Last week I encouraged you all in your practice of personal evangelism through the words of seventeenth century pastor-theologian, Wilhelmus a’Brakel. That article can be found here.
One of the blessings of being a Gentle Reformation author is the behind-the-scenes interactions with retired pastor, Rev. Ken G. Smith, who frequently sends us feedback, encouragement, and challenges concerning our writings. If I can speak on behalf of all of the GenRef team, we do love his private interactions with the blog!
Last week, Rev. Smith sent me a personal response to a’Brakel’s encouragement towards evangelism, and with his permission, I am passing those comments on to you, the readers, for your encouragement as well. Ken G. Smith wants us to understand the “why” of why Christians do not evangelize. He writes:
I really appreciated reading your piece on evangelism and the reference to a’Brakel, who at one point in my life was very helpful. I like what he has to say about evangelizing, but have to say I’ve not found his advice effective.
There’s a reason(s) why people don’t bear witness.
Let me share a bit of a different approach.
First, if one is not a fluent “talker” about the gospel, then one needs to assess why not. You can make your own list: mine went like this:
a. Do they have a vital relationship with Christ, or are they saved and do they have assurance?
b. If they are able to support their testimony, can they articulate how they became a Christian?
c. Have they ever written out or outlined their own testimony?
d. Are they having productive worship (including personal) with the Lord?
e. Have they ever been taught how to conduct their own private worship?
e. Have they ever been taught how to pray (privately a la Matthew 6:6)? These types of inquiries can be summarized in reference to John 15. Do they know how actively to “abide in Christ” and note in John 15 the reference to fruit? Do they know how to abide in Christ so that Christ will use them to reach other sinners for Christ?
f. Have they ever witnessed a person come under conviction by the Spirit and turn in repentance and faith to Christ? Are they living with a good conscience, i.e. is there a known sin in their life which has bound their joy in Christ? Do they know how to approach and conquer such sin? In short, do they know how to have a good conscience before God?Now one might ask how in the world one can be expected to have all of that safely tucked away and active in their life. Well, it’s learned. One answer is the “with Him” principle of Mark 3:14…viz. having been taught and having learned how to walk with Christ on a daily basis. When I was teachng evangelism at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary years ago, I would take a man with me when I went door-to-door, but with his commitment not to say anything…just pray. After several times out, I found him restless in the visit because now, having lost his fear, he wanted to be engaged in the conversation, and, of course, I said okay.These are just some thoughts and experiences I have had. I took an elder with me one time to visit this relative and father of one of our members. That night we presented the gospel and the man was led of the Spirit to respond and commit his life to Christ. The elder had never heard the gospel presented personally before, not to mention having witnessed a man turning to Christ. He was so excited he talked all the way home. And on the Lord’s day when the man showed up for worship, I could not separate the two.There is a spiritual (Spirit) dynamic in the Christian life that produces witness for Christ. Without that dynamic, motivation is lacking and power in talk is absent. There’s a Spirit-led dynamic behind Spirit-filled witness. And it all comes from abiding in Christ, which maybe most church members have never understood nor practiced.
Am I being to naive or critical? I hope not. My design again is “why don’t people naturally witness?”See what your articles produce? I think it’s called fellowship. Your pieces get through to me…obviously.