Sometimes a witnessing encounter can leave us discouraged. We’ve experienced the unfathomable joy and peace of being set free from our sin, becoming new creatures in Christ, and resting assured of our eternity with Him, and all we want to do is share with others how they can have all of those riches, too! Occasionally, the fruit is ripe unto harvest, and the person we’re sharing the gospel with repents and trusts Christ as Savior on the spot. But more often than not, the person rejects the gospel, maybe even lambasting us in the process.
It’s no fun to be called names or insulted for the cause of Christ, but we can get used to that knowing what the Bible says about persecution and understanding that it’s to be expected from unbelievers. But how difficult it is to watch people walk away from Christ knowing the futility they’ll continue to live in and the eternity that awaits them.
If you base your success or encouragement in evangelism on whether or not someone immediately trusts Christ, you’ll spend a lot of time discouraged and thinking you’re a failure at sharing the gospel. Here are a few reminders to keep our focus in the right place and our evangelism mindset biblical so we can remain encouraged:
☙God loves and cares for that person infinitely more than you do, and He’s concerned about that person’s lostness far more than you could ever hope to be.
☙Acts 2:41 is the exception, not the rule. The apostles and other New Testament Christians were often severely persecuted and ridiculed for sharing the gospel. Even Jesus’ own “witnessing encounters” didn’t always result in someone immediately getting saved.
☙Jesus said the “gate [to eternal life] is narrow” and “those who find it are few” (emphasis mine). We should not be surprised when many reject Christ.
☙The outcome of a witnessing encounter is on the Holy Spirit, not you. You cannot convince, nag, or argue someone into genuine saving faith (and you shouldn’t try because it’ll probably produce a false convert). Only the Holy Spirit can do that work on a person’s heart in His own timing.
☙Your job is to present the gospel. If you’ve done that, you’ve successfully been faithful to what God has called you to do. What God chooses to do with your gospel presentation is up to Him, and you must trust Him to handle it.
☙You don’t know how God is working in that person’s heart. Just because he doesn’t trust Christ immediately doesn’t mean God won’t use the gospel you’ve presented to save him tomorrow or next year or in fifty years.
☙God’s word never returns to Him void. It always accomplishes the purpose for which HE sent it. Our purpose is always to see people saved, but God’s purpose for His Word in that moment might be to distinguish wheat from tare, or to allow the person to harden his heart. It is never a waste of time or a failed effort to faithfully proclaim God’s word.
Don’t base your encouragement or success in evangelism on the immediate results, but on whether or not you’ve been faithful to obey God by sharing the gospel.
What are some passages of Scripture or words of wisdom from godly friends that have helped you stay encouraged as you share the gospel with others?
“…half of U.S. churchgoers (51%) say they do not know this term. It would be reassuring to assume that the other half who know the term are also actually familiar with the passage known by this name, but that proportion is low (17%). Meanwhile, ‘the Great Commission’ does ring a bell for one in four (25%), though they can’t remember what it is. Six percent of churchgoers are simply not sure whether they have heard this term ‘the Great Commission’ before.”
Now, if you know anything about statistics, you know how important it is to structure your questions carefully and get a representative sampling of the population you’re surveying in order to get the most accurate results. What does “churchgoer” mean? Is it possible people have never heard the term “The Great Commission” simply because churches don’t use this particular phrase any more? It’s important to take things like this into consideration because it affects the results of the survey. (You can find out more about Barna’s structuring process for this study at the end of the article linked above.) But even if the numbers of the Barna survey aren’t exact, I think it’s safe to say there are a lot of people out there in churchland who aren’t familiar with The Great Commission.
Just for fun, let’s see what the results would be if we surveyed readers of my blog:
The Great Commission refers to some of Jesus’ final words to the disciples before His ascension and is cited from Matthew 28:18-20:
And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.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.’
With these words Jesus commissioned the eleven remaining disciples to go out into the world and carry on His mission. Since every Christian is a disciple, or follower, of Christ, this is our commission from Him as well. Let’s examine what it says.
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Before commissioning his disciples, Jesus reminds them that everything He’s about to say is founded on and imbued with His authority. Jesus alone has the divine authority to establish the church and to dictate the way in which His church is to be set up and to grow.
