrassing, but could we please try to make our lifestyles consistent with what we profess? Only in modern American Evangelicalism can we go to church and read the creed that warns of Christ coming back to judge the living and the dead, only here can we profess this literally every Sunday and then go on living the exact same way once we get to class on Monday.
One of the multiple reasons why Hell is rarely preached on is that it makes us uncomfortable. Every time we think of it we are filled with shame, realizing that we are sitting comfortably and apathetically while hell-bound sinners could be rescued by believing the Gospel that we have had memorized since Sunday school. May God have mercy on the apathetic Church in America. Let us please do a better job than the last generation. If we refuse to do this good work, who will? Christians believe that Hell is eternal, permanent, conscious torture, comparable to a lake of fire or a place of utter darkness and chaos where God sends all who die in their sins to be punished. Out of unfathomable love for His Church, Christ has taken the full punishment for undeserving sinners who will put their faith in Him, by dying on the cross under God’s wrath, and then rising again, defeating death, and calling all men everywhere to repent and believe the Gospel, which can redeem the foulest and darkest of souls. The reason some of you may hate this harsh paragraph may be because I am trying to rip the blinds off of your windows and force you to look at the condemned souls you ignore on a daily basis. The more you understand the reality of Hell, the urgency of the Gospel, and the joy of knowing God, the less you will be able to sit comfortably as a selfish glutton while the world starves to death. We must honestly consider whether we would act with the same apathy that we have towards evangelism if we knew the cure for cancer? Would we keep it to ourselves? Obviously not. Let’s reconsider how we want to be living our lives since we know that we are ambassadors of Jesus Christ. Charles Spurgeon once asserted in a sermon titled All At It, that:
The curses of the ages will fall upon me, and the wails of lost souls will come up into my ears as long as I exist, if I do not make known the gospel… If you do not tell the gospel, you are leaving your fellow-men to perish. Yonder is the wreck, and you are not sending out the lifeboat! Yonder are souls starving, and you give them no bread! Well, if you are resolved to be thus inhuman, at least know what you are doing. You that are taking no share in this great work of spreading the gospel are willfully allowing men to go down to hell, and their blood will be required at your hands.
I am writing this with the knowledge that I myself am a coward if there ever was one. I’ve personally sat next to people on a multi-hour plane rides, knowing in my heart that I should try and share Jesus in our conversation, yet never working up the courage to do so. I’ve neglected and cowered away from God given opportunities like this more times than I can count. In full honesty, I think that I fear sharing the Gospel simply because I don’t want to be seen as a fanatic, an idiot, or a bigot. It’s either that, or that I either don’t believe it enough or don’t love people enough, but whatever the issue is, I am certain that something is off inside of me. My pride, my fear, my apathy, my doubt, and my insecurity make this mission extremely difficult. I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, and I want people to see me as “chill.”
But what is “chill” anyway? Folks, to put it bluntly, being seen as “chill” does not matter all that much in the long run. While we shouldn’t be unnecessarily weird, who really cares about being seen as chill when loved ones and neighbors are perishing? If a blind man was going to walk in front of a moving car would you cry out with all of your might for him to move, or would you stay silent just in case people see you as a weirdo? If you believe in the entirety of the Gospel, being seen as “chill” should not be a priority in your life. Imagine if Joshua refused to march around Jericho because he wanted to look “chill.” Bystanders probably saw Joshua’s army as a bunch of idiots. Imagine if Noah’s pride and laziness prevented him from building the ark. I’ve heard it joked about that everyone must have thought Noah was crazy until it started raining. Imagine if Jesus decided to not enter humanity to avoid humiliation. He was laughed at, spat on, mocked, and killed by Roman Soldiers even though He lived a perfect life. What makes us sinners think we deserve treatment any better? Imagine if he chose to have worldly “chillness” and popularity instead of humbling Himself, even to the point of dying naked on a cross. Are we too prideful to humble ourselves, to even have a five minute conversation with a homeless man or to eat lunch with that kid you see bullied in the hallways? Imagine if the Good Shepherd did not care about lost sheep? God chose you, sent His Son to die for you, went after you, redeemed and adopted you, is sanctifying you, and will glorify you, and you deserve the opposite. Who do you think you are to refuse to go after the lost?
Leonard Ravenhill noted in his preaching that if you lived in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago and saw a man carrying a cross out of the city, there was only one thing you knew about him: he was never coming back. God has told you to deny yourself and to take up your cross, and He has made it totally clear that you are not your own and have been bought at an expensive price. We cannot expect the lost to come back to us and to wander into our church doors or to ever accept invitations to church. The Good Shepherd did not expect the lost sheep to find its way back to the flock on its own. Fishers of men must actually do some fishing. While it is great to invite your friends to church, simply inviting them to church or talking about Christian things is not necessarily evangelism. Arguing in support of policies that are in line with Scripture is not evangelism. We have to bring the Gospel itself to them, because the Gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,” (Romans 1:16). In his lecture, “Open-Air Preaching-Remarks Thereon,” Spurgeon exposes the absurdity of many churches’ view on evangelism:
The gospel command is, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” but it is so little obeyed that one would imagine that it ran thus, “Go into your own place of worship and preach the gospel to the few creatures who will come inside.” “Go ye into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in”… Sportsmen must not stop at home and wait for the birds to come and be shot at, neither must fishermen throw their nets inside their boats and hope to take many fish. Traders go to markets, they follow their customers and go out after business if it will not come to them; and so must we.
I pray that as a generation we would refuse to cower away in our churches and sit comfortably on our pews, but that we would willingly and joyfully cry out to the Lord, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8) So who will you share the Gospel with? Please spend time in prayer over this challenging topic of evangelism and ask the Lord to work in your heart.