chapter is about evangelism and is written for Christians. It will help you
learn about the Biblical basis for evangelism. Later in the chapter we will look
at evangelism tools and techniques. Evangelism is a word that conveys many
meanings at the same time. We may envision a “hellfire and brimstone”
preacher at a tent meeting telling us that we better turn to God or we’ll burn
in hell. Or we recall a Billy Graham Crusade that we attended in person or saw
on TV. Or the word may bring to mind a television personality who shares that
God is love and that God wants you to be wealthy, healthy and wise.
what does this word evangelism really mean and what is its origin? Well, let’s
start with a definition. Evangelism is the presentation of Jesus Christ in the
power of the Holy Spirit so that others may come to put their trust in God
through Him, accepting him as their Savior and serving him as their Lord.
The word comes from the Greek noun euangelion
which means gospel or good news. The verb form of the word is euangelizesthai
which means to preach the gospel or to tell good news.
A related Greek word is marturein
which means to bear witness. Less frequently used is a third Greek word kerussen
or to proclaim used by Paul.
did this good news mean to the first century church and to the people with whom
they shared? They knew the good news concerned the Messianic promises that God
would bring salvation to His people, make it available to the Gentile world and
would be the Sovereign King of all. Luke records that it was in Jesus’
hometown of Nazareth that Jesus announced the coming of His kingly rule. “He
went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went
into the synagogue, as was His custom. And He stood up to read. The scroll of
the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it
is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to
preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the
prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to
proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ Then He rolled up the scroll, gave
it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue
were fastened on Him, and He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is
fulfilled in your hearing.’” (Luke 4:16–21)
this passage we see the careful interaction of the three words we have defined.
Jesus, using the written words of the prophet Isaiah, proclaimed the good news
of His appearing to the people in the synagogue. They were the ones who then
bore witness to what they had seen. The good news we have in written form, the
four gospels that we know as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, came from the
first-hand accounts of witnesses to the original events.
in the synagogue had their doubts about this man who grew up with them.
Sometimes the disciples themselves had doubts about who Jesus was. However,
Jesus as shown “through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be
the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead.” (Romans 1:4). This is what
His followers witnessed, and then they bore witness by proclaiming what they had
seen and heard.
Motivation for Evangelism
why did they do this? The first reason was that many had been personal witnesses
of His resurrection as we have studied in previous chapters (see 1 Corinthians
15:3-8). What would you do if you had witnessed the miracles of Jesus, lived
under His teaching, come to faith and belief in Him only to see Him betrayed and
put to death by the very people that brought you up as a child to believe in
God? How discouraged, confused and hurt you would be upon hearing the news of
His crucifixion. But then, you see Him alive in His glorified body, Wow!
several reasons emerge for the fervor of the disciples as they went bearing
witness of Jesus to the world. First, there was the deep and abiding faith that
they had for the Lord. They had been witnesses to His claims of kingship of a
kingdom that was not of this world. Then He appears to them after His death in a
glorified body! I would be convinced, how about you?
faith was strengthened after His resurrection when He shared with them the
Scriptures which He fulfilled during His life before their eyes (Luke 24:27).
Jesus had shared these Scriptures with them during His ministry but the
disciples and His other followers did not understand them until after the
resurrection (Luke 9:43–45; 18:31–34; Matthew 16:21, 22; 17:11, 12).
they had a deep and abiding love for the Lord Jesus. We do tend to love those we
choose to be with. He cared for them, taught them God’s truth and loved them
(1 John 4:19). The disciples and other of Jesus’ followers wanted to show
their love in response to His love by obeying Him. For Jesus said “If anyone
loves me, he will obey My teaching” (John 14:23).
it was God’s clear and consistent command to His followers to take the good
news out into the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the
name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to
obey everything Jesus has commanded us to do. This command to His followers and
through them to all believers is found recorded for us in the following verses:
Matthew 28:18–20; Mark 16:15–18; Luke 24:45–49; and Acts 1:8. We, too, are
commanded to show our love for the Lord by obeying this command to share our
faith with those with whom we come into contact with.
