Christians in the West today face growing social and political opposition. And this makes many of us nervous about evangelism. One member of my church explained how, in a prior job, he hit a glass ceiling while his evangelical friends in the firm kept being promoted. The difference? They kept quiet about their faith, while he evangelized. Now, in the new job, he was confessing his fear and asking me to pray for boldness.
In such a time as ours, we might learn from historian Samuel Hugh Moffett, who narrates the dramatic diminution of Christianity under Muslim persecution in Asia in the Middle Ages in his magisterial A History of Christianity in Asia. He draws this conclusion: “The church might have better withstood violence. Sharp persecution breaks off only the tips of the branches; it produces martyrs and the tree still grows. Never-ending social and political repression, on the other hand, starves the roots; it stifles evangelism and the church declines” (Vol. 1: Beginnings to 1500, Orbis, p. 504).
The lesson: let them fire you and maybe kill your pastors, but you keep on evangelizing. Else the church really could whither, even vanish, from the land.
In the middle of a recent elders’ discussion about something or other—the church budget, I think it was—Mark Dever leaned over to me and randomly whispered, “The more elders we have, the harder it will be to get rid of us.”
There it is. That’s the spirit.
Dever’s mentor, Richard Sibbes, offered this encouragement amidst such dour earthly expectations: “Cast yourself into the arms of Christ, and if you perish, perish there” (The Bruised Reed, Puritan Paperbacks, 63).
So, friends, let’s press on to share the gospel—winsomely, sensitively, awkwardly, boldly, charismatically, timidly, sophisticatedly…whatever. Just share it.
We thought about cultivating a culture of evangelism in the last issue of the 9Marks Journal. In this issue, we want to get even more practical by thinking about how to evangelize in different contexts: in the workplace, in your church, in your neighborhood, in a cross-cultural setting, across economic boundaries, with internationals in your own city, and without an altar call (what?!). We also address an issue of growing concern for many Christians: how do you share the gospel with a gay friend?
Cultures and nations rise and fall. The world will treat us sometimes better, sometimes worse. But whether the social trend lines are moving up or down, we must not stop sharing the good news of the one king whose promises are all true and all good.