This chapter is about evangelism and is written for Christians. It will help you learn about the Biblical basis for evangelism. Later in the chapter we will look at evangelism tools and techniques. Evangelism is a word that conveys many meanings at the same time. We may envision a "hellfire and brimstone" preacher at a tent meeting telling us that we better turn to God or we'll burn in hell. Or we recall a Billy Graham Crusade that we attended in person or saw on TV. Or the word may bring to mind a television personality who shares that God is love and that God wants you to be wealthy, healthy and wise.|
Background and Definitions
But what does this word evangelism really mean and what is its origin? Well, let's start with a definition. Evangelism is the presentation of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit so that others may come to put their trust in God through Him, accepting him as their Savior and serving him as their Lord. The word comes from the Greek noun euangelion which means gospel or good news. The verb form of the word is euangelizesthai which means to preach the gospel or to tell good news. A related Greek word is marturein which means to bear witness. Less frequently used is a third Greek word kerussen or to proclaim used by Paul.
Evangelism in the Early Church
What did this good news mean to the first century church and to the people with whom they shared? They knew the good news concerned the Messianic promises that God would bring salvation to His people, make it available to the gentile world and would be the Sovereign King of all. Luke records that it was in Jesus' hometown of Nazareth that Jesus announced the coming of His kingly rule. "He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was His custom. And He stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, he found the place
where it is written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.' Then He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him, and He began by saying to them, 'Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing'." (Luke 4:16-21)
In this passage we see the careful interaction of the three words we have defined. Jesus, using the written words of the prophet Isaiah, proclaimed the good news of His appearing to the people in the synagogue. They were the ones who then bore witness to what they had
seen. The good news we have in written form, the four gospels that we know as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, came from the first hand accounts of witnesses to the original events.
Many in the synagogue had their doubts about this man who grew up with them. Sometimes the disciples themselves had doubts about who Jesus was. However, Jesus was shown "through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead." (Romans 1:4). This is what His followers witnessed, then they bore witness by proclaiming what they had seen and heard.
The Motivation for Evangelism
But why did they do this? The first reason was that many had been personal witnesses of His resurrection as we have studied in previous chapters (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-8). What would you do if you had witnessed the miracles of Jesus, lived under His teaching, come to
faith and belief in Him only to see Him betrayed and put to death by the very people that brought you up as a child to believe in God? How discouraged, confused and hurt you would be upon hearing the news of His crucifixion. But then, you see Him alive in His glorified body,
So several reasons emerge for the fervor of the disciples as they went bearing witness of Jesus to the world. First, there was the deep and abiding faith that they had for the Lord. They had been witnesses to His claims of kingship of a kingdom that was not of this world.
Then He appears to them after His death in a glorified body! I would be convinced, how about you?
This faith was strengthened after His resurrection when He shared with them the Scriptures which He fulfilled during His life before their eyes (Luke 24:27). Jesus had shared these Scriptures with them during His ministry but the disciples and His other followers did not
understand them until after the resurrection (Luke 9:43-45; 18:31-34; Matthew 16:21,22; 17:11,12).
Secondly, they had a deep and abiding love for the Lord Jesus. We do tend to love those we choose to be with. He cared for them, taught them God's truth and loved them (1 John 4:19). The disciples and other of Jesus' followers wanted to show their love in response to His love by obeying Him. For Jesus said "If anyone loves me, he will obey My teaching" (John 14:23).
Thirdly, it that was God's clear and consistent command to His followers to take the good news out into the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything Jesus has
commanded us to do. This command to His followers and through them to all believers is found recorded for us in the following verses: Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:45-49; and Acts 1:8. We, too, are commanded to show our love for the Lord by obeying this command to share our faith with those with whom we come into contact with.
Fourthly, Jesus promises to be with us to the very end of the age as we carry out this command (Matthew 28:20). Not only that, but He promised to send the Holy Spirit to be with us, to empower us, to be with us (a Divine Blessing in and of itself!) to remind us of Jesus'
words, and to teach us all things (Acts 1:8, John 14:25). Sharing your faith with another person is indeed a scary thing to do by yourself. But these verses promise that the Lord is doing the hard work and we are but His mouthpiece or spokesperson. And at the same time the Holy Spirit is helping us, He has, is and will work in the other person's heart and life to demonstrate their need for a Savior and to draw all men unto Jesus (John 16:8-11; John 12:32; 1 Thessalonians 1:4,5).
