When we discuss the Great Commission and the task of evangelism, we often speak of “sharing our faith.” But is this an accurate description of our mission? Elliot Clark believes that it is not. Clark works to train church leaders overseas with Training Leaders International. And he believes that our terminology has become one of the reasons that we don’t speak the gospel as much as we should. He points out that “’sharing’ typically involves giving something to someone who desires it….But the reality is, few people are ever begging us to share the gospel with them.”* In contrast, the early church consistently declared the gospel even when no one wanted to hear it (Acts 4:20).
The words associated with gospel proclamation are strong. We are to preach, declare and herald. Now the message is inherently good news. It offers the forgiveness of sins and the opportunity to be part of an eternal kingdom of peace. But it is also confrontational and unavoidably offensive. It confronts personal autonomy and calls a person to lay down their weapons, to bow the knee and to submit to the reign of the rightful King. The King has sent us out into the world as his ambassa- dors. The task does not call for creativity or capitulation but for courage and clarity.
Too often, we wait for the perfect opportunity to speak the truth of the gospel. We want to make sure that people are receptive and ready. We don’t want to offend or lose a friendship. But too often the result is that we don’t say anything at all. And that is because people are rarely ready—at least in the obvious ways we would desire. We must remember that our task is not to psychoanalyze people as to their readiness. Our task is to declare the gospel with authority and urgency—whether they are ready or not. And reality is that they might very well be ready—even if we don’t realize it. Jesus sent out his twelve disciples to proclaim the kingdom of God (Luke 9). It was a strong declaration of a new kingdom and a new King. And even though they had been endowed with power to heal, Jesus made it very clear that entire towns would stubbornly reject the message. We can’t manipulate the outcome any more than the apostles could. But we must be faithful to our mission.
*Elliot Clark, “Don’t share it. Proclaim it.” Christianity Today (July/August, 2019).
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