The Joy of Evangelism

Here is an encouraging post from one of my fellow workers. I have been really encouraged by Ewan’s decision to carve out time on Saturdays to spread the Gospel with me. This is what he writes about last weekend’s work:

Recently I had the opportunity to join Paul, Julian and Joe on a Saturday afternoon at Don Mills and Lawrence for community outreach. It was a cold, blustery, rainy, gray day and we were a bit put off by the weather. We were worried that nobody would want to stop and talk with us, but setting our faces like a flint, we sallied forth.

Some amazing conversations

As it turns out, we had some amazing conversations. We met an Iranian man with a half-hearted commitment to Islam. Paul approached him and he quickly opened up in response to Paul’s friendly and self-effacing manner. We began to talk about the differences between Islam and Christianity, in particular the contrast between the two faiths in terms of self-justification vs. atonement. This fellow knew almost nothing about Christianity – for example, he didn’t know that Christians held Jesus to be God. We had at least 10 minutes of conversation with him before his bus pulled up and he had to go.

Next came my turn. We walked into one of the bus stops, thankful for the shelter from the rain and wind. Standing alone was a Philippino woman, middle-aged, bracing herself against the cold. I introduced myself and Paul, explaining that we were from a local church and we were speaking with people to invite them along. I enquired about her religious beliefs and it turned out that she was Catholic. I asked her to explain how she believed she could get to heaven and she replied with the usual Catholic mantra of faith mixed with some variety of self-effort and self-righteousness. It was on this point that we discussed and debated for the next ten minutes. Borrowing Paul’s Bible, I pointed her to Ephesians 2, emphasizing that salvation was God’s gift, not our works. She seemed surprised. I explained that all our attempts at righteousness are woefully inadequate and even displeasing in God’s sight. This concept of the vanity of works and our utter dependence on Christ’s righteousness proved a stumbling block – she just couldn’t wrap her head around it, and she kept coming back to her own righteous works, despite my best efforts. The bus arrived, the seed was sown, and we saw her off with a friendly handshake.

Ironically, the very next person we spoke to was also a Catholic woman, and Paul tackled the same problem (more efficiently than me, I think) of trying to show the vanity of works righteousness. He brought her back time and again to Ephesians 2 and Romans 3. Sadly, the same unwillingness to recognize the emptiness of self-righteousness revealed itself. They spoke for a very long time (the bus schedule is thankfully quite slow on Saturday afternoons).

I was filled with joy

As I stood beside my brother bearing witness to the glory and all-sufficiency of our Saviour, I was filled with joy. At one point as he stood there explaining the gospel I realized that everyone in the bus shelter was trying hard not to pay attention and failing miserably (and there were a lot of people huddled into that shelter). It dawned on me afresh the desperate need of all these souls – people created in the image of God, corrupted through sin, children of disobedience, blind and dead to God and the things of the Spirit, under wrath and judgment. How desperately they need our message! What a joy to stand there and invite fellow humans to be reconciled to God.

The message we hold

One of the things I love about the practice of evangelism, at home or at work, at school or at the rink, online or on the street, is that it keeps the beautiful simplicity and incredible power of our message fresh and real. Nothing enables you to appreciate the gospel like telling someone who has never heard it before. In our hands we hold the central truth that makes sense of our world, reveals our destiny, and restores us to a right relationship with God.

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

From a medical standpoint

From a medical standpoint, it would be like writing a prescription for the cure for all cancers. This boggles my mind – how humbling to be appointed to dispense the ultimate cure for the human condition: “We have this treasure in jars of clay…” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Joy and evangelism are inextricably linked. The very purpose of our gospel is joy. “These things have I spoken to you, that my joy might be in you, and your joy might be full” (John 15:11). Moreover, there is joy in heaven at the salvation of sinners (Luke 15:7). Yet also, simply sharing the gospel brings great joy, the Spirit’s reward for testifying to the value of Christ. Such joy bears so much fruit – it enlivens our walk with God and enflames our zeal for His glory. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). This is what full Christian living is about.

So give the gospel, and get the joy.

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