The English word evangel is how we spell almost letter-for-letter in English the Greek word that is translated as gospel or good news. That means that evangelism is doing gospel work. Most of the time, when we speak of evangelism, we are addressing the practice of telling other people the good news about Jesus Christ so that they can trust him as Savior.
In my latest sermon series I made the case for doing evangelism based upon the glory and magnificence of the mission. It is another way of saying what the psalms often do—namely that our evangelism should flow out of our worship of God. Consider just one example from Psalm 96:1-2: “Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! 2 Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.”
It is at this point that some of us get hung up. We think, “Tom, if you are right, then it should mean that my love for God and my delight in our Savior should so motivate me to tell others about Jesus that: (1) It is easy; and, (2) I am almost automatically thrust into it with no fear.” Both are usually wrong.
The fact that our evangelism should flow from our love for God and delight in our Savior should lead us to want to evangelize and to be willing to do whatever is needed to make it happen. But, it will still often be hard and we will still have some fear.
That is why over my next few blog posts I want to share some help for us that will encourage and empower us to tell others about Jesus and to invite them to church events.
Some of what I share will come out of what I have learned through the years and some from a book I recently read by British evangelist, Rico Tice, Honest Evangelism: How To Talk About Jesus Even When It’s Tough.
I will start with just some basic things we must remember.
(1) Evangelism begins with prayer, goes forward with prayer, and is made effective by prayer. Jesus teaches us that he chose us to bear lasting fruit (which includes winning others to Jesus) and that this comes about in response to prayer (John 15:16). I believe this brings a lot of relief. Whether or not people respond positively in faith to Jesus is not ultimately up to me and my perfect methods. It comes about by God’s Spirit working through God’s word (the core of which is the gospel), in response to prayer, and usually among his people. It is also a relief that I don’t have to go out and grab people by the collar. I start by praying: “God give me boldness; lead me to the right people; help me learn how to share; help me recognize opportunities.” As God brings people to mind, we begin to pray for them. And, as we come upon opportunities, we pray and ask God for the help and courage to do it.
(2) We are served well by learning to converse and to ask questions—with interest in other people. Some of the greatest love we can show to others and some of the greatest preparatory work we can do for evangelism is listening (James 1:19). As we get to know people, the Holy Spirit often opens up doors for us to pray for someone, share with them how the Lord has helped us, invite them to church or a Bible Fellowship event, or even share part or all of the good news with them (or perhaps our testimony).
(3) Similar to number two, we should learn to “chat our faith.” This expression comes from British evangelist Rico Tice. His point is one I have thought about through the years and sought to practice—namely that part of the way we overflow from our joy in God to others is to express in conversation what he has done in us, why we are thankful for him, or maybe an answer to prayer. In the same way that those things or people we love (sports, children, grandchildren, cars, etc.) make it into our conversation, so should our Savior. We do not have to be pushy or obnoxious. Yet, as we learn to do this, the Holy Spirit may open up doors for us to point people to Jesus.
(4) We should be comfortable with the reality that we will not share the gospel with every person we meet and we don’t need to “dump the whole load” on someone as soon as we meet them or every time we are with them. Most evangelism will take place over a span of time and in the midst of long-term relationship. However, this should not lead us to think that never bringing up our faith, Jesus, or the gospel is healthy or obedient to our Lord. Pray and look for opportunities, but be content that it takes time and we don’t need to rush ahead of him.
(5) Don’t minimize the impact that well-done booklets or pamphlets can have on someone whom you may see here or there or even just once. The Two Ways To Live pamphlet or the Heaven booklet by Randy Alcorn are two of the best.
We will talk about some more ideas in future posts.