I tend to fear offending man more than I fear offending God. I tend to want to please man more than I want to please God. In my mind, my reputation and my personal comfort are precious treasures that evangelism probably will rip away. I often feel too embarrassed to talk about Jesus in public. I often find myself questioning why I should make such a costly sacrifice to myself in order to obey Jesus. So why should we evangelize when the cost appears so high and the fear is so intense?
I believe that the first and primary reason we should evangelize is to glorify the God who commanded us to do so. Whether it is by starting a conversation with the person next to you on a bus, building a relationship with a coworker or classmate, engaging with people on the street, standing up and preaching in public, or posting about the Gospel on instagram, we must stand up and obey Christ’s command to share the Gospel as Christians have been doing for two thousand years. He has commanded it, we must obey it, and delayed obedience is a form of disobedience. Christ says that “anyone of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33) I am confident that the command to “renounce all that he has” includes renouncing his reputation, his comfort, and even his life if that is what is required of him. In the end, that is worth it to obey Jesus, and it is also worth it if sinners are saved. And as Christians, we do believe that unless they repent and believe the Gospel they will be damned. So how can we withhold the Gospel of grace from them with a clear conscience?
Out of the abundance of a heart that loves God and unsaved sinners, we ought to enter into evangelism with joy. In Philemon 1:6, Paul tells Philemon that he prays “that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.” Here we see that God can use sharing the faith to help us grow in our faith. Almost everyone that practices evangelism knows that it helps us grow in many valuable ways. When it is done biblically it aids us in our battle to kill our pride as we take our stand next to Moses, who, “when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin,” (Hebrews 11:24-25). So let me ask, when will we grow up and take our stand with him? This means stepping forward as an unashamed ambassador of Christ and trying to glorify Him regardless of the consequences. Evangelism will not always be comfortable, people will not always repent, and both persecution and rejection will come in a variety of forms, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:12). As Christians, the amazing joy of bringing glory to our God and seeing sinners come to Christ is incomparable and worth every ounce of discomfort and rejection.
We know that we are not responsible for the results of evangelism, but rather we are called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, biblically, gracefully, blamelessly, honestly, and in love. The Bible teaches us that the results of evangelism lie solely in the Spirit’s hands. Their conversion doesn’t lie in our hands, and it should comfort us to know that it doesn’t lie in their hands either. God is the one who gives His people ears to hear and eyes to see. God is the one who softens hearts and illuminates minds. God is the one who draws people to His Son Jesus. Not us. Indeed, “the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD” (Psalm 37:39), and “to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.” (Psalm 68:20) The results of evangelism and the process of salvation lie in His hands alone. Therefore, no redeemed sinner or evangelist can ever boast in anything except our amazing God. We have no choice but to “ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name” (Psalm 29:2), and because ALL the glory is due to his name, we must ascribe it all to Him. May God forbid it that we ascribe it to ourselves, to a prayer we prayed to “invite Jesus into our heart”, to our evangelistic skill (which is from God if we have any), to their ability to believe the Gospel (which is from God if they have any), or to literally anything accept God. We therefore evangelize out of love for God and neighbor: for God’s glory and not for our own glory. I know that evangelism is hard and uncomfortable and I have so many days where I am overcome with fear when I want to share the Gospel with someone, and even days when I don’t want to share the Gospel at all. I think we all do and it’s hard. Even so, I plead with you, that out of love for Jesus and for your neighbors, that you would share the Gospel and pray for God to change your heart. Share it with your classmates, share it with the lunch-lady, share it with your teachers and coaches, share it with your family, share it with your city or town, and share it with all the people that need it, (that is, all the people). Here are some verses and practical tips that I hope will help you evangelize.
Always pray before, during, and after evangelism, if possible. It is very easy to forget this step, but in reality it is so important to the entire process. We must know that it is God who is fully capable of saving sinners at any given moment, and we must remember to bow before Him and pray for Him to use us, to open doors, to give us boldness, and to transform hearts. Remember that the results are up to Him. God encouraged Paul in a vision one night while he was in Corinth, telling him: “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” (Acts 18:9-10) God’s elect are His people, and we must not fear because the Shepherd has countless sheep in this world whom He laid down His life for. (John 10:11) We must also remember that all of God’s sheep will hear His voice and follow him, (John 10:4), and also that all of God’s sheep will end up believing the Gospel:
“And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48)
2. Lifestyle: Holiness, Love, Reason, Courage.
Be blameless and show love. While walking in vulnerability and humility, make it clear that you yourself are a sinner. We must do this in part so that people are not given an excuse such as unrepentant sin in us or self-righteousness in us to avoid our urgent message. Paul says “I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27)Paul wants to “win the race.” Let us too exercise discipline and self-control so that we are not disqualified. Let us make sure we know what we are talking about. Have key verses about the Gospel memorized, study theology (this is not just for pastors), and “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” (Philippians 4:5) Every Christian is called to be both a missionary and a theologian, and that includes you and me. In all this, be fearless and courageous.
