Some Advice on Evangelism
This is part one of a two-part Pastor's Perspective. Look for part two in next week's First Epistle.
All Christians ought to share the gospel with those around them, if for no other reason than that we are called to love our neighbors, and what kind of love is it that helps with lesser, temporal needs while assiduously ignoring the greatest and eternal need—the need for Christ? Neighbor-love means, among other things loving the lost with the good news about Jesus. But suppose for a moment that the imperative of evangelism is something you embrace. You believe you must pray and work for opportunities to share the gospel within the context of your own calling and vocation in life, among your unique circle of friends and relations and colleagues. But you nevertheless feel ill equipped to speak for your Lord. How do I do it? Where to start? What do I say? What follows is simply a few random thoughts by way of reply. I claim no special authority for any of them, but they are offered here in the hope that they be of use in helping us overcome the fear-factor, understand our true calling in this area of evangelism, and then to get busy spreading the good news!
1. Know the gospel clearly. Many things are said to be evangelism that aren’t. They are good and useful and important. Building a relationship with a non-Christian isn’t evangelism. Telling your testimony isn’t evangelism. Evangelism is the communication of the evangel, the good news about Jesus for the salvation of sinners. It is the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe (Rom. 1:16). So, we need to have a clear grasp of the good news. That, of course, means we need to understand the bad news. It won’t do to say “Jesus loves you” or “Christ died for you” and think we have shared the gospel. Those statements only make sense, in all their jaw dropping glory, because of our lost, helpless, and guilty condition as sinners before the gaze of a holy and just God. Get the bad news right and then get the good news right. The gospel isn’t, “believe in Jesus and you will be saved.” That is the implication of the gospel; the “so what?” that the gospel now demands. The gospel itself, narrowly understood, is not a demand but a declaration. It is the statement of the great fact of what has been done for sinners in the obedience and blood of Jesus Christ. We are to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ. We are to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. We are to tell people about Jesus—who he is, what he did, and what he came to accomplish. We must offer Jesus to sinners and tell them he purchased forgiveness for all who trust him. Then,after we have explained the gospel indicative, the declaration of fact, we must press the gospel imperative, the demand to repent and believe. There are various resources available to help us get the gospel right. Greg Gilbert has written a short and very accessible book titled, “What is the Gospel?” that I’d strongly recommend. A useful and very easy to learn method for sharing the gospel in outline form is called, “Two Ways to Live” produced by Matthias Media1.
2. Love your neighbor. While loving your neighbor and building friendships isn’t itself evangelism, as I said above, it is an important context for evangelism. Properly understood, evangelism shouldn’t be an exercise in “cold calling” strangers and trying to pressure them into “making a decision.” It should be the natural communication of what is most precious in your life to your friends who, if you have invested yourself well in their lives will care about you enough to respect what matters most to you, even if they disagree. If our friends care most passionately about sports or their children or their careers they will naturally and voluntarily share that passion with you. We ought to take that as permission to do the same and share naturally and without aggression, but winsomely and cheerfully, what matters most to us. People are not evangelistic “targets,” but they are men and women made in the image of God with dignity and beauty and worth, lost and in need of a Savior. We need to take time to get to know our community, our neighbors, our colleagues. Be intentional about building relationships, and in the context of the varied ways in which you will care for them, tell them about your Jesus.
1 See their excellent website which walks through the Two Ways to Live presentation very well: http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl/ A simple search of the Matthias Media website (The US site is http://www.matthiasmedia.com/index.php) will take you to many other outstanding evangelism resources, including Christianity Explored and even a Two Ways to Live app for your smartphone, to help guide you through the presentation of the gospel.