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Entering the Harvest

 

A few years ago, I grew tired of hearing about others “on mission” and evangelizing with so little of it in my own life. Something in me desperately desired for evangelism to become a normal part of my life. I learned a lot that year, mainly by failing (if that’s possible) at evangelism. In the years since, I’ve learned even more. I want to expound a little on how move off the missional bench and into the game.

We are all called to enter the harvest. The work is there before us. Here are three observations on becoming an everyday evangelist.

1. Gospel Enjoyment Leads to Evangelism

We all have a friend that won’t stop talking about their kids (guilty), one who is a little too obsessed with their favorite team, and one who analyzes their favorite TV show a little too much. We wouldn’t call their incessant conversation about these topics that they love evangelism, but it is precisely what it is. Everyone is evangelizing about something, sharing about what they love and why they love it.

Gospel enjoyment is loving, celebrating, and finding joy in the good news of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. It’s good news because in God’s redemptive plan, Jesus lives the perfect life (the one we could never live), died an atoning death in our place (the death we deserved), and resurrected from the dead (accomplishing the victory we could never accomplish ourselves). In his good plan, he sent his Holy Spirit to live in us, for his righteousness to be credited to us and then enacted through us.

But do you see this as good news? Does it bring you joy or is it a fact that you have cognitively agreed is right?

I’ve known joyless belief and I’ve watched joyless Christianity in the church as if it were normal, but it is not the Christianity that God describes and invites us to in the Scriptures. Jesus summarizes the commandments into the Great Commandment – to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. In John 15, he speaks of abiding in the love of God that we may have his joy and it may be in full. Jesus prays in John 17 that his followers would have his joy fulfilled in them and that they would embody the Father’s love.

Paul tells us in Romans 14:17 that “the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking (religion) but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Psalm 16:11 reminds us that in the presence of God is fullness of joy. The Scriptures are filled with the idea of joy.

The how-to of evangelism must follow the want-to of evangelism, and the want-to of evangelism comes when we love and enjoy the gospel of Jesus Christ. Gospel evangelism is not a duty we are invited to, but a joy flowing naturally from gospel enjoyment.

2. We Are Wired to Evangelize

In The Permanent Revolution, the authors identify four different types of evangelists that can help us identify how we are naturally wired in relationships to pursue and grow in evangelism. He labels them as the investors, inviters, convincers, and conversers; helpful categories for us as we consider doing the work of an evangelist.

The Investors. Investors embrace the process method of evangelism. They seek to walk through the highs and lows of life with people, seeking to invest a lot of time, emotion, and energy into a few close relationships. The majority of us wouldn’t label this as evangelism at all, but if we don’t label this as evangelism we will lack the intentionality needed to continue to pursue conversations about Jesus and his gospel. Our prayer life will not include interceding for these people in our life.

This could mean you approaching your workplace with a greater vision towards moving your long-term relationships to deeper conversations. Leveraging your lunch breaks and intermittent office conversation to share how the gospel of Jesus Christ is transforming your views on life. It could be the family you know through your local school or sports league that your children are friends providing you an opportunity to demonstrate a life following Jesus throughout normal activities.

The Inviters. Inviters looks for opportunities to include people in more strategic environments where they can be exposed to Christian community and the gospel of Jesus Christ. These are people who seek to include as many different people as possible at their birthday parties, big events, or meals in hopes that they would connect and engage with others who could develop relationships to share the gospel.

They have a special ability to make people feel comfortable enough to explore a new environment and I’ve seen these people in our church invite and connect with new people, then connect them with others in the community that have discipled them and led them to a greater understanding of Jesus and what it means to be his disciple.

This could change the way you view cookouts, the Super Bowl party, or your next birthday party. View these regular and everyday events as opportunities to invite both your Christian friends from church and your neighbors while encouraging your Christian friends to seek to establish conversations and relationships with those they do not know.

The Convincers. In America, we call them salesmen or the “closers of the deal” at work. These are people who are able to make an incredibly compelling gospel presentation. They are gifted with the ability to use a short amount of time to present the gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that brings people to a decision.

These are largely responsible for the evangelistic materials we see throughout the church because they are skilled at reducing the gospel presentation to an easily transferable conversation without reducing its content. This is challenging for many of us, but others are naturally excited by the thought of sharing their faith in a brief amount of time.

Whether you are a convincer or not, it is helpful to spend time thinking through how you can share the gospel in a concise manner. I’ve heard one suggestion of thinking through common conversations and how the gospel of Jesus Christ redefines and intersects those regular conversations you most commonly have.

The Conversers. Conversers are often characterized by a question-led evangelism, leveraging the interests and concerns of other people and connecting those ideas with the gospel. They even prefer to let the conversation be dictated by the other person, asking questions that tend to reveal someone’s worldview or the major issues they are currently facing in life.

We see this in the life of Jesus with the woman at the well, asking questions and initiating a conversation that eventually exposed her to the living water she truly longed for.

These descriptions could free us up and inspire us to identify the natural ways we can proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ that we have not even imagined before. If we are to be about blessing others with the good news of Jesus Christ, we must embrace a broader view of evangelism to seek a conversion that makes a disciple of Jesus Christ instead of simply someone who agrees with their need for a Savior.

3. Evangelism Starts with Prayer

We often view the Great Commission as the time when Jesus first sends out his disciples to go and make disciples, but this wasn’t his disciples’ first mission. In Matthew 10, Jesus sends out his disciples after instructing them in how they should be on mission.

The greatest preparation he gave them came in the previous chapter, Matthew 9:36-38:

When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

There is so much from this passage that we can learn about evangelism, but the most important is that it begins with prayer. I’ve heard verse 36 used often to exhort people that the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few, so we must go now and be on mission! It’s a truth, but it is a truth motivated by guilt rather than motivated by a heart for the harvest that Jesus has.

In prayer we acknowledge that God is, as the Scriptures say, “Lord of the harvest.” He is the one who pursues people first, giving understanding to the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:4-6) and imparting the Holy Spirit so that they are born again. Salvation is an act of God and when we begin in prayer, we submit our requests to the One most concerned and most powerful to act. Unless God works in people, all of our efforts will fall short. This shouldn’t cause negligence or laziness, passively waiting until we see signs that God moves; it should lead us follow Jesus’s example in praying to God for him to move.

This communicates our trust and hope in a powerful, sovereign God able to do more than we ask or imagine. It not only communicates something to God, but it changes us in the process.

When we pray to God as Lord of the harvest for more laborers (as Jesus instructed), we find ourselves transformed into the type of laborers God desires. We can become those who see crowds and other people not as inconvenient, but with compassion wanting them to know Jesus as the Great Shepherd of their lives.

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Logan Gentry is the Pastor of Community and Equipping at Apostles Church in New York City. He blogs at Gentrified and has contributed to The Gospel Coalition. He is married to Amber and they have three children. Follow him on Twitter: @logangentry.