Motives For Evangelism -- By: Tom Wells

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 08:2 (Spring 1999)
Article: Motives For Evangelism
Author: Tom Wells


Motives For Evangelism

Tom Wells

Motives are tricky things. There are two pitfalls in looking too closely at them. First, There is the danger of unhealthy introspection. Take the man, for instance, who thinks he has discovered a bit of pride in his heart that he was not previously aware of. How will he react? Well, he might say, “Yes, I can see that it was pride that led me to take the course I took, but at least it’s humble of me to admit it.” C. S. Lewis has told us:

There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves.... The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit...

If Lewis is right—and I think he is—our friend might seem to have good reason to congratulate himself on ferreting out his pride before it poisoned his entire life.

But this kind of introspection is endless. Yes, he was humble in admitting his pride, but then he was more than a little proud of his humility. Of course, he could then humbly admit his second bout with pride and pat himself on the back. But that would call for another rebuke, ad infinitum and ad nauseum. Soon our friend would drown in his obsession with the purity of his motives. Better to have said, “I was proud” and gotten on with it.

The second pitfall is closely related to the first. If we become obsessed with our motives we may be paralyzed into inaction. Our friend above ran that risk. Had he kept up his pursuit, some critic would no doubt have accused him of navel-gazing. And there would have been more than a little truth in the accusation.

In speaking of motives for evangelism
we are speaking to those who want to get
on with the job of telling men about Christ.
They are the people who need to ask
simply, “Why do I want to do this?”
The answers they give to that question
will reveal whether or not their
evangelism is pleasing to God
.

But motives are immensely important. There is a sense in which they are the only things that are important. The Puritan, Richard Sibbes, has been quoted as saying, “God takes the intention for the action.” In other words, if the movement of the heart is right, God is pleased with what we do.

I suppose that someone will remind me of the proverb that says, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” And so it is. But the proverb does not address the same situation we are thinking of. It is a rebuke to those who intend to do nothing now. Tomorrow, Yes; but today, No. In speaking of...

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