Evangelism Issues

These are some practical questions that we had to answer during the course of my personal evangelism class.

A member of your church tells you he really wants to share his faith, but is afraid to do so. How would you respond to him?

The first question I would ask is who they were wanting to share with. Does the church member have people in their lives who don’t know Jesus? Was fear a smokescreen, or is the person interested in identifying specific people to share with?

If the person had no one specific in mind, I’d talk through circles of concern. Who are the people they are closest to… family members, relatives, friends, neighbors and co-workers, acquaintances? Once we had identified and made a list of persons to share with, I would offer to pray with the church member for those people, for soft hearts, for their willingness to listen, and that God would draw those people to himself. I would then recommend that the person pray for the salvation of those people daily. This will help people cultivate a heart for those that they intend to share with.

The next thing I would do is to ask the person about the nature of their fear. What are they actually afraid of? There will be a different response depending upon the cause of fear.

We are given authority to share in Matthew 28:18-20. All authority on heaven and earth was given to Christ, therefore we are to go. Christ has the authority, and gives us authority to represent him. We are also told that the harvest is plentiful in Matthew 9:37 and Luke 10:2… it is harvest time, and there are people ready and waiting to respond to the gospel.

Is the church member fearful because they are afraid of not having the right words to say? In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, we are told that when Paul came to the Corinthians, he was NOT full of perfect speech or wisdom. He came to them with fear and trembling so that their faith would not rest in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God. If the person still objects, a look at Exodus 4:10-14 might be convicting. We see Moses protest that he does not have the words to say when God wants to send him to save the Israelites, and God assures him he will give him the words to say. Moses then asks that someone else should complete what God has called him to do, and God’s anger is kindled against him. Is the person more afraid of man, or of angering God?

Is the church member fearful because they don’t want to suffer rejection? In 2 Timothy 1:6-13, we are told that we were not given a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and self discipline. We should not be ashamed of testimony about God, and we should not be afraid to suffer for him.
Are they fearful because they don’t know how to share? It would be helpful to talk about strategies for sharing. Have they ever written out their testimony? Can they write a complete testimony, as well as 1 paragraph boiled down when time is short, to use when sharing? The person should be encouraged to write it out, and you can help them to eliminate Christian-ese. It might be helpful to memorize the short version for use in conversational evangelism.

Sharing a list of conversation starters with the person would also be helpful. Which ones seem most like something they could use? Offering to pray for people? Asking about their religious background? Asking to share the importance of the gospel with someone close to them? Asking if they can show them how the gospel would help them with a personal need?

Another way to get the person started with evangelism would be to do a servant evangelism project with the person. Going together, two by two as the Lord sent his followers in Luke 10, to share the good news with those who are willing to listen, moving on as people are not. After sharing together, it would be helpful to challenge the person to set up goals for evangelism, specifically; 1) How often and with whom they would share, 2) Commitment to regularly pray for those on their list, adding to the list as they know of others who need to know Christ, and 3) Setting up accountability so that the person will not fall away from their intentions.

An individual asks, “Won’t a good moral life get me to heaven?” Describe how you would respond.

The short answer is no, but I am sure you probably want to know why I say that.

Let me ask you something… how moral of a life is good enough? How much do you need to do to get to heaven? If God is perfect [and I think in being God He would have to be] that would mean that we would need to live up to His perfect standard.

Have you ever met anyone who really was perfect? Even the most moral person in the world probably is not. Ask their spouse if you have any doubt.

If getting into heaven is not about living a perfect life, but living a life that is good enough – do you think God would tell us exactly what we needed to do to be saved? Especially if He is a good and loving God? Wouldn’t you expect some sort of very specific checklist – do these things and you can enter heaven?

His word actually tells us that it is not about what we do. We cannot boast about earning salvation because he gives it to us free. (Ephesians 2:8-9) The only thing we have to do is accept the offer of salvation, to yield to His Spirit. As we do, he will help us to do good things.

Well, wait, but there are people who do good things without God. That is true.

God cares about more than what we do. He cares about why we do things, about what is going on in our hearts. If someone does not know God, and they do good things, then they take the credit for them, right? If they do not know God, why would they give Him credit

The thing is, who is being glorified when they do these good things? Are they winning approval? Do others know of what they are doing? How do others know? Are they bragging, taking credit for being such a wonderful person? Are they using their good deeds as an excuse to lift themselves up above others?

In Matthew 6, Jesus talks about this. Our good deeds are not to be done so that others see them and praise us. If we do that, then we are trading the praises of man for reward from God.

Romans 10:9-13 tells us that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. That means actually believing in their hearts that Christ is Lord, that he faced God’s wrath through death on a cross, died, and rose again, conquering death. There is no mention of our work here, only God’s work through Christ.

Now if we really know Christ, then our lives will change, and we will do things that honor God. In James 2:14-17, we are told that faith without action, without doing things for God, is dead. If someone really has faith in Christ, then they will seek to do the things he calls them to do.

To summarize: Doing good things doesn’t get you to heaven. The most moral person in the world does not honor God when they are doing good things, because they are doing them for themselves, and not for God. Moral living builds yourself up, while doing things motivated by faith builds God up in the sight of others. God cares about more than our actions, he cares about our hearts. When we believe in our hearts that Christ IS God, then we try to live as he would want us to do. Our actions come out of our hearts, as an act of love and obedience.

I would then ask if all of that made sense, if they wanted to talk more about the life and death of Christ, what it means for us, and if they would be interested in placing their trust in Christ.

The relationship between “walk” and “talk” in evangelism.

The Walk

The walk in evangelism is living a life that would please Christ, representing him well to those that we meet by the way that we live our life. We know that when we serve the least of these, we are serving Christ (Matthew 25:31-46), and we are told to let our light shine before others so that they might see the glory of Christ through our actions. Examples of this approach can be found in the stories of Andrew and Peter, Philip and Nathaniel, and Timothy.

The Talk

The talk in evangelism is speaking to others of Christ’s saving work on the cross, his death and resurrection, through which we can have our sins paid for, so that we might have a personal relationship with God, and spend eternity with him. Biblical examples of this approach can be found in the stories of Jesus and the woman at the well, Jesus with Nicodemus, Paul and Silas in prison, Lydia, and Peter and Cornelius.

Balance

We have seen biblical examples that rely more upon our walk or talk, but God does use both methods, and they often go hand in hand. We are the aroma of Christ to those who do not know Him, but we are not just a presence. We are to speak, sincerely, of the one in whom we have hope. (2 Corinthians 2:14-17)

For those who we are closest to, our walk will say more than our words do. With those who we spend less time with and know less, our words will have to communicate more.

Some talk must always be used, otherwise it may be assumed that we are just a great person who has it all together, doing it on our own strength. We know this is not true. (Ephesians 2:8-9) If God is to be glorified, we must give Him credit for the way we live our lives.

Most of us err on one side of the spectrum or the other. If our tendency is not to say enough, we must push ourselves to speak more. If our tendency is more towards talk and starting conversations with strangers, we should ask ourselves if our walk matches our talk, and if we are sharing with our family and friends.