Introduction to Evangelism in the New Testament


“[Offenses] ought to be pardoned, for few offend willingly, but only as led by some excitement.”

Hegesippus (Circa 300 B.C.)

“[Offenses] ought to be pardoned, for few offend willingly, but only as led by some excitement.”

So says Hegesippus, the Greek comic poet who lived circa 300 B.C. Although he lived well before the time of Christ, his words aptly describe the effects of much evangelistic labor by his disciples. In other words, we often offend in our evangelistic efforts.

Old Hegessipus had it right. The offense is not intentional. It is the product of our excitement, our enthusiasm. As Ray Comfort and others have pointed out, the word “enthusiasm” comes from the Greek words en theos, or “in God.” When we are walking closely with the Lord, which implies our obedience, we are excited, and the source of our energy is Him. We are excited because we pray more and read the Word more. Worship and fellowship become more meaningful, and the sense of His presence in our evangelistic service is real (John 14:21). We experience intimacy with God in evangelism.

While the source of our energy is God, fellow believers too often respond to our evangelism with guilt. This guilt is not intentionally foisted on those who do not evangelize ( most of the time). Instead, it is the proper response of the believer’s conscience. The convicted believer sees another Christian doing what he knows he ought to be doing, but in fact, does not do—evangelism. This offended believer senses that the evangelistic Christian has a deeper walk with Christ than what he himself has experienced. The observing believer sees an intimacy that he does not have ― has perhaps never had, or has not had in a long time. At the very least, the witnessing Christian is obedient in an area that the observing, convicted Christian is not. This much is indisputable.

The evangelizing Christian does not intend for his brothers and sisters to feel guilty; he simply does what he does out of love for the Lord and the lost, earnestly desiring more Christians to do the same. What we often do not realize is that the source of guilt is a violated Law. Jesus said that the summation of the Law is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. When Christians refuse to share The Gospel on a regular basis (or any basis)—and some dated surveys show that only two percent of professing Christians do—their conscience bears witness (Romans 2:14-15) that they have violated the very essence of God’s Law by not evangelizing. They do not love the Lord enough to obey Him and they do not love their neighbors enough to share the message of everlasting life with them.

This article begins a series that is borne out of a sincere desire to see more Christians—and specifically, more local churches—get involved with what is called “contact evangelism” (future articles will explain this term). If while reading this series you feel guilty or are offended, please know that this was not my intention. Ask the Lord to reveal the source of the offense. If it is because I have handled the Scriptures poorly, then please let me know because I have a high regard for accurate interpretation of Scripture. But if it is because of the heat of conviction, then, as your brother in Christ, I urge you to please repent.

For further reading
The Way of the Master by Ray Comfort
Out of the Comfort Zone by Ray Comfort
Today's Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic? by Walter J. Chantry
Even If None by Ryan Denton
Jon Speed

Jon Speed

Jon Speed is married to Kim and they have five children and two grandchildren. He is the Pastor of Missions and Evangelism at By the Word Baptist Church in Azle, TX. Speed is the author of Evangelism in the New Testament and co-produced Babies Are Murdered Here (2014) and Babies Are STILL Murdered Here (2019). He planted Christ is King Baptist Church in Syracuse, NY (2011-2019) and is a co-founder of Loor.tv.

October 11, 2023

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