Evangelism is a Heart Issue

As I’ve thought about the evangelistic endeavor through the years, on occasion I’ve quipped in teaching venues, “Evangelism is simply about following Jesus.” Why? Because the Lord said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). How does this flesh out in our daily walk with the Lord?

In one sense, it’s about heart alignment. Sometimes we pray, “Lord, give me your heart for the lost.” And the truth is, when our hearts are more aligned with His heart, He will. As a result, our hearts will break more for the lost, and we will be more intentional in reaching out to those walking in darkness without hope, without Christ, and without salvation.

So, evangelism is a heart issue!

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

This key verse regarding the witnessing endeavor packs a punch. The prerequisite for what we share and the spirit in which we share is in alignment when Christ is on the throne of our hearts.

Central to God’s redemptive plan in delivering people out of bondage to sin into freedom in Christ is HIS heart to seek out and save the lost.  In Luke 19:10 Jesus said, “…the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”  That’s you and me at one time, and now those people we interact with on a daily basis in the marketplace who have not yet trusted in Jesus.

The parable of the Lost Sheep in Luke 15:1-7 illustrates well the heart of God for the lost:

Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” So He spoke this parable to them, saying:

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”

[Click to view Parable of the Lost Sheep animated]

Here, we see a picture of a shepherd taking initiative to look for a lost sheep, searching until it is found.  Upon finding it he rejoices. This beautiful picture illustrates God as the Initiator who seeks out sinners and the joy He takes in their repentance! Jesus explains in verse 7 that “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”

How about your heart and mine? Are we aligned with God’s heart in His passion for the lost? Are we conscious that people need the Lord? Today, there are people in your sphere of influence and mine that need Jesus and the reality is: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

The Apostle Paul is a prime example of one whose heart beat for the lost. In Romans 10:1, he wrote, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved.”

And earlier in Romans 9:1-3, Paul expressed the intensity of his heartbeat for the salvation of his Jewish people, “I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh…”

Do you hear the intent of his fervor? Can you feel it?

A great place to begin growing our heart for the lost is to simply surrender to the Lord in prayer, committing our witness and evangelistic endeavors to Him. Something along the lines of, “Lord, give me Your heart for the lost and give me the faith to follow where you call me to go.”

Once we’ve set apart Christ as Lord, we will be more apt to go where He calls us to go, do what He calls us to do, and say what He would have us to say with fresh courage and boldness to those with whom He calls us to share!

What does this look like in practice?  What’s the next step for you and for me? I don’t know.  But God does.  Remember, when our hearts are aligned with His, we should follow where He leads, walking by faith.  

When God called Abraham to go in Genesis 12, Abraham followed, leaving behind all he knew for an unknown destination God promised to give him. When Jesus called His first disciples, saying “follow me and I will make you fishers of men,” He didn’t explain what He meant. They simply followed. And when the Lord calls us to go and make disciples of all nations, the “going” looks different for you and for me. Yet the underlying principle of following remains the same, to set apart Christ as Lord.

Wait! Can you hear it…that still small voice? It’s the Lord, and He’s calling us to go. Where? He’ll show us later! For now, just take the next step, a step of faith to follow Him. Remember, it’s a heart thing.