The Pandemic had already begun in March of 2020, and things escalated very quickly, forcing several churches to stop their public activities and keep only the essential and allowed services to run. Thus, through virtual meetings, long phone calls and social media some assistance, pastoral care, worship, giving, Bible study and other things were kept. However, various other practices were considered non-essential in the light of the pandemic and were stalled until a better season came up. Sadly, evangelism was one of these practices, classified for many as a “non-essential service” of the church in these hard days that we live. As a pastor and also Ambassador of the Advance in Portugal, I heard from many leaders and believers in different ways the same conclusion: “Now is not a good time to evangelise, let’s wait for a better time to do it.”
Like it or not, all of us as believers have been affected by these hard times, and certainly the Lord is using this uncomfortable moment to help us to come closer to His heart and change critical areas that for so long we were blind or insensible to. This inevitable crisis triggered a revision process in how we live our faith and are the church of Christ in this world, forcing many Christians to question the role, function and whys of evangelism in their lives. What follows, are a few findings and clarifications that through Advance, I and many others were deeply impacted about evangelism in this hard season.
Like everyone else, there are Christians fighting against COVID or other illness, others are in pain or in grief for losing someone, and are all tempted to be selfish and only care about ourselves and how we will survive in these situations. Instinctively, we focus all our efforts on ourselves, expecting to survive without noticing that this shows how we so deeply love and care for ourselves instead of loving others. Let’s be honest, it’s much easier to show love and care for others when we aren’t at risk and affected by those hard situations. Are we deeply loving others when there is no convenience, gain or apparent reward, or even cost and loss? Or does all of this only prove that we barely love others and actually our love grows cold for them (Matthew 24:12)? If we really love our neighbours, we could not hinder them from all the privileges and benefits that we are experiencing in Christ. Because we love we share, and if we don’t share it is because we simply don’t love. In this way, evangelism is par excellence the living proof of our love for the lost, and thus a crucial part of how we will obey Jesus commandments about loving God and the others (Matthew 22:37-39).
We are for so long too involved and focused on Sunday services that it looks like nothing is more central and relevant than that in the churches life. When we talk about evangelism with this mindset, we are easily tempted to measure success on evangelism simply with church attendance. Therefore if evangelism somehow provides people for our church services, once the church stopped its services, there is no reason to continue evangelising. So, we must be honest with ourselves and question if we evangelise to people primarily for the church or for Jesus and his Kingdom. Are we as Christians in the business of gathering crowds in buildings, or are we call to populate heaven and bring the lost to a relationship with Jesus?
Of course Jesus and his kingdom should be our focus on evangelism (Matthew 6:33), and with or without our Sunday services the gospel must be preached “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2), for everyone. It is worth noting that we barely have stories about regular services in the New Testament, but a massive number of reports about people that the gospel transformed. So we could say, in the light of our experience through this pandemic, that our Christian faith as we see in the Bible is much more focused on people than in Sunday services. And because people should be the focus of our mission, with or without pandemic, we shouldn’t never stop evangelising.
Although evangelism used to be expressed in the form of some occasional church event, more than ever it is clear that evangelism is the reason why we are the church in this world. To fulfil the commandment to love God and our neighbours we must manifest this love through evangelism to people. Certainly for many this is an ‘out of season’ time to preach the gospel. However, for many lost hearts, this will be the season of their salvation if, with boldness, we embrace the challenge to grow in love for our neighbours, and show them Christ in a fresh new way.
In Portugal and worldwide, we have been hearing salvation’s testimonies that show that God is at work through his people. Thus, as Christians, it is crucial that we continue to overcome our fears, our selfishness and any wrong focuses in these hard days, and trust even more in the Lord. It’s time to intentionally advance empowered by love to share with others the message and life of Jesus. My prayer for you is that you may love like never before in these days, in such a way that you could glorify the Lord bearing much fruit.