Why Evangelize?

by Cliff McManis

Years ago, when I was starting out in ministry as a youth pastor, I spent several months teaching the teens about evangelism and sharing the gospel with unbelievers. Our studies culminated with our whole youth group hitting the streets in our community, going door-to-door, two-by-two, telling our neighbors about the Bible and Jesus the Savior. We covered hundreds of houses. At the end of the day, we gathered together and shared a meal while we debriefed one another on our various encounters and highlights. It was exciting. I was pumped. My adult youth leaders were thrilled. The kids were enthusiastic about the unique experience. The lead pastor of our church was proud of our courage and initiative. But…not everyone at our church was excited about our all-day neighborhood door-to-door canvassing of the streets.

Two weeks after our neighborhood evangelism, I attended the monthly elders’ meeting where I was summarily called onto the carpet and rebuked by three of the leading elders for taking our church kids out to the neighborhood and wasting their time by knocking on doors. I was blind-sided and shocked at the opposition by the church leaders to deliberate evangelism. It was bewildering. Why would any Christian be opposed to evangelism? Well, I was quite naïve, because some Christians are. After much heated discussion, the elders gave a three-fold syllogism to justify their opposition to evangelism: (1) only the elect will be saved; (2) God is totally sovereign; (3) God does not need our help to save His elect…they will get saved despite our efforts. Hence, no evangelism required!

Despite the fact that these men called themselves church elders, their view was categorically unbiblical. They espoused a theology often rightfully labeled “hyper-Calvinism.” It is called “hyper” because it goes “beyond” anything Calvin ever taught or believed. Calvin believed in election (and rightly so, since it is in the Bible; e.g., Eph 1:3-10), and in God’s sovereignty over salvation. But he never denigrated personal evangelism; to the contrary, he called all believers in his day to evangelize aggressively. In his Romans commentary, he comments on 10:15, an evangelism mandate, saying, “how much ought all good men to desire, and how much they ought to value the preaching of the gospel, which is thus commanded to us by the mouth of the Lord himself.”

In keeping with Calvin’s astute observation, let us now consider five basic reasons that answer the question, “Why should every Christian evangelize lost sinners?” The first reason to evangelize is because the Bible commands it. What the Bible says, God says. When God commands us to do something, and if we don’t do it, then it is sin. If we do it, then it is obedience. Before ascending to heaven Jesus commanded His disciples to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matt 28:19). He also said, “repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations” (Luke 24:47). Peter and Paul also commanded all believers to evangelize the lost (cf. Col 4:5-6; 1 Pet 3:15).

The second reason to evangelize is because it is the means God has chosen to save people. God is sovereign (Ps 115). He could have decided to tell sinners today the gospel through angels and fortune cookies alone; but He didn’t. He decided to get the gospel out to sinners through the agency of finite, fallen believers who are to “preach the gospel.” During this era, that is God’s chosen and only means of getting the truth out. He is not saving people in our day through random visions, isolated dreams, mystical experiences or any other means apart from the Bible and an intermediary human agency.

This is why Paul argues in Romans 10, asking, “How then shall they hear without a preacher?” His answer is, “They won’t.” And if you are a Christian who decides not to evangelize because of some twisted theological idiosyncrasy, then God will by-pass you and work through some other obedient believer to accomplish His will of getting the Word out to sinners. It is true that ultimately God doesn’t need us; but in His mercy He has chosen to co-labor and work through us (1 Cor 3:9). This is a mind-boggling reality, which is why Paul exulted in this great truth, praising God for condescending to us fallen sinners with such great privileges: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that workswithinus” (Eph 3:20; emphasis added).

The third reason that every Christian should evangelize is that it is an act of kindness toward sinners. The Bible commands Christians to do good to all men (Gal 6:10). After all, “gospel” means good news; and the greatest good news a sinner bound to hell can hear is that their sins can be forgiven through the atoning death of Jesus the Savior by repenting and believing in Him. Christians are to love all people, including their enemies (Matt 5:44). The greatest act of love is to tell people the gospel (John 15:13). The greatest act of kindness is to tell those imprisoned by Satan and their sin how they can be liberated. Again, the Bible pleads with Christians to “malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration” by deliberately explaining the saving truth of Jesus Christ to “all men” (Titus 3:2).

The fourth reason to evangelize sinners is because it is an act of worship. True biblical worship is not confined to one hour of passive listening in a pew on Sundays. Worship is a lifestyle, and Christians can worship God in everything they do, 24/7. This is what Paul meant when he commanded all believers to “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom 12:1). And again he exhorts, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col 3:17). Evangelizing a lost soul is a “word” and a “deed,” and hence a double fulfillment of this last verse. Worship God as you preach the gospel.

A fifth reason to evangelize is that it exalts the name and person of Christ. Whenever the topic of conversation is about Jesus, then the most important topic of discussion in the universe is being addressed. Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev 19:16). He is the Creator and Judge of every soul (John 1:3; 5:22). He is the only Savior of the world (John 14:6). The Father has exalted the name of Jesus above every other name (Phil 2:9). He deserves all glory, attention and praise (Rev 5:12).

A faithful proclamation of the gospel puts Jesus in His rightful place in human discourse—front and center as the most important person in human history. Satan and sinners prefer to ignore the name of Jesus. The world seeks to smother His existence and significance in the drowning noise of the ceaseless irrelevant random events of the day. The Father is pleased when the excellencies and glories of Christ are showcased to the world through ongoing, pervasive, courageous heralding of His wonderful saving work. Therefore please the Father and put His beloved Son on display by evangelizing wherever you go.

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