Evangelism means that our Lord brings His Christians along in His work of saving people. It is His work. He does it. He does it by His Word, just as it says: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).
Christ binds this Word of His to certain persons. They are His believers. He also calls them His witnesses. They went out in His name bearing His good news. You see, the Word Made Flesh came at a certain time and place, and from there, good news of Him spread out in every direction to every corner of the world: “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
The Word comes to you, too, and proceeds from you: in your home, wending its way back to your Church, and finally out to the as yet unwashed, unbelieving world.
The world outside is desperate for good news. Poor devils. Scripture describes them as being without God and without hope. They need the Gospel. They need the forgiveness of sins and the promise of the resurrection and life everlasting.
Perhaps we think our bringing the Word to them will save us. Perhaps it will save our church. Maybe we’re desperate, too. Just like the world, we have sickness, distress, money troubles, marriage and family issues, and sinful propensities. Now we also have the burden of our worries for the Church: budgets, need for leadership, need for growth… There, we seem particularly fixated on the young. How will we win them?
Very easily, we lose the goal of being faithful for the goal of being successful. The Gospel of free grace is replaced by the gospel of “doing evangelism.” Evangelism, though, is really His work. It’s all a gift, not just to the world, but to us, too, as we are taken up in it. It all starts with good news for us!
Yes, we have already heard the Word. We have the Gospel. Still, we’re desperate for it. It’s not like we don’t need to hear it and receive it since becoming Christians. We still keep sinning! We keep dying. If anything, we feel the need for good news more than ever because now, on top of it all, we have adorned His Word to us with unclean speech and selfish deeds.
God stubbornly, wonderfully gives us the same perfect good news in preaching to us all over again: the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection, and life everlasting. He gives us Jesus. Then, before you even know it, you are at work evangelizing one another, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19) in the Divine Service. You encourage one another by your coming, receiving, and giving back good news upon good news as you kneel at the Lord’s Table, and in receiving, proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). These are the kinds of things the Lord seeks to fill you with, first to save you and also because these are the very things He is sending with you and in you to the ends of the earth.
Reverend A.J. Hamilton
Concordia Lutheran Church
Eau Claire, WI