Editor’s Note: Below is a guest post from a new friend, Steve Swan. Steve is the associate pastor at The King’s Fellowship, a church in the heart of Winnipeg, Canada. Steve is married to his best friend, Sarah and they have two daughters, Nora(3) and Lulu(1). You can find his blog at Words of Truth & Reason.
In Charles Spurgeon’s book The Soul Winner, he writes this about evangelism:
“We must not excuse ourselves, but force ourselves to the irksome task till it becomes easy.”
Evangelism isn’t easy. I mean evangelism in the strictest sense, speaking the Gospel to another person who needs to be persuaded of its truth and beauty. Most Christians acknowledge we each have a duty to speak well of the Lord, but that duty comes with great weight. The very topic of evangelism can inspire great guilt and feelings of inadequacy. It certainly used to for me.
I love talking to people about Jesus and the Good News. That being said, it hasn’t always come easy for me. It still doesn’t. But I remember being greatly helped by Spurgeon’s old classic, The Soul Winner. It’s a pretty old book and it’s tempting to write it off as outdated but my old tattered copy has been an important part of my journey into more evangelism. Spurgeon is right when he says that the task may seem irksome, and that the only way to make it easier is to just do it.
At first glance, it might not be seem all that encouraging. I mean, he’s telling us to ‘force ourselves’ after all. But when his advice is followed, I have found that it is true. It does become easier. It even becomes joyful. Following Spurgeon’s very ‘Nike-esque’ advice to ‘just do it’ has helped me learn how to live out the following in my evangelizing:
Respect. Everyone deserves respect and they can feel it when you give it. It means attempting to truly understand where they are coming from. Asking questions, listening and sympathizing with their situation are all part of respect. Francis Schaeffer used to say that if he had one hour with someone, he would spend 55 minutes asking questions before presenting the Gospel. Respectful listening has taught me a lot about what concerns people and how to share the Gospel with them.
Kindness. Evangelism is a type of spiritual warfare. It involves a clash between worldviews and ideologies. Paul reminds us that even though arguments and pride against God are to be cast down, it is not the flesh and blood person in front of us that is our enemy (2 Cor 10:3-5). Every person, no matter how antagonistic to the Gospel, can be given kindness. Kindness can defuse even the strongest skepticism.
No Prejudice. Many of us decide ahead of time who is close to belief and who is not. I have caught myself thinking, “oh, that guy will never become a Christian”. But nobody was a more unlikely candidate to become a Christian than I was in my early twenties. I mocked God and the Gospel the first number of times I heard it. It seems to me that indiscriminate scattering is the pattern of sharing the Gospel set forth for us (Mark 4:3-9).
Love. I would really rather keep to myself. Every time I share with a friend or stranger about the Lord I have to fight the temptation to ‘not bother them’. Love for others is what overcomes the Gospel-killing urge to mind my own business.
Courage. Many people want to speak about Christ but feel afraid. Some wait for a supernatural download of fearlessness in speaking the Gospel. Those people usually don’t talk much about the Lord. Courage is not the absence of fear but, instead, speaking anyways in the midst of fear. For me, speaking to someone about Christ and His work is like parachuting out of a plane. You just have to jump and then it will be okay.
Trust. To speak the Gospel means we must really believe that the message itself contains the power of salvation (Romans 1:16). God will save many. We have been entrusted with the message but it’s God who gets it done. When we really believe that, it sets us free to talk to friends and strangers, to speak well of the Lord and then leave it to Him. Sometimes people accuse Reformed theology of killing evangelism. I suppose that can be true in many cases. There is nothing more absurd than sitting around pondering who may or may not be the ‘elect’. But a Reformed understanding of the Gospel, like in Spurgeon’s case, can be a great motivator for going out and speaking the word. Because with it comes the promise that it will accomplish exactly what God has planned.
I couldn’t have learned these things through reading about them, even on a fine blog such as this. I only grew in them by being out in that world which God has loved so much (John 3:16) and speaking the Gospel to those He puts in my path. Spurgeon is right, it is by doing it that makes it easier.
I haven’t always been an eager evangelist. Like I said, it doesn’t come naturally to me. But stepping out and having those conversations, even when my flesh didn’t want to has begun to loosen my tongue. I still have a great ways to go and much to learn. I don’t know if it’s become easy, but it certainly is a little easier. There is no greater honor than carrying the Story of the Lord into this world, even if it begins as an ‘irksome task’.