I have concluded that it is far easier for God’s people to be different than it is for us to make a difference. In fact, it is often far more comfortable and convenient, even satisfying, to retreat into our minds, our homes, our churches, and celebrate our being different than the world, while smugly thinking ourselves to be a little better. However, that is not what the Lord commanded us to do.
We are not to live in isolation from the world but in purposeful relation to the world, in order to evangelize. Although we should declare the truth in our sermons, when we thunder from our pulpits and discuss in our small groups the same topics with the same people who think just like we do, we can be pretty sure we make very little difference in a very spiritually needy world.
The Lord called us to be salt and light.
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.—Matthew 5:13–16
If we are going to make a difference, we must accept the challenge of evangelism. Call it what you want—soulwinning, visitation, witnessing, outreach—frankly, we just need to get over clever semantics and get to the business of making disciples! Though most of us do not consider ourselves reformed in our theology, too many have become practically reformed by the absence of real evangelism in their lives and ministries.
Too many Christians live thinking that their community is not open to the gospel of Jesus Christ. That kind of thinking is not reality, but fear. The truth is that if we, from true hearts of caring, share the truth with people—some will get saved!
The greatest obstacle to winning people to Christ is not their lack of need, or our community’s opposition to the gospel, and certainly not God’s inability to save. The obstacle to winning people to Christ is our unbelief, apathy, pride, and self-interest. We rightly spend millions in foreign lands and expect missionaries to reach the lost, while our own communities and neighborhoods go unreached.
Though our attention and our arguments are often over methodology, the real issue is a problem with our hearts. We fear rejection: we despise being thought of as “not cool!” But we forget that we are servants. Our great mission in life is not to be well thought of by men, but to be well-pleasing to the Lord, who commissioned us to tell others about Him. We are literally surrounded by people who need the Lord.
In whatever godly way you decide is appropriate, let me encourage you to take the following steps in relation to the lost:
1. Embrace Them!
Yes, they are different than we are in lifestyle and perhaps appearance. They may have even criticized you or your lifestyle. But they are your mission field—they are your generation!—and God has called you to care about their souls.
We do not compromise our appreciation of God’s holiness by accepting them where they are and prayerfully trying to influence their lives, to move them to where God wants them. I am so deeply grateful for those who embraced me as a foolish, rebellious young man and played a part in moving me toward the will of God for my life. Like the Lord, they looked beyond my fault and saw my need! We are different from the world, so that we can make a difference in the world!
2. Engage Them!
It is my opinion that door-to-door visitation is still an effective tool for evangelism. I am so old-fashioned that I still give out tracts! OK, you are not comfortable with that; but the end of your discomfort cannot be an abandonment of God’s command. How are you engaging the lost? How are you creating conversations about eternity and our need for the Saviour with lost men and women in your neighborhood, the workplace, or on your school campus? They still need the Lord! It is fine to be innovative, but it is not ok to be disobedient.
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.—Mark 16:15
3. Evangelize Them!
The purpose of our embracing and engaging the lost is to win them to Jesus Christ. We want to be community-minded, neighborly, and helpful in so many ways, but all as a vehicle for the greater good of introducing them to our Lord! God saved us and sanctifies us so that we will be glaringly different than the world. Our sanctification is good for us, but the ultimate purpose of our sanctification is the glory of God.
In other words: God makes us different so that we can make a difference—find a way!