The lost art of evangelism: Part One

“And he (Jesus) said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”  Mark 16:15 (ESV)

Christian university students, generally speaking, are afraid to boldly share their faith in the public squares of their campuses.

The reasons for this fear are varied:  shyness, lack of training, not wishing to offend others, spiritual immaturity, sin in one’s life, etc.  But whatever the reasons, the consequences for disobeying the Great Commission found in Mark 16:15 are clearly seen.

What are these consequences?  Like the reasons for not sharing one’s faith, these are also varied, but one of the more serious is that the moral darkness pervasive on every secular campus has almost completely swallowed up the light of purity, righteousness and justice.

This has profoundly negative consequences that reaches into every nook and cranny of your average university and college campus.  When the gospel is not regularly and boldly proclaimed, its purifying effect on the students and faculty is diminished.  The power of sin and death gains ascendency over the power of righteousness and life; one must always give way before the other (Galatians 5:16-17).

Jesus told His followers that they were both salt and light (Matt. 5:13-15).  In His day, there was neither electricity or refrigerators.   Meat was kept from rotting by using salt to preserve it.  Salt was a preservative against rot.

Lamps were vital to keep people from stumbling around in the dark and possibly injuring or killing themselves.  It might have been suicidal back then to traverse an unfamiliar mountainous foot path at night without a lamp to illuminate your path; one wrong step and off the side you went.

Jesus tells His followers that we are salt and light.  We are the preservative that keeps the culture from rotting away in their sins and are the lamp that shows the world how to stop from stumbling around in the moral darkness.

We do this by being bold and unashamed in the public proclamation of our faith.  Being bold should not equal being obnoxious, rude, condescending, unmannerly or carnal (characteristics common to many Christians who claim to be open-air preachers and evangelists), but rather exhibiting behavior that reflects the character of Jesus.

Darkness and light cannot peacefully coexist.  One or the other must reign as King.  As sinners, we naturally gravitate toward the darkness:  selfishness, pride, laziness, greed, lust, etc.  Unless we are continually challenged to be vessels of righteousness, we go with the flow and are content to be like so many around us: self-centered and self-absorbed.

This is why the bold and public proclamation of the gospel is vital to the health of a university, town, city or nation.  Things, left to their own power, always disintegrate and break down–a mathematical and certain reality.

But it is the power inherent in the bold and unashamed preaching of the gospel that acts like a preserving agent for society.   Preaching  awakens and stirs the conscience, acting like a “seat belt of restraint” to those who are contemplating criminal acts.  How many crimes have been halted because the criminal heard someone preaching and decided they could not go through with the deed?

The United States is bearing a heavy toll for God’s people refusing to be bold in their faith.  When the church began to turn inward and the emphasis was placed on a “come ye” (“come into our church building”) instead of a “go ye” (“go out into the highways and by-ways”), this was part of the beginning of the end of America as we knew it.

The old saying, “life doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” has special meaning here; something must fill the empty spaces of society’s existence.  In other words, whose voice or morals will exist in the public square?  The answer is the voice or moral values that shouts the loudest, because “life doesn’t exist in a vacuum.”  Something must, and will, fill the voids in our society.

When the gospel was boldly, lovingly, and loudly trumpeted throughout this nation by innumerable circuit preachers crisscrossing the nation, a national consensus of justice, truth and morality permeated the people’s conscience.  Certainly not all Americans were Christians, but the message of righteousness and faith in Jesus was as tangible as an early morning fog, felt throughout the nation.

In part two, I will discuss in more detail the necessity of bringing gospel preaching back into the public square.

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