Evangelism: It's Your Job
One of the aggravating aspects of being in school is having to be part of a group project with someone who doesn’t want to work. And that kind of frustration can also happen on a sports team or in a regular job.
Proverbs 18:9 tells us: Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys. If someone isn’t trying their best, they might as well be playing for the other team. It’s an aggravating feeling.
Proverbs 10:26 says this: Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him.
Vinegar, by itself, isn’t very pleasant. And smoke in your eyes hurts. It irritates. This isn’t the time for our Proverbs sermon on laziness (that’ll come eventually), but some of this is almost intuitive to life. Lazy people are tough to deal with.
We have practical experience and biblical teaching telling us that one of the things that mark lazy people is excuses. Lazy people make excuses.
Twice in Proverbs we’re told: “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!” “It’s too dangerous to go do work today.” That’s the excuse of the lazy person. That’s the excuse of someone who doesn’t want to do their part in the work.
Well, can this idea be applied to the topic of evangelism? I think it can—to some degree. In my own life, I think it’s fair to say that I have been lazy in evangelism. And not just lazy in speaking for Christ, but lazy in doing the work it takes to create those opportunities and relationships.
And like the sluggard of Proverbs, we make excuses. The excuses can be overt, at the front of our mind. Or they can be more subtle, built more deeply into our ideas and beliefs.
Donald Whitney has a book called Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. And in the chapter on evangelism, he says that evangelism is a discipline. He says, “We must discipline ourselves to get into the context of evangelism, that is, we must not just wait for witnessing opportunities to happen.”
Unfortunately, there are so many excuses not to this. Some people think they aren’t trained enough. That’s one excuse. Other excuses are “I don’t have enough time,” “I don’t know any non-Christians,” “There are other, more urgent things,” “It will make things difficult or awkward for me,” or “I’m not allowed to.”
Maybe those kinds of thoughts sound familiar. Donald Whitney asks this question: “Isn’t the main reason we don’t witness because we don’t discipline ourselves to do it?” Why don’t we do that? Why is it so difficult, or uncomfortable, to dedicate time to spend with non-believers in a more profound conversation?
At the heart of that issue, I think one main issue is this excuse. And it’s an excuse you might have heard many, many times in other contexts. Here’s the excuse: It’s not my job. It’s not my job.
How many of you have ever heard that, or said that yourself? I’ve said it, or at least thought it, when I should have been taking out the trash, picking up after the dog, changing a diaper, or washing a dish. It’s not my job. It’s not my turn. I did it last time. Now it’s somebody else’s responsibility.
When I was a server at the restaurant, and I helped train new people, few things were as annoying to me than that kind of response from another employee. “That’s not my job.”
And sometimes, it really wasn’t their job. It was somebody else’s job. And if someone did it, they felt like it was such a huge accomplishment. Like they deserved a medal. And we sometimes do the same with evangelism. We treat it like a bonus activity. Like it’s going above and beyond the call of a Christian. Why do we feel like that?
Two hundred and fifty years ago, many more people in American culture were familiar with craftsmen. A craftsman was someone who would use his tools to make and assemble all the pieces for a product, say a sofa or a pair of shoes. But all that changed with the coming of the Industrial Revolution and the assembly line.
From that point forward, many of the most financially successful companies no longer depended on craftsmen building something from start to finish. Instead they gave each worker a specific job to do which was only one step in the manufacturing process. And once that job was done, the product was passed on to the next guy. The result was increased efficiency, decreased costs, and better, more consistent products. All of this translated into a more profitable business.
This division of labor is not a bad or sinful way of running a business. It gave each person in the process a specialty they could excel. And when you put all those specialties together, you get a much better product.
Well, in some respects, I think what happens in our minds when we think about evangelism and the spread of the gospel and the cause of Christ, is that we delegate it to those who specialize in it. We might think: “Well, I’m pretty sure evangelism isn’t my strong point, so I’ll find something else to do and get good at. I’ll find something else that brings Christ glory.”
We might even think: “You know telling people the gospel is such a huge and monumental task, I don’t want to mess it up. So why don’t we just leave that to the professionals, those who are “better” at it. Isn’t that a good thing? That sounds like a very careful and humble response.
We leave it to the professionals… We leave it to people who are “better at it” than us. We escape our responsibility under the guise of humility.
Well, is that okay? Is that a biblical way to think?
On the one hand, it’s not unbiblical to recognize that every person strengths and weaknesses. But one the other hand, we have to recognize that, even if we have weaknesses in our Christian life, nowhere in Scripture are we released from our general duties as Christians.
