Some Advice on Evangelism (Part 2)
This is part two of the Pastor’s Perspective. Part one of “Some Advice on Evangelism” ran in the June 4 issue of The First Epistle.
- Don’t tell them everything at once. It takes a whole gospel to make a whole Christian, as the saying goes. But if you are sharing that gospel in the context of a relationship, you do not need to tell them everything in one go, or give equal weight to every component of the gospel message in a single sitting. When I am preaching, it is my aim to proclaim Christ crucified and risen for sinners and saints in every single sermon. But I feel no need to communicate everything about Jesus—his two natures, his preincarnate glory, his heavenly intercession, his active and passive obedience, his coming again as judge… I feel no compulsion to say everything every time. But I want to say enough to display Christ and offer him to needy hearts. Likewise in personal evangelism. You may not be able, or it may not be appropriate to cram everything into a single session—God our creator and sustainer, our first parents’ sin, our fallen and guilty nature, our need for Christ, his person and work, his coming back to judge, the urgent call to repent and believe. Take your time. Start at the beginning. Talk about who God is. Then next time talk about who we are. Then a time or two after that, talk about Jesus. Then talk about what we need to do next.
- Pray. A lot. If evangelism is sowing gospel seed, water it with prayer. Pray before you meet your non-Christian friends. Pray for opportunities at work. Pray for wisdom and patience and boldness and humility and respect and love. Pray for conversions. Pray like a Calvinist—“Lord, take away their hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh. Do for them what you did for Lazarus, and as I tell them about Jesus would you raise them to new life through the gospel?” Pray like you believe that the One on the throne reigns over every human heart and loves to save sinners.
- Listen. Evangelism isn’t listening. It is talking. But relationships require both. And evangelism, if it is to be effective, needs to be guided first by Scripture but also by understanding the questions and concerns and passions and needs of those to whom we communicate. Listen as your friends talk about what matters most to them. Seek to understand their fears and burdens and joys and sorrows. That will not change the gospel message, but it will help you prayerfully apply the good news with tenderness and compassion, aware of the struggles and strengths of those you seek to love with the gospel.
- Bring them to church. Invite people to come and hear the preaching of the Word of God. Try whenever you can to connect your witnessing to the church’s worship. Do not be slow to invite people to your own church. If you sense that they do not understand the gospel at all, chances are they are not hearing it at their own church, if they have one. While we do not claim to have a monopoly on the truth, we do believe that the historic Reformed faith is biblical and true. We ought to want more and more people to know it and love it with us. Our call is not to make converts but to make disciples. For that we need the church. The corporate preaching of the Word of God is the primary means God has ordained for the gathering and perfecting of his elect. Bring them to church.
No doubt much more could be added. But these few thoughts are offered as an exhortation and an encouragement not to back off and conclude that evangelism is someone else’s task.