Mack Stiles, one of my heroes of the faith, shares in his book Evangelism how he prays and asks God, “Do not let me go through this year without seeing someone come to Christ.” Perhaps we should pray along similar lines, “Do not let me go through this challenging time without seeing someone come to Christ.”
I was challenged on Sunday, as we were prevented from gathering, with thoughts of how we as a church can use this time during the outbreak of COVID-19 for evangelism. The church has been charged to go into all the world for the very purpose of evangelism. It struck me that we cannot be covert during the COVID-19outbreak.
But how can we do this?
We need to realise that evangelism is the work of God. He is sovereign and will save those whom he has chosen (Romans 8:29–30.) This is a job given to us by God collectively as a church and individually. The gospel message is to be the centre of evangelism. Evangelism comes from the overflow of our love for God and our neighbour. And the end goal of evangelism should be to the glory of God.
What should we do?
We should teach the gospel. The gospel must be taught before someone can be saved. This is critically important. Why? Because people have different backgrounds and understandings of what real Christianity is. If we only tell them about sin and judgement, people will have a clear allergic reaction.
In his book, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, J. I. Packer unpacks the gospel by giving flesh to the popular four headings: God, man, Christ, and response. Under the section of Christ, Packer mentions the cradle, the cross, and the crown. I know the truths of each of the headings, but I had never thought of adding the crown to my gospel presentation. Jesus is God and was sent as a human (cradle). He died for our sins as God (cross). And he is sitting at God’s right hand, ruling and reigning (crown). This all aligns with Philippians 2:5–11. That Jesus is King, and actively rules over our lives, became clear to me. We should live our lives under the authority of the King. This must be part of our conversations or we will only create artificial converts instead of true disciples of God.
In personal evangelism, most only tell people that they are sinners and they are going to hell. This is true, but people go to hell because of one specific sin: the sin of unbelief. We go to heaven because we believe in the saving work of Jesus. If you lead people to believe that they go to hell because of all the sins they commit, you inadvertently imply that, if they stop sinning, they will go to heaven, leading to works-based “salvation.” I mention this because we should share the whole and true gospel. The wonderful good news is the message that our sovereign God saves his people and uses us to do this. We should speak honestly, gently, prayerfully, relationally, and patiently. We should wait actively and do God’s work, as God works through us in people’s hearts.
How do we do this while we are locked down? Let me offer a few suggestions.
When people ask for help, help them. Even better, offer to help when they need it. Be generous with what you have. Invite people over to join a Zoom or Skype Bible study. Phone and keep in contact with your neighbours. Pray that our nation will see God’s hand in this.
There is a greater virus than COVID-19: the virus of unbelief. Brother and sister, we have the cure for the virus of unbelief. Let us not work covertly, but openly. Let us pray for opportunities to speak the truth and share the cure.