The early believers came under heavy persecution for sharing their faith. Many events have transpired since then which hindered the spread of the Gospel in the time since Jesus rose from the dead. Yet people still share their faith and bring others into the kingdom of God. What was it that kept the second and third generation of believers, those who were not first hand witnesses of Christ, witnessing for Him? Why didn't they just say "I believe, therefore I am saved - now leave me alone?" What kept them going through all they experienced? What compels people to share their faith today?
It was God's command to all believers to share their faith then, and to all believers which have preceded us, and it remains the believer's command and commission today. Although we were not witnesses to Jesus' life on earth we have the accounts recorded in the New Testament and, therefore, have a more complete understanding of Jesus words and works than some of the first generation Christians. And we also have the Lord's promise that He will be with us to the very end of the age as we bear witness of Him.
As these reasons motivated the saints of the early church, they should motivate us as well. We have come to faith in the Lord, have come to love Him, want to serve and obey Him and, of course, want to live in His presence and see His power transform lives around us.
Evangelism in the Church Today
Today's church is an evangelistic church and the modern missionary movement that has come from the church is reaching to all corners of the globe. The Church now has more missionaries than at any other time its history. Even believers in the Third World are selling what little they own and moving to distant places to share their faith in Christ. Many Christians give sacrificially to their church's missions outreach so that the number of believers with which they spend eternity will be greater.
However, the status of personal evangelism in America today is another story. Personal evangelism is one person sharing his or her faith with a friend or acquaintance. The church in America today is not fulfilling its mission. There are several reasons for this. One sad but true fact is that within three years of becoming a Christian most believers have no friends who are unbelievers. Another factor is the fear of being rejected by others. And the church at large has not trained its people how to win others to Christ.
How is the world to hear the good news if we don't feel compelled to share it with those around us? After all, how many of us have discussed making an investment in something or other with a close co-worker and yet have never shared the good news of eternal life with
them. Talk about a large dividends, the return on this spiritual investment is out of this world!
One of the saddest facts of church history is the rapid spread of Islam in the years following Mohammed's life. Of the many works on Islam one author put it best. He said that Mohammed was in the marketplace while Christianity was in the monastery. Yet today's
church is retreating to its ever more comfortable sanctuaries while lives and the world are disintegrating around them.
One recent news article entitled "Christian Publishers Count Their Blessings" identifies part of the problem. The article discusses the booming sales of Christian books. One author is quoted as saying "The ministry is reaching people with the message of Jesus Christ. Our
method is retailing." Literature evangelism has certainly reached many lost souls. As Christian books are increasingly found on secularshelves, God's Word goes forth. But the last paragraph states "Devotional and missionary biographies gather dust on the shelves. So do books encouraging self-sacrifice. Baby boomers may have found religion, but they're not about to don sackcloth and ashes.
John Stott contrasts this modern attitude of compliancy with that the attitude of Paul. "Many modern church members regard themselves as being under no obligation to evangelize. On the contrary, if they engage in evangelism at all, they are very pleased with themselves.
They consider that they are conferring a favor upon God. To Paul, however, evangelism was a debt, not a charity." Dr. Stott later continues "We say, 'I am under no obligation; I'm not at all eager; in fact I am ashamed.' Paul said "I am under obligation; I am eager; for I am not ashamed'." (Romans 1:14-16)
One especially worrisome sign is that some believers feel personal evangelism means getting someone to church. There the unbeliever experiences an event (increasingly for the first time because of their lack of prior church exposure) which is at a minimum foreign to him or her and often a little strange to them. Rather than giving spiritual first aid as needed in a timely fashion, we insist on getting them to the spiritual hospital (the church). How much better to be trained in first aid, call for paramedical help if needed and then, when the
patient is stabilized, convey them to the hospital!
