The sinner needs evangelism. Rarely do we meditate on the lost condition of our friends, neighbors, and loved ones. We don’t think about what they will experience in the lake that burns with eternal fire (Revelation 20:14-15).
If you had the cure for cancer, wouldn’t you rush to tell your friends with cancer? If you had a hot stock tip, wouldn’t you rush to tell your friends with money? We have discovered the solution for sin; so why don’t we rush to tell all the people who are lost how to escape judgment? “How will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14). The only way the sinner will be saved is to be introduced to the gospel by a believer.
God needs evangelism. Better stated, God appointed evangelism as the means for converting the world to Christ.
In the Garden, in the aftermath of man’s sin, God revealed His eternal plan of salvation: to send the “seed of woman” to redeem mankind. Throughout the Bible, God brought the stature of the Christ into focus. In the fullness of times, God provided Jesus Christ as the crucified and resurrected Savior. Only faith in Jesus provides salvation (John 8:24).
God could have rearranged the stars of the sky to spell out the name of Jesus, and thereby cause many people to believe and be saved. God could have sent Jesus to appear at the foot of every person’s bed and show off His wounds, and thereby cause many people to believe and be saved. But He didn’t. He sent Jesus to appear “not to all people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand” and then “He ordered [them] to preach to the people” the message of forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name (Acts 10:39-43).
Just as God appointed the apostles to testify of Jesus’ resurrection, God has appointed the members of the church to proclaim the apostles’ written message to successive generations. “God was well pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). “What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:5-6). God uses the evangelistic efforts of His people to spread salvation throughout the world! Christianity is many things, but let us always include in the rubric our obedience to God’s commandment to teach others.
The church needs evangelism. When I visit other congregations, more often than not I find dwindling, grey-headed congregations managing the decline. According to Yeakley’s 2012 study, of about 13,000 congregations of churches of Christ in America, 1/3 have fewer than 50 members, and 2/3 have fewer than 100 members (Why They Left, p. 18).
While it is entirely possible that God has stopped giving the increase, I suspect that it has much more to do with churches who have stopped planting and watering the seed. The pattern of a sound church found in the book of Acts includes a focus on evangelism. The Holy Spirit records the numerical growth of the church on at least eleven separate occasions (1:15, 2:41, 2:47, 4:4, 5:14, 6:1, 6:7, 9:31, 12:24, 16:5, 19:20). Baptisms happened “daily” (Acts 2:47, 16:5). If we claim to be following the pattern of the first century church, we will be evangelizing every day!
You need evangelism. Paul told Timothy, “pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16). Evangelism is the faithful task of a Christian, and thus impacts his own salvation. God used this powerful illustration with Ezekiel:
If … [the watchman] sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people, then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning … his blood will be on his own head. …But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand… (Ezekiel 33:1-9).
Let no one say that only applies to the preacher or the elders! Sure, they have a special responsibility (James 3:1, 2 Timothy 2:4). But every Christian, by his knowledge of the word, sees the judgment on the horizon, and has a duty to warn his neighbor. And thus, he has culpability for remaining silent. “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). –John Guzzetta