How can I get better at evangelism? As a pastor I love this question. It comes from a heart that understands the priority of the great commission while also feeling the conviction for unfaithfulness to it. When I think through evangelism and the privileged responsibility to boast in Christ, there are two primary areas that I have had success focusing on: savoring Christ and slaying self.
We talk about what we love. Whatever has our heart also has our mouths. You might say, “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks”. Therefore, if we want to change the content of what we are saying we must fill our heart with something different. In other words, if we want to boast in Christ then we must find ourselves increasingly impressed with Christ!
Do you remember when you were a new Christian? Did anyone honestly have to tell you to tell others about Jesus? Of course not. It was a natural as breathing. Nobody could keep you quiet. Why is this? It is because your heart was filled with the joy of the new birth. The burden of sin was so freshly removed, the cross was so vividly in view, and the promises of God so freshly adorned your formerly hopeless mind. Evangelism was a reflex.
Faithful evangelism is so crucial to the health of a church. The gospel that is grasped is given away. Most Christians agree and even want to see this happen but often struggle with implementing it in their lives. In this post I want to provide a few practical, immediate things that you can do to foster more evangelistic faithfulness.
Grapple with the Great Commission. Read Matthew 28:18-20 again. Who is in the passage? Jesus and his disciples. What are the disciples to do? Make and train disciples. What do they train them on? Obedience to Jesus’ commands. Does this “Great Commission” fall in the category of a command from King Jesus? Yes. Are you going to obey Jesus?
Identify 3-4 people for encouragement and accountability. Think of a few people who you know from church that you know will pray for you, keep you accountable, and are bold enough to exhort you if you go into default chicken mode. Get together as friends (ideally 3-4 people) and identify unbelievers that you know, have contact with or would like to see come to Christ. Consider neighbors, coworkers, family members, people you see frequently, or even places where random people are that you can talk to (i.e. public transit). Write down the names, make a plan for gospel opportunities, and then pray for one another. Follow up periodically for encouragement and accountability. Consider what this looks like if it multiples: groups of 3-4 praying for and pursuing 9-12 people turns into 15-20 …
Recently I’ve been thinking about the power of the gospel. As I do, I’ve been critiquing my own heart, “Do I really believe this?”
Remember, apart from Christ, humanity is not afflicted with a case of the spiritual sniffles, but rather is spiritually dead, utterly unresponsive to the things of God. Ephesians reminds us of this vividly:
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
So what are you, the evangelist, the Christian, to do? Talk to people about Jesus. The power is neither in you nor the sinner, but in the gospel!
Sometimes we may get caught in a bit of a trap of thinking about God simply in broad, non-precise terms. For example, we may think and pray about how God has saved us from our sins and promises to bring us to dwell with him forever.
This is a beautiful and infinitely glorious truth! But there is more.
As Christians when we think of God we think in Trinitarian terms. There is one God, one being that is God. At the same time, within the one being that is God there are distinct, coequal, coeternal persons. The distinct persons are: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father sent the Son. Jesus, the Son, lived and died for us, purchasing our redemption. The Holy Spirit was sent to apply what the Son has accomplished according to the what the Father has decreed. Look, you just went from a “Costco sample sized” prayer or theological thought to a 48 oz ribeye!
If you are attending The Gospel Coalition conference in Orlando next week you may want to make plans to attend this panel discussion and Q & A on Evangelism that I will be sitting on.
I have found that when Christians make a point to talk about evangelism there is usually something that I can take away that is very helpful and immediately applicable. I would anticipate the same from this meeting. Plan to join Tim, Rebecca, Rico, and me from 8-8:55am in Wekiwa 3-5 on Wednesday April 15th.
There is more information available here.
Friends are valuable. They share life’s joys, disappointments, and hopes with us. They come to weddings, birthdays, hospitals, and funerals. Between friends there is straight talk and no barriers; there is trust and transparency; there is giving and getting. Friends share what’s on their mind and most important to them.
One of my favorite narratives is the story of Philip and Nathanael. This story depicts a good friend doing what good friends should do. Jesus came to Galilee and found Philip. When he found him he told him, “Follow me.” (Jn. 1.43) Being persuaded that Jesus was the Messiah he promptly did something that is both logical and instructive: he went and told his friend:
“Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”” (John 1:45)
Philip, being convinced of who Jesus was, went to his friend Nathanael and told him all about him. This is the same thing that Andrew did for his brother Simon Peter after he was called to follow Jesus. In remarkable brevity we read in verse 42 about how Andrew served Peter: “He brought him to Jesus.”
This just makes sense, doesn’t it? Once we have realized, truly realized who Jesus is then we have to, we must tell other people who he is and what he’s done. We cannot simply look at Jesus, accept his claims, lean upon his promises, cling to his work, hope in his …
Why don’t people heartily engage in mission?
This is not a new question and I won’t propose any new answers. However, the question remains important to ask and answer. When I say “mission” I mean the mission of the church, specifically, the making and training of disciples (Mt. 28.19-21).
Why is there disengagement with and ambivalence towards mission? The answer is simple: selfishness. Selfish people do not give themselves away for the purpose of others. Selfish people do not serve, they want to be served. Selfish people will not open their homes, mouths, or lives for the sake of others. The enemy of mission is me.
This reminds me of a powerful verse in the back third of our Bibles. The Apostle John writes 3rd John to commend the church towards a gospel-driven hospitality. A “gospel-tality” if you will. He does this by highlighting the faithfulness of Gaius and Demetrius in contrast to the mission-sabotaging rebellion of Diotrephes. He could also be known as “me first guy.”
But we do not fight this war, this spiritual battle on our own. We fight it together with other Christians in the church and under the leadership and command of Christ. And we fight it with powerful weapons that God has provided for us. Prayer connects us with the unlimited resources of our Father in Heaven.
In evangelism we clearly see the need for prayer for this spiritual battle. When we read the Bible we see that prayer and evangelism are inextricably linked. This is because prayer fuels mission. Evangelism is a spiritual work, so we must pray for the Holy Spirit to open doors and hearts.
But how do we pray for evangelism? What do we pray for?
“It’s not that complicated.” How many times have you said this to someone? How many times has someone said it to you? If we’re honest–too many to count (on both accounts). Our ability to overthink and over-complicate our tasks is like spam for our productivity. Consider how free you feel when a task is simplified, steps are outlined, and a plan is in place.
Let’s remember that our clutter is not limited to the task lists of business or the home. We often overcomplicate our most basic responsibilities as a Christian. Consider evangelism for example. Here are some of the things we say and do to complicate this:
Go ahead and think about the person whom you think is the most unlikely to become a Christian. Now, ask yourself why you think this. Odds are you are looking at the way they order their life and in particular their blatant distaste and disregard for God. But you need to correct this thinking. It’s unbiblical to look at what you have to work with and think, “I could see them becoming a Christian” or “There is no way they could become a Christian.” In both cases grace is neglected.
Let me give you an example. In Acts chapter 6 we read: ”And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7)
Let that sink in.