Jesus Christ shed his blood and suffered more than we can imagine to provide a gospel of salvation for people. After rising from the dead, He commanded his followers not only to LIVE THE GOSPEL, but ALSO to preach this gospel to all, and train others to do so. You cannot live the gospel without preaching it. Because Jesus told us to preach it. You need to use words.
There was a Roman Catholic monk who said, "Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary use words." It sounds very spiritual doesn't it? But its a bit like saying, "Care for your family at all times. If necessary give them food." Your family members need food or they will die, and people need the word of the gospel, or they will perish eternally! People are dying for a lack of knowledge, and the knowledge they need is about WHAT JESUS DID and WHY, NOT merely about what a wonderful person you have become or how nice you are.
As human beings we have a tendency to rush from one extreme to the other. I know there is an extreme of obnoxious evangelising from unsanctified people who don't care about anyone except themselves. But at the same time, the nature of the true gospel is confronting, it can offend people and it also assumes that people out there are generally NOT lovers of truth. The Bible bears this out in multiple places. It says that people "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" – NOT that they are basically good people who a decent God would have to accept. The Bible says that true Christians are the aroma of death to those who are perishing.
"To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?"
Evangelism brings you into suffering with Christ. Part of the plan is that you feel some of the rejection that Christ feels. This brings you into a deeper appreciation of God's love, a deeper fellowship with Christ. Of course, it is a joy to us when people hear the word gladly. But we have this idea that if we try to tell someone and they don't like it or don't want to hear, that it means that WE were not "led by the Spirit". This quickly leads to a mentality where we never volunteer the gospel facts to anyone. Instead, we simply wait until people come up to us and ask us what the difference is in our lives, why we are such wonderful people now. And then you know, we might ask them to church so the pastor can explain it. The problem is: what if people never come up to us and tell us what wonderful people we are? Should we conclude that we have then done all our duty in "preaching the gospel to all creation"? That obviously we were not "led by the Spirit" to do any more?
In the Bible, the Holy Spirit was given to stir people up to preach the gospel. The Holy Spirit made the resurrected Christ so real to people that they went out of their comfort zones to take the gospel to the end of the earth. The Holy Spirit was given to EMPOWER people to evangelise.
But nowadays, there is a spirit which some people seem to think is the Holy Spirit, which works to DISCOURAGE people concerning sharing and preaching the gospel. According to the popular concept, unless you are "led by the Spirit" to preach the gospel, you should not attempt it – you will "do more harm than good". This "spirit" though never seems to lead people much into bold evangelism for Christ. This spirit so respects the opinions and sensitivities of others that it never brings to light the brutal spiritual realities that will one day bring the vast majority of mankind down into everlasting destruction. This spirit might drive people into doing works of charity – ideally government financed – where the rules of the game forbid you from mentioning the name of Jesus except as a swear word – for example if a heavy box of second hand worldly novels you are going to sell in your thrift shop accidentally fell on your big toe.
I see this tendency in Australia especially, but we'll probably find it in other places in the world – especially rich, comfortable places where people have a lot of money.
Let me repeat myself: people are dying in their sins. A lot of them do not want to know about it. A lot of them – in Australia especially – are not even so willing to be healed physically by Jesus Christ! For free! Basically, people are wicked and ungrateful. Without God's grace, you are wicked and ungrateful and so am I. So then, we all need to learn the difference between what God's Holy Spirit wants, and what WE want. Let me give you a clue: the Holy Spirit wants people to come to a saving KNOWLEDGE of the truth, and your flesh and my flesh probably doesn't give a rip. But we say, "Oh, I'm just not led by the Spirit". The fundamental dishonesty going on here is why people can be so impossible to move towards obedience to the commandments of Jesus and yet see themselves as spiritual giants at the same time.
I do not doubt that God does lead people supernaturally when it comes to evangelism. But He does it in the lives of people who are generally willing to give it a go most times. The apostle Paul just went out trusting God's sovereignty that he was supposed to be where he was. He did what he could to spread the message he received. He ministered to the sick sometimes with miraculous results, but mostly his message was about the cross and he had something to say about Jesus which a lot of self-righteous Jews were not ready to receive. He was hated and rejected for his preaching in most places, but some did accept and believe the message. Paul wanted to go to Asia once, but the Holy Spirit stopped him. This is true. Paul's general way of being was to go as one who considered himself a debtor both to Greeks and Jews to tell them the gospel. Occasionally he needed fine tuning so he could direct his evangelistic energies in the place God ordained. In that case it was Greece.
God guides moving ships. If you want to stay in a safe harbour and not move, you will miss out on the plan of God for your life. But if this is you, please don't teach Christians by your words and deeds that it is the Holy Spirit who wants this. Please don't teach passivity in the name of Jesus. We are supposed to take action. Jesus gave us something to do.
A lot of us want to be in the religion of Moses. At the Red Sea, Moses said to the people: "Stand still and see the salvation of God". But God said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand and part the Red Sea". To the people God said to "Go forward" and cross the Red Sea.
Moses wanted to pray, but God said, "Why are you crying out to me?" Later on, in the life of Jesus, the disciples said, "Where do we get enough food for all these people? Send them home." Just like us today sometimes. We effectively say to God, "We can't do it, we don't have enough". Jesus said to the disciples: "They do not need to go home. You give them something to it." Today the Lord is saying, "They do not need to go to hell. You give them the bread and water of Life."