Go with me, for example to Romans chapter 12. Romans chapter 12. This is one of four passages that address what we typically call “spiritual gifts.” And what it teaches is that even though we’re all different, we are connected to one another. We are a body. ROMAN 12:3-8.
That passage calls us not to be puffed up—to think soberly—and to make a contribution. We should all be ministering in and through the body of Christ. But nowhere in that passage will you find an excuse NOT to do something. I would say, the point of this passage is to call us to MORE service, not to less. But many, many people take it as if it's saying: "You stick to what you like or what you’re good at. And I’ll stick to what I’m good at, or what I like."
But let’s follow that line of reasoning for a second. If Paul was saying that each of us should only do one of those things, then it’s possible that if I asked someone to serve, say with the Children’s Ministry, they could reply: “What?! I give my money. My gift is giving. So don’t ask me to do more.” Or someone might answer: “What?! Give an offering to the cause of Christ?! Giving isn’t my gift. My gift is service or teaching. Don’t ask me to do that. That’s not my job.”
Do you see how it doesn’t work that way? Division of labor and specialization of work might make for a more profitable or efficient organization but it doesn’t match God’s strategy and design for all of us as Christians. Evangelism is not just for the pastors. It’s not just for those who are good at it. It’s not just for those with a lot of unbelieving friends and family. It is something we’re all called to do. It’s everyone’s job.
Now, in many places, saying “it’s everyone’s job” sometimes means “it’s nobody’s job.” And nothing ever gets done. Because everyone just leaves it for the next guy. But that’s not how it should be in the church. Everyone should be looking for it.
If you invited a friend to church. And for whatever reason, hypothetically speaking, none of our sermons or classes actually articulated the gospel. But a lot of us started a relationship with the visitor, do you think we as members of the church, would ever tell the gospel to that person? Would we?
Well, we could also ask it another way… If someone else brought a friend and you began to make conversation with that person, would you talk about the gospel? Would you ever talk about sin and Jesus Christ and forgiveness that comes from repentance and faith? Would you? …
It’s a very probing question. And it get sot the heart of who we are. We’re not a club filled with nice, polite people. That’s not why we’re here. We’re not a group of people who come in order to get some parenting or financial tips. Why are we united? We’re united because we have been redeemed from the righteous wrath of God by the precious sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus has reconciled us to God. That’s why we’re here. And if any visitor comes, and spends a considerable amount of time with us, and doesn’t know that, then something is wrong. Because evangelism is everybody’s job. We’re all called to do it.
Now, what I want to do today is very simple. I simply want to make a biblical case to show you that no Christian, when it comes to evangelism, has the right to say: “That’s not my job.” None of us can say that legitimately.
So, for starters, I’d like you to go with me to the final verses in the Gospel of Matthew. I think this is a great place to start. Matthew, chapter 28, verses 18-20. These are the final verses of the book, so you know it’s important. Matthew, and the Holy Spirit want this to be emphasized. MATTHEW 28:18-20.
Those are very familiar words to most of you I’m sure. And on the surface, someone might say: You see, it’s inescapable. That’s Jesus giving directions. And when He gives direction, we listen. That’s why He reminds them that He has all authority.
But go back up with me to verse 16. Who is Jesus talking to? Who is mentioned. Verses 16 says it is the eleven disciples, because Judas is gone by now. So, someone could respond by saying: “Well, He does have all authority, but Jesus is actually not speaking to us here. He’s just talking to the eleven disciples, who became the Apostles.”
But I’d like you to notice something. Look again at the command. Of whom, or in what location, should the disciples make more disciples. “Of all nations.” Did the Apostles do that? No, they didn’t. The Apostles of that generation couldn’t personally reach out to every nation or every tribe. And notice also, Jesus’ final promise. “I will be with you to the end of the age.” Why does He say that? Because this promise and this command extends to much more than just the twelves Apostles. It extends to the Church in every future generation. Do you understand the priority of that? This is the church’s mandate. This is the church’s mission statement. That’s why we’re here.
And it makes no sense to say that you are part of the Church but do not act in accordance with its God-given mission. That’s our purpose. To teach the gospel, both to believers for their sanctification, and to unbelievers for their salvation. That’s why we’re here.
Now as you follow the story of the New Testament, what you see is this design being worked out.
