A Philosophy of Evangelism, Part 4: Context & Motivations

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series A Philosophy of Evangelism

About this series: Developing a biblically rooted philosophy of evangelism can greatly enhance the effectiveness of outreach and evangelism ministries. In this fourth part, Ken Boa clears up a common misconception about the primary context of evangelism, and then examines some of the right and wrong motivations for evangelizing.

The Context of Evangelism

Evangelism certainly takes place in churches, but the bulk of evangelism should take place in the context of the Church scattered.

The Church scattered (meaning the invisible body of Christ worldwide) includes home groups in which a Christ-centered community touches outsiders in neighborhoods through the witness of believers who love one another.

The primary focus of the Church gathered is edification. This is the purpose of spiritual gifts, which, in conjunction with the ministry of the Word, build up believers in a context of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and love (Colossians 3:12–14). As believers are edified and grow in their faith, the desire to represent Christ in their community, their workplaces, their neighborhoods, and their friendships should be natural for them.

In some settings, the assumption is made that outsiders should be brought into the church so that the pastor can lead them to Christ. When this happens, the church becomes a “stained-glass aquarium” in which the minister does the fishing while the laity plays a passive role. By contrast, it is important for churches and ministries to equip laypeople to be effective ambassadors of Christ in the natural settings in which they exert an influence. Edification (the body gathered) builds up believers so that they will be better equipped to evangelize (the body scattered).

It is important for churches and ministries to equip laypeople to be effective ambassadors of Christ in the natural settings in which they exert an influence. —Ken Boa

Motivations for Evangelizing

Now that you understand the main context of evangelism—and that this is something every believer should be doing—what about the why of evangelism?

Two Bad Reasons

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul told them, “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will” (Philippians 1:15). The former was doing it out of selfish ambition, while the latter was doing it out of love (Philippians 1:16). But Paul’s wise response was as follows:

Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. (Philippians 1:18)

Regardless of our intentions, if the gospel is proclaimed, God’s Word will accomplish his purpose, even if it is in spite of the messenger’s motives (Isaiah 55:10–11). Still, as ambassadors of Christ, we do well to examine our reasons for sharing our faith, so that we will align our hearts with what delights our Father.

Two unseemly motivations for proclaiming the gospel are guilt and pride.

  1. Guilt. Many believers have been taught to feel guilty when they fail to share their faith with outsiders. When this happens, the burden can grow so great that they may suddenly buttonhole some unsuspecting victim and blurt out the gospel before running back into hiding until the guilt builds up again. This kind of “gospel grenade” experience is painfully embarrassing for all involved.
  2. Pride. Others have slipped into the error of pride by sharing their faith in order to hang more scalps on their spiritual belt or carve more notches on their Bible. Those who take pride in numbers and in comparing results with others have a way of trying to force the decision, like a salesman who won’t remove his foot from the door until the person signs on the dotted line.

Three Good Reasons

Paul, by contrast, mentions three biblical motivations in 2 Corinthians 5 for proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ:

  1. To seek to be pleasing to the Father:Therefore, we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to him” (verse 9). It pleases the Father when we speak well of his Son to others.
  2. To receive the Lord’s reward at the judgment seat of Christ for faithfulness to the opportunities given (verse 10). “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men” (verse 11). It is a rich reward to have friends who will spend eternity with us, because we were privileged to participate in God’s purposes for their lives.
  3. Compelled by Christ’s love and his love for Christ to be his ambassador in this world (verses 14–20). The secret to loving the unlovable is to be controlled by Christ’s love for them.

The secret to loving the unlovable is to be controlled by Christ’s love for them.
—Ken Boa

Series Navigation<< A Philosophy of Evangelism, Part 3: Taking a Long ViewA Philosophy of Evangelism, Part 5: Lifestyle Evangelism & Integrating Discipleship >>