What's the True Source of Powerful Evangelism?

by Casey Lewis February 14, 2018

In order to be effective in evangelism, we often believe we must be a world class apologist who can answer every question thrown at us, an extrovert who can talk to anyone, and a bold witness who isn't afraid of persecution or death. While we may think that, the average Christian doesn't possess these characteristics.

According to Jack Miller, the author of Powerful Evangelism for the Powerless, we don't need to possess these characteristics to be an effective evangelist. He believes effective evangelism, like what took place in the eighteenth century, was built on a different premise. He says,

I am convinced that what gave evangelists in the eighteenth century remarkable power was the Whitefield-Wesley confidence in the supreme authority of Christ. Jesus acted in and through them not because they were powerful persons, but because they were empty vessels needing grace. He was the one who forgave and cleansed them; He was the one who sent them with the gospel; and He was the one who opened the hearts of hardened people to a very humbling message. By contrast, believers today typically serve a much smaller Christ…

Miller went on to explain the true source of power for evangelism:

The leaders of the Great Awakening had extraordinary power in evangelism and renewal. They followed an omnipotent Christ, the divine warrior, and He anointed them with His missionary presence. But this power was poured out on those who knew that they were inherently powerless without a constant dependence upon the working of God’s grace in their lives."[1]

It seems counterintuitive to say that the more powerless we are the more effective our evangelism can become, but God doesn't always work in intuitive ways. Instead, He works in ways that show His power and bring Him glory.

The apostle Paul was familiar with this idea. In 2 Corinthians Paul prayed several times for God to take his "thorn in the flesh," away. But God didn't. After wrestling with God's answer for a time, Paul finally understood why. In 2 Corinthians 12:9 and 10 he writes:

"But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Co 12:9-10)

Instead of allowing our inadequacies to keep us from evangelism, we should allow them to propel us into it. Not in our own strength, but in God's power working through us. When we do that, we will be powerful witnesses for Christ.

Notes

  1. ^ Jack Miller, Powerful Evangelism for the Powerless, quoted in Discovering God in the Stories from the Bible, Ryken, pg 124