Mindset matters with regard to whatever we seek to do. This is especially the case with evangelism. Most believers experience much difficulty engaging in evangelism. Sadly, we often make it harder than it needs to be. Far worse, however, is when we adopt a frame of mind that damages our evangelistic attempts. In our current context, the culture war comes to mind as something that can hinder our evangelism. How so? Surely it is right to oppose the onslaught of evil in our culture, right? Most certainly. The problem, however, is when the believer forgets the kind of war in which we are engaged. We wage a three-front spiritual war. Consider the following passages.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens.[1] (Ephesians 6:12)

For although we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh, since the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and exiles to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against the soul. (1 Peter 2:11)

Each of these passages emphasizes a different aspect of spiritual war. Aggregately, they teach us that our war is against demonic forces, fallen human ideologies, and our own personal sin. The enemy is not something you can make bleed with the physical blows of regular warfare. Instead, we wage this war by shining the light of the gospel in the dark places. The nature of the war makes it to where those we preach to will not always be grateful recipients. Additionally, our own sin works against us as we are quick to anger and hypocrisy.

The culture war tempts us to think of the lost as enemies to be opposed rather than blind captives in need of emancipation.

These factors are negatively magnified by the culture warrior mindset. The culture war tempts us to think of the lost as enemies to be opposed rather than blind captives in need of emancipation. Additionally, we are tempted to look at their sin with such anger and disgust while forgetting our own daily failures against sin. Unbelievers are unregenerate, so of course they live enslaved to sin. In contrast, we are regenerate, which should cause trepidation in our hearts whenever we are tempted to look upon the lost as if they are nothing more than moral garbage. We may claim that we seek their salvation, but if we constantly burn with anger against them and rarely preach the gospel to them, then we make our heart’s actual posture quite evident. Such a mindset deserves no mental real estate, for it kills faithful evangelism. It fails to shine the light of the gospel in dark places.

Some of us might be able to resist this angry spirit, but its sister temperament must also be contended with—impatience. There is often the expectation in evangelism that the listener will repent and believe right away. When this does not immediately happen, our impatience causes us quickly to withdraw from gospel engagement. Instead, we declare them a lost cause doomed to judgment, and we wash our hands of them.

This is not the way, brothers and sisters. The Scriptures give us much more faithful examples. Consider Paul. Consider the culture war of his day. It is hard for us to imagine the great wickedness of the Gentiles in the Roman Empire. Abortion, infanticide, slavery, sexual trafficking, idolatry, concubinage, pedophilia, caste-based sexual exploitation, and homosexuality were cultural norms. Roman taxation and colonial expansion were the epitome of injustice. Amid this culture, the early church preached the gospel. As they did so, persecution was common. Paul was very often the punching bag for such hostility (2 Corinthians 11:26). The culture hated the truth and its messengers, and yet the manner in which the early church pursued the Great Commission was above reproach. They were so committed to getting the gospel to the lost that Luke could say every resident in Asia heard the gospel (Acts 19:10). The hostile and morally depraved culture did not slow down soul-winning evangelism.

When Paul returned to Jerusalem, the hostility multiplied exponentially. In Acts 21:26, a false report about him led to a riot in which he was nearly killed. This led to his subsequent detainment by the Romans and an attempted assassination from his own people. Paul’s troubles only continued as he was held as a prisoner by a governor that knew he was innocent. Governor Felix wanted a bribe (Acts 24:26). When he moved on and was replaced by governor Festus, Paul opted for his right to a trial by Caesar. Festus called Herod Agrippa II to help him understand Paul’s case. In Acts 26, Paul appears before the Roman governor and Agrippa. They arrived in full pomp and circumstance, showcasing their riches earned from corruption.

Rather than respond in anger and frustration, Paul preached the gospel. Acts 26 records a gospel presentation that was bold and earnest, yet not hostile. At one point the Roman accuses Paul of being insane, and yet Paul respectfully asserts that his words are rational (Acts 26:24–25). He then turns his attention to Agrippa II and endears him to believe in Jesus. Agrippa then pushes back (vv. 28). He says, “Are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily?” Agrippa’s word “easily,” or ὀλίγος, means with a small amount of effort or time. In other words, he is asking Paul if he really expects to convert him with a single presentation of the gospel.

If Paul exhibited the attitude prevalent among many culture warriors, then he would have washed his hands of Agrippa. Paul’s response, however, is nothing of the sort. In verse 29, Paul responds, “I wish before God, that whether easily or with difficulty, not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am—except for these chains.” The word “easily” means here what it meant in verse 28. The word “difficulty” means the opposite. Paul’s response then is a declared commitment that whether short or long, whether little effort or much, he would put in whatever work is necessary to bring them to Christ.

Such evangelism is patient. It views these people as image bearers of God in desperate need of salvation. It fails to treat them like projects, but instead deals with them as people. These are the very people that kept Paul in chains. Even though they are enemies and promoted the cultural evils of the day, Paul loves them and seeks their salvation. He is willing to tell them the gospel as many times as they will listen. He is willing for it to take a very long time if needs be. Additionally, his tone is respectful the whole time. His heart is on his sleeve. He wants them to be saved but without his chains of suffering. This is what love looks like. It is other-focused. It is patient and kind. And if evangelism is done correctly, it will look like this. It will resist a warmongering posture against the lost. Instead, it will wage the three-front war properly. Our battle is against demons, ideas, and our own sin. Therefore, we will seek to set people free from their slavery to all three of these enemies. We will do so as concerned and sympathetic missionaries. As thirsty people who have found the river of living water, we will show other thirsty people where to find the life-giving drink. Even if they resist, we will persist in love because we too once were lost, but now our chains are gone. May we evangelize with all of this in mind. Method definitely matters, but mindset matters even more. Let us adopt the biblical mindset. May it be so.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all passages will be from the Christian Standard Bible, (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2020).