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.
So what do you do? You need to revisit the worth and work of Jesus Christ. John Owen had it right: “On Christ’s glory I would fix all my thoughts and desires, and the more I see of the glory of Christ, the more the painted beauties of this world will wither in my eyes and I will be more and more crucified to this world.”
Consider anew the matchless beauty, love, holiness, and compassion of your Savior. See him again touch the leper and heal him, while remembering how he has cleansed you from your sin. Think often of the blind man and how Jesus gave sight, then remember how he has given you spiritual eyes to behold him in love instead of hatred. Revisit the raging sea of Galilee and watch him calm it with a word, then remember how he has calmed the raging and relentless waves of your conscience with the word of his grace. Behold him feeding the multitude out of simple elements and remember that he daily sustains you with his wonderful words of grace. Behold him again on the cross praying for and inviting sinners who are fast bound in sin, and remember that he has graciously called you to do the same. Dear Christian brothers and sisters: savor Christ by beholding his worth and work.
As Christians we have a taste of heaven with the abiding presence of sin. We love the king but we also love ourselves. So, what do we do? We are to put self to death. This is not in the physical sense of course but in the spiritual sense. We are to slay (kill, crucify, put to death, or the old word: mortify) sin.
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5)
“For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13)
The Apostle Paul, himself a faithful evangelist who struggled with boldness (cf. Eph.6.19), made the powerful distinction: either you are a slave of Christ or of man—you can’t be both.
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)
So often we cling to excuses of evangelism that sound good: we don’t know what to say, we are afraid that someone is going to be hostile towards us, or we don’t know how to answer questions. However, the issue for so many of us is not education or protection but rather selfishness. We love ourselves. We worship ourselves. We would hate to have anyone look at us crookedly, make sport of us, or perhaps suffer the consequences of living faithfully for Jesus in this world.
We must remember that the issue of fear of man, selfishness, or self-worship, is not strictly an evangelism problem. This is the same issue for all of our Christian lives. We disobey God’s word in other areas because we fear man rather than God (cf. Rom. 3.18 for the summary of what sin is). So, we need to get this worked out whether we are talking about evangelism or being a better husband, student, or friend. We need to get to work on slaying self.
The good news here is that savoring Christ leads to slaying self. When we behold the beauty, greatness, and unrivaled glory of Christ we want to put everything else in our lives, that does not conform to this, to death. This is what we see in Colossians 3. In light of the first 2 chapters painting the picture of the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus we are told to savor him then slay sin:
Savor Christ: ”If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)
Slay Sin: ”Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices” (Colossians 3:5-9; See also Hebrews 12:1-2).
If you or your church are looking for evangelism training you may find this curriculum helpful: Gospel-Shaped Outreach
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