Evangelism is the activity of the people of God in bringing the message of the gospel to those who have not heard it, or do not believe it. It includes all the work of making known the gospel, whether at home or abroad. The Lord Jesus Christ commanded his apostles to evangelise. The command is to go to every race, tribe or group of people in the world and is operative until his coming again. We live in an age when the most remote areas of the world are being opened up, and the world’s population is greater than ever before. The command to evangelise is more relevant than ever. For the people of God, this command is at once their particular privilege and their responsibility alone – none other will do it!
Mat. 18:20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8; Isa. 49:6; Rom. 10:14, 15.
The Importance of Doctrine
The theology we hold will determine our approach and method in evangelism. Biblical evangelism must be rooted in biblical doctrine, drawing from it both its authority and its motive power. The evangelist must understand the doctrines of Total Depravity and Regeneration. Man in his sin is not free to come to God by his own will, but must be born again by the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. Gospel preaching must declare the whole counsel of God, and proclaim him as both holy and righteous, as creator and judge. The preaching of the law of God with its implications for all men should be accompanied by the preaching of the grace of God, through the substitutionary sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. The faithful preacher will not fail to warn his hearers of everlasting punishment, nor to hold out the promise of everlasting life to all those who believe.
The Godly Life of the Church
One of the most vital factors in evangelism is the reflection of the life and character of the Lord Jesus Christ in the local church. Love, joy, unity, holiness and good works are essential to evangelistic testimony. Enquirers after truth cannot but be encouraged where these are consistently present.
Responsibility for Organisation
Besides maintaining its own life and vitality, every local church has the responsibility (in proportion to the numbers and gifts that God has given to them) of spreading the gospel to every person in their neighbourhood. They must also contribute in a realistic way to the evangelisation of other areas of the world. This demands some measure of organisation, and the elders of each church are responsible to guide in this matter.
Every local church must submit itself to the guidance of the Holy Spirit within its own particular circumstances. The following guide-lines do not necessarily apply to every church.
Services of the Lord’s Day: The forthright preaching of the gospel, supported by the faithful attendance and joyful participation of the church members is honoured by a gracious God. Those members who feel ungifted for any other means of evangelism may play a part here.
Personal Confrontation: Every believer is required to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in him to any who may enquire. Beyond this, some are gifted with the ability to make direct approaches to individual men and women with the gospel. Such approaches may result from contact in the daily routine of life, or from encounters at the auxiliary meetings of a christian fellowship (such as women’s meetings, youth meetings, home study groups, etc.) or from the systematic visitation of homes in the area.
Christian Literature: Tracts and booklets may be used in widespread distribution, but great care should be taken that their contents are of a high standard, and thoroughly scriptural. Nor should it be forgotten that one personal conversation is normally of far greater value than the giving out of vast quantities of impersonal literature.
Working Together: It is physically impossible for any one church to be involved in every type of evangelistic work, and it will therefore be found profitable to work with other churches to further the Lord’s work at home and abroad. The Strict Baptist Mission is a case in point. In this way the gospel has been preached world-wide by men and women who have been supported by the churches in personal evangelism, literature production and radio ministry.
Special Services: Some men are especially gifted by God as able evangelistic preachers. Their ministries should be shared among the churches either in chapels or in the open air. But this must never be regarded as a substitute for consistent effort by the whole church at all times.
Aids to Evangelism: Hospitality and the generous use of the christian home are important factors in evangelism and should be given every possible encouragement. Advertising media can also be profitably used to bring the local church to the attention of the community.
The Prayer Meeting: Here, the responsibility of outreach should be laid before the Lord. The various possibilities should be considered in the light of the gifts which the Lord has given to the church. It is seriously to be questioned whether any person should be permitted to engage in the church’s outreach who does not regularly attend one of the prayer meetings.
Assured Results: Not all who hear the gospel proclaimed will be saved, but believers evangelise with the sure knowledge that, whatever their local circumstances, God’s cause will finally triumph.
Psa. 22:27; Dan. 2:31-35; Isa. 55:11; Ezek. 33:8, 9; 1 Cor. 15:27, 28, 58; Rev. 7:9