If you’re a member of a church, particularly in Lagos, most likely you have been encouraged to go out in groups at some point to speak to people and give them tracts or flyers. In some churches, you might have even been encouraged to speak to people on your own at work or in your neighbourhood. While this sounds commendable at first glance and we might come away from such evangelism efforts beating our chest, let us examine our motives to see if we should actually be beating our chests.

Some motives I have observed for ‘going out on evangelism’:
– To ‘make Heaven’, believing getting souls saved is a prerequisite.
– To get crowns/rewards in Heaven.
– For eye service, so the church leadership will think well of us.
– To please men, so they will think we are ‘good Christians’.
– To populate our churches (local assemblies).

Let’s address a couple of these reasons, please.

To ‘make Heaven’, believing getting souls saved is a prerequisite: The Bible makes it clear that the doorway to Heaven is Christ Jesus – His grace and not our works.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
(Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)

To get crowns/rewards in Heaven: There will certainly be rewards for the good works done for the kingdom of God but we don’t do these good works to get rewards but because our Lord wants us to do them –

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
(Ephesians 2:10 NIV)

For eye service and to please men: I believe this motive is clearly wrong and needs no explanation why. However just to eliminate any doubts, the only Person we are to seek to please is the One who owns us – God. If we seek to please men, we will at some point do things that will displease God. Now, evangelism does not displease God but placing men before Him (being more concerned about pleasing them than about pleasing Him) definitely displeases Him.

For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
(Galatians 1:10 KJV)

So eat your meals heartily, not worrying about what others say about you—you’re eating to God’s glory, after all, not to please them. As a matter of fact, do everything that way, heartily and freely to God’s glory.
(1 Corinthians 10:31 (MSG)

To populate our churches (local assemblies): From my observations of different church groups out on ‘mass evangelism’, I personally feel this is the biggest motivation for going out on evangelism. Why do I think so? Well, because more often than not, what I hear is people talking about is their church or some programme their church is organizing, armed with flyers from the church or about the event. It’s not difficult to see that the ‘evangelism’ is about inviting people to our churches where, hopefully, they’ll be entertained enough to stay (a topic for another day). This also explains why instead of looking for those who don’t know Christ to evangelize to, we invite people we know attend other churches to ours and in our mind, we are evangelizing.

In asking the question for today, I struggled with the right way to phrase it because I am not sure that what we do in a lot of our churches can actually qualify as evangelism. So maybe we should start off with what it really means to evangelize and then go to why we should do it.

What does it mean to evangelize?

According to the dictionary, to evangelize means
– to preach the gospel to;
– to convert to Christianity;
– to tell people about Christianity in order to persuade them to become Christians.

What does the bible say about evangelism?

Jesus, speaking to the eleven disciples after His resurrection and shortly before he ascended into Heaven, gave this instruction:

“…. Go into all the world and preach and publish openly the good news (the Gospel) to every creature [of the whole human race].”
(Mark 16:15 AMPC)

And what is this good news we are to preach?

He [Jesus] told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
(Luke 24:46-47 NIV)

Speaking about Paul, it is written,

A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.
(Acts 17:18 NIV)

Paul himself spoke of his preaching –

First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.
(Acts 26:20 NIV)

You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.
(1 Corinthians 2:1-2 MSG)

Peter said,

“He told us to preach to the people and tell them that God gave Christ the right to be the One Who says who is guilty of the living and the dead. All the early preachers spoke of this. Everyone who puts his trust in Christ will have his sins forgiven through His name.”
(Acts 10:42-43 NIV)

We are to preach
– that Jesus Christ is the Son of God;
– that he died and resurrected;
– repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
(Read Acts 2:14-41; 8:26-39; 10:34-43 for examples of evangelism)

So why should we evangelize?

Two simple reasons –
1. Because we love God and therefore want to obey His instructions, but we also share His pain at the lost souls.
2. Because we love the people and want them to experience the salvation we have experienced; we recognize they are in darkness and want them to come into the Light like we have.

Final thought

It doesn’t end with preaching the gospel and people accepting Jesus as Saviour. We are mandated to help converts surrender to Jesus as Lord:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:18-20 NIV)

I recommend this article for those who want to explore this thought more – https://relevantmagazine.com/god/were-called-make-disciples-not-converts