Do I Have To Share The Gospel Like That
Few things bring panic to the souls of many like the thought of sharing the gospel. Each potential encounter has its own panic-inducing features. To share with a stranger means potentially upsetting a nice casual encounter with accusations of being a religious nut-job imposing beliefs on people. But share with a friend or relative and you quite possibly sour a relationship for the long-term.
All of this is quite possible. And because of such potential outcomes, people want to know in which situations they are obligated to obey the great commission command and where they are not. This is much like the reverse version of the physical-relationship-in-dating question of “how far is too far.” But because this is a different kind of temptation, not a temptation toward pleasure but of fleeing difficulty, people ask “How much and what kind of gospel sharing do I actually have to do.” This question exists because the command is broad. The great commission simply sends us out to make disciples and teach them. But in our going, what must our gospel sharing look like? What am I actually commanded to do? How much must I do it?
These are legitimate questions, though poorly asked. Answers arise more quickly when we ask the right questions from the right starting place. In our analogy of the dating relationship, “How far is too far” is also asked from the wrong starting place. The right question is “How holy can our relationship be?” So too, the evangelism question isn’t “What kind of sharing do I have to do?” The question is best framed like this: “What kind of sharing can I do best?”
Therefore, I believe the way to best answer that kind of question is to get a firm grip on spiritual gifting. Spiritual giftings are those abilities God has given a believer that bring about greater spiritual fruitfulness. Whatever those giftings are, they will not only bless God’s children, they will usually provide an avenue for sharing the gospel with greater effectiveness.
This should bring some immediate relief from the original panic being felt. For those who are petrified that they are going to be asked hard questions about science and untangling philosophical knots, it is likely that they are not gifted in the teaching realm. They shouldn’t feel bad that they aren’t regularly slogging through the quagmire of atheist objections as they bring the gospel.
To put a positive spin on it, are you gifted in serving? Then find ways to serve unbelievers and share the gospel as you do. Are you gifted with mercy? Then when you come along someone suffering in their lostness, shine the hope of the gospel. Are you gifted in giving? Look for ways to put your resources to work for gospel advances and articulating the gospel as you do. Are you gifted in evangelism? My friend, this post isn’t for you. You are already thrilled at every opportunity to bring the gospel in any kind of way. Go read something else.
Now in case you think you are off the gospel-witness hook, brace yourself. Giftedness is not an opt-out provision for gospel sharing. It simply helps point you toward where you should put your energies. If you are gifted in teaching, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to serve. If you are gifted in mercy that doesn’t mean you don’t have to give. Every one of us must do all the gifting categories. We must all teach in some way, exhort in some way, give in some way, serve in some way, show mercy in some way, etc. In some of those you will bear much fruit, but that doesn’t mean you don’t do the others.
The same is true for sharing the gospel. You may not have the gift of teaching, but God will sometimes still put you in the place where you are helping an atheist think through the reality of God and the truth of Scripture. You may not have the gift of preaching, but God may still put you in the place where you need to speak the truth before a group of people that Jesus is the only way to the Father. This is why we all must become proficient in the elements of a faithful gospel witness. There will be ways that we are very comfortable with sharing the gospel, but even in the uncomfortable ways we still need to speak faithfully.
The other part of the question was regarding how much we should share the gospel. Since we are to share it, how much are we to share it? If this is the greatest news of all time, shouldn’t we be sharing it every day? Shouldn’t we be doing it all day? Isn’t time spent with family or in rest letting unbelievers fall into an eternity of torment?
You can see where this line of reasoning can take you. You end up becoming that wild-eyed, frazzled kook that we instinctively know is off somehow. But exactly how is that off? One good comparison is to look at the example of the Thessalonians. They had somehow taken Paul’s teachings about the end time in the wrong way. They had stopped working and were busy-bodies, just waiting for Jesus with their eyes on the sky. Paul rebuked them for it. Yes, Jesus is coming and is coming at any moment, but you still need to work with your hands (2 Thess. 3:11-12), provide for your family (1 Timothy 5:8), and make plans for the future (Eph. 5:15-16). God will not have us negate one command in light of another command. One truth does not undermine another truth.
Therefore, in evangelism we must have urgency, boldness and sacrifice. But that does not negate trusting in the sovereignty of God to orchestrate our lives and the destiny of sinners, fulfilling our many obligations that don’t connect to evangelism, and realizing faithfulness usually means slow and steady. As said so well in the book Manage Your Day-to-Day, “We tend to overestimate what we can do in a short period, and underestimate what we can do over a long period, provided we work slowly and consistently.” Look for ways you can regularly share the gospel, but don’t break yourself with unsustainable effort.
So, if you have a mind that still functions and you are able to communicate in some way, I believe the command of the great commission applies to you. You should share the gospel through opportunities you take and opportunities you make. Look for the ways you are gifted and move your energies there. But be ready, willing and able to share in less comfortable and less effective ways as you follow the God who delights to use the weak and unimpressive to accomplish eternal work.
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