What is the Motivation for Evangelism?
Oftentimes, when we think about doing evangelism we focus on the when, the how, and the what. But if we aren’t careful, we can leave out the most important factor to consider. This is to step back and ask ourselves this question: What is currently motivating my evangelistic efforts? In today’s post, we will look at a few things about how motivations can and should impact our evangelism as well as how to cultivate the right motivation.
Why Examine Our Motivation for Evangelism?
The first thing to consider is why is it important for us to take the time to examine our motivations for doing evangelism? As believers, we know that evangelism is something we are commanded to do. But as long as we have some idea of how to go about it, why do motivations matter? Well, the simple answer is that motivations are inescapable, and they have a powerful impact on our actions. As human beings, we cannot avoid having motivations for doing things. When we act, we do so for at least one particular reason. Most of the time, our actions are motivated by multiple factors depending on the action in view. Motivations can also be either good or bad.
For example, you may know that going to help serve food at a homeless shelter is a noble effort and certainly in line with a Christian life and witness. So, when your church is doing something like this, you take the opportunity to participate. However, we all know that you could be doing this for any number of reasons: 1) You would feel guilty for not going 2) You want to show Christ’s love for the homeless 3) You feel like this will result in God loving you more.
The first motivation is driven purely by wanting to avoid guilt, but not by love for people or a genuine desire to be a part of the body of Christ reaching out to the community. The second motivation is the result of having a consciousness of God’s love for you and the desire to share this love with others. The third motivation comes from a wrong perspective on how salvation works. This would be a works righteousness or performance-based view of God’s love.
Out of these three motivations, it is the second one which we should ask God to create in our hearts. The need to examine our motivations comes from what Scripture teaches about the need we have to examine our lives. One example of this teaching is found in Ephesians 5:15-17 where Paul says:
Pay careful attention then to how you live—not as unwise people but as wise – making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
Paul says to “pay careful attention” to how we live and that we need to have wisdom to live well in these evil days. This certainly includes understanding our motivations, how to discern whether or not they are in alignment with Godly principles, and asking Him to give us the right motivations. Jesus was right when He said that we cannot do anything apart from Him (John 15:4-5). Our motivations apart from God’s work are corrupted and we are bent towards our own self-centered desires. If we act from these motivations, we are living as if we are the ultimate reference point of our lives and this always leads us astray from our Father.
What is the Right Motivation for Evangelism?
If we know that it is important to regularly examine our motivations for doing evangelism, what is the right motivation? There are many places we could go in Scripture to develop this point, but take this passage from Romans 5:6-8:
For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We see here that Jesus died for those who were living their lives apart from him, “the ungodly”. Paul contrasts human acts of love (a person dying for another “good” person) with God’s love, who died for those who were evil and wanted nothing to do with Him. The point here is that, from a human perspective, it makes sense to think that there are cases when someone will sacrifice themselves for another if that other person is considered good or deserving. But it makes no sense from a human point of view for someone to sacrifice themselves for another person who is considered to be evil or undeserving.
The implication for us as Christians is that we should be motivated by love for those who are living their lives apart from Christ. Our evangelistic efforts should be grounded in God’s great love for the lost. This is how we came to know Him after all! The apostle John put it this way: We love God because He loved us first (1 John 4:19).
How Do We Cultivate This Love?
This love for the lost is not something we have the ability to muster up in ourselves. If we approach things this way, we will always fail (John 15:4). The way we are able to have such a love for the lost in our evangelism comes from God’s work in our hearts; it flows from a life which is living in humble dependence upon His grace.
As we grow to see the depths of His love more and more, His love overflows from us into the lives of the lost people He has placed in our context. So, if you are like me and struggle to love others the way you know you should, take heart! Ask the Lord to create this kind of love for the lost in you as you grow to see the depths and reality of His love. A great place to start is to pray this passage of Scripture on a regular basis:
I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
The next session of our interactive online evangelism course starts March 9th. Check out this evangelism course preview where we preview the motivation for evangelism with more depth.