Five Helpful Steps of Evangelism
Care ABOUT Them:
The Gospel is the sad message of a disease called sin, starting from the first man Adam, hat has infected each person’s soul at conception. The just requirement of sin is death of the person guilty of sin. But The Gospel is a glad message, for it tells us that Jesus stood in our place and atoned for our guilt. It is a true statement that at one point, all of us were lost and broken and blind and dirty in need of a Savior. If we have been forgiven of our sin and adopted as a son or daughter of Christ, don’t we want others to join?
“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So, it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” - Matthew 18:12-14
Let me submit a few questions for reflection: is it our will that we desire no one on earth would perish eternally? Is it our desire, our hope, our life-driving force to help everyone we know come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord? Is it your passion to see your neighbor know The Lord as Their Father? I contest that if we genuinely care about someone, we will have a desire for them to know the Lord personally. This this is a good and Godly desire. Remember, we do not want them just to know, we want them to grow. To say it more specifically, we want our unbelieving friends to know Christ and grow in a saving knowledge of Him. If we genuinely care and genuinely want our unbelieving friends to know and grow, how do we do that?
Connect WITH Them:
Perhaps 4 decades ago, street evangelism and large rallies were what The Holy Spirit seemed to be using to bring sinners to be saved (or so it seemed, church attendance rates in the United States over the past 5 years continue to plummet). In 2021, however, it seems real salvation happens more frequently and more methodically through natural friendships between a redeemed child of God and a lost, broken, blind, dirty orphan they chose to befriend.
But how do we go from stranger-ship to acquaintance-ship, acquaintance-ship to friendship, friendship to discipleship? Three Ingredients: One Big God (The Holy Spirit) + Two Phenomena (Time and Action).
Time does not DO anything on its own, but time can be the reliable vehicle for purpose-driven action to make dramatic changes. If we want to plant an apple tree, time will not do anything. But if we act by planting apple seeds, regularly watering the seed, providing ample shade and sun, then time will be just the thing we need to see fruit one day. And yet, we have no control over whether that seed will produce any fruit. Ultimately, it is the God of this universe that determines the apple seed’s growth and development. Yes, so it is with the human soul:
“[Paul] planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” 1 Corinthians 3:6
If we want to play a role in seed growing, it takes a lot of time and action; indeed, apple seeds are quite different from Adam’s Seed (humans). Human souls are fickle and difficult. So how can we allow time and action to fulfill their roles if we find another human soul just plain annoying or challenging?
It is one thing to say you are friends with another human, and yet much more to say you enjoy their company for more than 15 minutes. If our God-given mission as Christians is to go to our local communities (and beyond) and make disciples of anyone (Matthew 28:19-20), then I believe this requires we treasure these stranger’s presence and story.
My pastor said it this way, “It is really hard to hate up close.” Which is to say, the more you get to know the story, personality, preferences and struggles of someone who bothers you, the harder it is to despise them. But I hear you saying this, “There’s plenty of people I know up close and they still annoy me.” Granted. My challenge to you (and me) is to evaluate how we are using our time and action in prayer for that “annoying” person. If God truly considers all unbelievers as lost, broken, blind, dirty orphans in need of a loving and faithful Father, then we should too. (After all, we were once those same lost, broken, blind, dirty orphans before Our loving and faithful Father adopted us as sons and daughters.)
You might be surprised how God views the people we hate, or are annoyed by, or just genuinely do not like. They are made in His image. God is the most beautiful, most glorious, most amazing, most wonderful, and most awesome being, ever. Therefore, if we are struggling to love someone made in His image, perhaps our image of God is tragically too ugly, too small, or insignificant. Once we’ve cared enough to connect with them, we should begin to be able cherish them.
So now what?
Communicate WITH Them:
The Gospel message is proclaimed through words, our actions can amplify or diminish our words. What we do either helps or hurts what we say. How we act can be evidence of how we think.
“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” Colossians 1:28
“but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”” 1 Peter 1:15-16
If you live a faithful, joy-filled, complaint-empty, Holy Spirit-driven, and Christ-focused life, people will ask what is different about you. (This happened to me not even 2 months ago in North Dakota.) The book of Daniel is great evidence for this truth. If the human souls who peer into our lives daily are curious about our motivations, this is our moment to use words that proclaim the Gospel boldly and unabashedly. That is not proselytizing in the workplace, that’s answering a question of a coworker. On the flip side, isn’t it odd to see your “Christian” coworker be the first to complain, cheat, call out sick, and be lazy while on the clock? How disheartening. This is someone who could be used to deliver the soul-changing message of redemption, but they cannot because their disposition at work is, in fact, worse than the unbelievers around them(!). This ought not be true. I contest no one will ask that person what makes them different because they are not. Therefore, we must communicate through faithful living which we pray will lead us to faithful proclaiming.
Perhaps another reason that proselytizing and big rallies do not seem effective today is the progressive movement of increasing individualism in the West. Blanket statements are too broad, and stereotypes are too... stereotype-ey. People need to know why The Gospel message of Jesus Christ can change their lives, why it can give a purpose to their pain, a reason to live, a hope for their future, a community to belong, and an explanation for their life. Unless you know them, you do not know how Jesus is the exactly-right-fit for the gaping hole in their soul. Is that too individualistic? Perhaps. But after all, we are individually and specifically loved specially by our Loving Father and further invited into our big, crazy, (annoying), loving, diverse family of Jesus Christ called “the church.” However, they won’t know until you communicate with them.
“Jake, I’ve gotten to know them, repeatedly communicated the Gospel to them and acted like a real Christian around them. THEY STILL WON’T BELIEVE. I don’t have the gift of evangelism. I’ll let someone else do it.”
Perhaps our last point will encourage you.
Continue WITH Them:
I recently was reading a Bible study guide that said the average Christian is converted to a real faith in Christ five years from the first hearing the Gospel message or encountering and speaking with a faithful Christian about their faith. If this is true, how many persons have we given up on way too early? I mean, I get discouraged after sharing just one time! Now you are saying I must wait five years?! That is a lot of time. Ah, time. Remember, time does nothing on its own. For time to be useful, it requires action. If it is true that it will take five years for our unbelieving friends to give their life to Christ, my question is: How much spiritual good could we be doing to them?
Yes, we must regularly proclaim the Gospel. Perhaps, over five years, we could also find out what they believe about who God is, how their upbringing shapes how they think about the Bible, who do they really think Jesus was, what has their exposure been to the church, do they value the 10 commandments, have pastors hurt them spiritually or physically or sexually, do they think Noah really built a big ark and the whole world flooded. Perhaps they will tell us that they have only ever been in churches that are seeker-sensitive, or the church leadership is abusive, money mongers, or even worse. That stuff sticks with people and their desire to know the God of those evil, twisted people dwindled slowly. How do we combat that history?
Continue with them. Perhaps they are like the Bereans (Acts 17:11) and they may take more than one Gospel conversation (it will likely take more than one). Continue, even if it takes more than five years, to show them you care about their family problems and their eternal destination. Continue to connect with them on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis. Continue to cherish their individual personhood, their story, their family, their problems, and successes. Continue to communicate the truth of the Gospel and the Bible, contend for the faith. Continue to be the change in their perspective of “who” a Christian is through your actions. Continue to show and tell them “who” Christ truly is from The Holy Spirit Inspired Word of God.
In the end, let us all live for God’s Glory Alone as we live before The Face of God by doing what He commands us to do.
SOLA FIDE. CORAM DEO.