I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever… All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you! They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom… My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.
PSALM 145:1-2, 10-12, 21 (ESV)
There are days when I am certain that I don’t have the spiritual gift of evangelism. Days where I shrink back from an opportunity to share the Gospel. Days where I dismiss the prompting of the Holy Spirit as just a crazy thought borne of boredom or indigestion. It’s not just these moments of weakness that have led me to this conclusion. Even when I do respond to an opportunity to share, it can feel awkward, like trying on someone else’s clothes or giving an impromptu presentation.
I replay these moments in my head, a painful experience, and I can’t help but think about my friends who do have this spiritual gift. I have known many people who seem to ooze this ability to share Jesus and shun awkwardness, but none have compared to our Associate Pastor, Ryan Proudfoot. There has never been a room too full or a person too quiet to avoid an encounter with Ryan’s boisterous evangelism. It is truly a marvel to watch, how effortlessly he connects and shares, and there are days where I feel like I’ve got a front row seat to watch Jordan in his prime.
In my weakness, I might be tempted to dismiss this as only the fruit of his gifting, but I know that Ryan works hard to cultivate this gift. I also know that all believers are called to evangelize, however unnatural or awkward the experience might be at first. When I focus on the discomfort or the fear, evangelism becomes something to endure, a chore that seems only slightly more spiritual than it does painful. You aren’t really an evangelist, I have heard in my head. But you kind of have to be.
Some years ago I brought this all up to my friend and pastor Kyle Burkholder, and he laughed at me. “Are you kidding?” he asked me. “You’re the biggest evangelist I know!” I genuinely had no idea how he could have arrived at that conclusion, but as he recounted just one week’s worth of all the books and shows and movies and articles I told him he just had to track down, I realized he was absolutely right. I am an evangelist. And a passionate one at that.
The problem, of course, is that I’m evangelizing things that don’t really matter. I experience something that is exciting and profound and want to share it. This is easy when there are no stakes in the sharing. I will buy a book for a friend knowing they may or may not read it. I’ve shared and done my part. I will recommend a song that blew my mind, and even if I’m sure that the person I’m talking to will never actually listen to it, I will finish explaining what makes it so great. I am undeterred by people checking their watches or dismissing me with laughter or staring blankly as I blather on. In my mind, it is critical that I continue because what I am sharing has the potential to change their lives.
The stakes in sharing these things are low, but that’s not really what compels me to speak to people about them. It’s not actually the absence of fear or awkwardness. It’s the presence of joy. I want people to know what has inspired me or moved me. I want them to be affected like I have been affected. I want the experience to become one we share.
There’s a direct correlation for us here between true joy and evangelism. When God is alive in you and you are alive in Him, the Gospel is uncontainable. The gratitude bursting from your heart can’t be held back. When I think of the great evangelists in my life, the common trait they all share is joy. For guys like Ryan, the Gospel is real and vital in their lives, so they don’t sit and wait for opportunities to tell people about God. They make those opportunities. And their sincerity and excitement and selflessness conquer any fear, awkwardness, or worry standing in their way.
In the end, I don’t have to be a professional evangelist to boldly proclaim God to the world. I just need to be a grateful Christian. I just need to see the Gospel with fresh eyes. If I sit and consider the magnitude of God’s grace, joy eventually comes to push me forward. And when it does, I find I have to share.
Thank you God for all the great things You have done to bring me here with You today. I confess that the magnitude of relationship with You is far beyond my understanding, so I often settle with not contemplating it all. Help me see this blessing in a fresh way. Fill my heart overflowing again with Your joy that You might be on my mind and in my words today. AMEN.
Cultivate gratitude. Write down one big thing you’re thankful for today. It may be a person, a provision when you needed it most, or perhaps even the absence of something that was weighing on you. Each time you think about this blessing, let the feeling of joy take you to appreciation. Bring the gratitude of your heart to life in prayer – speaking out loud to God – and in conversation – sharing with people your joy and thankfulness.