The Responsibility to Evangelize

Our method is sometimes referred to as “friendship evangelism”. That just means that we don’t spend our time recruiting in more direct ways, like knocking on doors, holding large meetings, or advertising. Rather, we have chosen to step into the lives of the people around us, walking alongside them, learning from them, and watching for opportunities to guide them to the life found in Jesus Christ. It’s slower than other methods, but we prefer to grow depth rather than breadth and leave behind a movement that can carry itself and will no longer rely on us. 

The hard part of this method is that the burden of outreach falls even more heavily on our shoulders. We have to make lots of friends and be purposeful with our conversations. We have to find a balance between loving and accepting them while somehow pricking them to see that their lives are lacking. It’s a balancing act that we must tweak for every person we know. In a setting where language and cultural barriers are common, it can be very intimidating. 

Recently, I was newly convicted of the absolute necessity of achieving that balance as best I can. I read this passage in Ezekiel, which places the responsibility for the bad condition of Israel directly on Ezekiel himself unless he obeys the command to warn the people of God’s anger and coming punishment. If he obeys, the people are made responsible for their own choice thereafter. 

Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.
— Ezekiel 33:7-9

I know I can think through my life and see numerous occasions when I did not warn someone, when I allowed an opportunity to fade away due to my lack of boldness and courage. I have worried that I might damage the relationship I had with a friend if I challenged them too strongly, and instead chose to do nothing. Or even worse, I simply avoided it because it would have been awkward. Basically, that means I valued their relationship with me more than their relationship with God. 

Why did I never realize how selfish that is? I risked their lives in order to keep mine easy. 

God gave his prophets instructions that made them look ridiculous to their peers. Shaving just half of a beard, walking around slashing at a handful of hair with a sword, digging through the wall to escape a siege that didn’t exist at the time...He likes sending His people on risky jobs that seem crazy to others. He likes for His people to make enough of a scene to be noticed. He wants us to live in a way that others can’t help but wonder what is going on here. And He requires that we follow through, at the expense of our pride, preferences or comfort, in order to give the world a chance to know and follow Him. 

God has given us the job of informing the world about Him. We must open our mouths and say something...anything. He can use imperfect, weak, awkward attempts. He can use bad Spanish. He can’t use silence.