This post first appeared as a sermon I preached at The Table: a Christ-centered, outward-focused, community of friends (20’s and 30’s) in Austin, TX. You can watch or listen to that sermon by clicking here.
When you hear the word “evangelism” what comes to mind?
- TV preachers?
- Emotionally manipulative end-of-sermon invitations?
- Intrusive door-to-door visitors?
- angry street preachers?
Evangelism done poorly by some does not negate evangelism as a command for all.
Evangelism is also not a spiritual gift that only some are good at.
Some Christ-followers have also criticized specific methods of evangelism, which is fine, as long as you’re actually telling people about Jesus as well. My hunch is that most of us realize that evangelism is just a churchy word for telling others about Jesus. However, I also have a hunch that most of us simply are not doing it.
Some Christ-followers have labelled things like evangelism as legalistic but it’s not legalistic to insist Christians obey the commands of Christ.
Evangelism is among the final commands given to us by Jesus before he ascends into heaven. (See: Matthew 28:18-20)
When people we love speak their final words, we lean in to hear them and hang on to them. Why have we done the opposite with Jesus’ final words to us?
With all the confusion swirling around evangelism, what does good evangelism look like?
6 Marks of Good Evangelism
1 Thessalonians 2:8, “So being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”The 1st century Greco-Roman idea of self was all encompassing. It meant something similar to what we mean now when we say “soul” – the very core of who you are.
Notice, too, that Paul notes that he didn’t just want to share a list of beliefs for the intellectual assent of the Thessalonians people. Even before they believed, they had become very dear to Paul and his team.
Do you have friends that don’t follow Jesus? If you don’t, find some new friends!
If you do have friends that don’t follow Jesus, don’t give up on them because they don’t believe at first. Allow them to become dear to you.
2. Personal Proof
You know who doesn’t care that you know a few verses from Romans? People who don’t follow Jesus.
But if they care about you, they’ll be much more likely to listen to how Jesus ha changed your life. Furthermore, they’ll know you’re telling the truth because they’ll see the proof in your life, especially if they may have known you before you started following Jesus.
When describing how Jesus has changed you, speak in positives instead of negatives.
- Example: Jesus has changed me so now I live for him by trying to think of others as more important than myself.
- BAD Example: Jesus has changed me so now I live for him by not going to drinking parties.
Both statements should be true of people who follow Jesus but only one is primarily helpful in evangelism. It’s simply a matter of emphasis.
3. Saying “Jesus”
Times have changed. When sharing about your faith, if all you say is, “I believe in God” most of America will agree with you even though most of America does not in fact follow Jesus. But you say the name of Jesus – and it becomes more clear who and what you’re talking about.
When then topic of evangelism comes up many Christ-followers cite a quote that many have attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (although there’s rampant skepticism around the source), “Share the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.
That makes zero sense.
Let’s say a Christian, a Muslim, and a Mormon go on the same mission trip. They work on the same roof, pain the same house, help the same person – but none of them ever say a word. If they all looked about the same, how would you know who believed what? – YOU WOULDN’T!
To share the Gospel, you must use words and you must say “Jesus.”
4. Being prepared
The first part of 1 Peter 2:15 reads, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”
Have you ever been in a situation where you knew the conversation was turning toward faith but you weren’t ready? Have you ever felt like God was pushing you to bring him up in a conversation but didn’t? We have to be ready!
Prepare now for a conversation you’ll have SOON.
The second part of 1 Peter 2:15 reads, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
“Bad evangelism says, ‘I’m right; you’re wrong; and I would love to tell you about it.’” – Tim Keller
Good evangelism says, “Jesus is right; we’re all wrong; and I would love to tell you about it.”
When you remember that before Christ, you were “dead in your sins in which you once walked” (Ephesians 2:1) you remember just how much God has saved you from. You remember how you did nothing to deserve grace so the only proper response to someone who has not yet experienced saving grace is not arrogance but humility.
Like we said before, a lot of times you can’t start here. However, you can never accurately share the truth about God if you don’t open the Word of God.
Click here to see 10 Gospel Passages that are great for evangelism conversations. I would suggest committing a few to memory so that you are always ready (see #4 above: be prepared).