Jesus promises to be with us to the very end of the age as we carry out this
command (Matthew 28:20). Not only that, but He promised to send the Holy Spirit
to be with us, to empower us, to be with us (a Divine Blessing in and of
itself!) to remind us of Jesus’ words, and to teach us all things (Acts 1:8,
John 14:25). Sharing your faith with another person is indeed a scary thing to
do by yourself. But these verses promise that the Lord is doing the hard work
and we are but His mouthpiece or spokesperson. And at the same time the Holy
Spirit is helping us, He has worked, is working, and
will work in the other person’s heart and life to demonstrate their need for a
Savior and to draw all men unto Jesus (John 16:8–11; John 12:32; 1
Thessalonians 1:4, 5).
early believers came under heavy persecution for sharing their faith. Many
events have transpired since then which hindered the spread of the Gospel in the
time since Jesus rose from the dead. Yet people still share their faith and
bring others into the kingdom of God. What was it that kept the second and third
generation of believers, those who were not first-hand witnesses of Christ,
witnessing for Him? Why didn’t they just say “I believe, therefore I am
saved—now leave me alone?” What kept them going through all they
experienced? What compels people to share their faith today?
was God’s command to all believers to share their faith then, and to all
believers who have preceded us, and it remains the believer’s command and
commission today. Although we were not witnesses to Jesus’ life on earth we
have the accounts recorded in the New Testament and, therefore, have a more
complete understanding of Jesus’ words and works than some of the first
generation Christians. And we also have the Lord’s promise that He will be
with us to the very end of the age as we bear witness of Him.
these reasons motivated the saints of the early church, they should motivate us
as well. We have come to faith in the Lord, have come to love Him, want to serve
and obey Him and, of course, want to live in His presence and see His power
transform lives around us.
church is an evangelistic church and the modern missionary movement that has
come from the church is reaching to all corners of the globe. The Church now has
more missionaries than at any other time its history. Even believers in the
Third World are selling what little they own and moving to distant places to
share their faith in Christ. Many Christians give sacrificially to their
church’s mission outreach so that the number of believers with which they
spend eternity will be greater.
the status of personal evangelism in America today is another story. Personal
evangelism is one person sharing his or her faith with a friend or acquaintance.
The church in America today is not fulfilling its mission. There are several
reasons for this. One sad but true fact is that within three years of becoming a
Christian, most believers have no friends who are unbelievers. Another factor is
the fear of being rejected by others. And the church at large has not trained
its people how to win others to Christ.
is the world to hear the good news if we don’t feel compelled to share it with
those around us? After all, how many of us have discussed making an investment
in something or other with a close co-worker and yet have never shared the good
news of eternal life with them. Talk about a large dividends, the return on this
spiritual investment is out of this world!
of the saddest facts of church history is the rapid spread of Islam in the years
following Mohammed’s life. Of the many works on Islam one author put it best.
He said that Mohammed was in the marketplace while Christianity was in the
monastery. Yet today’s church is retreating to its ever more comfortable
sanctuaries while lives and the world are disintegrating around them.
recent news article entitled “Christian Publishers Count Their Blessings”
identifies part of the problem. The article discusses the booming sales of
Christian books. One author is quoted as saying “The ministry is reaching
people with the message of Jesus Christ. Our method is retailing.” Literature
evangelism has certainly reached many lost souls. As Christian books are
increasingly found on secular shelves, God’s Word goes forth. But the last
paragraph states “Devotional and missionary biographies gather dust on the
shelves. So do books encouraging self-sacrifice. Baby boomers may have found
religion, but they’re not about to don sackcloth and ashes.