We 21st century Christians would do well to keep forefront in our minds and hearts the authority of Christ over His church.There is no need for churches to “cast vision” or come up with mission statements. Christ is the head of the church and has already given us His vision for it. The Great Commission is His mission statement for the church.
Go therefore “Therefore” in this little phrase refers back to what Christ has just said about His authority. In other words, because all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me, I am telling you to go.
“Go” is a very generic verb in English. We can “go” into the kitchen or we can “go” to the moon or we can “go” out and conquer the world. We can “go” anywhere from our own personal microcosm to the edges of the known universe. And that is the same sense the Greek word πορεύω captures: as you “go your way,” as you “go forth,” as you “walk”, as you “pursue the journey on which [you have] entered.” Wherever life takes us, whether it’s across the street or across the world, we go as ambassadors of Christ, carrying the good news of the gospel with us.
All nations Revelation 7:9 tells us that God will save people from “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” So that’s who we share the gospel with as we go our way. Everybody. Regardless of where they’re from, what they look like, or how they talk. We are not to withhold the gospel from anyone, and we’re to make sure the church is proactively carrying the gospel to every populated geographical location on earth.
Make disciples…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you Notice the language Jesus uses here. He doesn’t say “make converts” or “make Christians”. He says “make disciples.”
Think about what the disciples did while Jesus was on earth. First, they answered His call to follow Him. Then, they began the journey of following Him wherever He went. He trained and equipped them day and night. They loved Him and worshiped Him. They imitated the things He did and said. They carried on His work after He ascended. Jesus is saying to the disciples, and to us, “Replicate yourselves. Make more like you.”
That means that the Great Commission starts with sharing the gospel with a lost person, but it doesn’t end there. There’s more to our mission than just evangelism. We are to train and equip Christians to follow Jesus daily, to love and worship Him, to imitate Him in obedience, and to carry on His work.
Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit After salvation, baptism is the first step a new Christian takes on the road of discipleship. It is not optional. Baptism publicly identifies a person – to the church and to the world – as a Christian, and is a personal pledge to follow Christ obediently all the days of one’s life.
Being baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” carries several layers of meaning.
💧Again, pay careful attention to the language in this phrase. Jesus does not say “in the nameS” – plural. He says, “in the name” – singular. This is a boldly Trinitarian statement directly from two of its members: Jesus, who spoke these words to the disciples, and the Holy Spirit, who breathed them out through the pen of Matthew. This is God Himself telling us who He is. Jesus spoke these words to good Jewish boys who were born and bred on the shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” There was to be no confusion for new Believers back then, Believers today, or to the onlooking world, as to who these Christians are following. They are not following three different gods. They are following the one true God in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – the whole ball of wax.
💧Names meant far more in biblical times than they do to us today. We see God changing people’s names – Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter, etc. – when He commissioned them for a new mission or phase of life. Being baptized “in the name of” the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit echoes that tradition of God changing people’s names. You are no longer your own, you are Christ’s. You are no longer “Sinner”, you are “Saint”. You no longer go forth in your own name, but in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as their emissary, endowed with the power and authority of God to live for Him and to proclaim the gospel to a lost and dying world.
💧Because Christians are, by definition, Trinitarians, and because baptizing a Believer is commissioning her to go forth into the world as a representative of Christ, it’s appropriate for pastors to take this verse literally when performing a baptism and verbalize its words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. What a sweet promise, both to the disciples and to us today. Obediently following Christ in our daily lives, sharing the gospel, and making disciples can be lonely, exhausting, and discouraging at times. But we don’t have to do it alone, and we don’t have to do it in the flesh. Christ is with us and He knows all too well how hard it can be. God has given the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower Believers to live for Him and to carry out The Great Commission.
I know you have been going through some rough times lately. Perhaps you have recently lost a loved one. Maybe you’re ill with a serious disease. You might struggle with depression. You could be watching a loved one battle cancer or another terminal condition. Your marriage may be close to breaking up. Or maybe, just maybe, you’re simply sick and tired of the way your everyday life is going. That the world is going to hell in a hand basket and you’re getting sucked right down with it.
I’ve listened as you’ve poured out your heart. I’ve walked with you as you’ve struggled. I’ve held your hand and prayed with you. And while my heart breaks for you because of the circumstances you’re going through, what crushes me even more is the despair, the hopelessness I hear in your voice. That there’s no way out. That it’s impossible to deal with the pain. That there’s no one who can really help you.
