You are an evangelist. That’s right – you! You probably didn’t realize it. It came very naturally to you. You didn’t have to struggle for the right words or study how to approach people who may not view things the same way you do. Honestly, you don’t even need to be a Christian to evangelize. You just do it. So…congratulations, you good-news-spreading evangelist.
If that first paragraph had some of your scratching your heads, I’m not surprised. The term “evangelist” conjures up images in your mind. You may think of the guys on TV with the hairspray and makeup or maybe some sweatin’ and hollerin’ preacher pounding a podium under a tent just outside of town or that guy who sits next to you on a plane and immediately says, “Hi, I’m Jim. Are you saved?” Whatever your perceptions are of what an evangelist is, in the simplest and most accurate terms an evangelist is a person who shares good news – and that is something we all do.
A few weeks ago I got a really good deal on a pair of Puma sneakers. My motivation was mixed. My older sneakers were black and made me look like an old man when I wore them with shorts (insert your own hilarious comeback here). I also was eager to get those shoes at a much, much reduced price (some call it being frugal, but I just call it being cheap). Anyway, the shoes became my go-to footwear. I wear them most every day. They are incredibly comfortable, perhaps the most comfortable pair I’ve ever worn. Now, I’m considering getting a black pair to wear in the pulpit on Sundays.
So did I keep the good news about these great shoes quiet? No. It was hard not to tell people. It wasn’t that I was trying to show off or even boast about being bargain-savvy; I wanted people to know these were the best shoes ever and maybe even convince them to try a pair for themselves. I became a shoe evangelist!
We all do this. It could be the pictures of your grandbabies that you post all over Facebook. It could be a scrumptious new recipe that you finagled the chef into giving you and you couldn’t wait to post it on Pinterest. Some of you even post pictures of your restaurant food on Instagram (I’m guilty of Krispy Kreme and onion ring photos). And some of you tell all your friends when ____________ (insert your favorite college football team) signs the next great superstar out of high school. Oh, and lest I forget, when your baby graduates from preschool you take umpteen dozen pictures and send them to anyone who is even remotely related to you. In other words, you are a natural at sharing good news. You’ll even tell total strangers in line at Walmart!
We tell others about the events, things or people that excite us. We don’t have to be trained to share. Our natural enthusiasm makes it hard for us to keep our mouths shut!
So, if we are believers and the most exciting thing in the universe has happened to us, why do we hesitate? The big reasons people give for not sharing their faith are: fear of failure, fear of incompetence, and fear of rejection. We might toss pride in there too for good measure. One other reason that typically does not make the list but may be more significant than all the other is this – assuming the person is a genuine believer, he or she may have little joy in their Christian life.
If you find a doctor who finally came up with a solution to give you some relief, you share it. If you find a good deal on a car, you share it. If you found twenty dollars in a pair of jeans you hadn’t wore since last year, you share it. If your child made the honor roll, you share it. If you just read a great book, you share it. If Blue Bell ice cream goes on sale … well, you buy all you want and then you share it. The point is, when something give us joy or satisfaction, we want to share it. We have to make ourselves shut up about it.
Could it be that we have faith in Jesus but that it provides us so little in the way of joy and satisfaction in this life? Is faith just something that only pays off in the next life but doesn’t give us much contentment in this one? If so, Paul and Silas must have been totally nuts to sing hymns to God while having their hands and feet locked in stocks while in jail. They had been arrested for refusing to keep quiet about Jesus. They were suffering for the sake of their faith. They could not have been in the most comfortable position. They were probably hungry and thirsty. They had been beaten with rods before being thrown into the slammer, yet they sang! What did they know that we don’t seem to know?
This is how Paul put it: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13)
Paul knew the Christian life was not a bed of roses. He had seen people stoned to death for their faith (he had officiated over at least one instance). He knew that to take a stand for Jesus was to endure hardship and suffering. So why were there songs drifting up from the basement of the Philippian jail? Because He had been set free.
Paul taught the Galatians, “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free” (Galatians 5:1). Jesus had previously promised, “If the Son of Man sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). The Christian has been set free from sin and guilt through the completed work of Jesus on the cross. Sin is no longer our master. What an increidble freedom, but that freedom goes even farther.
The Christian is free from the need to keep up with the Jones’s. He or she is free to walk away from the American Dream to embrace a Kingdom vision. Believers are not defined by how much they own, where the live, what they do for a living, how famous they are, or how physically attractive they might or might not be. Jesus totally redefines reality for us. He strips the world and it’s values away in order to let us behold a set of Kingdom values. We are freed to walk a new path, to embrace a better future, to spend our lives on something that will matter for all eternity. We don’t have to buy what the world is selling because we have found our supreme joy simply in being in Christ. “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:25)
From time to time we sing a little chorus: “He’s all I need. He’s all I need. Jesus is all I need.” The truth is, if that was the case, we’d likely have a lot more satisfaction and joy in our Christian walk. We are too often much like the character Navin Johnson (played by Steve Martin) in the 1979 movie “The Jerk,” who goes around picking up random items from his home and saying “All I need is this…” and yet continues to pick up more insignificant stuff. Either Jesus is all we need or Jesus is not all we need. If it’s the latter, then we need to quit singing that song! We also need to ask ourselves why Jesus isn’t all we need.
We frequently view evangelism as a necessary evil, something we have to do to be a “good” Christian. That’s not evangelism. Evangelism is telling the good news! It’s not something to be dreaded but something to be celebrated. The world has enough shoe evangelists, football evangelists, grandbaby evangelists, and Krispy Kreme evangelists. The world needs people who have beheld the hideous nature of their own sin, have come to know the great love of God that was put on fully display in the cross, have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as the all-sufficient sacrifice to atone for their sin, and having accepted all this as true intellectually have fallen madly in love with a God who is crazy in love with us.
It’s not that you have to share your faith; it’s that you get to share your faith. You who were spiritually blind have been given sight. You who were lost have been found. You who were dead in your sins have been brought to life in Jesus. So why are we so hush-hush about it? Perhaps it is because we have not given ourselves fully to that reality and all that it means. Perhaps we have stopped short of the life that God has in store for us to pick up random trinkets and baubles declaring, “This is all I need.” Perhaps we don’t trust the God who gave everything for us to truly give us everything we need. Or perhaps we think we can do a better job of bringing joy and contentment to our lives that He can. As Dr. Phil says (lay off…I only watched his show once when I was home sick), “How’s that working out for you?”
When we have fully embraced Jesus as our all in all, then the world will have to lock us away to keep us from telling people about salvation in Christ…and even then we’ll sing! Until then, we will struggle to share the good news of Jesus and continue to share the good news of new shoes, big flat screen TVs, and the soup of the day.