Over more than forty years of ministry, I’ve learned that not many Christians share their faith on a regular basis. In fact, I know few pastors who evangelize, either. So, I agree with Thom Rainer that “evangelism is dead or dying in most American churches.” I also strongly affirm Thom’s statement that “an evangelistic church must have an evangelistic pastor.”
I doubt, though, that any of us writing blog posts will automatically produce pastors and leaders doing more evangelism. Instead, I suspect the first steps are more basic than that. To illustrate my thinking, I want to take you to two scenarios that have heavily influenced my life.
First, I was in an international setting some years ago talking with followers of another faith. Behind them, I could see their “gods” on a shelf—gods some human being had fashioned with his or her hands. Likely another human being had transported those gods to the shelf, and somebody else kept them dusted. In this case, I could see the faces of the gods—faces that had eyes that could not see, mouths that could not speak, and ears that could not hear. These gods neither communicated with nor related to the people worshiping them.
Later that year as I considered my Bible reading plan for the next year, I decided to highlight anything in the Scriptures that indicated God’s communicating with His people. I watched for verses like, “The Lord said,” “the Word of the Lord came to,” “God spoke,” and “declares the Lord.” Each time I found such a verse, I highlighted it. I did not count the number of times such a phrase occurs, but suffice to say that I depleted several purple highlighters by the time I finished my Bible reading for that year. From “then God said” (Gen 1:3) to “Yes, I am coming soon” (Rev 22:20), the Scriptures show us that God relates to and speaks to His people.
The more often I pulled out my highlighter that year, the more I could do only one thing: praise the Lord for speaking to us through His Word. Day after day after day, I highlighted words and offered praise. Our God does not sit on a shelf.
My second life-changing experience was also in an international context—this time with Christ-followers in a risky part of the world who had only portions of the Bible in their language. In fact, this particular group of believers had only one copy of the portion they did have. What amazed me was just how much these folks devoured what they had, distributing it among themselves, reading verses aloud, and quietly meditating on what they had read and heard. Their gratitude was obvious, but so was their longing for more. Almost like John in Revelation 5 who wept when he could first find no one to open the scroll, these believers deeply desired to have the rest of the story opened in their language. Their hearts cried out for more.
I came back to the States after that trip, and I began to notice just how many copies of the Bible I have in my house. Like many of us, I suspect, I have far more Bibles in my house than we have human beings. I have the entirety of God’s Word in my language and in my hands, and I can open any copy freely without threat to my life. I’m privileged to have God’s Word, to be able to read God’s Word, and to proclaim God’s Word. I continue these days to realize just how blessed I am—quite undeservedly so—to be a child of God who called me to Himself and who speaks to me through His Word.
God has called me—all of us, actually—to talk about Him to our neighbors and the nations. That means we must tell the good news. Perhaps, then, a first step for pastors to start evangelizing with more fervor and regularity is to be amazed again by the fact that our God communicates—and He has chosen, solely by His grace, to communicate with us.
That’s an amazing God! Indeed, He’s worth talking about.
Posted on February 7, 2024
Dr. Chuck Lawless is a leading expert in spiritual consultation, discipleship and mentoring. As a former pastor, he understands the challenges ministry presents and works with Church Answers to provide advice and counsel for church leaders.
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