Flip over to the book of Acts with me. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, then Acts. This is the history of the church after Jesus ascends back to Heaven. And so now, it’s Jesus ministering, not personally anymore, but through the Church, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
If you study the Greek words for evangelism, or evangelize, or gospel (which are all related), you find that those words are used more in Acts than in any other New Testament book. Some of that is because of how long the book is, but still, it’s an important topic.
Now, in almost every occasion, what you find is that the evangelism, or the proclamation or teaching of the gospel is done by the Apostles. And that makes sense because that is whom the story follows, and they are the leaders. But there are two occasions where this is not the case. And I’d like you to see them.
The first appears in Acts, chapter 8. Acts 8. This is immediately after Stephen is killed. Persecution breaks out. And look at what we’re told. ACTS 8:1-4.
In verse 4, the verb there used for preaching means evangelizing, proclaiming the good news. Who was proclaiming the good news of Christ’s word? Answer: those who were scattered. And who was scattered? Or better yet: Who was NOT scattered from Jerusalem? Verse 1 tells us: “everyone except the Apostles.”
So even though there’s no explicit command here, the pattern is that where Christians go, so does the gospel. Do you get that? Wherever Christians go, so does the gospel.
Are there any Christians in your family? Are there any Christians in your workplace or in your neighborhood? There’s at least one, right? And if there’s a Christian there, then there should be a gospel impact. People may not be coming to faith, but the gospel is reaching out to them.
The second example in Acts comes from chapter 11. And this is just another example of the same principle. Go ahead and turn there. Acts 11, verse 19. And this is talking about the believers who were scattered beyond Judea and Samaria. ACTS 11:19-21.
Once again, that word “preaching” in verse 20 means to evangelize, to proclaim the good news. Who was doing it? Not the Apostles. They didn’t leave Jerusalem originally. It was the other believers who left the church in Jerusalem that began to declare the gospel to Jews and Gentiles in the Roman Empire. And verse 21 tells us that God blessed it. Many turned to the Lord. How did that happen? Why did it happen? Because where the church is, the gospel is proclaimed. And unless the gospel is proclaimed, no one will turn to the Lord.
Now, after Acts in your Bibles, you get the epistles, the letters written to the church by various leaders. After Acts, it’s Romans, which is massively important. In Romans, Paul describes God’s global purpose, His plan for the nations. This is a global mission.
After Romans we get two letters to the Corinthians church. Would you turn with me to Second Corinthians? Second Corinthians chapter 5. This is a section in which Paul lets us see his heart in all this. How does he see himself and his ministry? What compels him? Look at 2 COR 5:11.
Paul fears God. He wants to worship Him. He wants to honor Him with his life. And because of that motivation, he persuades others. He wants them to know the truth. In this case, he doesn’t want the Corinthian church to be led astray by false teachers. Look at VERSE 14-15.
This is what motivated Paul—his love for Jesus Christ. And if Jesus loved Him (by taking God’s wrath on the cross and freeing him from eternal judgment in hell), then he will give his life to serve Him, to obey Him. He is indebted to Jesus Christ the Lord. VERSE 17-18.
Notice the plural there. The ministry was given to “us” the Church, not “me” the Apostle Paul, but “us” the Christians. we have the ministry of reconciliation.
Jesus reached out to restore our relationship with God. We were His enemies, and He made up his friends, His children. And now we reach out to the people of this world, pointing them to the restoration they can have in Jesus if they turn from their sin and place their faith in Him.
This world is guilty before a righteous God. But Jesus died in the place of sinners. He was raised from the dead. And He calls you to serve Him. He commands you to stop living for yourself, and to live for Him. And He offers you complete forgiveness. He will wipe away every sin, for all who believe in Him and entrust themselves to Him. That’s the message or reconciliation. VERSE 19-21.
This is the life of a Christian. We are ambassadors for Jesus Christ. We represent the King of creation, the King of the universe, the King of heaven. And we come, calling all people to be reconciled to God in Jesus Christ. God calls to people through us. How much does your life reflect that reality? How seriously have you taken that aspect of your job description?
If you feel stuck, if you feel like you don’t know how to do that, in addition to praying, I’d like to know about it. Not to shame you, but take my job seriously as an elder and as a teacher. Let me know what questions you think would be helpful for me to try and answer, and I can use those to help others in this series too.
One of the other passages in the New Testament that describes spiritual gifts is Ephesians 4. And there, it lists the groups of people that were particularly known for their instruction.
Ephesians 4:11—Jesus gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers… Why?! … to equip the saints for the work of ministry… so that the body grows and builds itself up in love. That’s so important.
