Are you ready to tell someone about Jesus? How can you be prepared? In this highly practical short talk, Matt Smethurst—author of Before You Open Your Bible and a forthcoming companion book, Before You Share Your Faith—outlines seven tips for becoming “evangelism ready.”
“The greatest obstacle to evangelism is not unbelievers,” Smethurst says. “The greatest obstacle to evangelism is Christians who don’t share the gospel.”
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Matt Smethurst: Telling others about Jesus is one of the most important and yet downright daunting things that we’re called to do. I want to talk with you about how to get prepared to share your faith. seven ways to be evangelism ready. We’ll dive right in, number one, grasp the gospel, grasp the gospel. The reason this is first on the list is because without it, there is no list. You can’t do evangelism. If you don’t understand the evangel, the good news of Christianity. And in order to grasp it, you have to understand the significance of this little word news.
This is one of the things that separates Christianity from every other major religion, because Christianity is not fundamentally unethical code. Good advice. No, it’s first and foremost, an announcement of good news. You don’t need to go to seminary to grasp it. You don’t need to be in ministry to grasp it. You don’t even need to have been a Christian for five minutes in order to grasp the gospel well enough to convey it to someone else.
All you need to understand is that 2000 years ago, an invasion took place. Heaven came to earth in the person of King Jesus, in the future broke into the present in the kingdom that he inaugurated. And for 33 years, Jesus walked the earth and lived in perfect obedience to His father. In other words, he lived the life that we have all failed to live. And then he went to the cross, and he died the death that we deserved to die. On the cross he was treated as if he had lived our sinful life, so that through faith, we could be treated as if we had lived his perfect life.
After dying as a substitute in the place of sinners. Three days later, he got up from the dead, he rose in triumph, so that everyone who turns from their rebellion and trusts and treasures him will one day rise along with him rise up in newness of resurrection life on a resurrected Earth. Ring join him forever as kings and queens of the universe. Of course, there’s more we could say about the gospel, it’s going to take us all of eternity, to plumb its depths and riches.
But you can be ready to share your faith when you grasp the beautiful simplicity of this great news of what God has accomplished. for sinners like us, in Jesus Christ, grasp the gospel.
Number two, check your context, check your context, in order to share your faith effectively, you’ve got to know your audience. Now on one level, we should be careful not to over emphasize our differences, because the common denominator that unites us all, regardless of culture, or language, or background, is that of being made in the image of God and having turned away from him in rebellion and needing a rescue.
But we also shouldn’t, under emphasize our differences, our cultural differences, as if they have no bearing on how people hear and understand the message we proclaim. In the modern West, just a few decades ago, you could pretty much assume that the person you were talking to was coming into the conversation furnish, they had a category for a creator god for, for sin, as as rebellion against that God for life, after death, in heaven, and so on.
But increasingly, today, in a secular post Christian age, we cannot assume such basic knowledge and those we’re trying to reach. So we need to take care to to listen well and to lean in to climb into the other person’s experience and their their view of the world, the way they inhabit it, so that we don’t waste our time throwing out terms, even biblical terms, that they’re just going to misunderstand, unless we define them.
God loves you is great news, but it’s meaningless if you don’t understand who God is. You are a sinner is true. But it won’t make sense if you don’t have any understanding of what sin is. You need a Savior is the greatest news of all, not just that you need one but that there is one offered to you, but that’s not goingto resonate if you don’t understand what you need to be saved from.
And we also need to be prepared not just to answer people’s questions, but also to question people’s answers. Everyone you encounter has some vision of the good life and how to achieve it. It’s been said that people are not so much on truth quests, as they are on happiness quests. But as Christians, we know that happiness is only and ultimately found in the one who said I am the way, the truth and the life.
So the goal in studying a given cultures, values and hopes and fears and idols is not to be hip. It’s not to make the message cool it is to make the message clear. Check your context. Number three, love the last. Love the last writing to the Thessalonians the Apostle Paul said, We loved you so much. We were delighted to share with you not only the gospel, but our lives as well.
Loving the last person makes practical sense because they’re not going to trust you enough to really hear you unless they sense that you care. Otherwise there will just be static in your effort to communicate to establish a connection. It can be dangerously easy if we’re honest to treat gospel conversations and the topic of evangelism in general is just a box to check at worst bullet point to put on our spiritual resume in order to be impressive to God or to others. But that’s just relationally foolish and likely counterproductive. And yet loving the last is far more than just a practical strategy. It is a litmus test of whether you know the god you profess.
