Evangelism…this is a word that permeates the Christian landscape, but few Christians really know and understand it, especially in practical terms. Many people tend to aggrandize evangelism as a lofty concept that should be handled by ordained leaders in the church or trained ‘evangelists’. However, personal evangelism is much simpler than that. According to Will McRaney, “the word evangelism comes from a combination of Greek words for ‘good’ and ‘messenger’.” Essentially, personal evangelism is the sharing of the good message of Jesus Christ with others. Seems simple enough, right? Yes, and no.
While sharing this good message should be easy for most, it will always be a challenging task that will try even the most seasoned evangelist. McRaney states that “dealing with lost people will cause us to get our hands dirty and sweaty just like tending to yard work. Part of evangelism is to clear up misconceptions and misperceptions people have about the gospel. Dealing with people and evangelism is often messy.” When McRaney describes evangelism with such words as ‘dirty’ and ‘sweaty’, and uses the profession of gardener, one’s mind automatically thinks of similar jobs and activities. The more one utilizes this train of thought, various biblical descriptions of evangelism and the Christian life come to mind, such as a fisherman.
The best biblical example of this is the analogy offered by Jesus that equates evangelism with the job of fisherman. When Jesus approached Simon Peter and Andrew with a new career path, he charges them with “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men”. Most Christians may envision the idea of a contemporary fisherman who fishes as a hobby, which is mostly relaxing and lackadaisical. However, Simon Peter and Andrew were commercial fisherman who utilized large crude nets pulled in by hand, which is extremely messy and tiring. Each time the net is hauled back onto the boat, dirty water and slimy fish filled the hull. Furthermore, many times they may drop their nets with nothing to show for it at the end of day. Evangelism is comparable to this type of fishing on multiple levels, such as the ‘fisherman’ is not always successful at hauling in a ‘catch’, and it is messy and tiring at times.
In relation to my personal evangelism, this description of evangelism is very similar to my profession as a Soldier. The Apostle Paul describes the steadfast Christian to Timothy “as a good Soldier of Jesus Christ” With this description come the implications of a hard, disciplined, and, at times, messy life in which one encounters messy people and adverse situations. As Earley and Wheeler state, “if you and I are to make a spiritual difference in a culture where Christianity is on a steep decline, we must adopt the mind-set of spiritual warriors.”
From my own life and testimony, these descriptions bring to mind the hardships and messiness of my combat deployments. To me, the role of the American Soldier in bringing democracy to oppressed people is an integral part of evangelism on a larger scale. With the freedoms of democracy comes the freedom of sharing the gospel with those people, as well as their freedom to make an easier decision for Christ. Though messy, hot, dusty, and lonely at times, the Holy Spirit used this idea to help me “endure hardship as a good Soldier of Jesus Christ”. Likewise, I am confident that He will also help each one of you endure the same types of hardships in your personal evangelism efforts. Godspeed, Soldier!
- Will McRaney, Jr., The Art of Personal Evangelism: Sharing Jesus in a Changing Culture (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), 1.
- Matthew 4:19, NKJV.
- 2 Timothy 2:3, NKJV.
- Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is…How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Academic Publishing Group, 2010), 32.
- 2 Timothy 2:3, NKJV.