But it is another reason which keeps most people from personal evangelism. It is the fear factor. People are afraid to share their faith. The Evil One specializes in fear. Jesus' command to His disciples and to us is to not fear because He is with us, at all times and in all places. Very experienced evangelists will tell you that the feelings of fear never go away. But you only face the fear of rejection from another person. That person has to fear rejection from
God if no one shares their faith with them. Another side of the fear factor is that people are naturally afraid of doing something for which they have not been trained.
Biblical Evangelism - The Framework
So let's learn several basic tips about personal evangelism from one event in the life of Paul. Paul went from a persecutor of the saints to a proclaimer of the truth in a few short moments. As Paul was on the way to Damascus, the Lord Himself confronted Paul in a miraculous vision. The Jesus asked Paul why he was persecuting God! This was obviously confusing to Paul who thought He was doing the Lord's will. So he asked "Who are you Lord?" "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting" was the reply. Talk about a conversion experience! But
it is often those who are most hostile to the sharing of the gospel who are really searching and who are most fervent in their personal witness upon receiving Christ as their Lord and Savior (Acts 26:12-18).
Of most interest to us is the command that Jesus gave Paul (then called Saul) in this vision. The Lord said to Paul "I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of Me and what I will show you." Now this is interesting. Note that
Jesus didn't tell Paul to get his act together spiritually before he could be a witness of Jesus. Note also that Paul's knowledge was incomplete as Jesus had things yet to show him. How often we do not feel called to witness because we don't know enough. Yet sharing our
faith is a faith growing experience. Could Paul have written as much about the Lord the day after the Lord appeared to him? No way. But after years of witness and being confronted by nonbelievers God used him to write a large portion of the New Testament.
Now the Lord also gave Paul some specific commands on how to witness to both his own people, the Jews, and to the Gentiles. "I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive
forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." There are six steps that the Lord told Paul to follow and they are wise words for us in our personal witness.
First, it was by God's command that Paul was sent to them. Likewise it is by God's command that we are sent to reach others. God will always give us the grace to share our faith with other people. But it is wise, in the case of a particular individual, to pray and ask
when His timing would be correct. Now if we are in contact with that individual often, we may sow seeds of faith so that they know what we believe. It could be that they would come to some crisis in their life and seek us out. Possibly a golden opportunity will present itself.
For it is God alone that knows the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). There may be specific instruction from God that you are to know. However, if no special leading is forthcoming we need not wait for a special opportuniy, we can assume that we are to carry out His more general
command to share the gospel with each person and share our faith with those who are near us.
Secondly, we are to open their eyes. Why? Because "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan has blinded the unbelievers to the truth of God. So how can their eyes be opened? In most every case recorded in the four gospels, the healing of a person's blindness was the direct result of prayer. People brought a blind person to Jesus and asked Him to heal the person (Matthew 12:22, Mark 8:22-26). In other cases, the person or persons asked for Jesus' healing of their blindness (Matthew 9:27-31, 20:29-34).
Thirdly, we are to turn the unsaved from darkness to light. We do this by the lives we live (Matthew 5:14-16). It is our good deeds that lead men to praise God. We are exhorted to be careful in how we live and to be wise in the way we act toward outsiders so we can make the
most of any opportunity with them (Ephesians 5:15, Colossians 4:5).
Fourthly, we are to turn them from the power of Satan to God. Satan has one thing to offer - temporary power. With God we are offered His love, power, grace, forgiveness and so much more. And the Lord offers this for all eternity! We turn people away from Satan's
power by sharing the word of God. An example is found in Acts 3:11-20. Note that in verse 19, where Peter shared from God's word, he encouraged the listeners to repent and to turn to God so that their sins might be wiped out and times of refreshing may come from the Lord.
The fifth step, continuing in the example from Acts 3, is that after they turn they will have their sins forgiven. As you engage in evangelism, this is an important immediate truth to share with those who pray with you in repentance, seeking Jesus as their Lord and Savior. People have guilt and the relief God offers is an immediate confirmation that God has heard their prayer and forgiven them.
The sixth and final step is to lead them into the kingdom where they may receive a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Him. As soon as someone repents and turns to God they are given the gift of eternal life. But to help make their calling and election sure
we need to disciple them in the faith, integrate them into the local church and otherwise build them up in the one true faith.
