What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘evangelism’? To some people this word stirs up fear and anxiety because of the need to go before other people—family, friends, or strangers—and share with them the gospel. Other people hear the word ‘evangelism’ and they’re embarrassed because they relate it to corny or deceptive salespeople who will do anything just to get their “product” sold. Still other people hear the word evangelism and they feel guilty because they don’t participate in it, or feel like they could be doing more.
Could it be that we’re supposed to feel joy when we think of evangelism? Yes!
We should have joy in our evangelism because of what it works to accomplish, namely, the exaltation of God and the salvation of people. Think of it: God is using human mouthpieces to declare his praises and bring eternal life to people who are dead in sin. This is the staggering work of faith and labor of love we participate in when we seek to fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). God has determined that he will be glorified and people will be saved through the hearing of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And, therefore, the gospel must be declared. For example, consider Romans 10:14-17,
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”  But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
We should be overjoyed to know that through our simple proclamation of the gospel God is pleased to save people! Indeed, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” This is why the apostle (in quoting Isaiah 52:7) considers evangelists’ feet beautiful—they are broadcasting nothing less than salvation when they go forth declaring the saving news of Jesus Christ.
Evangelism glorifies God and offers people eternal good. This reality should thrill our soul and cause joy to well up in us. But what if it doesn’t?
If evangelism isn’t a joyful thought to us it may be because we think too little of God and people. In other words, if I don’t think highly of God and people, evangelism will not conjure up joy in me, but drudgery. Indeed, I will avoid it at all costs.
Love for God
Joyful evangelism begins, first, with a high view of God. If we esteem him above all things, we will have to talk about him and the wonders of salvation. This, I believe, is in part what is going on in 2 Cor. 5:14 when the apostle states “the love of Christ controls us.” Paul has seen something of “the breadth and length and height and depth” of the love of Christ—a love that surpasses knowledge (Eph. 3:18-19). Therefore, he must proclaim this saving love to the nations.
Perhaps this illustration will help. I remember well the day Julia and I were engaged to be married. Hearing her say “Yes” to my proposal was one of the greatest moments of my life. That one word from her lips caused a joy in me like never before or since—a joy that I had to share. In those days immediately following our engagement no one had to tell me to share this good news. My mouth couldn’t be shut. I loved to tell the story of how Julia said “Yes.
In a similar way, we should be so overwhelmed by the love of God in Christ for us that we have to tell the world. To quote Switchfoot, we have to “Let it Out.”
Love for People
Joyful evangelism begins, secondly, with love for people. Does your heart break for the lost estate of people apart from Christ? Like Paul, do you have “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” for the spiritually dead? (Cf., Rom. 9:1-2). The apostle told the Philippians “with tears” that many are “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18). When we consider the peril that people are in apart from Christ, namely the just judgment of God, we should be quick to weep and witness—weep for their condition and witness for their salvation. After all, do we agree or not with Hebrews 10:31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Neighbor love should move us to open our mouths with words of life.
I want us as a church to experience more joy in evangelism. This is why I’m so excited about our upcoming evangelism class at Immanuel. Beginning on Tuesday, May 6, I’ll take six weeks to consider what the Bible says about evangelism. I hope you will consider joining me for this class. Together we’ll ask and answer questions like the following:
- What is evangelism?
- Who should evangelize?
- Why should we evangelize?
- How should we evangelize?
- What is the role of the local church in evangelism?
My prayer is that we will grow in our joyful embrace of this essential work—for the love of God and people.
Christ for the nations and our neighborhood,