The Dirty Dozen: Some Thoughts on Why We Stink at Evangelism

These are the twelve reasons why we are less than faithful in making known the glory of the gospel to those who otherwise have no hope in this life or the next.

Not all twelve of these apply directly to me, and my guess is that such will be the case with most of you. But to whatever extent we can honestly point to any of the twelve and say, “Yeah, that’s true of me,” I pray the Spirit would bring conviction and a corresponding boldness and energy to make Jesus known.

 

When I say that “we” stink at evangelism, I’m not talking about all of you. Some of you, I hope many of you, excel at sharing your faith with non-Christians. But most of us do not. It may sound offensive, but let’s be honest: we stink at evangelism. At least I do. But I don’t want to. My desire to be more faithful and vocal in sharing the gospel with the lost has led me to identify what I call the Dirty Dozen. These are the twelve reasons why we are less than faithful in making known the glory of the gospel to those who otherwise have no hope in this life or the next.

Not all twelve of these apply directly to me, and my guess is that such will be the case with most of you. But to whatever extent we can honestly point to any of the twelve and say, “Yeah, that’s true of me,” I pray the Spirit would bring conviction and a corresponding boldness and energy to make Jesus known.

I was also motivated to write this brief article because of something I saw in the text that I recently preached at Bridgeway. In John 1:35-51 we read about several individuals who followed Jesus. One of the first to do so was Andrew. We read in John 1:42 that “he [Andrew] brought him [Peter] to Jesus.” What a wonderful way to be remembered, as a man who brought another to Jesus! So why don’t we do likewise? Here are the dirty dozen reasons why. There may be more, but I’ll settle for these.

(1) We are reluctant to share the gospel with others because of a loss of belief in the reality of hell. If there is no eternal conscious punishment for those who reject Jesus, why bother with taking the time and making the effort of telling them about him? If divine wrath is little more than a figure of speech, there is no urgency in taking the gospel to the lost. There are empirically verified statistical studies which demonstrate that when a denomination or church loses its conviction concerning the reality of hell, its commitment to global missions diminishes, both in terms of the money devoted to it and the people they send.

If you don’t believe people without Christ are in danger of eternal damnation, you won’t feel any need or urgency to tell them how they can be delivered from it.

Do you believe that those who leave this life without Christ are consigned to eternal damnation away from his glorious presence? How deeply does the reality of hell penetrate your soul? If you find yourself shrugging your shoulders in response to this question, you may have been given a primary reason why your evangelistic zeal is low.

(2) We are hesitant to share the gospel with others because of a loss of belief in the exclusivity of Jesus Christ. More and more are coming to the heretical conclusion that all religions are equally valid paths to God; sincerity is what saves, not faith in Jesus. If conscious faith in Christ as Lord and Savior isn’t necessary, neither is evangelism.

Jesus himself declared that he is “the way, and the truth, and the life” and that “no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). When Jesus says that reconciliation to the Father comes only “through me” we must define what he means in light of the broader context of John’s gospel. And everywhere in John we are told over and over again that you must believe in Jesus. You must trust him alone. You must look to his work on the cross as your only hope. For example:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18).

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst’” (John 6:35).

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:38).

“Jesus said to her [to Martha], ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die’” (John 11:25-26; see also 12:46 and 17:20).

That’s what it means to come to the Father “through” the Son. It means you believe Jesus is who he said he is and that what he will do on the cross for sinners is the only hope you have for forgiveness of sins.

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