Everyone who is in Christ, having been reconciled to God through him, has been granted immeasurable spiritual blessings. But this also comes with responsibility: “and has given us the ministry of reconciliation … and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ …” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21, NKJV). All who have been reconciled to God through Christ are expected to give others the same opportunity. This is the God-given ministry of every disciple.
What is Evangelism?
Evangelism is not something we do to people. It is what we do with the gospel (“the good news”). We have no control over how people respond to the gospel, but we do have control over whether or not we make it available to those outside of Christ. The Lord has not given any of us the responsibility of saving souls. That’s his job.
When it comes to evangelizing, stop putting so much unnecessary pressure on yourself. God, through his word, is the one who ultimately saves (Acts 2:47; James 1:21). No matter how smart, eloquent, and knowledgeable you might be, you do not have the inherent power to save anyone. At the same time, no matter how clumsy, inept, and inarticulate you may think you are, God can and will save people through your humble efforts, despite your inadequacies. “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7).
Where To Begin: Attitude
Eliminate excuses. The Lord cannot be obeyed or glorified by coming up with reasons for not doing what he has called us to do. Excuses are unacceptable. Understand that the best way to ensure a lost soul stays lost is to say and do nothing.
Have a realistic understanding of who you are and what your purpose is. The greater burden actually rests on those you are trying to reach and the condition of their hearts. If a person does not genuinely desire to know and obey the Lord, there is very little you can say or do to change that (cf. John 8:47). At the same time, if a person sincerely wants to know the truth and do God’s will, irrespective of how many mistakes you might make in your fallible attempts to communicate, he or she will learn the truth and obey it.
Jesus promised, “seek and you will find” (Matthew 7:7), regardless of how unimpressive the teacher might be. He also said, “If anyone wants to do his will, he shall know concerning the doctrine …” (John 7:17), no matter how awkwardly that doctrine might be presented. He further stated, “you shall know the truth” (John 8:32), irrespective of those who make less-than-perfect attempts to communicate it.
Where To Begin: Initial Approach
Always start with prayer. Jesus (the greatest evangelist) was a man of constant prayer. Although the book of Acts is a record of evangelism and conversions, it is replete with references, examples, and allusions to prayer. What were the acts of the apostles? In their own words, “we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). If you are attempting to do God’s work, shouldn’t you invite God to be involved in it?
Be yourself. If you try to mimic someone else’s approach or recite a memorized sales pitch, you may come across fake and insincere. Develop an approach you’re comfortable with and that works best for you.
Be transparent. People appreciate and are more receptive to sincerity and honesty. If you’re nervous, acknowledge it. If you don’t know how to answer a question, admit it. If your aim is to share your faith, don’t try to hide it. Never be deceptive, pushy, or manipulative.
Always be mindful of your immediate goal: introducing this person to the word of God. While the ultimate goal is to “make disciples” (Matthew 28:18-20), this can only be accomplished one soul at a time. If someone is not engaged in Bible study, there can be no genuine conversion (John 8:31-32, 51). With this goal in the back of your mind, it is not the purpose of your spiritual conversations to declare the whole counsel of God or to win an argument or even to answer questions.
Let the Bible do the teaching. No matter what you attempt to convey verbally, it can never replace God’s inspired word. Even if what you say is the truth, it will be no more convincing than what anyone else might say without scriptural confirmation. You are simply a guide, pointing to the scriptures for the answers and instruction.
The aim of your conversations is to develop the person’s interest in studying the Bible, and the best approach is to simply ask questions with that purpose in mind. “Tell me about your spiritual journey.” “What do you think about God?” “What do you know about the Bible?” If you get stumped and can’t think of what to say next, just blurt it out: “I’d really like to study the Bible with you.” You may be surprised at how many doors of opportunity are opened that would be missed otherwise.
While we should surely give attention to developing effective evangelistic techniques, tools, and strategies, at the end of the day these things are a means to an end but in and of themselves do not save anyone. The results of evangelism are not up to you. What is in your control is what you do with the word of reconciliation that has been placed in your hands. “But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak …” (1 Thessalonians 2:4).
Kevin L. Moore