Personal evangelism is probably one of the most ignored spiritual disciplines in the life of a Christian. There are many Christians who are faithful in attending worship services and Sunday School classes. There are many Christians who are faithful and active in serving in various ministries in the local church. There are many Christians who diligently study the Bible and even have a disciplined prayer life. However, many of these same Christians who are faithful in nearly all areas of the church fail to share the gospel in their day-to-day lives. In fact, many churches do not practically emphasize personal evangelism. The most that many churches do in this realm is command believers to share the gospel without tangibly equipping them to do so.
So, a combination of neglect from both individual Christians and churches has led to scarce practice of personal evangelism. This is not only true for distant Christians and churches, but for myself as well. I have been guilty of neglecting personal evangelism while hiding under the excuse of busyness or the guise of being the one who prepares others to evangelize while I sit back and watch. Over time, I have learned many things about personal evangelism, how to implement it in my daily life, and how to encourage those in my local church to actively evangelize on a daily basis. There are three things that have especially impacted my own evangelistic efforts: (1) setting the stage for evangelism, (2) the life of Jesus, and (3) the use of personal testimonies.
1. Setting the Stage for Evangelism
In order for evangelism to be effective, there is some necessary groundwork that needs to be laid. It is tempting to think that evangelism is simply telling the message of the cross with everyone we come in contact with. In fact, I know a guy that used to hang out at the local movie theatre walking around telling people about Jesus. However, his work has proved very ineffective. He has turned more people off from Jesus than lead them to him.
I think the reason for this is that he has not considered the state of a lost person and how to interact with those who are lost. There are many things to consider before evangelizing someone. Firstly, it is important to have a biblical understanding of what a lost person really is. This should create a proper sense of urgency in evangelism. Lost people are under the wrath of God. Lost people are dead in their sins. Lost people are far from God and the things of God. Lost people do not hate sin. All of these things must be on our minds as evangelists.
Another important preliminary issue before evangelism can effectively take place is for the message of the gospel to be clearly grasped by evangelists. We cannot presume to think we can be effective in sharing the gospel if we are not clear on what the gospel actually is! This means that in order to share the gospel effectively, it is important that we know our Bibles well. It is important to meditate often on the gospel and it is all but vital to be able to clearly articulate the basic message of the gospel before personal evangelism can happen. Nothing can turn a lost person away faster than communicating a message that you are not sure about. Most people can tell when you have no clue what you are talking about.
A final preliminary issue to set the stage for effective evangelism is to know where lost people are coming from. What is their story? This point is simple, yet profound. Evangelism has the potential to be ineffective when we ignore the background of the people we are talking to. If we do not show interest in a person, he or she will not be as willing to listen to us. This should cause us to evaluate our own hearts. Do we really care about lost people as individuals or do we care most about boasting in a large number of baptisms? As you prepare to evangelize, consider these preliminary issues.
2. The Life of Jesus
The way Jesus dealt with people teaches us a great deal about personal evangelism. Looking at the life of Jesus shows how people typically respond to evangelism and how people view things like righteousness and Jesus himself. An invaluable point to remember with regard to evangelism and discipleship is the fact that Jesus never argued with those he confronted with the truth of Scripture. It is highly possible that when you share the message of the gospel, which denounces a person’s sinful lifestyle and is “foolishness” to the world, you will be faced with opposition and argumentation. This is especially true with regard to those who have deep religious traditions and a false understanding of righteousness.
The life of Jesus also teaches the importance of everyday situations. Jesus took advantage of everyday situations to interact with people and witness to them. As witnesses of Christ, we to should take advantage of normal and seemingly insignificant settings. Evangelism doesn’t solely take place in evangelistic events, church events, or special programs. Evangelism is to be a way of life for the Christian. The Christian should always seek opportunities to share the gospel. As you prepare to evangelize, consider the life of Jesus.
3. Personal Testimonies
Finally, understanding evangelism and improving evangelistic techniques also depends on making effective use of personal testimonies. In the past I have shied away from personal testimonies because I have feared they have the potential to stray too far from the gospel message. Sharing the gospel becomes a variety hour of my life. However, personal testimonies flooded with the gospel have true and genuine impact on those without Christ. Sharing our stories can even be influential in leading people to trust Christ. Seeing the power of the gospel in someone’s life can be just what someone needs to believe the message itself. Personal testimonies do not save, but when rightly crafted, they can be used as helpful supplements to accent the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16). As you prepare to evangelize, consider your own personal testimony.
Mathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.