When my pastor invited me to join an Advance Group in December 2019, I thought it would be interesting, but I definitely didn’t expect the journey that unfolded.
About half-way through the first Advance meeting I attended, I was thinking that I might have made a mistake. I felt totally out of my depth and everything they were talking about just seemed so beyond me. By session two, when we were looking at the identity of the evangelist, I felt that I could confidently say ‘I am not an evangelist’, in fact I wrote that in the Advance Guide itself!
Perhaps you are thinking – ‘this is not what I need to hear, how is this going to encourage me?’ But please, bear with me, all will become clear! Fast forward to today. I know that I am called by God to share the good news of Jesus wherever the opportunity arises – in the church and out of it – and that in this sense, although I do not have a ‘specific gifting’, I am an evangelist.
I have begun to talk more openly about Jesus to my neighbours, and have felt further encouraged and sharpened through wider Advance resources, including Ben Jack’s book If Jesus Is The Answer, What Is The Question and the podcast series Evangelism Myths. I even recently began to lead an Advance group myself.
How did this transformation happen!?
Truthfully, the answer is that it all came about through the power, love, grace, mercy and patience of God – coupled with the encouragement of those who have been willing to share their experiences with me.
Perhaps you recognise yourself in how I felt at the beginning of my journey. If so, there are some things that I think might help you to get to grips with some things about evangelism that eluded me in the beginning:
Let go of the perception that evangelism is only for trained people, those who could fill a stadium, and those who are specifically called to the task of being an evangelist.
In 2 Corinthians 5:20, the apostle Paul writes about how we are called to be ‘ambassadors’ for Christ. We can do that wherever we are! Some evangelists feel led to be ambassadors to people who they have never met before, or to go out onto the streets to evangelise, but most Christians have people in their friendship or family circles, or even in their church, who don’t have a relationship with Jesus yet. You can be an ambassador where you are, you don’t have to fit with any stereotypes of evangelism that you may have in mind.
Begin to explore the truth that because God made you, He wants you to be yourself in the way that you evangelise.
You don’t have to be like someone else, you don’t have to be an amazing communicator like…(I am sure you can add the name of a well-known preacher/evangelist here). You just need to love people because God loves them, and desire that those who are lost would be found. That’s it! The Holy Spirit leads you to people in love and truth and He knows your strengths and weaknesses, so trust Him to show you when and how to share Jesus. God, who created you, knows how to use you for His glory so don’t be tempted to compare and don’t be put off by how He uses someone else differently.
Have a look at the accountability questions at the back of the Advance Group Mentoring Guide.
If you use this activity honestly, humbly, and with God, it will help you to see where you need to grow. For me, one of the most significant things was spending more time in God’s word and doing that willingly and out of love for Him – not because I knew I should or so that I could tick it off my ‘to do’ list for the day. Our love for others comes from knowing God’s heart!
Don’t run away if things get challenging.
I was tempted to say to my pastor, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t think this is for me’, but I am so glad that I didn’t. Now, as I am reflecting on those first sessions, I remember how I felt and now see the notes that I wrote from a different perspective. This has helped me support others when they are feeling similarly to how I felt. It’s true that what you learn as God helps you to climb over your particular barriers, will make you useful to Him and to other people. Don’t give up!
Don’t be afraid to fail.
I know this is easy to say and difficult to live by, but no-one is perfect. If you only want to be an evangelist if you can do it perfectly, you will be crushed by the disappointment of it all. Pray about what you could do to step out in faith, start small and see how it goes! Take one step at a time as God presents each opportunity to you and why not grab a friend to chat about how God is challenging and encouraging you. Sometimes things won’t go well but you will always learn from that, if you stay humble and ask God to be in it all.
Remember whose responsibility salvation is.
This might sound obvious but we can heap pressure on ourselves by thinking that everything is down to us. It isn’t. The Holy Spirit will need to be at work in the people we talk to for them to accept Jesus into their lives. Nothing we can do or say can achieve that. Only Jesus has the words of eternal life so all we can do is point people to Him by talking about the difference that He has made in our lives.
I know that I have a lot more to learn, that there are still many opportunities that I miss or bottle out of, so I continue to rely on God every time I chat to someone about Jesus; but I also now know that I am an evangelist in the way that God planned me to be.
If you feel like saying ‘I am not an evangelist’, just allow yourself to pause and ask the question ‘Am I?’ God can do a lot with that moment of questioning and can open you to the truth of the answer, ‘You are.’
Written by Amanda Martin, an Advance Group Leader in the UK.