“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” [Matthew 28: 19,20].
Who was Jesus referring to? This statement is a command with what is called an understood “you”. When someone says go, they are really saying “you go.” Who is the you? Is He addressing the eleven disciples? Some think so.
Some may think He is addressing evangelists, like Billy Graham, people who can take the message of His death, burial and resurrection to many people who have a hunger for The Word, people who can spread the message of salvation to large numbers of seekers.
Others think He is addressing everyone in the Christian community. If He is addressing the Christian community, guess what?
He is speaking to you and He is speaking to me.
Billy Graham would agree. He writes “Evangelism is not limited to professional evangelists, those whose lives are wholly spent in this calling. The gift of evangelism is also given to lay people….every Christian who is not called to the vocation of evangelism is still called to do the work of an evangelist” [Graham*, 183].
Wow, this is a daunting task, a task that many Christians may shrink from. Many of us fear talking to others about God but if we take literally the statement Jesus made in Mark 1:17 “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men,” we are supposed to be fishers of men. The truthful question we have is “am I bold enough to lead someone to Christ? Can I be a fisher of men?”
Years ago, I got a little book entitled Sharing Your Faith. I actually used it as a reference for some teaching I did in an adult Sunday school class. It is simple and encouraging, just what most of us need if we are charged with doing “the work of the evangelist.”
First of all, the authors** think that most of the work of evangelism is done one-on-one, with the Christian talking personally to someone else. They refer to this as “sharing a gift.” Think about all the gifts that you get in a lifetime. Some people get some pretty awesome gifts but no gift compares to the single greatest gift in the world, given to you by the God of the universe—the gift of salvation.
Now let’s be honest. I need salvation. I am a sinner, but I believe God and He has given me that gift.
Bickel and Jantz write that salvation is not a secret. Most gifts after they are given are not secrets. Gifts have benefits and salvation surely has its benefits. A gift suggests a personal connection between giver and receiver and when you accept your gift, the connection with God is established. Here is the kicker; when you receive a gift, you naturally want to share it with others.
When I share my faith with someone, it is nothing more than telling someone else the story of what God has done for me. That’s it.
People make this so complicated. We worry about what people will say or do. We think they may reject us or even ridicule us. Some think sharing will offend others.
Christians also think they have to convince, convict and convert a seeker but that is not the case. That work is not done by us. That is done for us by The Holy Spirit. Graham says the work on the mind, heart and will of the seeker is beyond our ability. Bickel and Jantz are even more clear: “you can relax, because God doesn’t expect us to do any of that. We couldn’t convince, convict, and convert anyone, even if we tried. Only God can do these things” [ 21].
Our sharing does need to be backed up with a Spirit-filled, fruit-producing life. Without that our sharing can be a waste of time. Messages about salvation are not believed if your behavior does not jive with your message [ie.talking the talk and walking the walk]. Like our sharing, God will provide what we need to live that life with the Holy Spirit’s guidance. He provides the strength to live a life producing fruit, just like He provides the words you will say to the seeker at the moment of sharing.
Graham comments on this important work: “I urge all Christians do the work of an evangelist—wither they go into full-time evangelism or not! I believe we have no option. It is a command from our Lord Jesus Christ” .
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations”…
He is referring to you and He is referring to me…
*from The Holy Spirit
**Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz