Evangelistic Success

There are contingencies for ‘evangelistic success’ that are beyond my control, beyond my skills, and beyond my efforts. We must therefore be quick to reformulate our understanding of evangelistic success.

In William Fay’s book Share Jesus Without Fear, he notes that we cannot fail at sharing our faith because “I obeyed, and that was success.”[1] While there needs to be some further clarification, truly, success in our evangelistic efforts is not defined by the unbeliever’s conversion. The determinant of our success is established by the act itself, by obeying Christ’s command to go and evangelize. Our success cannot be contingent upon conversion because conversion is not determined by our own abilities. A Christian expresses gratitude to God for his salvation because the Christian did not save himself; God saved him. “[His] thanksgiving is itself an acknowledgment that [his] conversion was not [his] own work, but [God’s] work.”[2] By the same principle, we are consistent in prayer for the conversion of others, praying that God will do the work. “When you pray for unconverted people, you do so on the assumption that it is in God’s power to bring them to faith.”[3]

Therefore, our success in evangelism is not and cannot be defined by the unbeliever’s conversion; thus when we use the term ‘success’ in reference to our evangelistic efforts, we are connoting the fitness of our method in accordance with our obedience to God’s command. McRaney summarized, “The evangelist’s primary responsibility is to be obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit in preparing and sharing his faith.”[4] He emphasized an additional component – i.e. success is not only that we obey and share our faith, but it is how we obey and share our faith.

The ‘how’ is wrapped up in the evangelist’s preparation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit as he immerses himself in Scripture. Much of this preparation is centered on clarifying our own understanding of the gospel, where in turn, we will be better equipped to demolish the barriers existing between the unbeliever and his coming to faith. Many of these barriers are fortified by their misconceptions and misperceptions of the gospel. Thus, in our clarification of the gospel, we are methodically destroying the unbeliever’s barrier; but only the outer layers of his barrier. You see, beneath the misconception and misperception, the unbeliever has a hard heart to the very nature of the gospel message. It will not do simply to pick away at the ‘facts.’ One must place a ‘gospel charge’ at the very foundation of the unbeliever’s barrier; and this is accomplished by exposing his foundational rebellion. Before the unbeliever decorated and fortified his obstruction with misconceptions and misperceptions of the gospel, he chose to suppress the knowledge of God (Rom 1:18-23). He chose to reject that which he in fact knew. In the name of progress, he began to build his world off this rebellion; and the obstruction grew into a global sized skyscraper, adorned with all the trimmings of deceptive light. This obstruction became his world, and it only fed the economy of his rebellion. The evangelist approaches him and carves through the misinformed beams of atheological arguments like butter – straight to the foundation of his rebellious enterprise. There, he inspects and comments, “Your building – this illusory obstruction, this façade you have constructed – cannot stand on this foundation. All that you call progress cannot operate from your rebellion. These laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, that which you call ‘good’ necessitates the very God you have rejected. Without the existence of the ontological Trinity, your whole world crumbles and descends into nothingness and meaninglessness.”

It is quite a mess the evangelist has created. It is dirty work to destroy a man’s world; but the glory of the gospel is that it brings about a glorious restoration of all things. In light of this end, we must establish our motivations in love, and show that motivation by coupling our proclamation of truth with a humble, gentle, servant-like attitude.

[1] William Fay and Linda E. Shepherd, Share Jesus Without Fear (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 11.

[2] J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2012), 16.

[3] Ibid., 19.

[4] Will McRaney, The Art of Personal Evangelism: Sharing Jesus in a Changing Culture (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2003), 48.

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