Men would sooner believe that the gospel is from heaven, if they saw more such effects of it upon the hearts and lives of those who profess it. The world is better able to read the nature of religion in a man’s life than in the Bible.
How few know how to deal with an ignorant, worldly man, for his conversion! To get within him and win upon him; to suit our speech to his condition and temper; to choose the meetest subjects, and follow them with a holy mixture of seriousness, and terror, and love, and meekness, and evangelical allurements – oh! who is fit for such a thing?
Faith is the gift of God – not the result of the persuasion of the evangelist.
When Christ is central in the heart of the man, what does the man want to do? He wants to tell others about Jesus, and he will do so effectively. Let Jesus Christ be central in the heart of a man, and he is going to be burdened and troubled because millions have never heard of Christ. It is going to disturb him and bring him into action. What he needs is not more exhortation; he needs Christ. And the Christ within him who died for the world will speak through him to that lost world. Without true passion for Christ, nothing works consistently. It loses its power.
Love for God is the only sufficient motive for evangelism. Self-love will give way to self-centeredness; love for the lost will fail with those whom we cannot love… Only our Love for God and, more important, His love for us will keep us from the dangers which beset us. When the desire for popularity with men, or for success in human terms, tempts us to water down the Gospel, to make it palatable, then only if we love God will we stand last by His truth and His ways.
Part of our evangelistic activity has to do with the way we relate to each other as believers. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). If you are not expressing proper Christian love to every member of your church, you are in disobedience to God and you are hindering the evangelistic work of your church.
I think many times we don’t evangelize because we undertake everything in our own power. We attempt to leave God out of it. We forget that it is His will and pleasure for His gospel to be known. He wants sinners saved. Simply put, we don’t pray for opportunities to share the gospel, so how surprised should we be when they don’t come? If you’re not evangelizing because you think you lack opportunities, pray and be amazed as God answers your prayers.
As John Stott has said, “To ‘evangelize’…does not mean to win converts…but simply to announce the good news, irrespective of the results.”
You and aren’t called to use our extensive powers to convict and change the sinner while God stands back as a gentleman, quietly waiting for the spiritual corpse, His declared spiritual enemy, to invite God into his heart. Rather, we should resolve to preach the gospel like gentlemen, persuading while knowing we can’t regenerate anyone, and then stand back while God uses all His extensive powers to convict and change the sinner. Then we’ll see clearly who it is that can really call the dead to life, and although He’ll use us in the doing of it, it’s not you and I who are actually doing it.
We have the mistaken notion that evangelism is a choreographed set of ideas well laid out, perfectly transitioned and flawlessly presented. Forget it. It’s not this way. Many of us have tried this with frustration. It is much better to think of evangelism the way the Bible does – “sowing the seed” in any way you can. Any of us can do that. Ever seen a weed grow in an otherwise barren parking lot? Somehow the seed got there and flourished. The simple word in the right place, or the tract well-placed might be the means God uses. Well-oiled presentations frustrate because there is no room for serious questions and discussion on the one hand, and it rules out the less verbal among us, on the other. Rejoice over even the smallest of advances! You are sowing the seed.
We have not made enough of the fact that evangelism has a great deal to do with what you expect God to do. If you raise your antennae as the day begins and ask God to make you an instrument for divine encounters during the day, it will happen – almost every time. Christians living in anticipation of being used by God are like cats on the lookout for mice. They never lose their focus. They seem to sleep with their eyes and ears alert. When you stay ready, you are actually living by the faith you claim to exercise!
The more immediate and personal one’s knowledge of Christ, the more natural it is to share Him with others. This is why those who have newly met Christ are often so verbal and successful in leading others to Him despite the absence of learned arguments… The key to ongoing effectiveness is a perpetual freshness in your growing knowledge of Him.
Directing resources toward the poor and oppressed is not only a true test of our love, but a chance for it to shine brightly. Remember, Jesus prayed for this display of love so that the world might believe. Rather than hurting, this would help our evangelism.
Our ideas of evangelism cannot indict Jesus; rather, He must judge contemporary methods of evangelism. Modern evangelicalism is preoccupied with decisions, statistics, aisle-walking, gimmicks, prefabricated presentations, pitches, emotional manipulation, and even intimidation. Its message is a cacophony of easy-believism and simplistic appeals. Unbelievers are told that if they invite Jesus into their hearts, accept Him as personal Savior, or believe the facts of the gospel, that’s all there is to it. The aftermath is appalling failure, as seen in the lives of multitudes who have professed faith in Christ with no consequent impact of their behavior. Who knows how many people are deluded into believing they are saved when they are not?
