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Evangelism - what's needed: what's missing?
"Evangelism? It's something I wouldn't do to my dog." These were the words of one young believer who subsequently went on to write a best-selling book on the subject of personal evangelism.
But do we fulfill the Great Commission today? And if so how?
WHAT do we think when the subject of Evangelism is raised? How do we respond? Excited or Embarrassed? Defensive or Daring? What is our mental picture of an evangelist? How is evangelism outworked?
The subject of evangelism can provoke heated discussions amongst Christians. "I take my faith onto the streets and share it openly with anyone who will listen", says one.
"Well I believe that a low-key friendship-based approach is the best way," says another.
"Actually you're both wrong", says another. "Better to leave it to those with a gift in spreading the Gospel".
In fact there is no absolute in terms of the right way to share one's faith. Paul endeavoured to become 'all things to all men' and instructed young Timothy to 'preach the word in season and out of season'.
Philip spoke to a man on his way home in his chariot. Peter reached out to a prison officer while in jail. Paul spoke to a governor. Jesus himself spoke very publicly to a hungry mulitude, and in private to a women from Samaria. He mixed with the social outcasts of his day. He mingled with despised collaborators and women of dubious morals.
So how are we doing in the 21st century?
The notes to follow list (on a one-at-time-basis) five prerequisites to motivating and enabling God's people to witness effectively to a needy, but un-reached world. These suggested components of effective outreach are posited principally to stimulate thinking (and - who knows? - discussion) on the subject.
Prerequisite No. 1: A living personal relationship with Jesus Christ
How easy (difficult) is it for churches containing a mixture of committed believers and those who are just 'church attenders' to implement and maintain a mission-orientated ethos ?
Prerequisite No. 2: A clear and universal understanding of the Gospel and the Great Commission
Is the body of Christ well taught and keenly aware of the callings and responsibilities of the Gospel and the Great Commission to travel into all the world (into every section of society) to make disciples of Jesus?
Prerequisite No. 3: A clear and universal teaching and understanding that every single believer in Christ is called to witness to their faith.
Is there a mindset, teaching and impression communicated which restricts the role and calling of evangelism to those who stand in pulpits and/or those who address assembled masses?
Prerequisite No. 4: A process and facility within local fellowships which allows individual believers to better understand and get to grips with personal, day-to-day approach to evangelism
With the common view that an evangelist is someone like Luis Palau, does the average Christian have an adequate 'model' of how to share one's faith at a personal and everyday level?
Prerequisite No. 5: Each 'evangelist' should be able to identify a local church fellowship to which an enquirer or young Christian can be directed.
Do believers have a freedom from their own church leadership to direct and accompany enquirers or new Christians to churches other than their own (if that is the most appropriate thing to do)?
Without these prerequisites in place, it is unlikely that any one individual within a local church will be highly motivated, equipped, encouraged and supported in personal evangelism.