Stott contrasts this modern attitude of compliancy with that the attitude of
Paul. “Many modern church members regard themselves as being under no
obligation to evangelize. On the contrary, if they engage in evangelism at all,
they are very pleased with themselves. They consider that they are conferring a
favor upon God. To Paul, however, evangelism was a debt, not a charity.” Dr.
Stott later continues “We say, ‘I am under no obligation; I’m not at all
eager; in fact I am ashamed.’ Paul said “I am under obligation; I am eager;
for I am not ashamed’”. (Romans 1:14–16)
especially worrisome sign is that some believers feel personal evangelism means
getting someone to church. There the unbeliever experiences an event
(increasingly for the first time because of their lack of prior church exposure)
which is at a minimum foreign to him or her and often a little strange to them.
Rather than giving spiritual first aid as needed in a timely fashion, we insist
on getting them to the spiritual hospital (the church). How much better to be
trained in first aid, call for paramedical help if needed and then, when the
patient is stabilized, convey them to the hospital!
it is another reason which keeps most people from personal evangelism. It is the
fear factor. People are afraid to share their faith. The Evil One specializes in
fear. Jesus’ command to His disciples and to us is to not fear because He is
with us, at all times and in all places. Very experienced evangelists will tell
you that the feelings of fear never go away. But you only face the fear of
rejection from another person. That person has to fear rejection from God if no
one shares their faith with them. Another side of the fear factor is that people
are naturally afraid of doing something for which they have not been trained.
let’s learn several basic tips about personal evangelism from one event in the
life of Paul. Paul went from a persecutor of the saints to a proclaimer of the
truth in a few short moments. As Paul was on the way to Damascus, the Lord
Himself confronted Paul in a miraculous vision. The Jesus asked Paul why he was
persecuting God! This was obviously confusing to Paul who thought He was doing
the Lord’s will. So he asked “Who are you Lord?” “I am Jesus whom you
are persecuting” was the reply. Talk about a conversion experience! But it is
often those who are most hostile to the sharing of the gospel who are really
searching and who are most fervent in their personal witness upon receiving
Christ as their Lord and Savior (Acts 26:12–18).
most interest to us is the command that Jesus gave Paul (then called Saul) in
this vision. The Lord said to Paul “I have appeared to you to appoint you as a
servant and as a witness of what you have seen of Me and what I will show
you.” Now this is interesting. Note that Jesus didn’t tell Paul to get his
act together spiritually before he could be a witness of Jesus. Note also that
Paul’s knowledge was incomplete as Jesus had things yet to show him. How often
we do not feel called to witness because we don’t know enough. Yet sharing our
faith is a faith growing experience. Could Paul have written as much about the
Lord the day after the Lord appeared to him? No way. But after years of witness
and being confronted by nonbelievers God used him to write a large portion of
the New Testament.
the Lord also gave Paul some specific commands on how to witness to both his own
people, the Jews, and to the Gentiles. “I am sending you to them to open their
eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God,
so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are
sanctified by faith in me.” There are six steps that the Lord told Paul to
follow and they are wise words for us in our personal witness.
it was by God’s command that Paul was sent to them. Likewise it is by God’s
command that we are sent to reach others. God will always give us the grace to
share our faith with other people. But it is wise, in the case of a particular
individual, to pray and ask when His timing would be correct. Now if we are in
contact with that individual often, we may sow seeds of faith so that they know
what we believe. It could be that they would come to some crisis in their life
and seek us out. Possibly a golden opportunity will present itself. For it is
God alone that knows the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). There may be specific
instruction from God that you are to know. However, if no special leading is
forthcoming we need not wait for a special opportunity, we can assume that we
are to carry out His more general command to share the gospel with each person
and share our faith with those who are near us.
we are to open their eyes. Why? Because “The god of this age has blinded the
minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the
glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan has
blinded the unbelievers to the truth of God. So how can their eyes be opened? In
most every case recorded in the four gospels, the healing of a person’s
blindness was the direct result of prayer. People brought a blind person to
Jesus and asked Him to heal the person (Matthew 12:22, Mark 8:22–26). In other
cases, the person or persons asked for Jesus’ healing of their blindness
(Matthew 9:27–31, 20:29–34).
