Why do we evangelize?
The words “Go and make disciples” are a sure indicator of a Bible-believer’s mission here on earth. But what is it about our relationship with God that motivates us to want to share it with others? Why do we care if others hear as we say, “Jesus is Lord”?
I believe a part of this answer is in 1 John 1:4. “Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!” (Message).
How often do we fail to let our love for others be the motivation of evangelism? From personal experience, I can assure you of the ease of selfish motivation in sharing the good news.
I used to go on Yahoo Answers every day. At the ripe age of 13, I felt my knowledge of religion was substantial (if not superior). With hubris in tow, I attempted to answer all religious questions on the website and correct every atheist, Jew and Muslim. It was evangelism…right? I believed Internet debates were my duty. In fact, if you asked me about it at the time, I’d have convinced you I was righteously contributing to the world.
In these web pages, I failed to mention how much love and joy I was experiencing because I wasn’t experiencing any love or joy with God. My posts were not written to offer anyone anything. Instead, I was evangelizing because I had been taught the logic of Christianity and I was trying with all of my might to prove the logic to myself. If I ‘won’ the discussion, I must be right in my beliefs. This ministering acted as a way to receive personal affirmation, and I cared very little about the impression it left on the person on the other side of the computer.
My tactic of evangelizing was not to love or share joy. It was based in logic because logic was the glue holding me to Christianity. I tried my best to convert people using logic because I knew logic worked in ministering to me.
We will instinctively minister in the way that works in ministering to us. As a person sincerely tries to convince others of the gospel, he will speak words that are convincing him to be a Christian in the present.
Just as our experience with a film will influence our recommendation of it, and our relationship with our gym coach will influence our recommendation of him or her, our relationship and understanding of God will drastically influence how we recommend Him to other people or -in other words- how we evangelize.
When I read 1 John 1:4, John’s approach to evangelism is simple and refreshing. John wanted to share the news of God because it filled him with new life and joy. He wanted others to have the gift that he valued. I would guess it is this kind of selfless ministry that God wants us to be involved in. The desire to share God’s news stems from our desire for others to experience all of the glorious intricacies of Christian life, not from our own need of self-assuredness.
Because Jesus offers love eternally, my life has radically changed. I now have hope despite trials and I want for others have this as well. Because I love them, I want to tell them about an irreplaceable gift. This is ideal evangelism. I suggest we reject any style of ministry primarily focused on receiving affirmation for the ministers.
Through evangelism, we can discover plenty about ourselves. By examining our way of evangelizing, we can often determine what we value in our own faith walk. We can better see the hidden ideas that we carry about God by the way we talk about Him to others. We can look at our own way of ministering and ask, “Why is it that I am evangelizing this way? Is this what I value about my and God’s relationship? Why is this the way I am presenting God? Do I see life with Christ as a gift right now?”
Are we ministering to be right, or are we ministering because of fear? Are we holding signs on street corners that say “repent, or you’ll go to hell” because WE fear hell and it only makes sense that others would too? Sometimes we may not like our answers to these questions, but God can help us refocus while also offering plenty of grace.
This verse in 1 John urges us to refocus. The purpose of evangelism is to love others. Instead of purely ministering in the first way we can think to, we can examine our relationship with God and determine if we see Him as the Bible describes. Evangelizing reflects our appreciation of what we have been given from God and our desire to share it with others. Therefore, in evangelizing, we share this gift to God’s beloved creation because we know its worth from our own experiences. If our own faith and life in God do not feel like a gift, (as they sometimes do not) we can pray to God asking Him to remind us of the superiority of His love. With His love and Spirit filling us, we can put His joy on display. We can revel in His love and gracefully proclaim the availability of God to others. We can say, “This life is full and rich and free from fear. Do you want to have this too? It’s free!”
“We want for you to enjoy this too. Your joy will double our joy.”
Published for Grafted Magazine