One gracEmail subscriber draws back from the thought of approaching strangers to distribute evangelistic leaflets. Another subscriber feels unable to engage in door-to-door “cold campaigning” such as is done by Jehovah’s Witnesses but also feels guilty in this regard. A third subscriber rejects such outreach methods totally as being impersonal, insisting that evangelism requires a personal relationship to be genuinely authentic. And a fourth subscriber suggests that not every Christian is gifted to be an evangelist, just as not all are teachers, pastors or prophets.
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Clearly the “E-word” has fallen into disrepute among many Christians today. This demise of evangelism has resulted partly from fear and cowardice, partly because of the church’s infection by a popular culture which abhors religious conviction, and partly in reaction to the distasteful antics of some whose zeal exceeds their good manners and their knowledge. Not all believers are called to be evangelists (Eph. 4:11-13), but all have a part in the evangelistic mission of the church. Indeed, the apostle Paul in Colossians 4:2-6 offers a series of guidelines for everyday living which result in a natural process of evangelism that is respectful, winsome and effective.
“Devote yourselves to prayer,” he says first, “keeping alert,” always “praying that God will open a door for the word.” God himself prepares lives to receive the gospel, opens hearts to hear it, and gives faith to receive it. We ask him to do all that, then we watch to see where he is working so we can join in what he is doing. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders,” the apostle continues. Our own daily lives usually provide the connection with others whom God will touch through our efforts. Our consistent, observable conduct also lends credibility to our conversation when the time comes to speak a gospel word about Jesus and God’s love revealed in him.
“Making the most of the opportunity,” Paul concludes. “Let your speech always be with grace.” When God provides an open door and an open heart, we need to speak clearly and courageously, but also graciously and with sincere respect for each individual we address. As we regularly do these things, God uses us in his great saving purpose. This is about God’s agenda and he is responsible for the results.