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Living the Evangelistic Life as a Leader

6.  Get in the Game

Other than the emphasis on prayer, the most common response I received to my question on how we can keep our evangelistic embers burning brightly was that we need to simply get out of the lab and spend time with real non-Christians. Before he passed away, D. James Kennedy told me that it was “the discipline of going out weekly with our Evangelism Explosion teams, which keeps the edge on your evangelistic sword.”

Wayne Cordeiro, a man who stays extremely busy as the pastor of the burgeoning New Hope Christian Fellowship Oahu in Honolulu, Hawaii, told me one of the main ways he keeps motivated is to “take time to be with people. I play on a city league soccer team every Tuesday evening. I belong to the Rotary Club, and I often speak to companies about leadership, excellence, and restructuring. This keeps me in contact with non-Christians weekly.”

Two of my own spiritual mentors, the now-deceased Bob Passantino and his wife, Gretchen, wrote, “We think one of the big mistakes Christian leaders make is that they tell their listeners to witness to the unsaved, but they themselves spend all their time in a Christian cocoon and don’t regularly do what they teach others to do. There are lots of ideas that sound good, but until you experience their practical application, you can’t effectively equip others to do the same.”

Pastor and author Gene Appel said “Nothing keeps my embers for the lost ‘hot’ like sharing my faith. The more I get to interact with lost people, the more fired up I become. The more distant I get, the colder my heart gets.”

Actual face-to-face interaction with people who don’t know Christ is, without question, what motivates me more than anything else. I can listen to good teaching about evangelism, read Scripture verses about the priority of spreading the good news, and hear statistics about how many new unchurched families are moving into the neighborhoods around the church, but nothing moves me like getting to know a few real people who need God. Then they are no longer nondescript, generic “seekers.” They are people I care about, with real names and faces. And I’ll do whatever I can to try to help them meet Christ. How can you not value lost people when they’ve become your close friends!

The challenge, especially if you’ve been a Christian for a long time, is to deliberately step out of your comfort zone and get yourself around some people who matter to God, but to whom God may not yet matter. They’re going to talk differently – and sometimes much more “colorfully” – than you and your church friends, value things you don’t value, take part in things you don’t like or agree with, and at times make you feel uncomfortable. But before you get discouraged, just think about how the sinless Son of God must have felt when he came to this sin-tainted planet and walked among us, “seeking and saving that which was lost.” Let his love and example – and the fruit of his efforts – inspire you to do what he did. It’ll be a stretch at first, but before long you’ll see that it’s the adventure of your life! And sooner or later some of those wayward friends are going to come back around and thank you for doing what it took to reach them with the love of the Savior.

7.  Follow God’s Promptings

The final thing I’ll mention that will help us live out evangelism values is listening to God’s voice and staying attuned to his leadings. Chuck Colson wrote this to me:

I have disciplined myself to listen to the Holy Spirit. For example, I was giving the closing lecture at the C. S. Lewis Conference in Oxbridge recently, and in the prayer time ahead of my speech, one of my colleagues prayed for those who might be there from the Cambridge campus who were spiritually adrift or searching or seeking. Halfway through my talk when I was describing the influence of Lewis on my life, I stopped and said, “I’d like to share the same message with you that Lewis shared with me.” We had a prayer of invitation in the middle of the closing address at the Oxbridge Conference! But that’s only because I felt the prompting of the Spirit.

Lee Strobel relayed a similar experience that happened at a more personal level. He was meeting people after he had spoken at a church. A man poured out his heart to Lee about issues he was facing and told him how much he needed God’s help. Lee said his natural inclination was to simply encourage the man a bit and offer to pray for him. But Lee was dialed in to the voice of the Spirit, who prompted him instead to challenge the man concerning what was keeping him from trusting Christ. Before their time together was over, the man prayed with Lee to receive Jesus as his forgiver and leader.

Who knows what exciting doors of spiritual influence God will take us through if we will just listen to his voice and do what he tells us. God is actively reaching out to lost people. We just need to respond to his promptings and seize the opportunities he provides. When we do, he’ll use us to touch the hearts of others – and in the process he’ll work in us, too, expanding our own hearts.

Living Evangelistic Values

How about you? Are you so busy with church work that you don’t have time to do the most important work of the church? Especially as Christian leaders, we have to set aside needless meetings, unessential appointments, and the ever-present sense of busyness, and make certain we are getting up close to the people God wants to reach.

Let the love of God and your love for people motivate you. And let others in the church see what you’re doing. Let them watch you build relationships with nonbelievers. Talk to them about your efforts to start spiritual conversations and convey biblical truths to your friends. Tell them when it goes well, and tell them when it doesn’t. They’ll learn from your successes and your failures – and will be inspired by both.

Enjoying the Adventure: Risks, Rewards, and All

I’ve discovered that no matter who you are, what role you play in the church, or what step God is leading you to take in evangelism, big or small, it will always feel risky to some degree. It might be a relationship to build, a conversation to start, a question to ask, a misconception to correct, a group to train, an event to initiate, or any number of other possibilities. Whatever it is, it’s going to feel a bit threatening, and you’re going to be tempted to put it off or skip it entirely. Perhaps you’ve been avoiding it for some time already?

Both the Old and New Testaments tell us “the righteous will live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17). The Christian life involves living in dependence on God. That was true in a major way when we trusted God for salvation, but the Bible is saying much more than that. Notice the verses do not merely say, “The righteous initially received eternal life by faith.” Rather, they say we live – present tense – by faith.

Just what is faith? One way to view it is as “God-directed risk”: l iving based on simple trust in God’s promises and unseen protection, obeying his unseen Spirit, building his unseen kingdom, looking forward to his as-of-yet unseen home in heaven. It’s the risk of taking him at his word and finding him completely trustworthy. A rough paraphrase of the verse might be, “The righteous will live lives marked by patterns of obedient, God-honoring risk-taking.” The question is this: Are you living by that kind of biblical faith?

To at least some degree, we must be courageous Christians if we’re to become contagious ones. We must get on board with what Scripture and God’s Spirit are leading us to do, even if it is new, even if it seems unusual, even if it might be misunderstood. We have to move ahead and set the pattern for the rest of the church. We need to lead the way and then, like the apostle Paul, say to the others, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). We must show what it looks like to live out the value that lost people matter to the Father and also to us. If we’ll do this, soon they’ll matter a whole lot more to our churches too.