Last week, we went over four Bible passages: Matthew 28:16-20, 1 Peter 3:14-16, Colossians 4:5-6, and Matthew 5:13-16. Of these four passages, Jesus directed the first to the Eleven, the Apostles, who were the New Testament Church’s first pastors. Scripture directs the other three passages to all believers and so they apply to all believers.
1. You need special training or skills to speak the Gospel.
Nowhere does the Scripture suggest that some Christians are more equipped to speak the Gospel than others. Graduate degrees in theology can be helpful, and it’s important for pastors to have extensive knowledge of the Scriptures, but you already know everything you need to share the Gospel.
Jesus said to a formerly demon-possessed man: “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19). This is something all Christians can do.
2. People are dying and going to hell every second, and it’s your fault.
John 3:18 reads, “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.”
In short, if a person goes to hell, it’s his fault. It is his unbelief that condemns him.
Our Formula of Concord states:
The reason some are not saved is as follows: They do not listen to God’s Word at all, but willfully despise it, plug their ears, and harden their hearts. In this way they block the ordinary way [Luke 16:29–31] for the Holy Spirit so He cannot perform His work in them. Or, when they have heard God’s Word, they make light of it again and ignore it. But their wickedness is responsible for this ‹that they perish›, not God or His election (2 Peter 2:1–3; Luke 11:49–52; Hebrews 12:25–26). [FC Ep XI:12]
Placing someone’s eternal status in your hands is wrong because it places salvation in you instead of Christ. We have the promise in Scripture that God will lose none of those whom He has elected to salvation.
3. If you can refute someone’s arguments against the faith, he will become a Christian.
We confess this in the Small Catechism. “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, and sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”
Although our intellect and reason are gifts from God, it is not by intellect or reason that a person comes to faith in Christ. That means the person who is speaking the Gospel cannot create faith through the strength of his arguments, or the ability of someone to understand the arguments won’t create faith either. The Holy Spirit creates faith–and He always does it through the Word of the Gospel.
4. Evangelism is the pastor’s job.
This is only half true. Evangelism is the pastor’s job, just like it is yours. What is problematic about this statement is that it assigns to the pastor in particular something that belongs to all Christians.
As we look further at Mark 5-6 and 1 Peter 2, we will see that God places each of us in our vocations, so we can proclaim the Gospel to those whom He has put into our lives. We saw this earlier with the formerly demon-possessed man (Mark 5:19). Peter taught the Church to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
5. We have to do whatever it takes to share the Gospel.
“Whatever” implies that the Word of God is inadequate. Does this mean we are even to be unfaithful, if doing so happens to “work”? Such extreme measures are unnecessary where the Gospel is concerned. The Gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). God’s Word has the power to do what it says.
6. The goal of evangelism is to have more people in church and/or balance the church budget.
Of course we want more people in church. For all should gather around Word and Sacrament to receive the life-creating and life-sustaining Word. That’s the goal. While it is a noble desire to want to speak the Gospel and to invite new people to come to the place where God distributes His gifts of life and salvation, evangelism is also an end in and of itself. The goal of evangelism is to have people hear of Jesus’ saving work for them.
7. You can preach the Gospel by the way you live your life.
This is half-true. Our actions carry meaning and provide context and setting. However, with that needs to come the content of words. Without that, then a person assigns to your actions his own meanings. Living the Christian life does not replace confessing and speaking Jesus to another. In truth, living the Christian life entails speaking such words!
The Gospel is words, and it has to be spoken. St. Paul writes:
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all paid attention to the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. [Romans 10:14-17]
8. Evangelism is for unbelievers.
This is only half true. Yes, evangelism is for unbelievers. But it’s also for believers! If evangelism is “proclamation of the Gospel,” then it is not only for unbelievers.
All people need to hear the Gospel all the time. That means the Gospel is also for you. That’s why if a sermon does not tell you that Jesus has died on the cross to win forgiveness for all your sins it is not a Christian sermon.
Read Luke 24:36-47
– What does Jesus say the content of sermons is to be?
– Discuss: Why do most Christians not want to hear such sermons?