Evangelism: Getting Started

Matthew 28:19
Go into all the world and make disciples of every nation.

1 Peter 3:15
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

Evangelism is the promotion or act of publicly preaching the Gospel with the intention of spreading the message and teachings of Jesus Christ. Christians who specialize in evangelism are often known as evangelists, whether they are in their home communities or living as missionaries in the field. 

How can a Christian overcome the fear of witnessing?

Possible causes of fear in relation to witnessing include shyness; past or perceived rejection or humiliation; an inability to articulate our personal testimony; a lack of knowledge of Scripture; a failure to trust in the Lord; and an ignorance of why men reject the gospel. Determining the actual cause of fear may be difficult, and understanding the reason may not dispel our fear. But we are commanded to be bold for Jesus (Ephesians 6:19), so we may simply have to persevere, one step at a time. In the meantime we can apply some basic principles and sharpen our skills, since fear can be overcome by preparation (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

If we are not walking with Christ, we will not be able to witness for Christ effectively, so we certainly need to be living a consistent, Christian life. “Let your light shine before men” (Matthew 5:16). If at all possible, we should be attending a Bible-teaching church. Also, we can always improve our knowledge of Scripture, and we should study well the book of John.

Our Lord shared the gospel with many different people. He understood Nicodemus and the woman at the well, and He used that knowledge in drawing them to Himself (John chapters 3 and 4). Our approach, too, should be personally tailored. As we speak with an unbeliever, we should try to ascertain what is keeping him from salvation. Generally speaking, there are three factors that keep people from belief: ambivalence about God, fear of God, and hatred toward God, which includes despising His teachings and His Son.

A study of the Gospel of John will show that the key to successful witnessing is love. Jesus loved people to the point of accepting the cross and separation from the Father. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can learn to love people more. When we do, we will be more motivated to share the gospel, since our desire to save people from eternal punishment will grow. Love compels us to communicate the good news. The Holy Spirit will open doors for us by convicting people of their sin and stirring up a desire for salvation, and He will arrange for our paths to cross. Our job is simply to speak with people and explain that salvation is available to every sinner, and to present the good news of salvation.

Speaking is what many find troubling, as did Moses (Exodus 4:10). However, if we are walking as Christians; if we study and plan; if we rely on the Holy Spirit, the One who convicts and regenerates (John 16:8; Titus 3:5); if we realize that failure is acceptable and that God blesses us when we are rejected (Luke 6:22); and if we truly love people and want to help guide them to heaven, we should be able to find a witnessing approach that works for us.

One method to consider is to prepare and memorize a simple testimony of what Jesus did for us, and this should include several keywords. We also should memorize a few key verses that relate to the gospel and to our testimony. Then, when any one of our keywords arises in a conversation, in a context that can be related to the things of God, we can discuss our testimony or recite a verse and explain the meaning. If we are asked any relevant questions, we can proceed with the confidence that the Holy Spirit has opened a heart. If the other person expresses no interest, we can simply continue the original conversation without anxiety. At the very least, we will have planted a seed.

Study the Word, live the Christian life, let the Holy Spirit do His work (John 3:8), and look for opportunities to share the gospel. It is a privilege to be a part of spreading God’s good news to the world. As we fulfill the Great Commission, we have Jesus’ wonderful promise, “Surely I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). What have we to fear?

How can I become more motivated for soul winning?

Being motivated for soul winning is a good thing, but we must define some terms first. Soul winning is a metaphor for evangelism, or witnessing. As such, this is a good thing to pursue. The Bible calls us to evangelize. Evangelism is at the heart of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19–20). Christians are called to be witnesses of their faith to a watching world (Acts 1:8). In fact, the word martyr comes from the Greek word for “witness.” Early Christians were often put to death for their “witness” to Christ. Clearly, these people were so motivated for winning souls that they gave their lives to that cause.

How can we be more motivated for soul winning? The Bible teaches that all people are born in sin (Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:1–3) and that we will all be judged for our sin by a holy God (Romans 6:23). The Bible teaches that the only way to avoid this judgment is to repent of our sin and embrace Jesus Christ by faith (Ephesians 2:8–9). If someone we knew was dying and we had the cure for his disease, would that motivate us to share that knowledge with him? The reality is that all people have a terminal, spiritual disease (sin), and, as Christians, we know the cure for that disease (Jesus). This truth should be great motivation for us to bear witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Knowing that those who reject the “cure” for their spiritual disease will spend an eternity in hell should be sufficient motivation to urge them to consider the dire consequences of their decision.

