Is the idea of evangelism/soul-winning scary to you? It is to most, and I have often wondered why. For starters, it involves stepping out of our comfort zones and being intentional about things, but many things in life have those same requirements that we don't get scared about the way we do about evangelism! Is it a weak faith? Is it a lack of knowledge and, therefore, confidence? Is it our politically correct culture making us shrink back from anything that might make someone else uncomfortable? To all of these I anser Yes! We fear evangelism for all of these reasons! But it goes deeper, often to the core of our theology. At least it did with me. Let me illustrate how I was taught to "do" evangelism.
Christian meets Generic Person (GP). Christian's first task is to determine whether GP is going to Heaven or Hell. If Christian determines that GP is going to Heaven, Christian then make sure that GP is going there the "right" way. If Christian determines that GP is going to Hell, then Christian must convince Generic Person of his/her condemned state. Once GP is convinced that he/she is going to Hell, Christian tells him/her how to get to Heaven. Christian doesn't waste too much time talking about Jesus, because the important thing is that GP understand the 5 steps to salvation: hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized. Christian will need to be prepared to convince GP that what (s)he heard at that "other" church wasn't really the gospel, that his/her faith was not genuine, that his/her repentance didn't actually take place, that his/her confession was meaningless, and that his/her baptism was ineffective. How does Christian know these things? Because Christian knows the name of that "other" church, and it's not the same as Christian's church. That means that, in spite of GP's previous belief that (s)he loved Jesus and wanted to serve Him only, (s)he stood at the doorway to Hell while God watched to see if (s)he could figure it all out in time!
I was not taught this method using that language, but I was certainly taught this method! While many errors can be found in this approach, it is really not that internally inconsistent. Where it fails, however, is at the beginning:
"Christian's first task is to determine whether Generic Person is going to Heaven or Hell."
I have come to realize that this is NEVER Christian's task! It is God's and God's alone! When I find myself sitting on the throne of judgment, I am playing God. Needless to say, this is a role that I am both unworthy and incapable of filling.
Could it be that the fear many feel in living evangelistic lives comes from an internal discomfort with taking this Divine role? This discomfort is rarely perceived because we are surrounded by others placing themselves in that role. So we THINK we are afraid of living evangelistic lives when we are ACTUALLY afraid of playing a role that we are wholly unequipped to play and that is rightfully and singularly God's!
So how do we live evangelistic lives that will win souls as the Great Commission tasks us? By treating everyone equally. By entering EVERY relationship committed to both help and be helped by it. Commit to helping each person you know ONE STEP closer to Christ. Commit to finding something in them to bless your own life. If the person is an atheist, agnostic, pagan, universalist, legalist, liberal, or faithful Christian, he/she STILL needs to take ONE STEP closer to Christ! Growth in/towards Christ has no end in this life.
In approaching life this way, ALL relationships become INTENTIONAL; souls WILL naturally be won in the process; and both sides of the relationship are growing closer to Him! And God stays on His throne of judgment, complete with His eternal love, grace, and justice.