Oh my brothers and sisters in Christ, if sinners will be damned at least let them leap to hell over our bodies; and if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay and not madly to destroy themselves
-Spurgeon, The Wailing of Risca
Not only are we commanded by our Lord to evangelize in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19–20), we are also compelled by: the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:15), the sacrifice of Christ (Mark 10:45), the presence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8–9), the love of men (Romans 9:1–3), the purpose of the church (1 Peter 2:9), and the entire history of redemption (Revelation 5:9–12).
Redemptive history will culminate with a throng of men and women before the throne of God, purchased from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this glorious work? And if that was not sufficient motivation for evangelism, there is one more reason, specific to pastors that I would like to bring to your attention:
You cannot fulfill your pastoral ministry apart from evangelism.
In 2 Timothy 4:5, Paul encourages young Timothy with this solemn reminder. “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).
You might as well turn in your ordination certificate now if you do not intend to do this work. It's that important.
Are you doing the work of an evangelist? Below are 5 ways that we can practically apply this scriptural obligation.
1. Practice Evangelism Personally
Question: What do you call a person who does not practice what they preach?
Answer: A hypocrite
Preaching a sermon on evangelism, teaching a class on evangelism, reading a book on evangelism, or writing an article on evangelism is no substitute for practicing evangelism. We need to practice what we preach.
Paul could confidently write, “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things” (Philippians 4:9). Can you say the same as it relates to the Great Commission?
2. Proclaim the Gospel Publicly
As shepherds, our primary responsibility is to feed the flock of God (John 21:15-17). We are not to turn our Sunday services into evangelistic crusades for unbelievers. However, that does not mean that our sermons should not lead people to Christ. Every sermon should point our listeners to the glory of God, the depravity of man, the lordship of Christ, and the hope of Salvation.
It is the cross that makes our preaching different from moralizing. Our people should not walk away from a sermon believing they have the ability to hear and obey any command of Scripture, apart from the saving grace of God.
Is this clear in your preaching? Do you preach Christ as the only solution and the only Savior? To quote again from Paul: “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
3. Preparing your People Biblically
Do your people know the gospel?
This is not something that you can just assume. I once spoke with a pastor’s wife who believed that the gospel was “making the most out of every day and taking one day at a time.”
We can’t assume that our people understand the gospel or that they would be ready to articulate it.
According to Ephesians 4:11–14 part of the task of the evangelist is to equip the saints for the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ. If you are to do the work of an evangelist, teaching your congregation how to evangelize is part of your job description.
4. Pointing out Opportunities Frequently
Attached to the command to make disciples in Matthew 28, is that little word “go." This indicates that we as believers are to take the initiative. In most cases the unbeliever is not going to come knocking on our door eager to have his sinful lifestyle disturbed by the gospel. Do your people understand their responsibility to take the initiative in bringing the gospel to their friends, neighbors, and co-workers?
As church leaders, we should be thinking strategically and practically about how to help our people make the most of their opportunities whether in their homes, at their jobs, or in their communities (Ephesians 5:16). No training is complete until it is put into practice.
5. Praying for Souls Passionately
Salvation belongs to the Lord (Psalm 3:8; Revelations 19:1). The Scriptures clearly teach us that while we are responsible for planting and watering, only God can produce the fruit. As Paul explained to the believers in Corinth: “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7).
We should be an example for our people of dependence on God in both our prayers and our requests for prayer. Below are just a few of the biblical prayer requests related to evangelism:
• Prayer for more workers (Matthew 9:38)
• Prayer that God would keep open the doors of ministry (Colossians 4:3)
• Prayer for boldness for those engaged in evangelism (Ephesians 6:19)
• Prayer that the gospel will spread and be glorified (2 Thessalonians 3:1)
• Prayer for the salvation of souls (1 Timothy 2:1-4; Acts 16:14)
In light of all of this, the question every pastor must ask himself is this: Am I doing the work of an evangelist? You will not fulfill your ministry apart from this work. As Dr. MacArthur writes: “Nothing so much glorifies God as His gracious redemption of damned, hell-bound sinners” (Matthew 24–28, 332). What faithful minster of Christ would not want to be a part of such a glorious work?