Evangelism is a scary word for many Christians. Whether it’s because we fear rejection, feel unqualified, or are uncomfortable with making a truth claim in a pluralistic culture, we often shy away from evangelism, either by retreating to the realm of personal testimony or by avoiding spiritual conversations altogether.
Our pastor, Mike Lee, recently preached on evangelism by offering five questions that need to be answered by those who seek to be faithful in following the Great Commission. I’ve adapted these questions here and added a sixth. I commend them to you because they peel back the layers of our defensiveness toward evangelism and help us see what needs to be in place before we will be confident, joyful, and effective tellers of the good news.
Answer “no” to any of these questions and your evangelistic passion will suffer.
1. The Compassion Question: Do we care that people are dying without faith in Jesus?
Before we can hope to be “good news tellers,” we have to be formed by the good news into compassionate and loving people. If we believe that people without Jesus truly are lost – both in this world and in the next – then compassion ought to be a motivator for our evangelism.
Takeaway: We share because we care.
2. The Culture Question: Do we understand why people reject the gospel?
What are the most common objections people give for choosing not to believe in Jesus? What cultural trends make it difficult for people to believe, whether intellectually (existence of God, reality of miracles), morally (God’s purpose for sexuality), or experientially (inability to accept God’s forgiveness)?
It’s said that Francis Schaeffer was once asked how he would share the gospel with someone in an hour. He said he would spend 55 minutes listening and five minutes talking, because only then would he know how to share the gospel in a way that would overcome objections.
Takeaway: Good missionaries know their culture and listen to people.
3. The Content Question: Do we know what the good news is that we are sent to proclaim?
I’ve been particularly burdened about helping people know the answer to this question. It’s why I wrote Counterfeit Gospels and Gospel-Centered Teaching. We won’t be effective tellers of good news unless we’re clear on what the good news is. Therapeutic and moralistic distortions of the gospel abound in a culture awash in “moralistic therapeutic deism.” How do we present the gospel in a way that is faithful to Scripture?
Takeaway: Evangelists must know the evangel they are proclaiming.
4. The Confidence Question: Do we believe that God really saves sinners?
The way to counteract your feelings of inadequacy in evangelism is not by growing in confidence in yourself or your persuasive abilities, but in growing in your confidence in the power of the gospel to save! People who doubt the reality of conversion are not likely to share the gospel. People who share their faith, trust that God can use their stumbling, imperfect gospel presentations. Those who see God change lives are most likely to get excited about evangelism. The power is in the gospel, not us.
Takeaway: Confidence in the power of the gospel is what motivates us to share it.
5. The Commitment Question: Do we believe God has given us the responsibility of evangelism?
Do you believe God has given this responsibility to you? Do you believe that the proclamation of His Word is the way He saves people?
If, deep down, you’re an inclusivist who believes God may have other ways of saving people, then you’ll stay quiet about the gospel. If, deep down, you’re a Hyper-Calvinist who believes God will save people whether you share your faith or not, then you’ll stay quiet about the gospel. The question here concerns commitment: Do you believe you’ve been given this amazing privilege and weighty responsibility and that the Holy Spirit will use you to draw people to God?
Takeaway: We won’t share the gospel unless we understand the privilege and necessity of evangelism.
6. The Calling Question: Are you willing to ask someone to repent and believe, and then disciple them in the faith?
Sometimes we talk about Jesus but never arrive at the point of inviting someone to repent of their sins and put their faith in Christ. We spend time sowing seeds but are reticent to reap the harvest. Maybe it’s because we are afraid they will say no, but maybe it’s because we are afraid they will say yes! If someone receives Christ, we now have the responsibility to bring them into the church through baptism, and “teach them to obey everything Christ has commanded.”
Takeaway: We won’t call for conversion until we are committed to the people we are evangelizing.
What about you? Do you honestly enjoy evangelism? If not, which of these key things isn't in place? What's robbing you of joy of being a confident and effective teller of the good news?
Trevin Wax is the Managing Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum developed by LifeWay Christian Resources. He blogs daily at Kingdom People. He is also the author of Holy Subversion (Crossway, 2010) and Counterfeit Gospels (Moody, 2011).