Root urges Christians to pursue evangelism

Only 52 percent of Christians profess to sharing their faith with unbelievers, according to an article published last year by Barna Group, an organization well-known for its religious surveys.

Professor Jerry Root from Wheaton College addressed the lack of Christian participation in chapel last Thursday: “If God answered every prayer you prayed this week, would there be anyone new in the kingdom?”

Root urged John Brown University to pray with fervor for non-Christians.

The professor has read the Bible over 40 times and is convinced that every word is from God. Yet he used to wonder why God opened the biblical book of 1 Chronicles with 12 chapters of names.

“God didn’t give us much,” Root said, mentioning that while Oxford’s library expands to 120 miles of books, God, in all his omniscience, chose to fill only a slim volume with messages for humanity.

Why, Root asked, when God chose to write the world only a very little, did he decide to include 12 chapters of names in the bible.

God answered by showing Root his great love for mankind, a love that, Root said, should fuel the Christian’s outreach to the world.

He now identifies the opening 12 chapters of 1 Chronicles as evidence of God’s deep affection for humanity.

“God loves people,” Root said. “Every one of them. I can imagine God saying, ‘Oh, Jerry, if you could have known Sarah, if you could have known Simeon. If you could have known, if you could have seen, if you could have understood.’ ”

Understanding the depth of those chapters challenged him to join in Christ’s passion, Root said.

“When I read those names, I know a God who delights in people,” Root said, his gaze fixed and intent. “And when I read of those, I want to delight in those people too.”

Many Christians refuse to share their faith out of embarrassment or a lack of answers to hard questions, Root said. His reply to this hesitation is that understanding God’s love for humanity gives Christians the confidence to share despite their lack of answers.

Root relayed how he responds to difficult questions non-Christians ask by saying, “I don’t have the answer to that question, but if that’s the only thing keeping you from faith, I’ll do whatever I can to upturn every stone before finding the answer.”

Assistant Professor of biblical studies Jason Lanker stressed the importance of living as witnesses of Christ’s goodness.

“The reason why evangelism is often so dry and makes us feel so guilty is because very few of us have seen the king at work,” Lanker said. “All that we’ve heard is people turning stories down to us.”

Lanker agreed with Root that experiencing the love of God first hand is the key to evangelism. He urged Christians to work daily to know that love so that their own stories might penetrate the hearts of non-Christians.

“Evangelists change the world because they go as witnesses,” Lanker said.

“If Christians could really start being disciples of Jesus, like Jesus, if we started more regularly dying, taking up our crosses daily and following him instead of our great plans and great ideas, we might actually see more of God’s kingdom invading our world,” Lanker said.

“And as we do, we’d be filled with great stories. Stories that we can witness to because we’ve become martyrs, and we long to run back to our families, and we long to run back to our schools, and to our friends and say, ‘you’ll never believe what the king did.’ ”