It does little good to encourage people to discipline themselves to evangelize if they do not know the Gospel. Try this experiment in your church, class or small group: Distribute paper and then ask people how many times they think they’ve heard the Gospel. Some may answer that they’ve heard it hundreds or even thousands of times.
“Good,” you say. “Now, please write the Gospel on that piece of paper.”
Then watch people freeze and stare at you as though you’ve asked them to list the names of every member of Congress.
By repeating this exercise, I’ve become convinced that a great percentage of even the church’s most committed members are so unclear on the Gospel that they cannot write it in their own words and in the simplest terms, even in the comfortable context of church.
This is not to say that a person must be able to articulate every nuance of the Gospel before he can effectively witness, nor to imply that God cannot use an imperfect presentation of His Gospel. Yet I believe there’s a widespread lack of clarity among professing Christians about even the most basic aspects of Christianity’s distinctive message.
One effect of the Gospel upon the believer’s heart is the creation of a new “Gospeler;” that is, a person who wants to tell others about the person and work of Jesus Christ. Notice that I said the person wants to evangelize. Yet there’s still a sense in which evangelism must be a discipline. Viewing evangelism as a discipline as well as a delight means that sometimes we intentionally choose to be with lost people in hopes of talking about Jesus with them.
And let’s not forget that the Gospel is a message that is communicated most clearly through words—about the person and work of Jesus Christ. The discipline of evangelism is about being intentional to speak those words. Ultimately, it’s not actions—important as they are—but the message of the Gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16 ESV).
Jesus’ Great Commission to make disciples for Him of all nations by means of His Gospel (Matthew 28:19-20) cannot be done incidentally or accidentally. There is an intentionality about that supreme task that implies discipline. What’s one thing you could do to be more intentional about speaking of the life and work of Jesus? ©2011 Donald S. Whitney
Dr. Donald S. Whitney is professor of Biblical spirituality and associate dean at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and the founder of the Center for Biblical Spirituality. This article is adapted from one that first appeared in 2011 at Ligonier.org and is reprinted here with permission.
The Bible verses marked ESV are taken by permission from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.