No evangelism that omits the message of repentance can properly be called the gospel, for sinners cannot come to Jesus Christ apart from a radical change of heart, mind, and will. That demands a spiritual crisis leading to a complete turnaround and ultimately a wholesale transformation. It is the only kind of conversion Scripture recognizes.
Since Scripture imparts salvation, effective evangelism depends on the faithful proclamation of the Word. God will prepare the soil and bring forth the fruit. We must be faithful to plant the seed.
The issue is not the skill of the one proclaiming the message, the packaging of the message, or the technique used in proclaiming it. The issue is the condition of the hearer. Jesus illustrated that principle in the parable of the sower. The same message (the seed) is proclaimed by the same individual (the sower); the only variable is the condition of the four soils. What is essential for the messengers of the gospel is not cleverness but clarity. Only God can open the sin-blinded eyes of those who are “dead in [their] trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1; cf. v. 5; Matt. 8:22; Eph. 4:18).
If you’re going to do evangelism, if you’re going to be a missionary, if you’re going to proclaim the kingdom of God, if you’re going to tell people about the King, the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s going to start with an attitude. It’s going to start in the heart. You could train people till you’re blue in the face, you can give them all kinds of information, you can load their theological gun, you can give them strategies and methodologies, but effective evangelism is done by highly motivated people. Understand that. It’s not about training, it’s about motivation.
If you knew how to be saved, you know how to tell somebody else how.
So many Christians sealed their witness to Christ with their blood that martures (witness) came to mean “martyrs.” Their blood, as the second-century theologian Tertullian stated, became the seed of the church. Many were drawn to faith in Christ by observing how calmly and joyously Christians met their deaths.
Our responsibility is simply to make our witness faithful (1 Cor. 4:2); it is God’s responsibility alone to make it effective.
There is not a better evangelist in the world than the Holy Spirit
We have experienced substantial joys in professional ministry, but nothing is quite so fulfilling as the personal joy of seeing family friends come to faith… The family is at the very heart of authentic ministry and evangelism. As ministry professionals, we hold the firm conviction that family is ministry and that the most effective spread of the gospel occurs through family. We are also convinced that we were never more effective in evangelism than when we had children at home (Kent and Barbara Hughes).
So far from making evangelism pointless, the sovereignty of God in grace is the one thing that prevents evangelism from being pointless. For it creates the possibility – indeed, the certainty – that evangelism will be fruitful. Apart from it, there is not even a possibility of evangelism being fruitful. Were it not for the sovereign grace of God, evangelism would be the most futile and useless enterprise that the world has ever seen, and there would be no more complete waste of time under the sun than to preach the Christian gospel.
The sovereignty of God [does] not make the pursuit of sinner pointless – it makes it hopeful. Nothing in man can stop this sovereign God from saving the worst of sinners.
People who don’t believe in Christ are blind. They can’t see Christ as supremely valuable, and so they won’t receive him as their Treasure and so they are not saved. A work of God is needed in their lives to open their eyes and give them life so they can see and receive Christ as Savior and Lord and Treasure of their lives. That work of God is called new birth.
Therefore, since salvation is a work of the Lord, I can draw these simple conclusions: First, I must share the Gospel with passion. Yet when it comes to conversion I need to leave the matter in God’s hands because that is a work that only He can accomplish. Second, my responsibility is not to save people, but rather my responsibility is to faithfully share the “good news.” Therefore, I don’t need to resort to gimmicks or manipulation, but rather prayer and trust in God’s sovereignty. It is not the skill of the proclaimer, the packaging of the message or the techniques used to proclaim it, but the unadulterated Word and trust in the Holy Spirit. We need clarity, not cleverness. Third, once I share the faith, I can be at peace regarding the eternal outcome of souls and am I thankful for that!
Use self-control! Here are two pitfalls that most of us fall into in this regard. One is we let the individual take us off the main point. Maybe it’s the scoffer: “What about those who never heard the Gospel?” “Where did Cain get his wife?” Maybe it’s the person that just wants to share unrelated stories. You need self-control to prevent yourself from going down rabbit trails that will take you away from the four core elements of the Gospel (God-Man-Christ-Response). Second, you will need self-control to avoid getting emotional, angry, discouraged, frustrated or offended. Oftentimes these conversations can get very sensitive. You need to be filled with the Holy Spirit and produce the fruit of self-control even if the other person has lost his. Don’t let their spirit dictate your spirit.
