What is an evangelist?
The heart of God yearns for reconciliation with His children. In the garden, where shame and nakedness first broke our relationship with the Father, He responded by seeking us out and then clothing His naked children, even before the exile. When His people cried out in bondage to Pharaoh, He responded by leading them through a parted sea and into the promised land. His voice reverberates throughout Scripture with the singular cry of His heart: “They shall be my people, and I shall be their God” (Ex 6:7, Lev 26:12, Jer 7:23, Jer 24:7, Ezekiel 37:27, Zech 13:9, Heb 8:10). Thus it is that we who have encountered His love and been forever changed are now tasked with participating in God’s transforming work in the lives of others. Ultimately, this is what evangelism is about. For us who are changed, this is what it means to be an evangelist.
Having said that, it is important to recognize some key theological underpinnings. For starters, the process of the heart being wooed into the loving embrace of the Father is principally a work of the Holy Spirit, not of some superb rhetorical skill we may think we possess. This is incredibly important, because evangelism is often presented to us as a system, and learning how to share the gospel is either made overtly passive (such as leaving tracts in the laundromat) or obnoxiously in-your-face.
Asking “what is an evangelist” is really asking “what is God doing, and how do I participate?” This awareness completely changes our role. Rather than trying to manipulate someone into the kingdom, or coerce them through subtle discourse, our purpose in learning how to share the gospel is to discover where God is already at work and to join Him in that. With that in mind, here are five tips for becoming a better evangelist and learning how to share the gospel as an expression of love in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.
How To Share The Gospel
This should be the most obvious, but it is also the most overlooked. If the gentle wooing of the heart to Christ is a work done by the Spirit of God, then prayer becomes an integral means of cooperation on our part. So what should we pray for? Pray first for the person, that God lets the radiance of His love permeate their being. Pray also for yourself, that God open your eyes to see where He is at work, and open your heart to love deeply and genuinely. What is an evangelist? An evangelist is one that seeks after the work of God.
2. Love Genuinely
Perhaps the most important aspect of this is that we are not loving someone so that they may be converted. Love is not a means to an end. We do not pretend to love, go through the motions, and act ‘nice’ in order that we can get a foot in the order for sharing the Gospel. Rather, we love because the person is worth loving. What is an evangelist? An evangelist is one who learn to love as God does.
3. Pay Attention
In other words, shut your mouth and open your ears. Get to know the person… again, not as a means to an end, but because you genuinely find them interesting. Listen to their story. Know their passions. Comfort their pain. In the midst of all this, watch and wait for God to reveal to you where He is already working, and is inviting you to join in. What is an evangelist? An evangelist is one who cares more about the reconciliation of the other person than about winning an argument.
At some point, God will show you where He fits. In all honesty, this is rarely the ‘have you broken a commandment’ speech. Rather, this is recognizing where that gap exists between who we want to be and who we are, and how Christ fills that space. I remember a story one of my professors shared with me of a Muslim friend of his. The two men began conversing one day, and the Muslim gentleman began to share all the laws and practices Islam requires, the spiritual and behavioral morality it demands, and how he was not the good Muslim that he so desperately tried to be. In response, my professor began sharing about the power of the Holy Spirit to strengthen and transform us. After some thought, the Muslim asked, “So what you are saying is that, in order to be a good Muslim, I need to become a Christian?” And that is exactly what he did.
Did I mention this one already? Well… do it again. Prayer is the lifeblood of the faith.
So What Is An Evangelist?
In the end, evangelism begins and ends with Jesus. Not just speaking about Jesus, but the reality of Jesus already at work. Our goal, as bearers of the Good News, is simply to love, to pay attention, and to participate where we are called. The is how to share the gospel with love. This is what it means to be an evangelist.
The rest is up to God.