By Andrew Davis, Senior Pastor
Most of us realize that, as Christians, we are supposed to “make disciples of all nations,” (Matt 28:18–20) and that the beginning of this process is evangelism directed toward the lost. We may gladly speak of missions and the task of supporting missionaries in the field as they “make disciples of all nations.” It gets a little scary, however, when the mission field becomes our neighborhood, workplace, or family gatherings.
Fear creeps in and our best intentions may become stifled: “I don’t know what to say!” or “I’m afraid they’ll get mad at me and reject me!” or “What if they ask me a question I can’t answer?” Once fear has done its work, we become effectively silenced, and we become useless to Christ.
But we can’t become useless to Christ in evangelism, for Jesus made it a clear issue: “He who is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matt 12:30). Jesus is saying, in effect, “Being ‘with me’ means joining with me as I gather.” If you are not daily joining Christ in His great work of gathering, you are actually against Him and are part of the problem. For Jesus said, “Whoever does not gather with me scatters.” It is simply not an option for a Christian not to be energetically active in evangelism.
So what’s the solution? We feel inadequate for the task, and fear has got us by the throat. Could it be that our biggest problem is we’ve forgotten that our evangelism is actually a big part of our own discipleship process? Jesus made that very plain to his disciples as he walked beside the Sea of Galilee where they were preparing their nets for their next fishing excursion. He saw Peter, John, James, and Andrew, and commanded them to follow him: “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). “Follow me!!” was a clear command. The four fishermen did just that; they left their boats and nets and followed Christ.
“Follow me” means “be my disciple,” “learn my ways,” “let me teach you day by day.” They would walk with Jesus, observe him dealing with lost people, and listen to his remarkable teachings day after day. They would learn from him in real life settings, and begin to imitate his way of thinking and way of living. This was discipleship. This is what we need now as well.
And what was the outcome of the discipleship? “I will make you to become fishers of men.” In the Greek, Mark 1:17 clearly implies a process—the professional fishermen were completely unable to be spiritual fishermen until Jesus accomplished their training. And Jesus was the only one who could make the transformation in them: “I will make you to become fishers of men.” When they were fully trained, they would “gather” with Jesus for the rest of their lives.
We too need this kind of discipleship. Evangelism is not something we go out from the presence of Christ to accomplish for him, as though it were like some rite of passage whereby Native American boys go out from their elders to prove their manhood by single-handedly killing a buffalo or scaling a cliff to bring back a rare eagle feather. Rather, we are to come to Christ with our weakness and inability and tell him what he already knows: “God, I am not an evangelist and cannot be one unless you make it happen in me.”
Christ can make you, dear reader, what he has commanded you to be: a “gatherer” for his Kingdom. You cannot say “No!” and avoid scattering the very ones he’s trying to gather. Christ must work it in you.
Finally, note Jesus’ methodology. Evangelism training was not done in abstract, in a sterile classroom, divorced from real life. Yes, there was a great deal of “classroom instruction,” but always in context of active, ongoing ministry. We need evangelism training in which the trainees go out and observe more experienced evangelists witness, quietly taking in real life experience. Little by little, they will be ready to train others.