When sharing the Gospel, listen carefully to the person! You are not talking to a robot. Your words are not a prerecorded message. This is an individual with a soul created in God’s image. Show the person dignity. They are not a personal challenge viewed simply as a convert to be won or a prize for our evangelism trophy case. Listen to them and try to genuinely enter their world. Love them! Learn their heart and then speak Christ as the solution. Never alter the core message, but learn to package the Gospel in a customized way for each individual. Probe them. Emphasize with them. Question them to understand them. This is love, investment in a human being however short of long that interaction might be, drawing out their worldview, beliefs, struggles and fears and then presenting Christ as the answer who has overcome sin.
No one wants to listen to a babbling fool or a person that just wants to talk about himself or a person that can’t take a hint that the other individual wants the conversation to end. None of us want to be a part of a conversation like that! Yet sadly, that might very well characterize the Gospel outreach of the church. Offend with the Gospel, not your lack of manners. Don’t turn the “good news” into “boring news!”
The Gospel is “Good News,” but we can’t get to the good news until we talk about the bad news because apart from the bad news we will see no need for the good news. Awareness of our sinfulness is the motivation to seek the cure of forgiveness found only in Christ.
Winners of souls must first be weepers for souls.
Unless the Holy Ghost blesses the Word, we who preach the gospel are of all men most miserable, for we have attempted a task that is impossible. We have entered on a sphere where nothing but the supernatural will ever avail. If the Holy Spirit does not renew the hearts of our hearers, we cannot do it. If the Holy Ghost does not regenerate them, we cannot. If He does not send the truth home into their souls, we might as well speak into the ear of a corpse.
If offense is to be taken at the gospel, let it be because of the gospel, not the one who proclaims it.
The invisibility of God is a great problem. It was already a problem to God’s people in Old Testament days. Their pagan neighbors would taunt them, saying, “Where Is now your God?” Their gods were visible and tangible, but Israel’s God was neither. Today in our scientific culture young people are taught not to believe in anything which is not open to empirical investigation. How then has God solved the problem of His own invisibility? The first answer is of course “in Christ.” Jesus Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. John 1:18: “No one has ever seen God, but God the only Son has made him known.” “That’s wonderful,” people say, “but it was 2,000 years ago. Is there no way by which the invisible God makes Himself visible today?” There is. We return to 1 John 4:12: “No one has ever seen God.” It is precisely the same introductory statement. But instead of continuing with reference to the Son of God, it continues: “If we love one another, God dwells in us.” In other words, the invisible God, who once made Himself visible in Christ, now makes Himself visible in Christians, if we love one another. It is a breathtaking claim. The local church cannot evangelize, proclaiming the gospel of love, if it is not itself a community of love.
By first listening to those we are trying to reach, we can avoid giving pat, canned, impersonal answers. Instead, we can address them personally, authentically, and soul to soul. If they sense we are truly listening to them, they may grant us a hearing. They will feel that we have earned the right to be heard.
It is much easier to talk about Jesus when His life consistently leaves us in awe. Then we repent of our fear of other people’s rejection.
Give me 100 men who hate nothing but sin and love God with all their hearts and I will shake the world for Christ!
What is success in evangelism? Is it when the person you witness to comes to Christ? Certainly that’s what we want to happen. But if this is success, are we failures whenever we share the gospel and people refuse to believe? Was Jesus an “evangelistic failure” when people like the rich young ruler turned away from Him and His message? Obviously not. Then neither are we when we present Christ and His message and they turn away in unbelief. We need to learn that sharing the gospel is successful evangelism. We ought to have an obsession for souls, and tearfully plead with God to see more people converted, but conversions are fruit that God alone can give. In this regard we are like the postal service. Success is measured by the careful and accurate delivery of the message, not by the response of the recipient. Whenever we share the gospel (which includes the summons to repent and believe), we have succeeded. In the truest sense, all biblical evangelism is successful evangelism, regardless of the results.
The Bible says in I Corinthians 1:21 that “God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” Often it is the message of the Cross lived and demonstrated that God uses to open a heart to the gospel, but it is the message of the Cross proclaimed (by word or page) through which the power of God saves those who believe its content. No matter how well we live the gospel (and we must live it well, else we hinder its reception), sooner or later we must communicate the content of the gospel before a person can become a disciple of Jesus.