Evangelism as Warning

In the world of the modern church, I can think of few places where pastors beat up their church members more than the area of evangelism. I have known pastors who can be sweet and encouraging toward people who are hurting, who are kind to those who are slow learners, who are patient with those who just can’t seem to throw off a habitual sin, but who will absolutely grind you to powder if your practice of evangelism does not match theirs—or what they wish theirs was.

Let’s be sure we have a couple of things clear as Christians. God certainly commands us to go and make disciples. Evangelism is a right, loving practice. When you share the gospel, you love God, love your neighbor, and benefit yourself. Preaching Christ matters.

Part of the problem for us could be that we have mistaken the outcome of evangelism with the command to evangelize. We think that we are commanded to make people believe. Thus, we are afraid that our practice of sharing the gospel will do harm and not good. This is a theologically illogical view, but it is common.

But let me remind us that the true success in evangelism is honoring God by obeying his commands and speaking the truth. We are to tell people the truth and leave the results to God. That does not mean we are passionless or unconcerned regarding the souls of our friends. But it does mean that we do not bear the weight of responsibility regarding their response or the hidden workings of God’s Holy Spirit.

Consider the watchman passage from Ezekiel 33.

Ezekiel 33:1-6 – – 1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, 3 and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.

What is the watchman’s job? The job of the watchman is to sound an alarm. He is to give a warning. He is to tell the truth. The Watchman is guilty if he has knowledge of danger that he refuses to share. But the watchman is not guilty if he shares and people do not care.

I think we would do well to remember that in many cases, our job is to warn of real dangers. We are to play the watchman role. We are to tell the world around us that there is a danger they face and a solution to that danger. We do not have to own responsibility for their responses. But we do need to carry the weight of knowing the truth and the need to share that truth with those who will hear us.

In fact, I wonder if the warning motif might be a helpful way to share the gospel. We often attempt to share with others by trying to convince them of all the neat benefits they could have if they would just be in the faith. And, of course, the benefits of knowing the Lord are infinitely wonderful. But what about a kind warning? You think about it. What would it sound like to offer a friend or family member a caring warning for their souls? How would it be different if the conversation began with, “Because I care about you, I want to let you know about a danger we all face?” This is not the conversation that says I am good and they are bad. Nor is it me offering an opinion about what I think about modern ethics. It is simply me saying that God’s word gives us clear data, and we need to be under his grace if we are to avoid his judgment.

If they respond with a lack of caring about the word or the message, I do not have to continue a major argument. But what I can do for sure is know that I have offered an honest warning of a real danger. I can be sure that people understand that my warning comes from me caring about them and not from me feeling superior to them.

In our world, I hear warnings from people regularly. People love to tell us what too much social media does to our brains. People tell us what too much sugar does to our bodies. People tell us that gluten is pure evil. Why not be willing to sound a simple alarm about the need to be under the grace of God?