Question: Does a Christian need to earn the right to share the gospel with another person?
Today, I’ve been thinking about a question I have asked and been asked. Does a Christian need to earn the right to share the gospel with another person? This is a one of those important questions which ought not be simply and quickly answered, because there’s more than meets the eye. I hope my answer to this question has improved and deepened over the years.
Answer: No…and yes.
First, the obvious answer to the question is “no.” By faith in Christ, every Christian is called, authorized, and empowered to be an ambassador of Christ. As an extension of His gospel-preaching voice, we implore others to be reconciled to Him. Since Jesus needs no permission to proclaim His truth to the world, neither do we. If it were true that an unbeliever must first grant us permission (assuming that means the person is welcoming the gopsel message), we might never share the gospel with anyone. Every unbeliever is bound up by sin’s power and is, therefore, at enmity with the message of Christ, naturally unwilling to hear it. If we need such a person to first authorize our witnessing, our witnessing is at the mercy of unbelievers. And that simply is not the case. Rather, the “right” to share the gospel has been earned by Jesus and the “right” has been granted by our Father in heaven, who does whatever He pleases.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God2 Corinthians 5:20
However, there is more to this question than meets the eye. When we carefully consider it, the inner heart and sentiment within the question is evident. I don’t believe that anyone really asks this question out of a desire to submit to the permission of other people. Rather, people who ask this question are often displaying a Christ-like sensitivity to others. They know the Gospel is not something we just throw around or shout out at crowds of people. The Gospel is a message which is ministered to the hearts and minds of our hearers. Therefore, it makes sense to consider how we can minister the Gospel in an effective way; and this always involves a thoughtful consideration of our hearers. Who are they? What do they currently believe? How is their need for Christ manifested at this point in their lives? How can I enter this person’s world? How can I understand his need? How can I most articulately bring him Christ and His answers? To see this in Scripture, look no further than the earthly ministry of Jesus (Matt. 9:35-36) or the ministry of Paul (Acts 17). Jesus and Paul discerned the need of the moment, and aimed to strategically bring good news.
Thus, I also think the answer is “yes.” We may not need to earn a right or gain permission to share the gospel, but we should (similarly) consider how we can make the Gospel most understandable, how we can minister the gospel to others. Proverbs 15:2 reminds us, “The lips of the wise make knowledge acceptable.” And I think this reflects the heart of what many Christians are asking when they ask this question about “earning the right to witness.”
But the reality is…
…most of us (myself included) need to get busy sharing the Gospel, whether or not we have a sufficient answer to this question. Most of us have many opportunities to share the Gospel, in which earning the right is not an issue. And yet we often miss or ignore these opportunities. The “earning the right” question is really a fine-tuning question. It’s a question most accurately asked when we want to share the Gospel with someone, but we’re not sure how to speak to or engage them with good news. But again, how many more opportunities do we have right in front of us; opportunities in which we can easily–without significant preparation–bring a Gospel witness? I suggest we take this question to heart, but first get busy for Jesus in the places where God has already cleared the path for evangelism.
Looking for a good book to read on the topic of evangelism?