There are always going to be examples of gross misconduct when evangelizing the unconverted heathen. The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is an infamous example of vilifying the Baptist appellation with their disreputable and contemptible practices. The WBC has brought reproach upon the Kingdom of God by picketing at funerals for deceased soldiers and scolding the populace with hate speech.
Another fabricated example of truth that pertains to evangelism is just as worse: it is called silence. When Christians in the local church are silent and disregard evangelism, and they hoard knowledge that they learn and don’t put their faith into practice, they are not exuding a loving heroism, but lawlessness and hypocrisy. This must be avoided!
What happens when evangelism is not put into practice? Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” If a professing Christian is always inaudible about their faith and fretful of being held in derision for witnessing, then how can anyone they know ever learn about the love of Christ?
It is not uncommon for professing Christians to neglect evangelism. When evangelizing is substituted for excuses, love is replaced for laziness, and duty is downgraded to dereliction.
Professing Christians must be asked this important question: “Why do you hate your brother?” When the self-identifying Christian who does not evangelize says, “I don’t hate anyone!” Tell them, “Yes, you do! Friends don’t let friends go to Hell.”
It is a hate crime to not tell friends, family and the lost about the person and work of Christ and His righteousness that can be reckoned to believers’ accounts, not because of works, but by faith.
There are several examples of excuses that professing Christians will use to justify their omission of evangelism:
1. The calling: “I’m not called to evangelize”
When Gospel-centered pastors implore their congregations to become involved in witnessing endeavors with the church (i.e., street-preaching, handing out tracts in the church neighborhood, abortion mill ministry, etc.), the response usually is, “I’m not called to street-preach, go to an abortion mill or hand out tracts in neighborhoods.”
When this occurs, remind the professing Christian, “You’re right. You’re not called, you are commanded!” The Great Commission is not just an indicative for pastors. It is an indispensable command for everyone.
This, however, does not mean a professing Christian has to street-preach. Are not Christians called to love people enough to tell them the truth than can deliver the unregenerate out of the domain of darkness and deliver them into the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Colossians 1:13)? This is why professing Christians can distribute Gospel tracts and witness to the unregenerate, which are authentic examples of love (1 John 4:19-21).
If a professing Christian blatantly disregards abortion mill ministries, ask them, “Do you love children?” If the professing Christian says yes, ask them, “If you saw a mother attempting to murder her child, would you try to prevent it?”
If the professing Christian replies, “Of course I would. I love children,” ask them, “Are you sure you are not going to say, ‘I’m sorry, kid. I’m not called to help you?’ That is exactly what you are doing when you blatantly disregard your pastor when he asks you to participate by holding signs and distributing tracts to implore mothers not to murder their unborn children.”
2. Evangelistic concealment: “I work a lot, so I evangelize at home and that’s it! I am not going to neglect my family”
When a professing Christian states these things, please remind them that no one is telling them to neglect their family. In fact, if a person is neglecting their family and they are ardently involved in evangelism, they must be reminded that they have denied the faith and are worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8). In addition, their ministry must be rebuked as an idol.
However, if the professing Christian makes time for recreational activities such as fishing, sports games, watching favorite sitcoms, reading books, and being actively engaged in societies or boards, and they do not make time for the things of God, it is obviously what lord they serve. It is their enjoyment for laziness rather than evangelizing the lost, and their hiding behind their children rather than heralding the beauty of Christ.
Professing Christians who disregard evangelism for excuses must not rejoice, but repent.
3. Friendship evangelism: “You’re doing it wrong because you need to make friends with them first”
It is not uncommon for open-air preachers to be criticized. There are many skeptics, who may even profess to be Christian, who will attempt to correct or even chide open-air preachers about what they believe they are erroneously practicing, while they themselves do not practice evangelism at all.
D.L. Moody was once criticized this same way:
The woman said to him, “Mr. Moody, I don’t like the way you do evangelism!” “Well, ma’am, let me ask you, how do you do it?” Moody asked. She replied, “I don’t!” Moody responded, “Well, I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it!”
Even worse, there is an unconventional mode of witnessing that imperiously demands that cultivating a relationship is a necessary precondition that must precede biblical evangelism. This is called friendship evangelism. Developing a relationship is certainly advantageous for an evangelist. However, there are several problems that exist for people who believe relationships must precede evangelizing the unregenerate.
Consider the following arguments.
Christians need to worry about today, and not tomorrow (Matthew 6:34).
Building relationships take time. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring, or whether anyone will draw their next breath (James 4:14-15), which is why Christians need to take advantage of every witnessing encounter.
