* Jesse is serves as Associate Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Church.
On Sunday afternoons I used to pass a well-dressed man standing on a milk crate at the corner of Roscoe and Van Nuys boulevards. He wore a placard around his neck that said “Jesus is Lord,” and bellowed phrases like “Jesus loves you” and “Read the Bible” into a bullhorn. Cars at the red light would roll up their windows, while the people huddled at the bus stop looked on, visibly annoyed.
This man’s evangelism caused me cognitive conflict. On one hand, he was trying to do something to proclaim the gospel. On the other hand, he was no doubt causing people to scoff at the gospel because of the frivolous way he was presenting it.
There are many misunderstandings about the nature of true evangelism. Many people don’t evangelize because when they think of evangelism, they think of the overzealous man on the street corner with the bullhorn. They think, “I’m not called to do that.” From there it’s a short leap to, “So I’m not called to evangelize.”
But the most effective kind of evangelism is often not done from street corners. Proclaiming the gospel does not involve a sign around your neck, or a bullhorn in your hand. Effective, winsome evangelism can take place with people you already know—your neighbors, your family, and your coworkers. Think of the names of nonbelievers you cross paths with; those people are your mission field.
For Jesus, evangelism was a way of life. When He crossed paths with people, He seized the opportunities to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins. In fact, much of Jesus’ evangelism took place in conversations with individuals. Consider the woman at the well (John 4), the rich young ruler (Luke 18), and Zacchaeus (Luke 19).
Evangelism in the book of Acts follows Jesus’ example. Peter, Stephen, and Paul did not stand on street corners and shout. Instead they seized whatever opportunities God gave them, and implored people to be reconciled to God. There are at least 15 examples in the book of Acts of Christians going about their daily activity, and then getting involved in evangelistic conversations with individuals with whom they came in contact.
That is our challenge in evangelism. We want to seize the opportunities that God gives us to proclaim the gospel to those whom He puts around us. When we see evangelism as a lifestyle, rather than as an event, then our evangelism will more closely model Jesus’s.
Tomorrow we will have some ideas that pastors can use to facilitate this kind of evangelism in the life of the church.