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There are so many contradictory beliefs in churches that all claim to teach the truth about how one is saved by God and forgiven of their sins. Let’s compare a couple passages of scripture to find out.
One of my favorite passages of scripture to share with someone that I am talking to about how to obey the gospel is Ephesians 2:1-10:
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world…But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-2; 4-10).
This passage shows us the gospel message and it’s response clearly. We see that we were dead in our transgressions before coming to Christ, and that through Christ we can be saved by grace through faith when God makes us alive together with Christ and raises us up together with Him. Most churches and professed Christians will agree with this. But the question that gets many different, contradictory answers is this: “When is it that God saves us by grace through faith? When is it that God raises us up together with Christ and makes us alive together with Him?” There is only one verse in the New Testament that answers this question: Colossians 2:12-14. Let’s compare Ephesians 2 and Colossians 2, two sections of scripture that Paul wrote at about the same time:
Colossians 2:12-14 clearly answers the question “when does God raise us together with Christ into new life and make us alive together with Christ?” The answer: When we by faith are baptized! At this point we are made alive together with Christ, and as Colossians 2:14 states, forgiven of all of our transgression by God. There is not another answer that the Bible gives to this question. If you want to have your sins cut away from you, you must be buried with Christ (immersion) in baptism. This is when we are united with Christ in His death (Romans 6:3-5) and born again by water and the Spirit (John 3:5). At baptism is the point in which God raises us up from our state of spiritual death and gives us new life in Christ Jesus.
A very dear brother of mine showed me an approach that he uses to show people the truth about what one must do to be saved and what Jesus actually says about baptism. He looks at the five common views of different churches/religious groups of Mark 16:16. Here are those five views:
1. He who believes and is baptized “will not” be saved. Those who hold this view are the religious systems of atheism, Judaism, Muslims, and other religious groups who believe Christianity is false.
2. He who “does not believe” and “is not baptized” will be saved. This would be a belief held by universalists who believe that God will eventually save everyone.
3. He who “does not believe” and “is baptized” will be saved. This is believed by those who baptize infants and believe that these infants have sin/original sin washed away. (Catholics, Lutherans, etc.)
4. He who believes and “is not baptized” will be saved. This is believed by the majority of protestant denominations and many protestant non-denominational churches.
When we compare these first for popular views of baptism to what Jesus actually says in Mark 16:16, we see that all four of them fall short of what the Son of God actually says. Jesus says:
5. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved…” (Mark 16:16). This view takes the words of Jesus at face value. It quotes the passage “as-is.” The other four views of Mark 16:16 bring the very truth of the words of Jesus into question, denying what Jesus actually said.
Which one do you believe. Did Jesus speak the truth when He said “He who believes and is baptized will be saved”? If you believe one of the first four, who is right, you and your church, or Jesus Christ?
A modern form of evangelism that is popular today is inviting people to worship assemblies. People have thrown out statistics for years that says people come to church because a friend or relative invited them. Based on this, preachers and pastors have been encouraging people go out and “evangelize” by inviting people to the worship assemblies.
Evangelism is the act of fulfilling the Great Commission by proclaiming the gospel either by word of mouth or by writing. Inviting someone to church is not sharing the gospel, and in and of itself is not evangelism. It is pre-evangelism as long as you know that the person will hear the gospel presented when they are in the assembly.
Secondly, there is a very good chance that the person you bring to church will not understand a lot of what is going on, and more than likely, will not hear the gospel being preached from the pulpit. The reason is this: the worship assemblies are for believers. They are not designed for unbelievers.
The purpose of the assemblies is to equip the saints for ministry. This is what the teaching during assemblies should be focused on. The problem here is an improper view of the church’s role in evangelism. Instead of equipping the saints for the work of ministry, there are churches who essentially create an environment where ministry only happens within the confines of a church’s building and its activities and programs, and evangelism is brushed off onto the evangelist or pastors.
