Last week I posted on here about a revised version of “friendship evangelism.” Now, as I am gearing up to head to Haiti in January and beginning to make my missionary plans beyond that, I have been thinking a lot about some distractions that can oftentimes get in the way of us actually “doing the work of an evangelist” as Paul commanded Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:5.
Now, I know it doesn’t sound “spiritual” to say what I am about to say, and your initial, knee-jerk reaction will probably be to tell me that I’m wrong. But before the stones fly at me, at least hear me out.
I tend to have a major problem with the fact that when considering doing evangelism, participating in missions, sharing the gospel, or whatever term you want to label it, most Christians feel like they have to pray about it and “feel led” before they should do it.
My major issue with this is that what we are actually doing is asking God whether or not we should do what we are already commanded to do! In Matthew 28 and Mark 16, among other places in scripture, we are already told to “go,” share the message of Jesus, making disciples, and equipping them to do the same. We don’t need to be told again.
To get a clearer perspective on what I am saying, let’s imagine that you are a parent of a teenager, or a manager at your company, and you tell your kid or your employee, “I’m leaving town for the week, but here is what I want you to do while I’m gone.” What would your reaction be, then, if every morning you got a phone call from your kid or employee asking whether or not you want them to do what you told them to be doing before you left? What I’ve found from my own parents and bosses is that when I am told to do something, it is a very rare instance that I need to go back and ask them if it’s actually what I should do.
In the same way, Jesus told His disciples that He was leaving, but that their (our) job while He is gone, is to spread the good news to everyone on the planet. We don’t have to call in and make sure it’s what He wants us to do now.
In fact, the only time Jesus told the disciples to wait to do missions, was when He said to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, but once He came at Pentecost, it was no-holds-barred from then on. The Spirit came like Jesus said. He gave power like Jesus said. And now we are to go be Christ’s witnesses, just as Jesus said (Acts 1:8).
It is especially from the Pastoral leadership perspective that I get really agitated. When people come in seeking advice over an obvious sin issue, Pastors never tell them to pray about it. We tell them to repent. A common example would be a person comes to their pastor and says, “I feel like the love is gone in my marriage, and I have feeling for this other person. I am praying about getting a divorce.” The pastor’s automatic response should be, “You don’t have to pray about it. The Bible is clear, divorce is wrong and adultery is a sin. Just don’t do it.”
Yet, on the other hand, when a young person comes to their pastor and says, “I am considering becoming a missionary because I have a heart for such and such a people group,” way too often the response is, “Let’s pray about it.” I believe the more appropriate response should be, “Yes, go do that. It’s what you’re called to as a Christian. Now how can we help?”
My big question to someone who disagrees with what I’m saying would be this: how come when the Bible says “don’t do this thing,” it isn’t a praying issue, but when the Bible very clearly says, “go, and make disciples,” suddenly we need to spend a lot of time seeing if that’s actually what God wants?
Certainly we need to be praying about things like “is the person being sent biblically qualified for Christian leadership,” or “is this person mature enough spiritually and emotionally to do what their considering.” But as to the question of whether or not we should obey the great commission, that is not something that we have to pray about. It is something that we should simply act upon at every opportunity.
Now, I know that one push back that will come is, “Well, what about when the Holy Spirit forbid Paul to go into Asia in Acts 16?” My only response to that is that Paul actually had to be attempting something in order for the Holy Spirit to put a stop to it. Then when the Spirit did call it off, Paul didn’t turn around and go home. He went on witnessing somewhere else.
Now before you hear something I am not saying, let me be clear. I am absolutely not against prayer. I believe it is one of the greatest tools we have in evangelism, and is definitely something I fear most Christians do not do nearly enough of. What I am saying, though, is that you don’t have to ask God if you should share the gospel with people. The answer is, and will always be, yes. So just do it.
In closing, let me just recite an old Christian cliche that I believe is a very timely message for the current state of Christianity: “Don’t wait for God to tell you to go. Instead, go until God tells you to wait.” If you are a Christian and your intention is a pursuit of the lost and dying with the gospel, the Holy Spirit is with you and has equipped you already, so go for it until God steps in and calls it off.