What is evangelism and why do we practice it? If God draws people to Himself and if He is the one delivering people and sustaining them, it doesn’t make much sense that we would need to practice evangelism in order to win people for the kingdom. Yet, that is often the phraseology we use, and I think it throws us into confusion as to what is actually happening when we practice evangelism. It causes us to fear failure as if God would ever fail because I am insufficient. Wait. Isn’t that the point of the Gospel? I am insufficient and I need God to, in my insufficiency, deliver me for His glory and my good? Yes, I thought so. We can’t “win” souls to Christ, for that is the work of Christ.
So, why evangelism? Why is this part of our participation in God’s establishing of His creation and building of His kingdom on this earth in this time? What’s the point.
Summoning the Twelve, He gave them power and authority over all the demons, and power to heal diseases. Then He sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
“Take nothing for the road,” He told them, “no walking stick, no traveling bag, no bread, no money; and don’t take an extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. If they do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and traveled from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing everywhere.
The work of evangelism is simple. It is work that we will only be able to do on this earth. It is part of the larger work of God’s establishing His creation and building His kingdom. The functional part of this work is that we serve people, doing good for them with the opportunities and authority that Christ gives and proclaim the kingdom of God.
In its function, we discover evangelisms nature. It is the proclaiming of God’s kingdom, which God is building. The disciples were never instructed to “win” people to Christ. They were instructed to proclaim the kingdom of God. This is something I think we will always do even there will come a day in the resurrection when we will no longer proclaim the kingdom of God to those who have not yet received Christ’s righteousness in salvation.
In Rome, the Emperor would never travel without announcing his arrival so that he would receive the proper reception. Rarely do we visit someone without calling ahead to announce our coming. The president doesn’t travel abroad without sending a delegation or an ambassador ahead of him to prepare the way. In evangelism, we then take on the role of an ambassador for Christ. We preach the kingdom that He is building and invite people to be a part of that kingdom. Paul wrote something similar:
“What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, and each has the role the Lord has given. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. Now the one planting and the one watering are one in purpose, and each will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Corinthians 3:5-8).
God is the only one who gives the growth. We do not “win” the souls of people. We are ambassadors announcing Christ. Why, then, practice evangelism? Why is evangelism so necessary in the life of the Christian? In response to this question, I offer another. How can I glorify Christ without talking about Christ? If I do not glorify Christ, how can I call myself His follower? We do not evangelize to “win” souls or to somehow build our own kingdoms. We evangelize because that is how we participate in Christ as Christ builds His kingdom. Our motivation is not so human-centered as to think the work depends on us. Our only right motivation can be to honor the God we love because He has first loved us and has chosen us and has given us the same heart that He has for people, not desiring that any perish but that all come to repentance.