The Mediocre Evangelist

The Mediocre Evangelist

This post is from the archives and is one of my favorites.

Evangelism is one of those Christian words we throw around so easily and casually. I personally don’t like the word. “Go evangelize!” It kinda freaks me out. I envision myself standing on a street corner wearing a sandwich board while holding a megaphone shouting, “Sinner!” at the top of my lungs. Not a pretty picture. Not a loving picture. Not a picture I’d ever like to see.

But somewhere between street corner evangelism and Christ’s command to go out and make disciples, we have lost the true meaning of evangelism. We have replaced what should be sharing the Good News with a somewhat sad and pathetic alternative. Instead of actually sharing the Gospel, we do something else and hope that it is enough.

What is it we do instead of actually evangelizing?

We invite people to church and call it a day.

“Hi. I go to church at North Church of Some City on Sunday’s at 10:00 a.m. I wanted to invite you.” Done and done. Check that off my list.

Somehow we think that the proverbial church invite gets us off the evangelism hook, so to speak. That becomes the extent of our evangelism—a church invite? Hmm… somehow I don’t think that’s what Jesus had in mind when He said “go and make disciples”.

We hear pastors preach this message from the pulpit. They tell us to bring a friend, invite a neighbor, give out an informational card for the next upcoming holiday event. These things in and of themselves aren’t bad. We should be inviting neighbors, friends, and family to church, but it is not evangelism. It is perhaps one portion, one small portion, of sharing the Gospel, but that’s all.

I’ll admit that I am guilty of this. I have chickened out, taken the easy road, and ignored the obvious and just invited someone to church. When what I should have done was heed the Spirit’s leading. Sometimes people just need to hear someone speak the name of Jesus, tell them that He knows them and wants them.

People often need a life-saving word right now, in the moment. They need a strand of hope and encouragement now. Yet we stumble upon these people in our daily lives and give them a bit of information about a Sunday service and then ask them to wait until… well, Sunday.

We then pray and pray and keep our fingers crossed that the Sunday service will be just what they need. We pray that the sermon will speak to them and they will be moved by the worship. Again, this is all fine and good and I am not discouraging any of it. But what if we didn’t wait until Sunday?

What if the encouraging word, the message of hope and restoration, forgiveness and redemption was heard from us the moment God placed them in our path? Jesus and Paul did not meet a man on the side of the road, write down an address for them and then say, “See you on Sunday…”

Christ said “Today salvation has come to this house… For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:9-10)

We cannot be a collective group of Christians who believe they have done their duty by extending an invitation.

American Christians have become complacent in their ability and motivation to evangelize. We let the Sunday service become our crutch. We are essentially saying that it is someone else’s job to evangelize. It is the greeters’ at our church. It is our pastors’, our worship leaders’, our homegroup leaders’. They should be doing the evangelizing. We just do the inviting.

Inviting people to church is important. Yet it is a small piece in our evangelistic life. Mediocrity cannot creep into speaking Truth. People’s lives are depending on it. We hold the message of salvation today, not three or four days from now. We are called His ambassadors, not His inviters.

Are you guilty of “church inviting” evangelism? (I certainly am). What do you find works in evangelizing? What has not worked in the past? How has God used you in unexpected way, in the moment, to reach people?

17 thoughts on “The Mediocre Evangelist”

  1. No worries. We are all guilty. Myself included. My father-in-law pointed this fact out to me and I was instantly convicted!

  2. I’ve been really convicted of this recently. It really seems like lately God has been trying hard to get it through my head that WE are His means for reaching the world.

    In fact, I just finished reading the book “Master Plan for Evangelism” by Robert Coleman, and one of the things He point out is that this was Jesus plan from the beginning. He always intended to use His followers to impact others for the gospel. One of the other cool things talked about in his book was the idea that we don’t need to pray for the world like we sometimes do. God already loves them, He already sent His Son to die for them. What we need to pray for are the leaders that God is raising up to reach the world- for courage, boldness, and for them to bring truth and love to those who don’t have it.

    Not that this excuses us from being those people, we just need to pray that Christians are actually doing what we’re called to do. Otherwise, the world won’t know that God has already made provision for them.

  3. Gosh, that is such an awesome reminder. Master Plan of Evangelism should be required reading for all Christians, I believe.

    The message you related here is such a powerful one: to be the leaders that God can use through our obedience, faithfulness, and willingness to reach people for His Kingdom and His glory. It takes not just (or only) us praying for people…it takes us, period.

    Thanks Ashleigh for the great comment!

  4. You hit the proverbial nail on the head Nicole. Fantastic obeservation: What is it we do instead of actually evangelizing?

    We invite people to church and call it a day.

    Oh WOW! I cringe at that. What a ton of stuff that puts on those involved in the morning worship to start with. “Hey pastor, just wanted you to know that I invited my heathen neighbor this morning. Preach a good one.” Aaahh yeah, thanks. Like you, I myself have difficulty AND I’M A PASTOR! That being said, I believe evangelism is simply telling your story in a way that shows people the love of Jesus.

    1. Bill,
      So true. How often do people expect their pastors to bring a good message or preach well, in order to reach the new folks in the pew. We all hold the responsibility of proclaiming the Gospel and Christ crucified.

  5. I’m totally guilty of this. I never really get the chance to hang out with my non-Christian friends so usually it’s like hey, come Wednesday or Sunday, hey we’re bowling, etc… and then they don’t come and it feels like oh, man they don’t want Jesus when really we’re supposed to be bringing it to them.

    1. Sarah,
      Your comment made me think of this quote that I love: Don’t bring people to church. Bring the church to the people.

