As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:5 (ESV)
Often, during the nights that I perform devotions with my daughters, I ask the question “What does it take to be a Christian?” They know that I am looking for a specific response that relates to the catechism they have been taught. Today, I ask you that same question. Do you know what it takes to be a Christian? I have asked a number of those who have been part of my respective congregations over the years, and I have gotten a variety of responses. Many of these responses were very accurate yet others were not so accurate. Some have stated that “one has to believe in God.” Others claim that “one has to ask Jesus in his or her heart.” Further, some communicate that “the Spirit has to lead him or her, or he or she has to be part of the church.” The answer is pretty simple; “One must repent of his or her sins and trust in Jesus as his or her Lord and Savior.”
Now you may be at home thinking that I am splitting hairs. You could be saying to yourself right now, “Self, I know that many of those folks may not have given the exact words that the preacher wanted, but if he would have just taken the time to ask a few more questions, then they would have given answers to his satisfaction.” If you were thinking that, then you would be correct. Most of the folks who answered in the ways that I characterized were usually confused at the question. As I spent time and dialogued with them about what it took to be a Christian, they generally reassured me that their understanding regarding God’s gift of salvation in Christ and their response to the gospel message was legitimate. However, I must beg the question, why is it that many of us cannot answer this simple question and communicate in clear terminology how it is that one becomes a Christian? Further, if we cannot explain this most elementary of principles as it relates to the Christian faith in our own lives, then how can we communicate the gospel message to someone else whether that be our family, our co-workers, our neighbors, or our brokers for that matter.
As I have written in my previous newsletter articles and communicated countless times from the pulpit, we are all commissioned by Christ to share the gospel with non-Christians in our own community and all around the world. The manner in which we share this gospel is extremely important. There are many of us who do a wonderful job at communicating the clear gospel in a loving manner through a conversation style with the lost. Others of us need a little more work and preparation on our witnessing techniques, but all of us can improve. May I say that asking a person if he or she believes in God, if he or she has asked Jesus into his or her heart, if he or she has been baptized, or if he or she goes to church may open the door to a spiritual conversation, but a “yes” to any of these questions is not a conclusive response to whether this individual is truly a child of God. In fact, if a person were to answer the question about how one becomes a Christian in the specific manner that I previously communicated, they still would not have exhibited conclusive proof that they are indeed a Christian. Does he or she understand the concept of sin and its consequences? Does he or she understand and adhere to the concept of salvation by grace alone through faith alone? Does he or she believe in what we call the substitutionary atonement as it relates to God’s provision of salvation? Does he or she believe that Jesus is fully man and fully God in the way that the Bible defines deity? Does he or she believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead? Is he or she living a penitent lifestyle that is characteristic of a genuine believer? All these questions are so very important as we consider what it means to bear witness to the gospel in a lost and dying world.
Others may retort that often quoted phrase attributed to Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.” However, Francis never stated this phrase. He did communicate periphrastically that our deeds should match our words, but the gospel must be communicated in words. Duane Liftin, president emeritus of Wheaton College claims, “It's simply impossible to preach the Gospel without words. The Gospel is inherently verbal, and preaching the Gospel is inherently verbal behavior.” Therefore, we absolutely should adorn the gospel we proclaim, but we must dialogue using the precepts and principles of God’s Word to accurately communicate its message.
So what are we as disciples of Christ to do? The simple answer is to prepare. Prepare by attending church on a regular basis where we can be fed the truth, and then we will will be more prepared to give the truth. Prepare by reading books like Greg Gilbert’s What is the Gospel. We went through this book as a sermon series a few years back. Prepare by reading and studying great gospel tracks that we can leave behind with people after our conversations, such as “Eternal Life,” “Life,” “4 Spiritual Laws,” “Steps to Peace with God,” and Gilbert’s “What is the Gospel” tract. Prepare by receiving intentional evangelistic training, such as the class that will be offered this Summer, “Share Jesus Without fear,” so that we can gain insight regarding how to conduct a gospel conversation. Prepare by joining us in GROW, attending the meal ministry for the purpose of sharing the gospel, participating in the block party for the purpose of sharing the gospel, and participating in our outreach night at Kool Beanz coming up at the end of June for the purpose of sharing the gospel. Evangelism is most definitely a hands-on activity. I can attest to the truth that I have heard others communicate time and again, which is that the best way to get better at evangelism is to do it. Until next time, this is Pastor Daniel writing, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”