“Do you have a minute to hear about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?” Ah yes, it’s a magical phrase often giving the effect of making people walk away from you as quickly as possible. Evangelism in the modern world is a difficult task, especially in our increasingly secular world. People’s ears are no longer tuned to listen to Christianity or even the presence of a higher authority. However, in our time that we spend here on earth, we’re called not only to live a Christ-like life but bring others toward the life. Christ very clearly calls to all of us when He says to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16). If something more severe suits your tastes, look no further than Saint John Chrysostom who says, “I do not believe in the salvation of anyone who does not believe in the salvation of others.” While large scale mission trips and organized evangelism services are amazing and should be done, evangelism should be viewed not as a series of events but as a lifelong process – one that happens on a personal level.
Gospel comes from the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον (evangelion) which translates to good news. Think about how you react to hearing good news. Imagine you just found out your best friend is getting married. Wouldn’t you be overjoyed to the point that you could barely keep it in? You would share it with the world as soon as you get the chance, while simultaneously documenting the entire proposal for the whole world to see on your socials. Good news naturally makes us excited to share it. Now if the Gospel is the ultimate good news, it should follow suit that it should be the thing we are most excited to share with people. Unfortunately, the opposite is often true, with our faith being the part of our lives that we hide the most, even to the point of acting against it in order to hide it. Preaching the Gospel first requires a cultural shift in how we approach the Gospel. Do we truly believe that it is the greatest news that must be shared with each and every person we meet, or is it only shared when it’s convenient?
Once we’re excited to share the good news, how do we prepare ourselves to share it? You may notice when you travel that the airplane safety videos all feature the same sentence: “put on your oxygen mask first, then assist others around you.” Similarly, you must make sure that your own salvation is being taken care of before you can seek the salvation of others around you as well. Just as you can’t fill a cup with water from an empty cup, you can’t fill someone with the love of Christ, if you yourself do not have it within you. Christ gives a similar example: “if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch” (Matthew 15:14). We cannot begin to approach evangelism until we ourselves have approached Christ. In the end we will not be changing people’s hearts since we cannot do anything with our own ability. It will be up to Christ, but the faith for that to happen will be on our part.
So how then do we evangelize practically speaking? If you’re a broke college student like me, going to live in Kenya for 6 months may not be a viable option. But that doesn’t mean we can’t evangelize locally. Our prime method of evangelism is the way that we live our lives. The Epistle to Diognetus, written by an unknown Christian apologist in the 2nd century, answers a Greek officials’ questions about who Christians were and why they did what they did. He notes the following:
“They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners… They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven”
This unknown apologist notes that 2nd century Christians were very obviously different from the people around them. While they were functioning members of society and lived among its members, they were distinct in the way they acted. Their citizenship was not on Earth but rather in Heaven. We as well are not citizens of this world but are called to be “ambassadors for Christ” as St. Paul tells the Corinthians. An ambassador is one who represents another nation in a foreign land. As ambassadors for Christ, we are called to be representations of Him among the rest of society. We are called to be different, and this difference is what catches the attention of so many outside the faith.
Evangelism doesn’t have to be setting up a table on the street to speak about Christ (although it is a great method). It can start small with your pre-existing friendships. Make sure to surround yourself with people other than those who share your faith. Expand your social circle beyond the scope of your church. Don’t be afraid to speak about your faith if ever asked and be ready to provide answers when asked. Most importantly, we must shake the stigma behind speaking about religion. While it shouldn’t be imposed on people, it shouldn’t be a topic of conversation that you personally find uncomfortable. After all this is your faith, your good news that you’ll explode if you don’t tell someone right now. On top of all, make sure to pray for those around you that are not part of the faith. At the end of the day, your words and even your actions will not be what changes a person’s heart. That part is all up to Christ.
“Be careful how you live. You may be the only Bible some person ever reads.”
― William J. Toms