Inviting people to church is at times a copout for those who don’t want to share the gospel with people. They would much rather invite them to church, have them spend time around Christians, and maybe, just maybe, they will decide to become a Christian because they like the church or the preacher. My friends, this is not evangelism. Christians must be equipped to open their mouths and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is what we are commanded to do. People deciding to become “Christians” because they like the church or the preacher are more than likely not really Christians, but false converts. Only the preaching of the gospel along with conviction and repentance can bring a soul to Christ.
Besides all this, whenever unbelievers are coming into assemblies, many times they take communion, and in so doing, eat and drink judgment on themselves (1 Cor 11:27-29) because they are not discerning the Lord’s body. We need to think about our practices more than we do. There may be times when unbelievers may enter into our assemblies, but we should not just welcome them in to have communion with the saints of God and to bring judgment on themselves.
Instead of inviting people to church, invite people to Jesus Christ. He is the one who people must be converted to. Only when they are pierced to the heart by the Gospel; only when they see their need for repentance and forgiveness, will they come to Him. And only when you are telling them about these things are you doing evangelism.
Francis of Assisi is often quoted as saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” There are two problems with this quote: 1) it is unbiblical; and 2) Assisi never said it. Catholic scholars have methodically and exhaustively searched the extant writings of Assisi and cannot attribute the quote to him.
This quote shows the emphasis of a popular method of “evangelism” used today called lifestyle evangelism. The premise of this method is to be as good of an example as you can be around people you see every day so they will see your godly character and ask you about Jesus.
I just have two responses to this:
- How often does it occur that someone, just from seeing your Christian example, walks up to you and asks you to tell them about Jesus? Hardly ever.
- Based on just example alone, how different are you from a moral Jehovah’s witness or Mormon? The “gospel” that your actions are sharing with lost people is not much different. At times, Mormons can put Christians to shame in how nice they are to people.
Is Being a Good Example Good Enough?
Jesus says in Matthew 5:14-16:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket , but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
We need to be godly examples to the people we see every day. We need to serve people; we need to do good. But what we need to think more about is: who gets the credit for the things I do? No matter how hard we try to do good works, no matter how hard we try to avoid doing sinful things around people, that does not guarantee that people will know that we are Christians. Most people will just look at me as a nice guy. My reputation may improve, but God is not glorified. I am. The purpose of being a good example around people needs to be to glorify God. But how do we live in such a way that that happens: that people see our good works and glorify God as verse 16 says?
I think it is true to say that we just do not give God enough credit for what He is doing through us in serving others. We need to confess to others why we do what we do! We need to confess to others who it is we are serving. All of the good works in the world mean nothing without confessing Christ. Unless you open up your mouth, talk about Christ, and share the gospel, people will never know why you are a moral person.
We should talk about the Lord more often if He is so important to us! He should be what we talk about the most! How many other things do I confess to others about more than the Lord? Sports, hobbies, games I play, books I read, food i like to eat? The things that we walkabout with others show how important the Lord and His word really are to us! We should not be content with being closet Christians, only being a Christian in how we act, and not in what we confess.
“Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 “But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt 10:32-33).
If all you are being is a good example to your neighbors, coworkers, and friends, you are not doing any evangelism. Open up your mouth. Proclaim the name of Christ.
A Biblical form of lifestyle evangelism would look like this. In every area of your life, look for opportunities to share the gospel, and do it! Make evangelism a way of life.
One of the most popular methods of evangelism is friendship evangelism (also called relationship evangelism). It is popular, in my opinion, because it is one of the most comfortable methods of evangelism being used today.
I will come clean from the beginning of this article that I do not believe friendship evangelism is Biblical. Before I get into sharing why this method is unbiblical, let me first define what friendship evangelism is as practiced by most people:
Friendship evangelism is a process of developing meaningful relationships with people in which they can see the gospel lived out in your life, which hopefully will lead to spiritual discussion, and maybe even an opportunity to share the gospel.