we are to turn the unsaved from darkness to light. We do this by the lives we
live (Matthew 5:14–16). It is our good deeds that lead men to praise God. We
are exhorted to be careful in how we live and to be wise in the way we act
toward outsiders so we can make the most of any opportunity with them (Ephesians
5:15, Colossians 4:5).
we are to turn them from the power of Satan to God. Satan has one thing to
offer—temporary power. With God we are offered His love, power, grace,
forgiveness and so much more. And the Lord offers this for all eternity! We turn
people away from Satan’s power by sharing the word of God. An example is found
in Acts 3:11–20. Note that in verse 19, where Peter shared from God’s word,
he encouraged the listeners to repent and to turn to God so that their sins
might be wiped out and times of refreshing may come from the Lord.
fifth step, continuing in the example from Acts 3, is that after they turn they
will have their sins forgiven. As you engage in evangelism, this is an important
immediate truth to share with those who pray with you in repentance, seeking
Jesus as their Lord and Savior. People have guilt and the relief God offers is
an immediate confirmation that God has heard their prayer and forgiven them.
sixth and final step is to lead them into the kingdom where they may receive a
place among those who are sanctified by faith in Him. As soon as someone repents
and turns to God they are given the gift of eternal life. But to help make their
calling and election sure we need to disciple them in the faith, integrate them
into the local church and otherwise build them up in the one true faith.
the first half of this study, we defined the New Testament words used to
describe sharing our faith, took a look at the Lord’s command to reach the
world for Him and with Him, and found a Biblical framework for sharing our
faith. Now we will turn to the more practical side, how to do it! How do we
share our faith? What do we say? What do we say without sounding preachy? How do
we respond to questions that we cannot answer? Are there some materials I could
read? There are many other questions which could be asked.
main purpose is to drive out the fear factor by providing a brief tutorial in
sharing the Christian faith. Remember that a lot of people are afraid to share
their faith because they have never been trained. Finally, some additional
resources will be listed to help you in your evangelistic endeavors.
as we studied in Acts 26, is a process and not a one-time event. A person who
you share with may reject entirely what you are saying but you have sowed a
seed. Many others may have shared their faith with a person but when you talk
with them they accept Christ. More than 50 people shared their faith with a
certain woman before she asked the Lord into her heart—praise God for each one
of them! The principle here is found in 1 Corinthians 3:7; “So neither he who
plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”
Paul spoke to the Corinthians he told them that it was not his superior wisdom
or eloquence that was necessary to bring them into the kingdom of God but rather
Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Paul further states that he came to them in
weakness and fear so that their faith would rest on God’s power and not on
men’s wisdom. So actually when we have that fear and trembling when we are
sharing our faith we are using Paul’s proven technique! (see 1 Corinthians
very practical guide is given to us in 1 Peter 3:1. The first two verses read
“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them
do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of
their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives”. Although
the specific case of wives is mentioned here, the principle is a general one.
Our behavior is our first line of witness.
can tell a lot about us by our behavior. Is your behavior a witness to others
that you are a follower of Jesus Christ? In numerous sermons we have probably
been asked the question that if we were put on trial for our faith in Christ,
would we be a witness for the prosecution or the defense? Many people have been
won to the faith by the simple action of a saint who acted in accordance with
God’s command that we should treat each person as if we were entertaining an
angel without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2). The unfortunate fact is that many
Christians stop here in their witnessing efforts.
live in what some call the age of demandingness. Consumers are more demanding of
their suppliers. Parents are demanding of their children. Spouses are demanding
of each other. Employees and employers demand more and more from the other. And
everyone seems to be demanding their rights. It should be easy for a Christian
to stand out in this crowd.
