The modern day church often finds itself confused on the subject of evangelism. Many people today consider the church as a place of social gathering and friendly bonding rather than a community of believers who have been saved by the grace of God. Therefore, it is often the case that pastors and teachers find themselves pleading with people to become involved with evangelism. As Christ was preparing to leave earth, He was also preparing His disciples to continue the unfinished work of evangelism. Christ said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. ” If our Savior told the disciples to go into all the world and teach people the gospel, why do churches and individuals find it so difficult to do in our present day? I have sought to answer this question by giving five popular reasons for ineffective evangelism.
Reason #1 = Incorrect View of Evangelism
The top reason for people neglecting the faithful work of sharing the gospel is rooted in a faulty view of evangelism. Many people hear the word “evangelist” and they picture a high class preacher riding across the country in a $1 million dollar motor home. Others hear the word “evangelism” and they picture missionaries walking down dusty paths sharing the gospel in villages in Africa. While both of these situations can be descriptions of individuals who take part in the work of evangelism, they are not the only people who should be involved in the work!
The Church of Jesus Christ is made up of believers who have been saved by grace and baptized in accordance to Holy Scripture as a public announcement of their own salvation. All believers have a responsibility to partake in the work of evangelism. It is commanded in Holy Scripture!
Reason #2 = Incorrect Instruction on Evangelism
Many people in the local church have never been given proper instruction on the subject of evangelism. The lack of proper discipleship often stifles the work of evangelism and leaves Christians confused about the subject. Therefore, when these Christians hear their pastor call for the church to get involved in the outreach / evangelism ministry - great fear settles in on the individual rather than a burden for the lost. In order for a church to become effective in the area of evangelism, proper discipleship and instruction on evangelism will be necessary. Classes that teach the “why” and “how” of evangelism are essential to producing effective evangelists. Methods may differ from church to church, but the message of the gospel must be proclaimed. An effective method that is simple and easy to use should be properly taught within the local church which will enable the entire church body to work together as a team to reach their lost community.
Reason #3 = Intimidation and Fear of Evangelism
Fear is often a common excuse for the reason people do not evangelize in their community. In many cases, people feel intimidated by the Bible and are often afraid that a person may ask them a question and they will not be able to provide an answer. Many people do not think they are able to accurately walk people through the Scriptures and show the gospel message to lost people. This fear of intimidation often plagues people who are more introverted than those who are more extroverted, but the fear is a very real issue that must be addressed!
Fear is nothing new to the Christian community. When Christ gave the “Great Commission” to the disciples, it was just after He had been brutally killed on the Roman cross. The Church has always been persecuted for following Christ, and the fear of the early church was in regard to their safety rather than Bible memory. When Christ said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” and when He said “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” these statements should encourage us in our efforts of evangelism. We are not doing the work alone! The assurance of this promise along with a commitment to the Scriptures and proper discipleship can help overcome the natural fears and intimidations related to evangelism.
Reason #4 = Ignoring the Task of Evangelism
As mentioned earlier, the church today is often confused about evangelism. The confusion leads churches to organize all types of efforts related to fellowship such as children’s events, parades, cook-outs, ball teams, and other events while completely ignoring the great task of evangelism. Often the church finds itself focused on entertainment rather than working and striving to reach the lost person with the gospel. Sadly is the case that many lost people dwell within the shadow of the steeple of each local church in the community. The work of evangelism has been viewed throughout the history of the church as a “mark” of the church. If this is true, those who do not practice evangelism are not considered a true church! That is a tough statement, but could it be true? As we look at the early church we see them practicing faithful evangelism even through persecution (Acts 8:1-4). We continue to see the great work of evangelism as we read about the work of Paul and the other Apostles after the early church in Acts. From the death of the Apostles until our present day, we have seen the church continue the work of evangelism for the glory of God. Therefore, when a body of “believers” makes a decision to stop evangelism - they have separated themselves from the work of the early church and the church as we see it throughout history. We must always be continuing the work of evangelism no matter what demographics or surroundings we may face. Evangelism is a mark and function of the church of Jesus Christ and it should never be ignored.
Reason #5 = Incorrect Theology Related to Evangelism
Some people do not practice evangelism because of a theological conviction. Many times they hold to a “hyper-Calvinist” position which completely does away with evangelism. Their conviction states that God the Father chose specific individuals before the foundation of the world and He will save them without our efforts of evangelism. In their view, God is the One who seeks, saves, seals, and nothing from man is necessary. This view is a faulty view which completely ignores the Great Commission and the many other passages of Scripture which command Christians to preach the gospel. What is the problem here? Is Calvinism the problem? Personally, I do not see Calvinism as the problem here. Calvinism has become a “hot-button” within the SBC in recent days, but it should not become a divisive issue. Those who hold to a more Calvinistic view of salvation should not be vilified. The teachings of Calvinism should not be used to split churches. Often the problem surrounding the subject of Calvinism is centered on emotional debates that vilify people and this hinders evangelism, splits churches, and harms entire communities as a result. Yes, those who teach a “hyper-Calvinist” view which does away with evangelism is wrong and should be avoided at all costs; however, a person who considers themselves to be a Calvinist and practices faithful evangelism with an earnest desire to reach lost people with the saving message of the gospel should never be vilified. I learned this personally as I watched my Calvinistic pastor in Douglasville, GA faithfully engage the lost community with the gospel as he was personally involved with our evangelism ministry. Our church was in the top percentage of baptisms in the Georgia Baptist Convention, and we gave thousands upon thousands of dollars to missions each year. The problem is not Calvinism. Those who consider themselves to be rejectors of Calvinism but do not practice evangelism are much more dangerous than a well balanced Calvinist who preaches the sovereignty of God and practices faithful evangelism for the glory of God.
Therefore, it should be noted that an incorrect view of theology can lead people to abandon evangelism, but whether it is one who rejects Calvinism completely or one who is considered to be “hyper-Calvinistic” - if the individual does not actively seek to reach lost people with the gospel - they have an incorrect view of theology. Proper theology is important no matter what side of the “Calvinism” fence one stands. J.I. Packer in his book, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God says, “Evangelizing includes the endeavour to elicit a response to the truth taught. It is communication with a view to conversion. It is a matter, not merely of informing, but also of inviting. It is an attempt to gain, or win, or catch, our fellow-men for Christ. Our Lord depicts it as fishermen’s work (50).” J.I. Packer is a Calvinist, but he also understands that all Christians are commanded and called to the faithful work of evangelism.
In conclusion it should be noted that evangelism is not inviting people to church, bringing a person to a church social, or even telling someone your personally testimony. Merely going to church or hearing a testimony is not able to save a lost person. Evangelism requires us to share the gospel with people. The gospel is about Christ Jesus and His sacrificial death upon the cross as a substitute for us. The gospel involves sharing with people that Christ was buried after His death, but He rose from the dead on the third day. A lost person must understand that Christ died for them on the cross and rose from the dead before they can be saved. Unless a lost person hears that message of good news, all of the sad stories of our own lives and chili cook-offs in October will not save anyone! We must learn to share the true gospel of Christ in order for people to be saved. May we seek to be faithful evangelists for the glory of God!
Rev. Josh Buice