I do not take any issue with making friends with people that are not Christians. I have non-Christian friends. I also do not have a problem with being a godly example in front of my non-Christian family members and neighbors. But I do have four problems with this “evangelism” method:
1. Some people after they become friends with someone never get around to sharing the gospel. It becomes harder to share the gospel with people as you get closer because you have more to lose now. The longer you wait, the probability you will share the gospel with your friend will diminish greatly.
2. This method slows the sharing of the gospel down, and assumes we will be given the time to build a relationship before Jesus returns or we or our friend dies. Who are we to think that we will have another year to build a relationship with someone so we can share the gospel with them. “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:13-14). You and your friend are not promised tomorrow.
3. You limit the amount of people you will share the gospel with (if this is the only way you share the gospel with people). If you limit the people you share the gospel with to your friends alone, you are going to neglect the other 99.9 percent of the people that need to hear the Gospel.
4. There is not one Biblical example of Jesus or His disciples using friendship evangelism. I don’t know of one passage of scripture that can be pointed to that shows Jesus or any other person building a friendship with someone so they can at some point down the line share the gospel with them. The only passages that are normally given to defend such a practice are passages in which Jesus goes into peoples’ houses to teach them about the kingdom. One such example is in Luke 7:34:
“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard , a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’
There are two things that I must make note of concerning this verse:
- Those who say this are not Jesus friends. This statement is a statement of derision towards Jesus and filled with false statements. Jesus was not a drunkard and a glutton.
- Where is the evidence from this verse or any other that Jesus would build a friendship before talking to them about the kingdom and calling them to repentance? The different passages in which Jesus spent time with sinners shows that the purpose He went into these peoples’ houses was to teach them. He taught them right away. He didn’t wait till months or years after he met people to talk to them about God’s word.
Remember, the command to evangelize in the Great Commission includes “proclaiming” the gospel to people (Mark 16:15). Building friendships is NOT evangelism. Only when you open you mouth to proclaim the gospel are you actually fulfilling the Great Commission.
A common form of this type of “evangelism” is called servant evangelism, which is defined as:
“Actively looking for ways to do small acts of kindness for people so you can “win their hearts” and open them up to share the gospel with them” (servantevangelism.com).
We should be getting out and serving people. This is a good idea. But I have one question to those who believe that this is evangelism: “Is the gospel not powerful enough on it’s own to bring people to Christ?” The Apostles and early disciples preached the gospel no matter how they thought the people would respond. Timothy was commanded to preach “in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4:1-5).
In closing, let’s look at what a Biblical form of friendship evangelism looks like. Whenever you make a new friend, share the gospel with them. This shows you are truly a friend. Don’t wait. Care enough about them to try to rescue them from eternal damnation. If you wait, you are not being their friend, and you are not doing evangelism.
There is not a more Biblical method of evangelism than open-air preaching/street preaching. It takes literally the command to go out and “preach” the gospel. Having done open-air preaching many times, I have found that nothing is a flesh-killer like opening up your voice in the open-air to preach. I thought I was nervous the first time I preached in an assembly of the Lord’s people, but doing it out on the streets or on college campuses was much more intimidating. I just didn’t know what to expect.
Preaching is the most widely used form of evangelism in the Bible, Old and New Testament alike. Here is just a small list of verses in which men were preaching to crowds outdoors:
- Jeremiah 7:1-3 – Jeremiah stood at the gate of the Lord’s House and “proclaimed” the very words of God.
- Jonah 3:1-5 – Jonah preached in the streets of Nineveh, walking through the city, bringing it to repentance.
- Matthew 3:1-2 – John the Baptist preached in the wilderness.
- Luke 9:5-7 – Jesus’ disciples went throughout the villages preaching the gospel.
- Acts – The whole book of Acts has sermon after sermon that was preached in the open-air by the Apostles and early disciples (Peter in Acts 2-3; Stephen in Acts 7; Phillip in Acts 8, Paul in Acts 13 and 17, etc.)
- Once again, these are just a few examples. But they show clearly that open-air preaching is something that glorifies the Lord, whether it is accepted or opposed.