As a member of this church, I’m as responsible to evangelize as you are. But my job as an elder, or as a pastor is not to give you less work. It is to equip you, to train you, to teach you to do the job God has already given us. I’m not here to give you less work. I’m here to help you do your job better. We’re all working together. That’s God’s design.
Turn with me, if you would to the letter to the Philippians. After 1st and 2nd Corinthians it Galatians, Ephesians, then Philippians. Philippians chapter 1. Paul never felt as if he was the only one preaching the gospel. He knew that church was doing it as well. He did it abroad, and they did it back home. And that why writes this to them. PHILIPPIANS 1:3-5.
That partnership was not just a partnership in salvation, but it was a participation in proclaiming the gospel. So he continues, PHILIPPIANS 1:6-7.
Paul knew the Philippian church was standing with him. They were on the same team, working toward the same goal, defending and confirming the gospel. Lydia was one of those Philippian believers. We read about her in Acts 16. She came to the Lord, and then she was used by God to minister to her household.
That’s God’s design. He doesn’t just work to bring you the gospel and to save you. He then works through you to reach out to others, especially those in your circles, in the places He’s already placed you. That’s why Jesus said we are light. And our job is not to hide that light under a basket but to shine it to everyone around us. And if you remember from last week, shining our light isn’t just doing good deeds, though that should happen. It’s giving them the explanation. It’s pointing them to the glory of God in Jesus Christ.
There are some among us who do it better than others. I’ve seen it. Some of you are especially gifted by God to build relationships, to reach out to people, and then use that relationship as a platform to connect them to the church and to tell them the gospel. It’s an amazing thing.
And when you see someone like that, your thought shouldn’t just be: “I’m so glad someone is doing it, because that’s good for the church.” A more helpful response would be to talk to that person. Ask them questions. Learn from them.
In Second Timothy 4, Paul tells Timothy, as a leader in the church, to do the work of an evangelist. And then, in Hebrews 13:7, we’re told that members of the church should be imitating their leaders, imitating their conduct and their faith.
So, there’s no room in the church for any of us to say: “That’s not my job.” Find another excuse, but don’t use that one. It is your job. It’s everyone’s job.
I’d like to close our time by having you turn to the epistle of First Peter. First Peter. It’s near the back of your Bible. After Hebrews. After James. First Peter chapter 2.
Evangelism is everyone’s job. We see it in the gospels. We see it in Acts. We see it in the epistles of Paul. And now, we’ll see it in a letter from Peter. Peter didn’t write this letter, just to church leaders. He wrote it to all the believers. He wrote it to everyone in the church. And, just so you know, they were suffering tremendously at this time. And what he wants them to know is the purpose of the church. Why are we here?
Look with me at 1 Peter chapter 2, verse 1. 1 PETER 2:1-3.
If you’re a Christian, you need God’s word. You need to come to the word, and in coming to the word, you come to Jesus Himself, and Peter tells us why that matters. VERSES 4-5.
The primary purpose of the church is adoration, worship. God created us for the purpose of praise. We offer to God spiritual sacrifices. We offer Him praise with our lips and praise with our minds and praise with our bodies.
How? What is the one major way we do that? VERSE 9.
God saved us to praise, and He saved us to proclaim. That’s our purpose on this earth. To praise our God by proclaiming His glory. Praise and proclamation.
God didn’t save us just so we would look pretty on His shelf. He saved us to put us to work. He called us into His kingdom, onto His team, so that we would join the effort in gathering more and more worshippers for His glory.
Jesus told the woman at the well: “The Father is seeking worshippers." He’s seeking those who will worship Him in Spirit and truth. And who in this world has the Spirit? Who in this world has the truth? It’s you and it’s me. It is every Christian in this world.
And so, despite all the distractions and the difficulties of life, this is what Peter wants the Christians to know. This is what he wants them to understand: There is something much more pressing in life than our physical comfort or safety. And that is the glory of God through Jesus Christ.
And even if we have to suffer, we can endure with faith, knowing that God has a reward awaiting us in the future and a commission for us in the present. Flip over to 1 Peter, chapter 3, verse 14. 1 Peter 3:14-16.
Our lives should look different. Your life should demand more than an earthly explanation. It’s supposed to point people to something otherworldly, something glorious, something eternal. It should point them to the hope of Jesus Christ.
And so, you’re called to always be ready to give them the reason. Be ready with your life (keep a clean conscience), and be ready with your words. That’s everyone’s job for the glory of God in Jesus Christ.
Evangelism is your job. It’s my job. It’s OUR job.