In the first half of this study, we defined the New Testament words used to describe sharing our faith, took a look at the Lord's command to reach the world for Him and with Him, and found a Biblical framework for sharing our faith. Now we will turn to the more practical side, how to do it! How do we share our faith? What do we say? What do we say without sounding preachy? How do we respond to questions that we cannot answer? Are there some materials I could read? There are many other questions which could be asked.
Our main purpose is to drive out the fear factor by providing a brief tutorial in sharing the Christian faith. Remember that a lot of people are afraid to share their faith because they have never been trained. Finally, some additional resources will be listed to help you in your evangelistic endeavors.
The Biblical Process
Evangelism, as we studied in Acts 26, is a process and not a one time event. A person who you share with may reject entirely what you are saying but you have sowed a seed. Many others may have shared their faith with a person but when you talk with them they accept
Christ. The principle here is found in 1 Corinthians 3:7; "So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow."
When Paul spoke to the Corinthians he told them that it was not his superior wisdom or eloquence that was necessary to bring them into the kingdom of God but rather Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Paul further states that he came to them in weakness and fear so that their
faith would rest on God's power and not on men's wisdom. So actually when we have that fear and trembling when we are sharing our faith we are using Paul's proven technique! (see 1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
A very practical guide is given to us in 1 Peter 3:1. The first two verses read "Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives". Although the specific case of wives is mentioned here, the principle is a general one. Our behavior is our first line of witness.
People can tell a lot about us by our behavior. Is your behavior a witness to others that you are a follower of Jesus Christ? In numerous sermons we have probably been asked the question that if we were put on trial for our faith in Christ, would we be a witness for the prosecution or the defense? Many people have been won to the faith by the simple action of a saint who acted in accordance with God's command that we should treat each person as if we were entertaining an angel without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2). The unfortunate fact is that
many Christians stop here in their witnessing efforts.
We live in what some call the age of demandingness. Consumers are more demanding of their suppliers. Parents are demanding of their children. Spouses are demanding of each other. Employees and employers demand more and more from the other. And every one seems to be demanding their rights. It should be easy for a Christian to stand out in this crowd.
How we show ourselves to be different is found in verse 8, which shows us the way to elevate our witness beyond the level of behavior. It says "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with on another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble." To summarize this verse we could say that it is by our love that we witness to others. Jesus said "A new command I give you: Love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35).
We live in a fallen world where many live without hope and in despair. Families are falling apart. Many who come into the church are broken people. It is there that they find the true love of God as mediated by the Holy Spirit to his or her soul and spirit as the people of God show love to their physical being. The world is looking for true, deep love and it is found among God's people.
But we are not to stop with love. Verses 15 and 16 show us the final height of witness. This third step assumes that the other two levels have been reached and are incorporated into the life of the believer. We are then told "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander."
First, we must set apart Christ as Lord in our heart. This speaks of availability to do His will instead of our own. We cannot be so tied up in our own affairs that we never have the time to witness to those who God places in our path.
Secondly, we must be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks to give the reason for the hope that we have. Do people around you know that you have hope? Today, negativism is in vogue. One only needs to read a newspaper to be downcast. But notice that the verse says you are to be ready for those who ask you! In other words, your behavior and your love should make you stand out so that people ask you why you are different. We must know the Word of God to help people at this point. It is not our clever speech or argument that wins souls but the Word of God which He promises will not return to Him void
Thirdly, we must share our faith with gentleness and respect. How many souls will face the eternal judgment of God because a believer shared their faith with a judgemental attitude? We are to "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (Colossians 4:6). We are to speak in such away as to not turn the inquirer off but to season our speech with salt so that they thirst for more.
But What Are We to Say?
Our witness, as we have seen, is to be Biblically based. But few of us can structure a message so that we can convey the gospel of Jesus quickly, accurately and completely. So we rely on resources prepared by others. There are many good materials to read on personal
evangelism. But possibly the most helpful are tracts, which are small booklets, that contain the basics of the gospel message.
There are several advantages gained from using tracts. First, they present the gospel systematically. We can learn the main points and memorize the verses that substantiate the points in order to share our faith. Secondly, we can give the person a copy of the tract to take
with them. This is important so that when they are alone and ready to hear God's message they can do so. Thirdly, the person can also look up the passages in a Bible that they own, just to prove that you are not making these things up!