But there is. And that’s what I desperately need to tell you.
I haven’t told you before, because when everything was going fine for you, you didn’t want to hear it. But sometimes people just get to a point in their lives where things are so bad they’re willing to try anything.
And so, I’m asking you to try, just try, one more thing. If you’ve already tried everything else, and nothing’s working, what do you have to lose?
Please try Jesus.
Jesus loves you. He cares about your pain and your struggle. And He’s the only One powerful enough to actually do anything about it.
I’m not talking about simply bowing your head and asking Him to get you out of the horrible situation you’re in. I’m talking about bowing your life to Him. Giving up. Surrendering. Letting this King you’ve been doing battle with all your life conquer you for your own good, sit on the throne that rightfully belongs to Him, and set up His rulership over your life.
This King doesn’t desire to reign over you so that He can tyrannize you. He’s a freedom fighter. He has already made the ultimate sacrifice to set you free from the oppressive regime under which you’ve been living: you. All you have to do is renounce your throne and become one of His subjects.
What does this mean in practical terms? You set aside a little uninterrupted time to talk it out with God. You recognize that He is God and you are not. You admit to Him, and to yourself, that you have sinned.
“Sin” means to break God’s laws. You know the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), right? At least some of them? Have you ever lied, stolen something (even something small), dishonored your parents? Then you have sinned. And by the way, your opinion on whether or not something should be a sin doesn’t make a hill of beans of difference. When you can create the universe, heal the sick, walk on water, and rise from the dead, maybe you’ll get to make the rules. Until then: God’s turf, God’s rules. And you’ve broken them. All of us have.
What happens when you break a local, state, or federal law? Well, if you get caught, there’s supposed to be some kind of punishment. If you speed, you have to pay a fine. If you steal, you go to jail. If you murder somebody, depending on where you live and whether or not you can get the verdict overturned on a technicality, you get the death penalty.
There’s punishment for breaking God’s laws too. James 2:10 tells us:
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.
In other words, if you’ve broken one of God’s laws, you’ve broken them all. So, since we’ve all committed the same crime against God– breaking all of His laws –we’re all destined for the same punishment. Hell.
Yes, there is a hell just as surely as there is a heaven. Once again, your opinion on whether or not hell does exist or should exist matters about as much as your opinion on whether or not the sky is blue or whether or not it should be a different color. Your opinion does not change the facts.
The good news is that God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, has already taken the punishment for the crime that we committed. Have you ever heard of a completely innocent victim of a crime volunteering to take the death penalty for the perpetrator for no other reason than that he loves him? Me neither. But that’s exactly what Jesus did for you and for me. And believe me, it was cruel and unusual punishment.
But Jesus didn’t just die in our place. He did away with the eternal death of hell by coming back to life after three days in the grave. And He’s willing to share that victory over hell with anybody who wants it badly enough. It’ll only cost you your life. Not your physical life, of course, but your spiritual life.
After admitting to God that you’re a sinner, the next step is to believe with your whole heart that Jesus died and rose again to take the punishment for your sin (Romans 10:9-10). You gratefully tell God that you accept that Jesus did this for you. You ask Him to forgive you, and make a commitment to Him and to yourself that with His help you’re going to turn away from a life of sin and serving yourself and turn to a life of serving and obeying Him. (This turning away is called “repenting”.)
Finally, you put your money where your mouth is and act on what you’ve just committed to. You spend time reading your Bible and praying in order to get to know God better. When opportunities to sin arise, you turn away from them. As you grow in your relationship with God, you discover what He wants you to do with your life, and you follow that path.
This last step is a very important one that, all too frequently, gets left out. Simply mouthing a prayer and then going back to business as usual ain’t gonna cut it. In fact, if you are able to go back to living the way you always have, with no discernable change of heart or behavior, at least a gradual one, you probably aren’t a Christian. If you’ve truly given your life to Christ, you’re going to be a different person. You’re going to have an aversion to sin, and a love for God. Your attitudes towards others will change. Your priorities will change. Your beliefs about right and wrong will change.
