An Interview on Evangelism with Chris Utley, “JUST” a Local Church Member

This is the third interview in the series on Evangelism. First, there was my missionary friend, Elliot Clark, and you can read his interview here. Second was my good friend and Open Air preacher, Bobby McCreery, and you can read his questions and answers here.

In this interview, my friend Chris Utley is answering the questions. Chris was in Law Enforcement for 16 years, now he works for an insurance company, and is just a layman in the church who makes evangelism a regular part of his life. He has a full time job, a beautiful family, and is active in church like many other Christians. I put just in italics because a lot of people think they can’t be evangelizing because they’re not ministers or missionaries. They’re just Christians who have been saved by an amazing God. If that’s you, I hope you find Chris’s answers encouraging.

Read and be challenged!

Why do you evangelize the lost around you?  

Of course I could provide numerous scripture references, which has already been done in some of the other interviews you have listed, so I won’t be repetitive.  Looking at the issue of evangelism, it’s very clear that we are commanded to do it in scripture.  As the old saying goes, the Great Commission isn’t the “great suggestion”, but a commission or “charge”  or “command” to believers.

In short, I evangelize because, as a believer, I am commanded to do so…but this isn’t the complete “heart” of why I do it and have a passion for it. That rises out of my love for Christ because of Him first loving me and choosing to provide salvation to me, when I did nothing to warrant or deserve that salvation and love.  It’s truly the greatest thing in the world, bar none, and I want to tell others of Christ’s love and the salvation that he offers.  I’ve heard it stated this way by a preacher I heard one time: “if someone gives you a piece of chewing gum, you might thank them for it and then go on about your business and you would never remember that person a month or even years down the road.  However, if someone stepped in front of you and stopped a bullet from piercing your heart…you would remember that person and revere and love them the rest of your life.”

God’s plan of salvation offered through Christ surpasses this last example by light years, and should result in an intense love and devotion to the one who provides that salvation.  If we truly understand our condition before salvation, then we are intensely (only word I can think of to try to communicate this level of thankfulness) thankful to Christ for Him taking God’s wrath in our place.  If we have a good view of ourselves (we’re not that bad…) and don’t see our sin for what it really is in God’s eyes, then we have a smaller view of salvation and it’s not something we feel as excited about sharing with others…which, unfortunately is the result of it not being more common among some.  A true understanding of God’s nature and our nature is important in understanding why others are so excited, for lack of a better term, about evangelism.

What makes you qualified to talk about the Gospel with others?

I am a born again believer and have experienced the grace of God in forgiving me from my sins.  If we are believers, then we are qualified to speak of that which has occurred to us.  If we have been truly born again, a change has taken place in our lives that is tangible and can be easily pointed to and discussed.  I don’t have the background of being a roadie for Metallica or being addicted to drugs, etc., but I was a sinner that was lost and going to hell, and God’s grace saved me and has justified me in God’s eyes.

Although I am still a sinner, the old person was replaced and I have been truly born again with new likes, desires, loves, and devotion to Christ.  If you haven’t experienced that change, please consider whether you are truly born again or are playing a game of religion and checking off boxes of deeds or religious tasks.  I have also dedicated time to studying the scriptures and the Gospel and how to present it accurately to others, which is extremely important.

Why does the average church member often struggle to practice evangelism in their lives?  

They often don’t think that it’s their duty since they’re not a pastor or missionary.  Many people that I am familiar with also don’t feel like they have enough scripture knowledge to share with others…or that they won’t be able to answer their questions.  The average church member has also sat through a lifetime of topical sermons that often don’t address life’s hard questions and don’t link the Gospels together in a way that is easily understandable and communicable.  Therefore, they don’t truly understand the Gospel themselves so can’t accurately communicate it.  This goes back, again, to a proper understanding of scripture and the realization that “I” am not the one who is “saving” anyone when I do evangelism, I am simply being a vehicle for the seed of the Gospel that will either flourish or whither under God’s sovereign hand.  It’s not up to me to be crafty or to try and get a “decision”, I am simply sewing the seed and looking to God for the increase.

You work full time, you have a family, you’re busy. How do you have time to evangelize? What are some of the things you do to proclaim the Gospel?  

It’s very hard to find time, but again I look at God’s sovereignty at play in my life and know that I am not put where I am put for simply “no” reason.  Whether it be at work, social gatherings, church, etc., I am always prepared and willing to do as 1 Peter 3:15 states – “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”.

Too often people think you have to be on a special “mission” to evangelize, and this simply isn’t the case.  In every aspect of our lives we can share the Gospel and tell others why we have the hope and assurance we have.  I find many more instances to do this in daily life than I do when specifically “on mission.” Nothing in our lives, as believers, is “luck” or happenstance, it’s all God’s sovereign hand and we need to be willing and ready to testify to that.

When specifically “on mission”, I travel to Civil War reenactments and portray a Delegate of the U.S. Christian Commission or a Civil War era Chaplain. In this role, I share the Gospel with hundreds of school kids or reenactors, while portraying a historically accurate role of the Delegate or Chaplain.  I find this is a field “white for the harvest” in that many folks involved in these activities are not churched, and do not come from a church background.  I also am able to evangelize school children and even send them home with Biblically solid tracts and even Bibles.

Again, it’s a way I have used my interests and passions to further the Gospel and use the trust and relationships that God has provided me with to further the Gospel mission.  Another way I evangelize is through my not-so-part time online business that I run supplying Civil War reenactment and museum goods.  With each package I ship out, I enclose a Biblically solid tract (What is the Gospel, etc.), so that each person who receives an order also receives a tract.  I have received feedback on these tracts from people who do not have solid churches in their area and have appreciated that resource (the tracts give a link to other study materials).

Not all of us are going to be in church circles every day of the week, nor should we be, if we want to reach others.  Use where God has placed you to further the Gospel, be that work, hobbies, your neighborhood, and even your church.

How does the Bible give you confidence in evangelism?

Simply knowing it’s about God and his sovereignty and I am merely the vehicle to sew the seed of the Gospel.  God provides the increase, if there is increase.  God is not dependent on my slick tongue or presentation (sarcasm there..LOL), but I am glorifying Him by sharing the true Gospel message in whatever imperfect way I might share it.  Be clear and simple.

What could churches be doing to help equip and encourage their members to make evangelism a priority?  

Teaching the Attributes of God clearly, teaching clearly what the Gospel truly is and how it’s not the typical Easter message most churches preach, and encouraging members to have interaction with others who are NOT believers.  If we are always cloistered off with other believers, how are we ever going to reach anyone?  This, of course, requires wisdom, but we have to be good about being around unbelievers so we can share with them.  Being around believers constantly is comfortable for most of us, but the Gospel requires we step out of that comfort zone.  Jesus and the disciples didn’t go off into the mountains and start a commune, they went where the sinners were and shared the Gospel.  This, again, requires wisdom…I have seen “ministries” who go to Sturgis Bike Week or other activities and simply hang out or provide hot dogs and ice water…that’s not sharing the Gospel.  That might be a great humanitarian mission, but in order to evangelize we have to ACTUALLY SHARE THE GOSPEL WITH OTHERS.  Trunk of treat, bounce houses, etc, are all great, but was the Gospel shared??

How do you feed your love and passion for the lost?

By sharing the Gospel with them, and feeling daily grateful to God for saving me.

 

Don’t forget to read the other interviews here and here!

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