I understand there are many obstacles to evangelistic practice; I know this because I’ve used them all as excuses avoid evangelistic opportunities. Given the opposition of the world, my clumsy or even failed attempts, and the challenge of my sinful heart, evangelism seems best left to winsome religious professionals who have silver tongues and the backing of large religious organizations. They just seem so . . . gifted at it. But what is being “gifted at evangelism,” anyway?
When I talk with people who don’t feel “gifted,” I usually hear variations of similar themes: They don’t see fruit, they’re intimidated because they don’t know what to say, or they feel awkward. Some admit they have lost their love for non-Christians.
But we should not let these (frankly) unbiblical values hinder evangelism. We need to rid ourselves of the idea that being gifted at evangelism is to see results. All of us, given certain situations with certain kinds of people, are intimidated by the thought of sharing our faith. Retaining (or regaining) our love for others drives us to the very heart of the gospel.
What is important, what is a Biblical value, is faithfulness in evangelism. Here are four things I’ve found helpful in keeping me faithful in evangelism.
No question: The “fear of man” is the number one roadblock to evangelism. It follows that much of what is taught about evangelism is well-meaning techniques of how to be non-offensive. But the gospel is offensive: For example, when we call people to be reconciled with God, it involves sharing with people that they are sinners, too. So beware of changed language or witnessing techniques that only serve to water down the gospel message. Remember when Paul shared the gospel he didn’t merely receive public scorn, he regularly got put in jail. And it was from jail that Paul asked for prayer that he would be bold with the gospel. If people are offended by the message of the gospel it may be awkward, but awkward truth is better than silence.
Make sure to define the gospel and evangelism correctly. Here are four important working definitions:
- The gospel is a message from God that leads to salvation.
- That message entails exclusive claims about God’s character, our human dilemma before this God, and what Christ has done to resolve the dilemma.
- Salvation, itself, is being reconciled with God.
- Evangelism is teaching this message of reconciliation to non-Christians with the aim to persuade or convert.
Do you know the message through and through? Do you understand what the exclusive claims are? Are you willing to take a stand in a world that hates “exclusive”?
Memorize the outline of God, Man, Christ, Response and the Scripture that goes with it.
Paul said “make the most of every opportunity.” What more can I say? Practice makes perfect? Not to sound like the old sneaker commercial, but just do it. I’ve noticed that evangelism is the spiritual discipline that gets the rustiest the fastest in my life.
Do you long to see those around you know Jesus? Are you praying for gospel opportunities in their lives? Look inside yourself: Is there sin that is preventing you from loving others? Fight for compassion in your life; fight for the ability to see others the way God sees others, not the ways the world sees others.
Living out the gospel in your life commends the gospel—it’s compelling. Make sure the themes of the gospel message are a part of your speech and practice day to day—especially love.
So faithful evangelism is to be bold, be clear, share often, and love much.