What do you think of when you read the word “evangelism?" If you are like others your reaction includes being scared, uncomfortable, feeling ill equipped, and discouraged. Some, but not all, of these reactions stem from us buying into lies or myths about evangelism. As I tend to my own heart and those in our congregation I have found four reoccurring myths that get thoughtlessly raised like the morning flag. Let’s take a look at them and debunk them with Scripture.
1. You have to be gifted in evangelism.
If you have ever said, “Evangelism is not my gift” in effort to assuage conviction over your missional apathy, then you are buying into this myth. Now, don’t get me wrong, some people are gifted evangelists (Eph. 4:11). However, whether you are gifted in this way or not has nothing to do with your responsibility to tell others about Jesus. In other words, evangelism has to do more with calling than gifting. All Christians are called to evangelism but not all are gifted in evangelism.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20)
You’ll notice here that the risen Lord commands (think King) his disciples to make disciples (think evangelism). One might say, “That was simply for those there, you know, the Apostles.” Well, notice how the verse goes on, “…teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” Part of what Jesus commanded his disciples is to make disciples. All disciples are called to make disciples—irrespective of their gifting, this calling abides as long as Jesus is King (even to the end of the age). Don’t believe the myth that you have to be gifted in evangelism.
2. You have to know the answer to everyone's question.
We have all been stumped by an unbeliever’s questions. Nobody knows every answer to every question. It is impossible. What if this was a requirement for evangelism? What if before anyone could open their mouths to tell others about Jesus, they had to have an answer for every possible question? I’m sure you can see that nobody would ever tell anyone about Christ. When you chase this argument down it sounds like propaganda from the enemy.
Well, what do you have to know? You have to know the gospel. This is much easier. This is what we believe and delight in. We can tell others about the person and work of Christ. We can speak of our sin and separation from God. We can speak of Christ’s obedient life in our place to earn our righteousness, his substitutionary death on the cross to pay our penalty, and his resurrection from the dead to bring us life. When you get the difficult questions, remember the man who was healed by Jesus, “He answered,…One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25).
3. You have to feel like telling people about Jesus.
If we are honest we often don’t feel like doing things that make us uncomfortable. Sometimes this is due to the potential for conflict other times it relates to our fear of what people will think of us. There is nothing that drives us more quickly out of our comfort zone than evangelism. Think about it. In the message of the gospel we have the divine repudiation of the very best work that any of us have ever done. We are basically failures before God. Only the pure, humble, contrite, repentant heart can be forgiven as he clings to another for life and righteousness. And if one does not do this then there is literally hell to pay. This is tough stuff to say. It will make you very uncomfortable.
But remember, it is not the internal feelings that compel our evangelism but the external command by our King and Savior. It is the reality of hell, the availability of forgiveness, and our jealousy for the fame of Christ. Dwell on these things and watch your feelings change. But don’t let your feelings dictate your evangelism. There is a higher law.
4. Nobody will get saved.
Often times we say this when we have endured seasons of unfruitfulness in our evangelism. Our logic becomes increasingly pessimistic and we begin to believe the myth that something is wrong with either us or the gospel, or even worse, God himself. This is a devilish myth that sidelines our witness. Remember the Apostle Paul who said it is “the Spirit who gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6). One of the reasons why Paul had such boldness and faithfulness in his gospel witness is because he knew that God is alive, gives life through the gospel, and uses people to proclaim it (2 Cor. 4:4-6). If Paul got discouraged and began believing this evangelism myth all he had to do was check his spiritual pulse. He would be reminded that he was dead in trespasses and sins but God gave him life (Eph. 2:1-4). The gospel is powerful. It is sufficient to save people (Rom. 1:16-17).
If people are not getting saved from our witnessing it could be for a number of reasons. If you are being faithful with the truth of the gospel you can be assured that it is not because the gospel doesn’t work, or God does not save, or because you are messing things up. This is simply not true.
Instead, after you have pleaded the truth of God to the souls of men go and plead men’s souls to God. Pray for them, pleading for God to water his word and give them life.
The great preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones used to say, “Talk to yourself, don’t listen to yourself.” He meant that the heart, because it is deceitful (Jer. 17:9) is always pumping out error. In order to combat this we need to speak truth to our hearts. We need to remind ourselves of the truth of Scripture. This is no less important in the area of evangelism. We need to debunk the myths that are too easily believed and cling instead to what God has said and done.