Simply SAYING you’re a Christian doesn’t make you one. I could sit here all day long and tell you I’m a doctor. Sure, I’ve taken some biology classes, and I do have some medical knowledge, but I didn’t go through medical school, I’m not licensed, and I don’t treat patients. If I wanted to become a doctor, I’d have to submit myself to the things that are necessary for becoming a doctor. It’s the same way with Christianity. We have to submit ourselves to what God says is necessary for becoming a Christian: true repentance, and trust in Christ.
If you’ve stuck with me this far through this seemingly interminable article, you’re probably thinking back to my very first paragraph and saying to yourself, “This ‘giving your life to Jesus’ stuff is all well and good, but my husband is dying/I can’t find a job and my house is about to be foreclosed/my mother just died/I’m on the brink of divorce/etc. That’s all I care about, all I can think about right now.”
That’s precisely why I told you about Jesus. When (and ONLY when) you give your life to Him, He helps you through your problems. You want peace when you’re struggling with a rebellious child? Comfort after the death of a loved one? Strength when your body is in pain? Joy instead of sadness? These things, and many others, are just some of the “fringe benefits” you get from being a Christian. But you only get them as a result of giving your life to Christ. There is no other way.
Thanks for allowing me to get this off my chest, Friend. I just couldn’t go one more day telling you that I’m praying for you to have peace or strength or healing without telling you how to get those things. And so I’ll urge you just once more: try Jesus. Or as the Bible puts it (Psalm 34:8):
O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.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 28:18-20
This passage in Matthew is called The Great Commission. It is Christ’s mandate to all Christians to preach the gospel, clearly and verbally, as often as we can, everywhere. Some of the most important ways we can do this are sharing the gospel with our friends and loved ones, praying for our missionaries, and giving missions offerings at church. But while you’re doing these things, did you know that there are a lot of other little ways you can get involved in missions and evangelism? Here are some I’ve tried and loved:
Good Newsfeed– Get the good news to all five thousand of your closest friends simultaneously by posting a short gospel presentation video to your Facebook page. The two I like best are here and here.
The Main At-tract-ion– Living Waters has some awesome, attention grabbing tracts that make it easy and fun to start a gospel conversation. I like to use “Celebrity Millions.” As a Christian author, I sometimes have the opportunity to do book signings at secular venues. I lay a bunch of those “Celebrity Millions” out on the table, and it draws people like flies. (Sometimes, people are more interested in the tracts than my book, which is ok with me–they’re getting the gospel!) It’s fun to try to guess who some of the less identifiable celebrities are, and if you can’t get a foot in the door with a verbal gospel presentation, all you have to do is say, “There’s a great message on the back. Be sure to read it!”
Missions on the Amazon– Are you familiar with Amazon Smile? It allows you to designate a portion of your Amazon.com purchase for donation to the charity of your choice. I like to donate to the “International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention” (copy and paste that into the Smile search bar if you’d like to donate to the IMB).
Left Behind– If you’re new to sharing the gospel with strangers, an easy way to do it is to leave a tract or a New Testament (preferably one with a page that explains the plan of salvation, or tuck a tract inside) behind when you go somewhere. Some good places to leave one: waiting areas of doctors’ offices, hospitals, airports, the DMV, salons, restrooms, on a park bench (in a plastic bag in case of rain), or at a restaurant (with a GENEROUS tip). Use wisdom with regard to any rules the business may have about litter or soliciting, especially if your (or another) church’s contact information is printed on the tract or Bible. When I leave a Bible, I like to write a note on the inside (“I’m not lost, I was left as a gift for you. Please take me home and read me.”) so the person who finds it knows she’s free to keep it. You can purchase Bibles inexpensively at the dollar store, or ask your pastor about ordering them in bulk.
Be a Twit– Tweet gospel centered Bible verses, and, if appropriate and safe, let people know they can contact you (maybe via a designated, anonymous e-mail account?) if they want to know more about the gospel.
Throw Me Somethin’, Mister!– Down here in Louisiana, we have tons of parades, and in good Mardi Gras tradition, we throw things to the spectators. Instead of worthless plastic beads and trinkets, how about throwing New Testaments, or little bags of candy with tracts inside? If parades aren’t the thing in your neck of the woods, you can also give tracts and Bibles away from your booth at the fair, festival, or flea market, at your garage sale, at your kids’ lemonade stand, etc. And if your church does fundraisers like bake sales, car washes, or other events that are open to the public, be sure there are church members available to share the gospel and pray with people who are open to it.