      If we are the church and the church is not a building or an event, than we need to offer ourselves to those who don’t know Christ.

      I like the idea, too though, of inviting people to fellowship hang-out type things. I find that people are really desperate to be known and to have relationship. Hanging out in a non-threatening social environment is a great intro for many people.

      Thanks for sharing Sarah.

  6. Nicole, I must admit that I’ve never invited anyone to church. I’ve found that nonbelievers don’t usually respond well to this.I agree with Donald, I invite them into my life. I talk with many people who have a bad image of Christianity and I don’t try to tell them they are wrong, I just tell them that is not the Christianity I practice. I then display the love of Christ and encourage discussion. One of the key things, I think, is not getting offended when others’ views are not in line with ours, but listening and countering with truth. People appreciate when our faith isn’t purely emotional and when they are respected and not harassed. I don’t have any wild success stories with this method, I just have faith that the seeds I plant will be watered.

    There have been a few times when I have felt the Spirit lead me to pray with someone in a work setting who is hurting. It can be uncomfortable, but anytime I’ve let the Spirit lead it has been powerful. I’ve never had anyone be offended when I offered to pray with them NOW. Though I might have offended those in ear shot, but I don’t care.

    I completely appreciate your passion for strong, disciple oriented evangelism!

    1. Carla,

      I read your comments and the thought occurred to me: (This is not directed AT you, no. It is simply what popped into my head and I wanted to share it here)

      Church doesn’t save anyone. We don’t save anyone. Jesus does. Walking into a church building or even through the front door of a house church does not save us.

      Our faith is a generational, covenantal, and relational one. For sure, there is a great deal of theology mixed in there, of course, but you and I both know that it will ever come down to a smile, a handshake, a hug, a listening ear, and at times a mouth to recite wisdom. These things are the sole property of us as individuals and cannot be replicated in any church environment.

      I dig what you said about the immediacy of prayer. Too often it falls prey to the cliched, “Oh, I’ll pray for you tonight brother/sister”, and you and I both know there is only about a 30% chance of that actually happening. People tend to forget.

      However, Derek Prince, (a guy I esteem) taught that prayer should be right then, right now, no hesitation. Yes, it does disarm people, and yes, it can make others uncomfortable. Like you said: “I don’t care.” :)

      Good stuff, Carla. Your comments mattered to me.

      1. “Church doesn’t save anyone. We don’t save anyone. Jesus does. Walking into a church building or even through the front door of a house church does not save us.”

        Well said, Donald. I am often uncomfortable when churches claim to save souls- I thought that was Jesus’ job? I’m even a bit uncomfortable with the phrase “so-and-so lead him/her to Christ”. While we can certainly play a role in someone being lead into a relationship with Christ, don’t we play that role because we are willing to let Christ work through us? I like the idea that we are mere vessels in which the Lord works through. But I understand the excitement that comes with a new believer’s redemption and in that moment I’m sure it’s easy to try to take credit for the work that can only be done by God. It is always good (and humbling) to realize that Jesus saves, not you or I or any church.

        Thanks for your words Donald! Great conversation!

    2. Carla,
      Again, I think we agree on the need to be Spirit led, especially when it comes to evangelizing. I’m not opposed to inviting people to church. I just wanted to make the case that it isn’t really evangelism.

      I have invited folks and not invited others. I have let some people essentially invite themselves once their curiosity grew.

      I love your point too that no one has ever been offended when you have offered to pray. Same for me. People may perhaps get visibly uncomfortable, but they have always said “yes.” I think they are surprised by a genuine willingness and desire to immediately offer hope. It is that immediacy and action that is compelling. Jesus operated much the same way.

      Thanks Carla. Great stuff.

      1. I’m not opposed to inviting people to church either, it’s just something I’ve never done. Many times I wonder if I’m too chicken to do it! I’m completely willing to share my faith and talk about the love of Jesus, but I think I’m afraid that inviting people to church sounds pushy. It is something that I always plan to do when the “time is right”, but I’m unsure when that time is! Or I’m unwilling because I’m afraid of damaging a relationship- it is definitely something I need to work on! But I like how you said you’ve let other people invite themselves once their curiosity grew- I think that’s awesome. There is a couple we hang out with and they are genuinely interested in our faith and churches we’ve attended. I think they would be open to being invited but I was wondering if they might invite themselves.

  7. Nicole and Carla,

    I am so digging this thread right now. You have no idea.

    If Nicole wasn’t pregnant and I knew the stance the both of you had regarding booze, I would buy you both virtual margaritas. Yes. The conversation is so good it makes me want to buy you margaritas.

    Just sayin’.

    Btw, Nicole, your covenant husband is an interesting fellow. You two are very dangerous together, ain’t you? I am not seeking to sound all religious, but one doesn’t have to squint too hard to see the hand of our Father all over your lives.

  8. I love this post Nicole! Evangelism is something I’m so passionate and excited about, but still struggle with often. I’ve found the best way to tell other people about my Saviour is just to be bubbling up and overflowing with joy and passion for Him. It’s infectious! When I went travelling around the world a couple of years ago, my relationship with God was so strengthened that I just couldn’t stop talking about Him when I came back home – I wanted to shout from the rooftops how good God is. So I’m constantly trying to be in that place, of looking to God and being excited about how good, gracious and merciful He is.

    Another thing is that I try to talk about my faith in everyday conversations. On my travels I spent some time in India, and I was struck by how people of all religions often mentioned their faith in passing, just in conversations about everyday life. I realised that, if my faith really is at the centre of my life and defines who I am, surely it should crop up in conversation, regardless of who I’m talking to?

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