Pentecost: Faith, Evangelism, and the Holy Spirit

Paradoxically faith, like love, increases the more it’s given away. Rather than waiting for it to reach a peak high enough to communicate to others (as most believers do), it grows and expands as we do so from the very beginning. Also, once the nature of true faith becomes clear, the character of true evangelism comes to light as well. What the church goes to such great lengths to reinterpret or avoid altogether, and what so many Christians dread so profoundly, is in fact closely tied to faith.

Simply put, evangelism is telling others the good news about Jesus Christ…nothing more. It’s really easy. But the way we end up communicating our faith is, let’s face it, sometimes downright awful and embarrassing.

Joe, a pastor I knew, prided himself on his concern for evangelism. This would be a regular practice: Joe would take us to a meeting at some local restaurant. We’d be seated by the hostess. The waiter would arrive and hand out the menus and take our drink orders. The waiter would return with the drinks. Now for the food order. We’d all let the waiter know what we wanted. And then, all our eyes would focus on Joe. Imagine the scene. Joe still has his menu open, and we’re all watching him, and then glancing at the waiter to see how his patience is doing. Joe gives a deep sigh, shuts his menu, hands it to the waiter, and looks up at him.

“Do you know Jesus?”

It always made everyone cringe. You can imagine the typical response. And if you were with Joe, you got your first lesson in Evangelism 101—how not to win someone to Christ!

But isn’t this so true of so many of us? We fall for some mindless teaching or handy tips on how to reach nonbelievers. It’s almost like Satan has been writing the curriculum on evangelism and outreach!

The good news is that it’s only by the Holy Spirit’s power that anything positive can happen. It really doesn’t depend upon our expertise or eloquence. We come to trust God to help us tell others about his Word and redemption in the same way we come to trust him for our own salvation. We understand that it’s all directly related to his grace, providence, and power.

When evangelism is seen in the right context of total dependence on God, it should become obvious that it is no longer that most dreaded of all Christian duties (and it is a duty, not an option for some who choose it). It’s as much a part of the faith venture and adventure as our faith-life itself. It’s as natural as breathing. It’s fun—yes, fun!

Evangelism is just telling someone about something you love—the Gospel of Jesus through the help of the Holy Spirit. That’s all. It’s responding to the open door created by the mysterious and ingenious work of the Spirit. It isn’t attempting to do the Spirit’s work for him. It is telling the wonderful things of God in Jesus Christ to someone else who is ready to hear them (see Acts 8:26–40).

The best accounts of evangelism in the New Testament are in reality just set-ups by the Holy Spirit. If you still have your Bible near you, open to Acts and check also the stories of Cornelius the Centurion in chapter 10 or Lydia the businesswoman of Philippi in chapter 16. Our most satisfying experiences of communicating the Gospel will be of the same sort. Since God is already doing evangelism, our job is simply to join what he is doing, not to create a new program.

It couldn’t be easier.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

John I. Snyder
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