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Training for Godliness: Evangelism

“How can evangelism help me grow in godliness?” may be the first question you ask upon reading the title of this post. It is an understandable question, too, in light of the present health (or, lack thereof) of the Church.

First, we need to have a basic idea of what evangelism is. Some view it as the ability to argue for God and His truth. Others view evangelism as street preaching. Still others may view evangelism as a worship service that is more like a rock concert than a church service. Mack Stiles provides an excellent definition of evangelism, writing “Evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade.”[1]

Stiles’ definition is helpful because it focuses on the key aspects of evangelism. Our question remains, though, “How can evangelism help me grow in godliness?” Evangelism is one aspect of the Christian life. Don Whitney writes, “The main idea I want to communicate about it here is that Godliness requires that we discipline ourselves in the practice of evangelism.”[2] It is commanded of every believer in Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15.

Following Whitney’s outline, we notice first that “Evangelism is expected.”[3] He goes on the say, “All Christians are not expected to use the same methods of evangelism, but all Christians are expected to evangelize.”[4] This presents evangelism as a matter of obedience, and obedience is a key part of following Jesus Christ. For one instance, Saul was told that “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.”[5] While God desired and commanded Israelites to sacrifice animals, obedience to His revealed Word was the important point. God has commanded His children to spread the Gospel, it is not option. Therefore, obedience in evangelism is a mark of spiritual growth.

Whitney also reminds us, and in an encouraging way, that “Evangelism is empowered.”[6] That is, we are not alone in communicating the gospel to other people. Whitney comments, “We need to learn that sharing the gospel is successful evangelism.”[7] Successful evangelism is empowered, but by what? Or, more properly, by whom? Whitney answers, “The power of evangelism is the Holy Spirit.”[8] This is a comforting truth! Jesus promised to be with the disciples, and us by extension, in the communication of the gospel.[9] We do not need to be the most articulate speaker, the most renowned scholar, or the bottomless pit of biblical information in order to evangelize other people. We have the Spirit of God and the Word of God and the promise that it will accomplish what God intends.[10]

Whitney’s final encouragement is that “Evangelism is a discipline.”[11] It takes work. Perhaps this is why so many Christians fail to engage in evangelism. We need to discipline ourselves to study the gospel in a variety of ways in order to communicate it with the broadest means possible. We need to discipline ourselves to communicate to people. We need to discipline ourselves to know about different methods of evangelism. It takes discipline.

In his small book (only 114 pages), Mack Stiles walks through each part of his definition of evangelism. He discusses those parts in more detail, providing anecdotes as well as encouragements for engaging in evangelism. I would encourage you to discipline yourself, purchase the book, study the book, and then implement the book.[12]

Evangelism for godliness!

[1] J. Mack Stiles, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014), 27. He offers a broader definition, “Evangelism is teaching (heralding, proclaiming, preaching) the gospel (the message from God that leads us to salvation) with the aim (hope, desire, goal) to persuade (convince, convert).”

[2] Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 99.

[3] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 100.

[4] Ibid., emphasis original.

[5] 1 Samuel 15:22, NASB.

[6] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 101.

[7] Ibid., emphasis original.

[8] Ibid., 103.

[9] See also Acts 1:8.

[10] See Isaiah 55:10-11.

[11] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 106.

[12] This is covered in chapter 1, “Of Altar Calls and Laser Lights,” chapter 3, “Connecting Church and a Culture of Evangelism,” and chapter 5, “Actually Sharing Our Faith.” Stiles, Evangelism, 21-40, 63-78, and 99-114.

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