7: Evangelism

IN THIS CHAPTER

Followers of Christ must be ready to give an answer for what they believe, why they live a certain way, and for how they face difficulties with hope. This chapter focuses on evangelism within the context of the military society. You are free to express your beliefs while in uniform, but work place conversations should give no perception of requiring subordinate agreement or implying government endorsement (establishment). Religious expression by military members is protected by the First Amendment under most circumstances.

HANDLING GOOD NEWS

Evangelism refers to sharing the good news (gospel) of God’s work through His Son Jesus Christ. As Paul said, “that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19). It is not an attempt to force someone to agree with you, or to impose your understanding of truth; nor is evangelism coercion. It is simply attempting to explain what the Bible teaches about who God is, what He has done through His Son Jesus Christ, and what is yet to come.

The Son of God has always existed, He who took on flesh, lived a sinless life, and was crucified, buried, and resurrected as foretold by the prophets. He is the substitutionary payment for sin, giving His righteousness to believers so we have peace with God. Living out the gospel requires wisdom, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience … ” (1 Peter 3:15-16).

Military leaders must discern between ordinary interpersonal conversations versus unprofessional attempts to persuade toward a particular viewpoint. You have the same First Amendment rights as every other citizen of the United States, but you must be particularly careful if you are senior to the listener so that you avoid a perception of coercion or endorsement of a particular religious view. Christians faithfully proclaim the truth about who Christ claimed to be, what He did, and how He proved His claims. However, sharing this truth must be handled appropriately whether a military member is in uniform, is exercising military authority, or is out of uniform and exercising no authority over the person in the conversation. 

You have freedom to answer questions posed to you. Be ready to explain why you behave in certain ways, speak in certain fashions, and hold Biblical beliefs when you are asked. You make Christ known in your words and actions, so be ready to share spiritual truths at appropriate times while remembering it is OK to remain silent at other times (1 Thessalonians 2:8). You will constantly grow in discerning when to speak, when to act, and when to be silent as you share your life with others.

A LIVING WITNESS

If you are going to talk a Christian talk, then you must also walk the walk. Let your life be a witness of Christ. Be a leader of integrity who is known for competent, uncomplaining, diligent, trustworthy work. Guard your language and consider how and where and with whom you spend your free time. Go above and beyond the call of duty—and not just at work. Allow Christ to shine in your family by being a humble spouse and parent.

If single, fill your social time with good friends, healthy recreation, fellowship, Bible study, and things that build up. Coworkers, peers, and subordinates are watching you, so your life provides a profound witness to those who do not yet know eternal hope through Jesus Christ. 

Invest and serve in a local church or chapel. If we are going to serve as Christ’s ambassadors to our segment of the military, it is good to have the support of a local body of believers. Your participation in a local church or chapel service gives you the opportunity to invite others to join you for church activities or worship services.

When asked about what you believe, why you make certain decisions, or how you prioritize, you are free to give truthful answers about why you are the way you are. You can express the confidence you have in who God is. This makes your faith in Christ visible. If a coworker or acquaintance shares a concern that lends itself to prayer, it is OK to ask them if you might be able to pray for them. It may be best to pray right away so you don’t forget. As your rank changes, and as you exercise more authority, you will need to stay abreast of the rules and regulations governing the contexts in which it is appropriate to share your faith.

We are to be both bold and wise in proclaiming life through Christ, not casting that which is precious in the wrong place, and not trying to manipulate anyone toward faith (Matthew 7:6).

Being a witness for Christ may be positively received by coworkers and neighbors, since not everyone is hostile to religious expression. While these folks might respect your perspective and faith, others will oppose the ethics and personal choices you make. Some will attack you because you do not gladly embrace their ethics, morals, or choices. The irony of our post-truth environment is that nearly every expressed religious belief will be accepted by those around you except for those beliefs aligned with a monotheistic belief such as Christianity.

Our response to opposition and hostility is patience and gentleness, confident that it is God who gives “repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).