If you plan on trying open-air preaching, much preparation needs to be made for it, especially in prayer and study. Just as a preacher may prepare for a sermon on Sunday, time needs to be put into preparing a sermon you may preach in the open-air. Though many parts of your sermons may be repetitive, such as preaching about sin, God’s judgment, and the Gospel (the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ), there are many places in scripture you can begin with and use as illustrations while preaching. Memorizing scripture is also a must! Be ready to quote/paraphrase scripture from memory, especially if you do not plan on having a Bible or notes in your hand during your preaching. Also, be ready to defend the faith. You will have people disagree. Study apologetics and other religions. Obviously, you won’t know everything while you are being opposed, but it is best to be ready for as much as possible. It is not wrong to say “I don’t know” to a question that is asked. It leaves an opportunity to have later opportunities with these people that ask questions.
It may be a good idea to watch open air preaching on YouTube. It will prepare you more for what to expect, and will show you different approaches in preaching and dealing with opposition.
One of the purposes of open-air preaching is to be able to preach to large groups of people in public. You can preach in busy areas where you will have a lot of pedestrian traffic, but the goal is to get people to actually stop and listen. How can you get them to stop? There is no secret formula. There are some open-air preachers that use trivia to try to draw crowds, asking simple questions that most people will be able to answer. They give money (usually $1) to people that answer the questions correctly, which I am not a big fan of. My practice is to just read the word of God. This has worked for me to draw a crowd. People do stop to listen at times. But when this doesn’t work to draw a large crowd, there is no problem with just preaching as people are passing by, and keeping your sermons short and repetitive. Believe the gospel can make an impact!
Whenever I cannot draw a crowd, I just preach the gospel within a 2-3 minute window and preach it 2-3 times so as many people that are passing by can hear as much of the gospel as possible.
I am still pretty new to open-air preaching. I have done it about 15-20 times. Lord willing, as I do it more, I will be able to post more articles on this subject. Until then, below are some places you can go to get more information on open-air preaching. I do not endorse other teachings of those who write these articles.
Click here are a few open-airs that I have recorded:
Please watch the following video:
Does this video describe you or your church? A lot of churches are in this position: there is a lot of talk about evangelism, but nowhere near as much evangelism being done. We love to talk about lost people, their condition before God, where they will end up if they die, but we never overcome the fears and distractions in our lives to actually do the work that the Lord has left for us to do.
A faithful Christian and a faithful church fulfill the mission that the Lord gave his people. The mission we have been given is in Matthew 28:19-20.
“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always , even to the end of the age.’”
The church’s mission is summed up in these verses. We are to 1.) Go share the gospel with the lost, and 2.) Teach and equip our brother and sisters in Christ to obey and serve the Lord. How are you doing in fulfilling this mission? Usually, Christians are a lot better at encouraging their brothers and sisters, and feel that they are being faithful to the Lord. But they are forgetting that the Lord also has commanded that we share the gospel with the lost. They think the words of Jesus in Luke 9:18-21 apply to them:
“And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, "Who do the people say that I am?" 19 They answered and said, "John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again." 20 And He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered and said, "The Christ of God." 21 But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone”
Jesus is not giving you and me this instruction! Are you telling anyone about Jesus, the Christ of God? It seems that for many Christians that the Great Commission has become the Great Omission.
The Great Commission is a command that is given to all of God’s people, not just those who want to share the gospel. You can be successful in sharing the gospel with the lost of this world. Do you believe this? If you are going into this world, and do what you can to give the word of God to others, whether that be by preaching, one-to-one conversations, handing out tracts, etc., you are being successful in the mission that God has given you. Success is not measured by the amount of converts that we make or the amount of lost people that come and visit the church for worship services. It is ALL about us obeying the Lord by doing the work of sowing the seed of the word. If we are faithful in this, the Lord will bring the increase. This is our mission! A church cannot begin to call itself “sound” in the faith if it is not fulfilling its mission of sowing the seed of the word of God and encouraging God’s people to serve and follow in the steps of Jesus Christ.