(You can read last month’s here.) This month we are continuing our discussion of the importance of discipling our children by helping them have a heart for evangelism and the tools to be effective in it. Jesus’ last command as He left this earth was: “. . . Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
Until the more recent years, I thought I cared about seeing lost souls saved, but the evidence of my life didn’t indicate that this was a reality. I was content to live my personal life wholeheartedly for the Lord Jesus, striking up conversations when I could, and waiting for others to initiate questions about my faith that might lead to the opportunity to share Christ with them.
Lifestyle evangelism is a term I often hear associated with this kind of witnessing. The truth of those years was that I wasn’t being asked by those around me to tell them about Christ, and my family wasn’t developing a passion for witnessing. I am excited now by the changes in my heart and my children’s hearts as the Lord is leading us down a path of forthright evangelism.
Most people consider themselves to be good people; therefore, they believe they are able to get to heaven based on their own merit. Yet the Bible tells us differently. “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags . . .” (Isaiah 64:6). “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). That is why it is vitally important for people to realize that without Christ they will spend eternity in hell and for us to be actively telling them about Jesus Christ.
Since Jesus commanded us to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) and the world needs Christ, why is it that believers of today are not witnessing? I’m sure there are numerous reasons, but I wonder if there are several very common ones for not witnessing. I will list a few in no particular order and what Scripture says in comparison.
First, some don’t know how to witness. This can be a hindrance, but should it be? If Jesus gave a direct command to someone, wouldn’t you expect him to obey it? Would Jesus give a command that couldn’t be obeyed? Of course not. If we don’t know how to witness, then we need to learn how. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). We don’t want to be disobedient to the Lord’s command to witness just because we don’t know how to do it. We learn how, and then we obey.
Second, some don’t want to offend people. That is fully understandable because we should not want to offend. To get in someone’s face and passionately tell him he is going to hell will likely be offensive. However, if our motive is love and we are deeply concerned for where they are going to spend eternity, they are much less likely to react negatively. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). If a person is unaware that he has a serious illness from which he will die unless treated, he will be grateful if you care enough to tell him of his disease. If our motive is viewed as selfishly trying to get someone to come to our church, the person is far more likely to react negatively than if we are seen as striving to introduce the person to a relationship with the only true God of the universe. Often, after I have shared Christ with someone, I will ask whether I have offended him in any way. Most people will not only say that I haven’t offended them, but many will also add that they are grateful for what was said.
Third, some are embarrassed to tell others openly about Jesus and don’t want them to think they are extreme. “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). I think Paul’s position on whether he cared if others thought him foolish is the one to take. “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised” (1 Corinthians 4:10). It doesn’t matter if others think of us as fools as long as our Lord says, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” Amen?
Fourth, perhaps some think they are too busy, and witnessing takes too much time. Can you imagine yourself on the way to an important appointment when you notice a baby stroller rolling out into the street? You know that soon a car will hit it, killing the child inside. Do you stop, putting yourself at some risk, to rescue the baby? In addition, you know that you will miss your appointment because after pulling the child from danger, it will take time to contact the authorities and find the parents. Certainly, we would put our agenda aside and do what needed to be done for the sake of the child. “. . . he that winneth souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30). I have realized that I may regret not speaking to a person about his soul, but I won’t regret doing it.
Fifth, sadly, there are many whose faith is not anything worth sharing. I’m convinced this is true quite often. When a person has something he is excited about, you can’t stop him from telling others. In the following passage we see that the Samaritan woman hurriedly left to tell others in the city about Jesus. “The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? . . . And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did” (John 4:28-29, 39). If we have a vibrant relationship with Jesus, we will want to tell others about Him.
Sixth, is that so very many—like we were—are satisfied with lifestyle evangelism. “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). Abiding in Jesus makes us fitting instruments to be used by the Lord to reach others. Abide means to rest, to remain, and to dwell. This has to do with our relationship with Jesus. It is the basis for all that He enables us to accomplish. If we wrongly interpret abiding to mean we may be content to physically rest, remain, and dwell within the comfort zones of our homes and our churches—lifestyle evangelism—then we miss the aspect of abiding in Christ that allows us to move into the area of trusting Jesus to equip us to “go and preach.”
For many of those reasons why others don’t witness, I, too, have wanted my abiding in Christ to mean only that I read my Bible, pray, and live a “righteous” life. However, I have come to see that the ultimate of abiding is relying on Jesus Christ to give me boldness, gracious words, a loving heart, and the power of His Word in sharing the Gospel—not simply lifestyle evangelism but rather purposeful evangelism. We speak the Word; God brings the harvest. My responsibility is to be obedient; God’s responsibility is to bring the increase. “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour” (1 Corinthians 3:6-8).
As a further emphasis that we are to actively share our faith, we can look at who was initially in favor of believers sharing their faith by the lifestyle only. “And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18). Peter and John were told by Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, and the council not to speak about Jesus. The Greek word for speak means to proclaim. They weren’t forbidden from living a “Christian” life. That wasn’t a threat to the high priest and the council. It was speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus that was the problem. Satan wants believers to be silent and disobey Jesus’ command to “go and preach the gospel.”
The question of “lifestyle evangelism” versus Jesus’ command to “go and preach the gospel” can best be addressed by Peter and John’s reply to the council. “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).
I hope this helps make it very clear the sort of evangelism Jesus has asked us to practice. As we disciple our children, we should not neglect this important area. We want to encourage our children that telling others about Jesus and their need of Him is one way to show our love for them. What friend would sit back quietly while someone he cared about was headed for disaster? When Jesus said we are to “go and preach the gospel,” He meant exactly that. We want our children to understand the importance of this in a Christian’s life.
What is the fruit of these past few years of our learning to be overt in witnessing out of a desire to be obedient to Jesus’ command to go and preach? My younger children are growing in their desire to give away Gospel tracts when they are out and leave them in public places. My older children want to receive telemarketing calls and make business-related calls such as ordering things and asking product questions. This gives them the opportunity to practice witnessing. They have also begun to share Christ face to face with those they come in contact with.
We try to have a monthly prayer night usually with an emphasis on outreach. We have had the extreme privilege of leading several to the Lord Jesus Christ in just these few years—more than we had in the previous twenty-five years or so since my salvation. We have encouraged others in their relationship with Jesus Christ and in the importance of spending time every day in the Word. Many others, who have not made a decision for Christ, have indicated an interest in reading the book of John and considering salvation.
Maybe the greatest benefit of evangelism in discipling my children, which I alluded to last month, is that I have observed overtly sharing my faith with others strengthens my children’s faith. First they see Dad who is so in love with his Savior that he wants to tell others. They know that Dad’s faith is real and precious. What is important to a child’s father is impressed on the life of that child, and his desire for Jesus will grow. The children are also drawn to want to do what their dad does, and if Dad is sharing Jesus, they will want to as well.
Not only is the witnessing of Jesus a command, but there are so many benefits from it that we can’t be remiss in this important aspect of discipling our children. My heart is thrilled with the changes in my family concerning the reality of sharing Jesus Christ with lost and dying souls. Is it your desire for your children to be strong in their faith and dynamic soul winners? Are you stuck in the lifestyle evangelism rut, lacking the fruit of seeing changed lives for Christ? Do you have beautiful feet? Do your children have beautiful feet? “. . . How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15). Could I encourage you to start with your own life, and then lead your children to follow you? “And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand” (Matthew 7:26).
In the next part of this series, I will address exact ways our family has been learning to witness and how that has worked out in reality.