we show ourselves to be different is found in verse 8, which shows us the way to
elevate our witness beyond the level of behavior. It says “Finally, all of
you, live in harmony with on another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be
compassionate and humble.” To summarize this verse we could say that it is by
our love that we witness to others. Jesus said “A new command I give you: Love
one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love
one another” (John 13:35).
live in a fallen world where many live without hope and in despair. Families are
falling apart. Many who come into the church are broken people. It is there that
they find the true love of God as mediated by the Holy Spirit to his or her soul
as the people of God show love to their physical being. The world is looking for
true, deep love and it is found among God’s people.
we are not to stop with love. Verses 15 and 16 show us the final height of
witness. This third step assumes that the other two levels have been reached and
are incorporated into the life of the believer. We are then told “But in your
hearts set apart 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, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak
maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their
we must set apart Christ as Lord in our heart. This speaks of availability to do
His will instead of our own. We cannot be so tied up in our own affairs that we
never have the time to witness to those who God places in our path.
we must be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks to give the reason for
the hope that we have. Do people around you know that you have hope? Today,
negativism is in vogue. One only needs to read a newspaper to be downcast. But
notice that the verse says you are to be ready for those who ask you! In other
words, your behavior and your love should make you stand out so that people ask
you why you are different. We must know the Word of God to help people at this
point. It is not our clever speech or argument that wins souls but the Word of
God which He promises will not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11).
we must share our faith with gentleness and respect. How many souls will face
the eternal judgment of God because a believer shared their faith with a
judgmental attitude? We are to “Let your conversation be always full of grace,
seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians
4:6). We are to speak in such a way as to not turn the inquirer off but to
season our speech with salt so that they thirst for more.
witness, as we have seen, is to be Biblically based. But few of us can structure
a message so that we can convey the gospel of Jesus quickly, accurately and
completely. So we rely on resources prepared by others. There are many good
materials to read on personal evangelism. But possibly the most helpful are
tracts, which are small booklets, that contain the basics of the gospel message.
What can we say besides “Turn or burn?”
are several advantages gained from using tracts. First, they present the gospel
systematically. We can learn the main points and memorize the verses that
substantiate the points in order to share our faith. Secondly, we can give the
person a copy of the tract to take with them. This is important so that when
they are alone and ready to hear God’s message they can do so. Thirdly, the
person can also look up the passages in a Bible that they own, just to prove
that you are not making these things up!
major ministries, including InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, The Navigators,
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Campus Crusade for Christ and
Evangelism Explosion have tracts which facilitate sharing the Gospel. Tracts in
groups of twenty-five or so can be ordered from these organizations or obtained
from your local Christian book store. Also, see your church for literature it
has to offer.
the most famous is the “Four Spiritual Laws” booklet published by Campus
Crusade for Christ. The main points are easy to share, the verses to illustrate
the points are ones you may have already memorized and the booklet points people
toward Jesus and the church and provides some of the basics for Christian
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has a booklet entitled “Peace with
God.” This tool was developed for crusade counselors. It uses a simple diagram
of man being separated from God by a deep chasm. This chasm can only be bridged
by the cross of Jesus Christ. An effective way of showing someone how they fall
short of what God requires, the diagram is simple enough to draw on any piece of
paper should you not have a copy of the booklet handy.
Press publishes a booklet written by John Stott called “Personal
Evangelism.” While not designed to be handed out, it offers good, short, basic
and practical tips on sharing your faith along with a gospel presentation that
you can memorize.
Glossary complied by Ruth Siemens, You Can Tell the World—A Mission Reader
(InterVarsity Press; Downers Grove, 1979), p. 11.
Publishers Count Their Blessings,” Business Week, July 8, 1991, p. 87.
Gospel,” ibid. p. 38. Also found as “Eagerness to Preach the Gospel,”
John R. W. Stott, Proclaim Christ Until He Comes - Lausanne II in Manila
(World Wide Publications; Minneapolis, 1990), pp. 222–223.