Memorial Bibles– Gideons International has a wonderful program that allows you to donate Bibles in memory of a lost loved one. If you think it would be meaningful to the family of the deceased, consider donating Bibles instead of sending flowers. “…flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)
Be a Designated Donor– If you own your own business, have garage sales, sell craft items, etc., commit to setting aside a percentage of each sale for missions. The more specific the focus, the better. For example, adopt a particular unreached people group or give to an organization that focuses on getting the gospel to a certain focus group (such as victims of human trafficking or ESL students). Learn about the people the money will help and briefly tell your customers about them with each transaction. This may also open a door for sharing the gospel with your customers!
Group Project– Looking for a great evangelism activity for your youth group or small group? Join up with The Biggest Project. It’s an operation that aims to get an awesome DVD gospel presentation called “The Biggest Question” into as many hands as possible by handing them out on college campuses, at sporting events, or anywhere else there’s a lot of foot traffic. Like the idea but your group isn’t quite ready? You can sponsor DVDs for groups who want to distribute them but can’t afford the cost to order.
Join the Club- The Bezeugen Tract Club, that is. Sign up to receive a free 30 day supply of tracts every month, take the daily tract challenge, share Bezeugen’s e-tracts via Facebook and Twitter, donate to supply others with tracts, or volunteer to help with their monthly mailing. This is a great little ministry to take part in.
There are probably more different ways and opportunities for sharing the gospel and furthering mission work now than ever before. Get creative, get out there, and let’s get the good news of the gospel to a lost and dying world.
What are some creative ways YOU like to share the gospel
with others or contribute to missions work?
Earlier this year, I published a guest post from Stacy, a missionary in Vienna, about ministering to refugees. It’s a great article, and I’d encourage you to read it if you haven’t yet: What Can I Do About the Refugees?
A reader commented on the article, understandably upset and afraid at the prospect of potential persecution of Christians and acts of terrorism – that, quite realistically, may happen with an influx of Muslim refugees – and expressed the need to prevent their entry into the U.S. (You can read her full comment by clicking on the title of the article above if you’d like.)
I’d like to share my response to her with you. Terrorism and persecution are things this generation has never had to face on U.S. soil until recently, but we need to face the reality that it will probably become commonplace within our lifetimes. How will we face our enemies in a Christlike way?
“I understand your fear. I really do. I live near New Orleans, a major, international port city which would be one of the first gateways for Muslim immigrants to enter this country. The city I live in is home to industries that are ripe targets for terrorist attacks.
And there’s nothing – absolutely nothing – I can do about it. Yes, I can vote and I can call and email my legislators and urge them to make laws I think are appropriate, but the bottom line is that they’re going to do whatever it is they want to do, and I have no control over that. Neither do you. Neither does Stacy.
So let’s set aside the idea of “allowing” or “welcoming” Muslim immigrants into our country (which is different from welcoming individual Muslims into our homes, when appropriate, or ministering to them in other venues). As average citizens, we don’t have the power to allow or prevent them from coming in.
I want to clarify again, as I did above, that is not the point of this article.
Stacy is talking about ministering to people God places in your path no matter how they got there. No matter who they are. Have you not read Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan? (Luke 10:25-37) Muslim immigrants who are already here or who, whether we want them to or not, may come here in the future, are our neighbors. Should we be wise and be careful? Of course. Should we allow our fear to keep us from obeying Christ’s command to share the gospel with others and minister to them? No way.
You said, “Loving our enemies means sacrifice, pain, and even death.” You’re absolutely right, and that is the kind of “die to self, take up your cross and follow Me” love that Christ calls us to have for others. Because that is what He did for us. While we were at enmity with Him, He laid down His life for us. (Romans 5:8)
Christ gave His life to save Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate and the mob who screamed for His death and the enemy Roman soldiers who mocked Him, whipped Him, and drove thorns into His brow and nails into His hands and feet, so that their greatest need – the forgiveness of their sin – could be met.
The apostles got this (and they got it far better than we do today). They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Christ. (Acts 5:40-42) How can we not look upon loving, serving, and evangelizing our neighbors in the name of Christ in the same way?
Safety and caution are important, but they are not the Christian’s number one concern. Our number one concern is to follow Christ and obey Him wherever that may lead us and whatever it may cost us. Where would we be if Christ had not done that for us?”