This is the first of a series of articles I would like to write addressing the topic of New Testament evangelism.
If you haven’t noticed, the influence of the American evangelical church has been in decline for quite some time. Rather than having a good reputation among those outside the church, many evangelicals are now viewed as religious extremists who only care about themselves, and their own political views.
This opinion among unbelievers is not without merit, and many preachers have become bolder in their political views using their pulpits to demonize those who hold differing views. Ironically, when those same ministers get push-back from people who have been insulted by their harsh rhetoric, they often play the persecution card and lead their followers down a path that is even more self centered.
Lost in all of this is the call to live for Christ in such a manner that shines the light of God’s love and kindness for all people.
In his instructions for those who desire the office of a bishop (a Pastor) Paul writes, “he must have a good reputation with those outside the church.” ~ 1 Timothy 3:7
In his letter to Titus, Paul writes something similar.
Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. ~ Titus 2:7-8
Harsh, hateful, and political rhetoric is not godly behavior and brings a reproach on the gospel of Christ, and because of such, many evangelicals need a refresher course regarding true New Testament evangelism.
Consider that during Paul’s conversion experience, God sent a devout man with a good reputation to pray for Paul.
And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus. And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. ~ Acts 22:11-13
Notice that Ananias had a good reputation among the Jews where he lived. How we live matters and how we represent Christ to those outside the faith matters.
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. ~ Matthew 5:13- 16
In 1 Timothy, Paul says the following concerning the gospel.
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. ~ 1 Timothy 1:15-17
Evangelicals need to be reminded that Christ came into the world to save sinners and Paul refers to this as “a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation…”
A faithful saying is a timeless message, an enduring truth. Paul says, this faithful saying is worthy of all acceptation. This means it’s something we must never forget and always be mindful of. I think this is why Paul says in the next breath, “of whom I am Chief.” Paul did not view himself as the chief of sinners because of a sense of guilt, but rather from a heart of gratitude.
Paul never wanted to forget that he once was lost and God had mercy on him. Paul then tells Timothy that his own salvation was a pattern of God’s great salvation to those whom God would save after him. Paul understood the depth of his sinful past, and even so God was merciful, for Christ had come into the world to save sinners.
In his letter to Titus, Paul tells Titus to remind the people to be examples of godliness with regards to governing authorities, and to speak evil of no man, and not to be brawlers (abusive, fighting, etc.) but rather be gentle, showing meekness to all men (not only to Christians, but all men) because we too were at one time foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving different lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. ~ Titus 3:1-3
Paul tells us that we were saved from such things because “the kindness and love of God our Savior towards all men appeared” (v.4). The grace of God that brings salvation works through kindness and love to save people from their sins.
Too many evangelicals are sending the wrong message of us vs. them. We are not an exclusive group whom God favors and while hating sinners. God forbid! Instead, we are people who have been saved by the grace of God and at one time we too were lost and we should never forget that. If we do, we forget our calling and our purpose. – we forget the gospel.
Christ came into the world to save sinners and has called us as co-laborers with him so that through us the sweet fragrance of the knowledge Christ might be known in every place, so that the world can taste and see that the Lord is gracious.