“While I share your faith in the LORD, I wonder whether this act of evangelism is truly the Christian way. I personally interpret the Bible’s message of evangelism to mean living one’s faith every day as an example, hoping that others will follow this example and begin to explore the message of GOD. HE is truly great, and hopefully others will be inspired to follow HIM by their own will, rather than by being preached to or guilted into belief. Every one should learn to love HIM on their own; to be able to find their own way to HIM, because of HIS message of love and forgiveness, not because of a fear of Hell. God Bless,” Blog comment
I thought this comment was too important to simply respond to and that instead it should be a new blog post. If you want to read my post to which this comment refers, here is the link.
Just how clear is the Bible in defining what evangelism really is? How much is left to personal interpretation? Is “lifestyle” evangelism what Jesus commands us to do, or are we to be direct in our appeal for the lost to be saved?
I know of no better way to clarify then to go to Jesus’ own words in Mark 16:15, “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Jesus used two key words, “go” and “preach.” Go is very clear, and the Greek word for “preach” means to herald or proclaim. Jesus did not say, “Live and let others observe your lifestyle.” He said to go and proclaim the gospel. There would be no need to look at additional verses, but because this is so important, let’s look further.
Jesus often used practical, real-life examples to illustrate spiritual truths. In Matthew 4:19, He said to Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, “And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” A fisherman’s job is a proactive vocation. If he waited for the fish to jump into his boat because it looked more desirable than the water, the fisherman would starve. Because fish are natural in the water, they will do everything they can to stay in the water. That is why it takes effort on the part of the fisherman to catch fish.
Catching a fish actually involves death for the fish. That is what must happen to real followers of Jesus. That is why He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Real followers of Jesus must die to self, and that is not something that happens easily.
That is why the only way to bring a person to Christ is for him to realize he is headed for hell. That is why the Ten Commandments were given – so man can see that he has broken God’s law and is destined to spend eternity in hell, unless he has a Savior. That is why the Holy Spirit comes to convict men of their sin. “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8).
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). That is why Jesus told all who are His disciples to “go and preach the gospel.” In hearing, they are convicted by the Holy Spirit of sin and their need of righteousness because of the coming judgment.
We can learn from those who heard Jesus directly and see how they applied His command to “go and preach the gospel.” Did they go on with their business and hope others would see and want to follow, or were they overt in telling people they were headed for hell? “The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go” (Acts 3:13). The whole section is great but look at Acts 3:19. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.”
You might be surprised to learn who promoted “lifestyle evangelism” early on. “And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 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 4:18-20). Peter and John were commanded by Annas the high priest, Caiaphas and the council not to speak about Jesus. The Greek word for speak means to proclaim. Satan wants believers to be silent and disobey Jesus’ command to “go and preach the gospel.”
The question of “lifestyle evangelism” or Jesus’ command to “go and preach the gospel” can be best answered 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” (Acts 4:19).
I hope this helps make it very clear the sort of evangelism Jesus has commanded us to practice. Everyone reading this has an obligation to their Lord and those they care about. What friend would sit back quietly while someone they cared about was headed for disaster? We must accept that Scripture is very clear when Jesus said we are to “go and preach the gospel”– He meant exactly that.
Life-style evangelism is so much more comfortable, but it is not sanctioned by Scripture. We are commanded to live holy lives, but that is not for evangelism. “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness” (2 Peter 3:11). “Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).
One of the children took this picture while I was witnessing to a man on a recent trip as we had stopped for diesel.