Several major ministries, including InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, The Navigators, The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Campus Crusade for Christ and Evangelism Explosion have tracts which facilitate sharing the Gospel. Tracts in groups of twenty-five or so can be ordered from these organizations or obtained from your local Christian book store.
Probably the most famous is the "Four Spiritual Laws" booklet published by Campus Crusade for Christ. The main points are easy to share, the verses to illustrate the points are ones you may have already memorized and the booklet points people toward Jesus and the
church and provides some of the basics for Christian growth.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has a booklet entitled "Peace with God." This tool was developed for crusade counselors. It uses a simple diagram of man being separated from God by a deep chasm. This chasm can only be bridged by the cross of Jesus Christ. An
effective way of showing someone how they fall short of what God requires, the diagram is simple enough to draw on any piece of paper should you not have a copy of the booklet handy.
InterVarsity Press publishes a booklet written by John Stott called "Personal Evangelism." While not designed to be handed out, it offers good, short, basic and practical tips on sharing your faith along with a gospel presentation that you can memorize.
Some of the best materials on evangelism, are from Evangelism Explosion. The originator of this gospel presentation is Dr. D. James Kennedy. The materials have been translated into over twenty languages and shared with over 200 million people since this ministry started. Evangelism Explosion, the Coral Ridge Program for Lay Witness is a very comprehensive book on personal evangelism, a detailed gospel presentation and contains many tips and hints that will give you guidance for most situations which arise when you share your faith.
The ministry has recently put a condensed version of their gospel presentation into booklet form. "Do You Know for Sure . . . that you are going to be with God in heaven?" is a companion booklet to the longer gospel outline they use. It is outlined below.
I. If God were to ask you "Why should I let you into My heaven?" what
would you say?
a. I can share with you the BEST NEWS you could ever hear!
b. The Bible tells us how you can KNOW FOR SURE that we can that
you can have eternal life and go to be with God in heaven.
II. The presentation of the gospel
a. Heaven (eternal life)
b. Is a free gift - Romans 6:23b
2. It is not earned or deserved - Ephesians 2:8,9
1. Is a sinner - Romans 3:23
2. Cannot save himself - James 2:10, Matthew 5:48
1. Is merciful - 1 John 4:8b, Jeremiah 31:3b
2. Is just - Exodus 34:7b, Ezekiel 18:4
e. Jesus Christ - the infinite God man
1. Who He is - John 1:1,14
2. What He did - Died on the cross to pay the penalty for our
sin and rose from the grave to purchase a place for us in
heaven - Isaiah 53:6
1. Not mere intellectual assent to historical facts
2. Not just trusting God for the things of this life
3. Saving Faith - Trusting in Jesus alone for salvation and
III. The clarification question; Would you like to receive the gift of
eternal life? Clarify what this means:
a. Transfer trust from your actions to those of Christ which He did
for us on the cross.
b. That you receive the resurrected, living Christ into your life
as Saviour - Revelation 3:20.
c. That you receive Jesus into your life as Lord.
d. That you repent of your sins and turn from them.
IV. Pray that to receive Jesus into your heart Romans 10:10, 13; John
6:47, John 1:12.
V. The next steps
a. Read you Bible daily - One chapter of John per day
b. Spend time in prayer each day
c. Worship in a Bible teaching church
d. Fellowship with other Christians
e. Witness to others - Matthew 10:32,33
Although some say using a "canned approach" is not a Spirit led way to witness, it is a good place to start. Then when you know the basics you can allow God's Holy Spirit to direct you using the tools you know. And besides that, if you think you are using a canned approach, wait until you see the canned answers you get from the unsaved! Most people use the same excuses.
The most significant portion of the Evangelism Explosion training is that you learn on the job by going out to witness to people with a trained evangelist. This is the best advice of all. If you know someone in your church with the gift of evangelism, why not ask them if you can go along to learn? If they don't fall over dead from shock, they most likely will be very happy to have you along!
May God Richly Bless You In Your Witness Until The Whole World Hears!