If Christians are not motivated for evangelism, it could very well be because we aren’t hearing the gospel preached faithfully and fully in our churches. In some parts of the world, churches have attempted to make the Christian message more marketable for modern sensibilities. Preaching about sin, judgment, hell, and salvation through Jesus alone is not emphasized as much as messages about how Christianity can make our lives better—improve our marriages, help us raise our kids, and assist us in eliminating bad habits. The pragmatic has replaced the theological in many churches. This brand of Christianity may appeal more to a postmodern world, but it fails to confront people with the truth of their sin and their need for salvation available in Jesus alone. Souls are won not through promises of a better life in the here and now but through the power of the gospel as the only solution for our sin.

Here is where we must be careful. Some Christians see soul winning as something that they do. In other words, success or failure in evangelism is seen as largely due to the efforts of the evangelist. This mindset has turned evangelism from a “witness” paradigm into a “persuasion” paradigm. A witness is one who simply tells what they have seen, heard, and experienced. Witnesses in a courtroom are bound to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” A witness doesn’t seek to persuade; he doesn’t seek to convince; all he seeks to do is be faithful to proclaim what he knows to be true and why he knows it to be true.

Persuasion takes on a very different form. In persuasion, one person is engaged in an effort to change the mind of another person to a particular point of view. It’s not uncommon in persuasion to alter or re-package the message to make it more appealing to others. In persuasion, the most important thing isn’t the truth of the message, but the individual’s response to that message.

If soul winning is a product of our own individual effort, instead a work of the Holy Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:13), then evangelism becomes our persuasive effort. The goal of soul winning becomes making sure we get someone to come to that moment of decision and accept Christ into his life. One may ask, “What is the problem with that?” If the goal of evangelism is getting people to that moment of choice, then there is every temptation to “do whatever it takes” to make that happen. This mindset has led to the very thing that characterizes the various “church growth” movements, such as the seeker-sensitive movement or the emergent movement, that seek to make Christianity more relevant and appealing to a modern world. On the surface, this sounds good and noble, but at what cost? The Bible says that it is the gospel that has the power of salvation and we are not to be ashamed of it (Romans 1:16–17). We need to avoid the persuasion paradigm and get back to a witness paradigm, one in which the truth of the gospel is faithfully proclaimed.

It all boils down to this: do we believe that God is truly sovereign, even over salvation? If we do, then it is God who is the soul winner. It is the Holy Spirit who brings new birth. It is Jesus Christ who died to save the world. Christians are called to be witnesses to the world by proclaiming this gospel of salvation. The proclamation of the gospel is the means through which the Holy Spirit brings repentance and faith in the lives of individuals. What can be more motivating for soul winning than to know that, through our faithful proclamation of the gospel, God is saving many people (Ephesians 1:4–5).

How can I evangelize my friends and family without pushing them away?

At some point, every Christian has had a family member, a friend, co-worker, or acquaintance who is not a Christian. Sharing the gospel with others can be difficult, and it can become even more difficult when it involves someone with whom we have close emotional ties. The Bible tells us that some people will be offended at the gospel (Luke 12:51–53). However, we are commanded to share the gospel, and there is no excuse for not doing so (Matthew 28:19–20; Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 3:15).

So, how can we evangelize our family members, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances? The most important thing we can do is pray for them. Pray that God would change their hearts and open their eyes to the truth of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4). Pray that God would convince them of His love for them and their need for salvation through Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Pray for wisdom as to how to best minister to them (James 1:5).

We must be willing and bold in our actual sharing of the gospel. Proclaim the message of salvation through Jesus Christ to your friends and family (Romans 10:9–10). Always be prepared to speak of your faith (1 Peter 3:15), doing so with gentleness and respect. There is no substitute for personally sharing the gospel: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17).

In addition to praying and sharing our faith, we must also live godly Christian lives in front of our friends and family members so they can see the change God has made in us (1 Peter 3:1–2). Ultimately, we must leave the salvation of our loved ones up to God. It is God’s power and grace that saves people, not our efforts. The best we can do is pray for them, witness to them, and live the Christian life in front of them. It is God who gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6).

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