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What Does Evangelism Really Look Like?

Five years ago, I didn’t know what the word ‘evangelism’ meant. I only knew we had a committee at our church that took care of it. We all have our excuses for not doing evangelism, and personally, my flesh loves them. What I’ve learned to love more, though, is the satisfaction of obeying my Lord, who sacrificed everything for my salvation. What I have also come to love is the euphoric feeling—joy unspeakable that surpassed my wildest imagination of a human’s capacity for joy—when serving the Lord in the work of evangelism.

There are countless reasons we need to make evangelism, or proclaiming the gospel to others, a regular part of our lifestyles. Sometimes, though, to overcome our greatest barriers, it helps to know that it is possible and how others have done it. I want to share my own experience of growing both in the skills and lifestyle of evangelism through college and the year since graduating.

I was involved with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Davenport University (DU). This organization and community provided me with resources to learn and grow in prayer, study the word, engage in evangelism, and other spiritual disciplines. I received a lot of practical tools, training, and encouragement. I was pushed outside my comfort zone, and I had accountability to grow in areas of spiritual weakness. In all these areas, I grew, but playing a part in God’s work of raising souls from death to life truly changed the way I understood my life.

God gave me incredible opportunities to proclaim His goodness to others, and they all were unique. Some were international students. I met one student at a Global Student Organization meeting at DU. He was from a country in East Asia that is very closed to the gospel. When he found out I was a Christian, he started asking me questions about God. I asked if he wanted to meet another time and look at what the Bible said about those questions. We studied the Bible for many weeks, and he was always very curious. This student still is not a Christian, but he has heard the good news of Jesus, and I continue to pray for his salvation.

During my junior year, I was actively reaching out to international students as a student leader with InterVarsity. For one student, I found that God had been working in his life long before we met. One of the most beautiful parts of his salvation story is the number of people that were faithful in the opportunities they had with him. A family in the community took him to church with them. Some people used their talents to lead an outdoor worship night that drew him out of his dorm to meet me. Other students had conversations about faith with him in a previous school year. I made time to prepare Bible studies to do with him. The dental hygienist at Hudsonville Dental, who spoke Mandarin Chinese, shared the gospel and prayed with him in his own language. At work, she took this opportunity to share the name of Jesus and was rewarded with the joy of seeing someone make a Holy Spirit-empowered decision to follow Jesus! We never know what God has been doing in someone’s life when he gives us the opportunity to witness.

In my senior year, I took a younger student out to practice sharing the gospel, so we went around campus and stopped random people and asked if they wanted to have a conversation about faith and spirituality. We met one young woman who grew up in Michigan but really had never heard the whole gospel story. She was so intrigued and wanted to continue meeting to study more of the Bible. We studied Romans together to understand the world and why we don’t just want Jesus but that we NEED Jesus. It was an incredible thing to see someone go from stranger to sister.

In the last five years, I’ve walked with multiple students from death to life through the power of the word of God and the Holy Spirit. I’ve done Bible studies with people who don’t know anything about God. I’ve had really scary “I care about you, and I’m concerned for your soul, but I also don’t want to come off as shoving Jesus down your throat, but this is eternally important” conversations that turn out far better than I could have imagined. I had a conversation from 1:00 am – 4:00 am on an airplane with a 60-year-old Chinese man whose name I will never know here on earth. In his 60 years of life, this was the first time he ever had a genuine conversation with someone serious about religion. In this situation, God used my personal testimony to bridge the conversation to Jesus. Very knowledgeable, he was quick to respond to anything I said. However, when I shared my own story of forgiving a big hurt, he was silent. Finally, he asked, “But why would you forgive?” I had the perfect opportunity to tell him about Jesus forgiving all my sins at a cost much greater than my own. For that opportunity, I had been praying for three full hours as we spoke.

Of course, there is so much more to these stories, and there are colossal moments of failure in these and other stories. However, I am grateful for the grace God gave me to be faithful; I cannot take pride or credit in what I’ve done, for it is not I but Christ that lives in me. I do not want to share these stories for my own glory but as an encouragement to others to take up the call and experience fuller life and relationship with God.

Evangelism and evangelistic lifestyles are possible. Sharing the gospel is a learned skill, and looking for, creating, and taking opportunities to share the name of Jesus is something to grow in through prayer and practice. As much as we decide what we will eat or the direction we will walk, we need to decide to be obedient in this command of Christ. I’ve experienced growth in every area of my spiritual life through evangelism—in prayer, in knowledge, and understanding of scripture, in depending on the power of God through His Spirit, in staying on guard against the devil, in fighting the desires of the flesh, and in love for my God. I’m experiencing a life full of joy and purpose and feeling fulfilled in the right things. I pray that I continue to grow in all these things! Jesus told His disciples to bring forth fruit by abiding as a branch in the vine, and I understand what he means when he said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11).

Opportunities come in every shape and form. Sometimes we are searching for them, and sometimes God causes us to stumble upon them. Both ways are important, and we only need to be faithful, no matter what the devil, this world, or our own flesh might say. My prayer for myself and for you, young or old, is that we would experience this full joy rooted in being a faithful witness of Jesus Christ. Is it easy? No. Comfortable? Not always. Convenient? Never. Despite these things, it is practical and possible for anyone and everyone raised to a new life in Christ, and obedience in this sphere of the Christian life will bring joy unimaginable.

 

Originally published July 2020, Vol 79 No 7