by Bauer Evans
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:1-5.
As he writes this passage to Timothy, Paul is facing the end of his life. He paints a final picture of pastoral ministry for Timothy that he hopes will be enduring. He focuses on those priorities he knows Timothy will be tempted to drift from and even neglect in the day-to-day pressures of ministry.
Paul calls Timothy to 1) preach the Word, 2) be sober-minded, 3) endure suffering and 4) do the work of an evangelist. Why did Paul call Timothy to do the work of personal evangelism? The reason, I believe, is because he knows Timothy’s example in personal evangelism is indispensable to his church’s faithfulness in the work of evangelism.
I wonder what Timothy thought as he read Paul’s letter:
“Don’t I have enough work? Now I have to do the work of an evangelist too?”
“I just need to find the right guy and then I won’t have to worry about this anymore.”
I have a pastoral gift, not the gift of an evangelist.”
I know I need to change in this area – I’m going to make it happen this time.” (But his guess is that there will be a big push in the beginning and a fizzle at the end.)
Friends: Paul called Timothy to do the work of evangelism because He knows Timothy’s example in personal evangelism is indispensable to his church’s faithfulness in the work of evangelism.
What does this have to do with me? Imagine if on Sunday I told my congregation I hadn’t read the Bible devotionally for a month. How would they feel about the message I was about to share? Or if I confessed I hadn’t prayed to God in over two months? Would their confidence in my pastoral leadership waver? Absolutely! So what happens when I tell them I have not shared the Gospel with a non-believer for a month? Three months? Maybe a year? Would they be as astonished and concerned for my spiritual welfare as they are for the spiritual disciplines of Bible intake and prayer? They should be … God certainly is.
Friends, pastors lead by example. Our example is indispensable when it comes to developing an evangelistic church. Without a consistent example from us, the church will grow complacent in their call to reach the lost. Yet some of the most effective preaching being done today is by pastors who are spending time with non-believers, learning about their lives, hearing their questions and sharing the gospel with non-believers during the week. As these pastors share these conversations with their congregations in their sermons, they are inspiring and equipping the church in how to talk to non-believers about the gospel, and imparting faith for them to do it!
May I suggest to you that what will move evangelism to the front burner in your congregation is often the ‘missing ingredient’ in most churches that aren’t growing in evangelism. What will move personal evangelism to the front burner in your congregation’s ministry is your personal example in personal evangelism. Through your example your church will be equipped and inspired to grow in theirs.
How does a pastor grow in personal evangelism?
First, have a plan. What do date nights, church meetings and soccer games all have in common? Give up. They are all planned ahead of time. Is personal evangelism included? Is it evident from your schedule that this is a priority? If ‘no’, what’s your plan?
What is my plan for personal evangelism?
- Start small: plan to host non-believers in your home once a month
- Redeem the time: devote lunch time once a month to go out and share the gospel at the mall or common
- Make a goal: first, plan to do it on Fridays at the mall, in the evenings.
- Include others: second, Saturdays during the day do a service project and share.
By transferring these priorities to my calendar, over time I am growing in faithfulness in my daily life. I am slowing down to pursue conversations with others while at the gym, while in Cumby’s, during my son’s baseball games.
Second, practice. Doing evangelism is the best way to grow in evangelism.
“We must expose ourselves to both biblical content and real life context, to knowledge and experience, to training and practice. Too often, there is an overemphasis on content and knowledge at the expense of practical experience. We will do well to pay heed to the words of nineteenth-century English philosopher Herbert Spencer who said, ‘The great aim of our education is not knowledge but action.’ So don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if your conviction level is lagging, you must first work on building your convictions before you go out and do evangelism. No, the best way to build convictions about evangelism is to go out and do it as you are processing the biblical information which fuels your convictions.” (Mark McCloskey, Tell It Often, Tell It Well (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1992))
Third, pursue accountability. “Growth in grace is a community project,” says Tim Lane.
Is there someone in my life who demonstrates faithfulness in personal evangelism? Could I build him into my life to help me to grow? To receive specific encouragement? To be challenged to change? To go witness with?
For me, my friend Todd is that person. Last year, at the conclusion of the Philip Center’s training, my friend Todd suggested we take some time to review what we had heard and come with a plan to ‘just do it’. He suggested we use our lunch times once or twice a month to go out and share the gospel. As time went on, and he continued to grow in faithfulness in personal evangelism during the week, he began to ask if I had the opportunity to share with anyone that week. When I didn’t he would ask what I could do the following week to insure I was spending time with non-believers. What a difference it makes to have a friend who is both inspiring in his example and caring enough to encourage me to keep growing to.
Fourth, pray for a heart for the lost.
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am an in prison – that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Colossians 4:2-4
“The Holy Spirit will move them by first moving you. If you can rest without their being saved, they will rest too. But if you are filled with agony for them, if you cannot bear that they should be lost, you will soon find that they are uneasy too. I hope you will get into such a state that you will dream about your child or your hearer perishing for lack of Christ, and start at once and begin to cry, ‘O God, give me converts or I die.’ Then you will have converts.” (Charles Spurgeon, The Sermons of Charles Haddon Spurgeon Vol. 22, (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1876), 143-144)
Paul calls Timothy to do the work of evangelism because He knows Timothy’s example in personal evangelism is indispensable to his church’s faithfulness in the work of evangelism.
Friends, God is patient with us. He knows our frame, that we are weak; and He is poised to give us more of His grace to move us along! Paul’s letter to Timothy ends with this encouragement: “The Lord be with your Spirit – Grace be with you.”
God is going to give us more grace to grow during our time together. He will give us wisdom and faith to implement an evangelistic strategy, beginning with our personal example, that will move evangelism back to the front burner of the church we are privileged to serve.
A Challenge given by Bauer Evans (Crossway Church, Plainville, MA) at the Planning for Outreach Workshop, June11, 2009.