Over half the human beings who have ever existed are alive in the world today. This statistic has a number of significant implications. One is that there are more people on this side of eternity than there are on the far side. Or to put it another way, during the next century the combined population of heaven and hell will double [statistics cited by Geoffrey L. Dennis in Share the Good News, Oct/Nov 1999].
With the eternal destiny of more than half the human race hanging in the balance, this is no time to be an Accidental Evangelist. By an Accidental Evangelist I mean a Christian who has no real intention of ever leading anyone to Christ. An Accidental Evangelist is a genuine Christian who trusts in Jesus Christ for salvation, reads the Bible, and goes to church, which means that there are probably some Accidental Evangelists here tonight. But there is one thing Accidental Evangelists do not do, and that is make a deliberate effort to share their faith. If they ever do lead anyone to Christ, it happens more or less by accident.
Tonight I want to invite you to become an Intentional Evangelist, to make it your particular goal to help lead people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. We are commanded to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything [Jesus has] commanded” (Matt. 28:19-20a). But we will never fulfill that Great Commission until we adopt the attitude of the apostle Paul, who became “all things to all men so that by all possible means” he might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22b).
The most important thing an Intentional Evangelist does is to live in constant communion with Christ, depending daily on his grace. There is something so attractive about a person who lives in intimate fellowship with God that others are drawn to know God for themselves. The trouble is that so few of us have entered very deeply into the soul of authentic Christianity. Robert Coleman, who is one of the world’s leading experts on evangelism, recently observed that “the problem of evangelism is that we’re trying to work out of a context where the people themselves are not living in the fullness of the Spirit… . I’m talking about being filled with the Holy Spirit. I’m talking about being in the very presence of the living Christ so that his love is flowing through you and you are fulfilling the Great Commandment, and in that love you are making disciples” [interview in Pulse, Dec. 17, 1999, p. 5].
Once you begin to live in communion with Christ, the next thing is to pray for people to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and to pray for them by name. Make a list of unsaved neighbors, co-workers, family members, and friends, and ask God to make them his own dear children. This is what we do in our evangelistic prayer meeting here at the church every Friday during lunchtime. We take the names people give us and pray for their salvation. We continue to be amazed at God’s faithfulness in answering our prayers. In the past several years we have seen dozens and dozens of people become Christians.
As Intentional Evangelists pray for the lost, they also place themselves at God’s disposal. It would be dishonest to ask God to save someone unless you were willing to be part of the conversion process. So ask God to give you opportunities to share your faith. My own prayer is that God would allow me to help one person become a Christian. As soon as that person makes a commitment to Christ, I start praying for someone else to help. But the main thing is to place yourself at God’s disposal.
Once you have offered yourself to God as an Intentional Evangelist, you will find that there are countless ways to share your faith. One is to mention your church activities to friends. Once they know that you are a Christian, everything you do will represent the love of Christ. But until they know that Christ is first in your heart, they can only guess why you live and love the way you do. Learn how to introduce Christian perspectives into everyday conversations. Learn how to be bold without becoming obnoxious. Say things like, “Well, as a Christian, I… ”
Another way to share your faith is to invite a friend to church. The Bible teaches that salvation comes from hearing the preaching of God’s Word (Rom. 10:14-17). This means that inviting people to church is still the best way to bring them to Christ. Consider inviting a business colleague to the Bible study at the Union League, or bringing a friend to our upcoming Friday Lunch Easter Series.
Pass out copies of Christian literature. Just this week I received a letter from a man who read an evangelistic book we published called The Heart of the Cross. He was writing to say that he had received a copy from a neighbor who attends Tenth, and that he had derived great spiritual benefit from reading it.
Participate in a ministry. Nearly all the ministries of Tenth Church are explicitly evangelistic. Whether we are involved in feeding the homeless, tutoring internationals, or learning to speak in American Sign Language, we are always teaching the Bible and calling people to faith in Christ.
Be creative! Start a Bible club for children in your neighborhood. Study the Bible with a Jewish friend and share how Christ fulfills the promises of the Old Testament. Throw a dinner party that includes both Christian and non-Christian friends. Host a four or five-week study to investigate Christianity. Start a book club and use literature as a vehicle to discuss spiritual issues. These are all ways that Tenth members are getting intentional about their evangelism. Once you become an Intentional Evangelist, God will show you how to use your own gifts and interests to do his work.
A few weeks ago, as I ate breakfast in a diner on 16th Street, I watched the great masses of humanity on their way to work—more than 300,000 of them in all. It occurred to me that they are all on some sort of pilgrimage, heading for eternity. Where do you suppose they will they end up? If you want to help some of them find their way to heaven, you will want become something more than Accidental Evangelist.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Phil Ryken. © 2021 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org