It is unbiblical to affirm friendship as a precondition that must precede evangelism. Ezekiel did not build a relationship with dead bones; he preached to them. Christ never built a relationship with Lazarus when He raised him from the tomb, because he was dead. Christians need to worry about today and witness to the lost because they are dead (John 5:25) and need the Father to speak to their hearts and draw them to Himself (John 6:63-65).
4. Nominal commitment
There are many churches that will attempt to justify their Christian conscience by subtly abandoning biblical evangelism for fellowship time, discipleship training without ever witnessing, book reading clubs, and inundating ministries that are nominal.
Church fellowship time is vitally important (Hebrews 10:24-25). However, if churches habitually fellowship and never evangelize, and have a history of training fervently while never putting their faith into practice, then the church is not Scripture-centered; they are a social club.
Professing Christians will inundate ministries that are not commensurate with Scripture in an effort to satisfy their Christian conscience. Instead of going to an abortion mill to save the life of an innocent child, or neighborhood witnessing, professing Christians will adopt ministries that are comfortable (i.e., church cook-outs without evangelizing) and nominal (i.e., singing Christmas carols and passing out cookies to neighbors).
Again, these ministries are important, but if that is all professing Christians want to be part of, it is necessary to ask, “Are you willing to suffer for Jesus’ sake?” If a Christian is not willing to be a public spectacle for Christ, then they are not worthy of Him (Mark 8:34-38).
Professing Christians need to be reminded that they are called to be faithful and bold, not facilitate barbecues. They are called to be servants of Christ, not sing Christmas carols, and they are called to proclaim Christ, not pass out cookies.
Book reading clubs in church will help to amplify membership responsibilities. If church leaders exhort their members to read books about heroes of the faith who impacted history, but they fail to follow the examples of what they learned, then what good is the book?
I will share with you a personal illustration:
In 2015, a friend asked me to preach at his church. While I was there, I asked several of the members about their outreach endeavors. The countenance on their faces indicated that witnessing was not one of them. I knew that my friend’s church had a book reading club where the men of the church would meet once a week, which seemed to be esteemed by several of the men who lauded this ministry.
During my sermon, I asked the members if any of them owned a business. After a few hands rose, I then proceeded to ask them if they would be okay if they had a business that employed sales and marketing consultants who showed up to work and did not attempt to sell, market, or do anything, despite the fact that they were given well-respected wages to promote and sell their respective product. I asked the congregation, “How would you feel?”
One man said, “We would fire them all.” I then looked at the man and said, “How should Christ feel about all of you when you are commanded to make disciples and you do nothing in your local church but warm the pews and read books?” I also asked them, “What good is your faith if you do not put it into practice?” I reminded them that “[f]aith without works is dead” and to “be doers of the Word and not hearers only.”
5. Categorically labeling evangelistic endeavors
Evangelism is undoubtedly a “trigger” word for professing Christians who do not evangelize. If a pastor makes a recommendation for the church to meet once a week to witness in their local community, the pastor should not be perplexed when the attendance is desolate. Why? Professing Christians will murmur and say, “I don’t like witnessing.”
I see a lot of open-air preachers online that are saturated in hate, and all they do is yell at people. I am called to love. What makes professing Christians believe that people who evangelize are not called to love? Remind them: If I did not love, I would not take time to evangelize.
The following is an illustration that may help to overcome categorical objections to witnessing:
During a conference I preached at in 2015, I met a hotel owner of Middle Eastern descent who professed to be a Christian. After discussing Christianity with the hotel owner, I asked him how he felt about church involvement.
“I am not involved in any church activities or evangelism,” he said.
“Why?” I asked.
He then contended, “Because the church is filled with hypocrites.”
“Sir,” I inquired, “if I told you that I did not want to stay in your hotel because I served in the Iraq war and I believe people from the Middle East are terrorists, what would you say?”
“I would say you are a racist for making that assertion,” the hotel owner replied. “How could you possibly believe that all people from the Middle East are terrorists just because of your bad experiences?”
I then responded, “How can you possibly believe that all Christians are hypocrites, and you judge every Christian and the bride of Christ just because of your bad experiences? If you are a Christian, you should be devoting yourself to the ministry of the church (Acts 2:42), submitting to the elders who will care for your soul (Hebrews 13:17), and not neglecting meeting with the saints (Hebrews 10:25).”
The illustration provided will help professing Christians to overcome the gigantic obstacle in their life, which is essentially called excuses. Why is this important? There are many professing Christians who profess to love sinners, but they won’t witness to them. They profess to care about the lost, just not enough to tell them about Christ. They profess to care about their children, just not others that are going to be murdered at the abortion mill by their mothers.
In addition, if a professing Christian says, “Well, no other church in the community is out evangelizing,” remind them that laziness and idolatry is quite popular. Repent!