Being an extreme extrovert somehow means that many people I meet compare me to one of their friends. I often hear that I am “just like [insert name here].” I have a big personality, and I am not afraid of strangers, crowds, or new social situations.
I especially hear this one all the time: “You have to meet my friend. He is just like you; he talks about Jesus all the time!” Though it is probably a way for people to attempt to connect and relate to me, I think they often confuse simply talking about Jesus versus talking about Him AND equipping others to do the same.
Therefore, let me make a point that may come as a shock to you: Talking about Jesus doesn’t make you an evangelist; it just means you are a Christian. If you know Him, you show Him off. But an evangelist is one who proclaims and equips.
What’s your first reaction when you see someone you don’t know?
When I see someone, my first thought is “do they know Jesus?” Not know about Jesus, but personally know and follow Him. And if they don’t, how can I encourage, connect, and equip them to know Him personally and intimately? If they do know Him, how can I help them fall more in love with Him, and empower them to connect others with Jesus?
I’ve always been a salesman. Ever since I was a little kid who loved baseball cards and G.I. Joes, I could persuade you that Eric Davis of the Cincinnati Reds was the best center fielder since Willie Mays, and that Quick Kick and Snake Eyes were by far the best G.I. Joe action figures!
When I was a junior in high school, I took an elective that was to help students find out what their talents and passions would lead them towards in a professional field. As a cocky, atheistic, 17-year-old athlete, I was told I would either be a lawyer, salesman, or preacher. I never liked school enough to do law school, but I did become a salesman for furniture, office supplies, car parts, and insurance. I’ve also been a preacher, but more specifically, an evangelist.
When I was young, I was constantly in trouble for talking: too much, too loud, too honest, and too quick. This is ironic, considering that I now get paid to do what I used to get detention for. I have been a pastor at 3 different churches, but I generally say that the only reason people call me a pastor is that they don’t really understand what an evangelist is. Images of shiny suits, bullhorns, or stadiums full of Christians who want to “rededicate” their lives, typically come to mind. But biblically (in the Bible), an evangelist is an office that is a gift to the church body of believers, which exists to equip/train other followers of Jesus to do the work of ministry, to make much of Jesus. An evangelist does proclaim the truth, but their main function is to equip other believers to proclaim the truth.
About 6 years ago, I was serving in and involved at a church in Sunnyvale, where God seemed to just be showing up in miraculous ways all of the time. We witnessed many, many people make first time commitments to Jesus Christ, be baptized, and start to serve in this local church. I, for some reason, got to be the one who helped “close the deal” for many of these people. And, because of this, many older godly men started to walk along side me and invest in me.
One of those men said, “It’s great that you are leading your friends to Jesus, but what if you got hit by a bus? You haven’t taught anyone else to do what you do!” God used those words over the next year to formulate, prune, and create Compelled, which went from a beta program of training 30 young adults over 6 months (teaching them all that I know about evangelism), to a 2-hour weekly session over the course of 4 weeks. Each series equips, encourages, and empowers followers of Jesus to share, defend and tell the greatest story the world will ever know.
I was once sitting in an Apologetics conference, surrounded by some rock star apologists, who have incredible minds and are amazing defenders of the Christian faith. And while one of them was on stage speaking, I felt God speak to me (not Morgan Freeman’s voice, but an impression), and He said, “Most apologists are not evangelists, and most evangelists are not apologists.” And it was in that moment that I believe God may have been prompting me to cultivate my gifts even more.
Constantly I hear people state that evangelism is a spiritual gift. Though, I am not convinced of that on a biblical basis—because everyone seems to point towards Ephesians 4 as their reasoning, which talks about offices that are gifts to the church. People often use the idea of the “spiritual gift of evangelism” as the reason that they don’t evangelize. Therefore, let me be clear here. I don’t have the spiritual gift of giving, but that doesn’t mean I am not expected to give.
God wants to use all believers as neon signs to point others to Jesus. Not because we are holier than thou (we aren’t), and not because we want you to be on “our team” and wear Nikes and drink our Kool-Aid (that would be legit Communion… just sayin’). But because when I met Jesus, He changed me. He changed me from thinking that I was God. He changed me from thinking that because I make a lot of mistakes I am undesirable. He changed me from hating others because they weren’t like me, to loving them because of the fact that Christ loves them and gave up His life so they could be in right relationship with God.
God created every person in a special way, for the purpose of knowing and trusting Him. But through circumstances, hardened hearts, ignorance and/or disobedience, many people will never find, meet, and submit to the God who created them. The world needs to hear the Word, and then be equipped to share it.
So, Christians, please stop using the excuse: “I don’t have the spiritual gift of evangelism,” because you share good news all of the time; it just rarely has any eternal ramifications.
And skeptics, seekers, atheists, and agnostics, please know that we share Christ crucified and resurrected—not because we hope it is true, but because, based on history, personal testimony, and weak arguments, there is a really good chance that Christ did what He said He was going to do. He defeated sin and death, and verified that by rising from the dead, then you can be who He says you are when you submit your life to Him: FORGIVEN!
Know that we believe this is GREAT news, and that is why we share; not because we have to, or we gain Heaven, or get a star next to our name in the book of life. We share it because we GET to, and pointing people towards our Savior, Lord, and God is the greatest act of love we can and will ever do.
If you are interested in finding out how to share your faith, especially in the Bay Area context, we invite you to sign up for our next Compelled training, and be equipped, encouraged and empowered!
Check out this page consistently for future trainings: http://www.compelled.org/training-events/