At the outset of one of the most famous chapters in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, Paul could not have been clearer. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love. I am a noisy Gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, in other words, if I’m the greatest preacher around, and if I understand all mysteries and all knowledge, if I’m the brightest theologian, and if I have mountain moving faith and give away all I have if I’m the most socially conscious Christian activist in a generation, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, even if an anti christian terrorist puts a knife to my throat, and I don’t flinch, if I don’t have love, I gain nothing. I am nothing. Who in your life right now? Do you love enough to communicate this news to to introduce this person, Jesus Christ to the only news, the only person that can rescue them?
Love the last number for mind your manners, mind your manners. We live in an age of outrage where the temperature it seems on every conversation and debate is set to blazing hot and your gospel witness will be ineffective and counterproductive to the cause of Christ. If you are conforming to the pattern of this world by feeding the perpetual outrage machine. There’s a kind of approach to evangelism that effectively goes like this. I’m right, you’re wrong. And I would love to tell you about it. That might make you feel courageous. But that is far from Christian. Well, I’m just a truth teller. I love people sure, but the way I love them is by speaking the truth. Friend, scripture never says speaking the truth is love.
It says we must speak the truth in love. Which means that your posture, your manner, the way you communicate, this news is deeply important. You will either adorn and beautify the gospel, or you will undermine it and make it a lot harder for the next Christian who tries to share with that person. We need to speak to others as if we remember what it was like to be lost and hopeless to in an age of outrage. countercultural message must be accompanied by a countercultural tone, mind your manners.
Number five, face your fear, face your fear. It’s no secret that one of the main reasons Christians don’t share their faith is that they’re crippled by a fear sometimes it’s the fear of a painfully awkward encounter. Sometimes it’s the fear of outright rejection or embarrassment. Sometimes it’s the fear of just feeling really unequipped not having a ready answer for a skeptics, objection, the list goes on. But here’s the deal. If you wait for your fears to evaporate, before you share your faith, you will never share your faith. When the moment finally arrives, and you see the cracked door, opportunity to the gospel, and you start to get that that pit in your stomach and your heart starts to race, and you worry that your your voice is going to sound shaky, that is not the moment to escape. It’s not the moment to delay and kick the can down the road and say, not me. Not now, maybe some other time, maybe another Christian can reach them. No, it is the time to say, fear. You are real. You are with me. I haven’t shaken you, and you are powerful.
But fear, you are not omnipotent. You are not my king. And it’s time it’s the time to lean in on the Lord and to take a step of faith. Some of you didn’t grow up in Christian homes. Imagine if the person who first shared the gospel with you had that mentality where they were paralyzed by their fear. And they said, Well, I’m not equipped enough. I can’t do this. I maybe some other time, maybe some other person. Where might you be today? You know what I’ve learned over the years, honestly, as I have stumbled along as a inconsistent, imperfect, often lousy evangelist. I’ve learned that almost always. It goes better than I feared. Almost always the conversation with the last person whether it’s a friend, or whether it’s a stranger, it goes better than I feared. face your fear. Numbers six, pray for power. Pray for power. evangelism is not converting someone that’s conflating evangelism with the results of evangelism. No evangelism is simply telling someone about Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God.
This is actually quite liberating. Once you understand it, and you internalize it, people are dead in sin. They are spiritual corpses apart from Christ, and you and I do not have the power to give spiritual corpses life. It’s like we are just speaking to caskets. Our job in evangelism is to speak to the casket. God’s job is to crack it open. So pray, pray to Him for boldness, for clarity, for faith, pray to Him for fruit. Ask God to show off through your weakness for the glory of His Son in the eternal good of this person, pray for power. And finally, number seven, start to speak, start to speak. Most non Christians you meet have never rejected the gospel. Most non Christians that you meet, have never rejected the gospel. That’s because they haven’t heard it yet. Now, it’s likely they’ve heard what they think is the gospel. Perhaps a Christian has, has talked to them.
Perhaps they’ve been in church. But oftentimes if you just ask the average person on the street, what is the gospel? They’re not going to tell you? Oh, it’s the good news of salvation by grace alone. No, they’re going to respond with some form of moralism, which means they actually haven’t rejected the gospel. They have yet to hear the real thing. So the greatest obstacle to evangelism is not unbelievers. The greatest obstacle to evangelism is Christians who don’t share God.
My friend Max Stiles, who has written several good books on this topic, says, evangelism has not been tried and found wanting so much as it has been found difficult and left untried. There comes a point when you need to just start talking. You need to just take the step of faith and trust the Lord with the results. Friend, do you want to be ready to share your faith? Well, then you need to grasp the gospel. Check your context. Love the lost. Mind your manners, face your fear, pray for power and then start to speak.
Preorder Matt Smethurst’s next book, Before You Share Your Faith: Nine Ways to Be Evangelism Ready.