“…but the righteous are bold as a lion.” (Proverbs 28:1)
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.” (Philippians 1:27-28)
“In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, 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, having a good conscience…” (1 Peter 3:15-16)
While “speaking the truth in love,” (Ephesians 4:15) make every effort to show Jesus’ love through your tone, words, and actions, without compromising the truths of the Gospel. I would encourage you to memorize 1 Corinthians 13 and constantly ask yourself if your interactions are reflecting this kind of ‘agape’ love. The late Nabeel Qureshi, a Christian apologist, often spoke of how failing to show people love is failing to show people Christ. Let’s show people our Christ through our lifestyle and our words, not compromising either.
3. Overcoming the Terror of Evangelism
As you prepare to do any kind of evangelism, especially if you are new to it, it is more than likely that fear and anxiety will be in your heart, and it is likely that Satan himself will try to deter you. Fight this with prayer and love. Perfect love casts out fear, and I believe that if you have God-given love for the lost, love for God and His glory, submissiveness to Christ, and faith in the Gospel, you will be able to overcome fear and proclaim Jesus Christ to the world. If fear and laziness is hindering us, let’s examine our hearts and pray God would help us believe in the Gospel, love him, and love our neighbors enough to tell them the truth that has the power to set them free. What exactly are you so afraid of?
4. Do Not Forget to Actually Share the Gospel
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16) When you evangelize, don’t forget to actually evangelize. That means the Gospel must be shared, and it is ridiculous how often the conversation may veer off course or how tempting it is to just chat about religion or politics without actually sharing the Gospel. Even sharing one’s testimony, while usually important, is not necessarily sharing the Gospel (even though there are ways to weave it into a testimony). It will also almost always be tempting to either compromise on the truth of the Gospel or on the love we must have in presenting the Gospel, so keep an eye on yourself in that regard. It’s always easier to just say “Jesus loves you” and leave it at that. During conversations be patient and pray God opens doors for you to share, because a lot of people will try to avoid hearing it even though it is what they most definitely need to hear. I paid a guy in New York five dollars just to let me share the Gospel without him cutting me off. For some people, especially those who are trying to hide from God like Adam and Eve in the Garden, it will be incredibly hard for them to hear the truth. Do not forget or be surprised that the cross is offensive. (Galatians 5:11)
5. Having a Loving Conversation
An easy and non-confrontational method I love is to walk up to people and talk with them. Ask them if you can get their opinion on something, or ask them if you can ask them a few questions, and then, after getting their names or asking them where they are from or something, maybe say something like, ‘I’m a Christian, and I am not here to judge you or anything, but I was wondering if I could hear your thoughts on the Christianity.’ I will sometimes ask, ‘do you know what the Gospel is?’ If they don’t know what it is, I will ask if I can share it with them briefly. Even if they have already said they are atheist, instead of debating with them about that, (which is often a great thing to do), why not just tell them the amazing Gospel of devastating sin and glorious grace? When you speak about the Gospel, speak about it as if it is real… because it is. Sometimes it’s helpful to preface that question with, “do you have any religious or philosophical views.” When people realize that there is a loving person in front of them that genuinely cares about their thoughts, based on my experience they almost always will share their stance. If they look like they are about to walk away, ask “would mind if I just really quickly shared the Gospel with you?” and hopefully they will stay to hear you. If it is going well, or even if they seem pretty opposed, why not ask them if there is anything stopping them from trusting in Jesus right now? We must call for a response. I sometimes will even finish sharing the Gospel and then ask, ‘so when are you going to repent and believe the Gospel?’ Some have said “right now.” others have said “never.” You can’t know until you ask. If they reject Christ then and there, say, “will you think about these things?”
6. The Homeless
Buy homeless people lunch or snacks and stop to listen to their stories, share the Gospel with them, share your money with them, and pray for them. Remember their names and keep praying for them and loving them. Show them the love Jesus showed you. Give them a bible or a gospel tract, and invite them to church. Find out information for local missions, shelters, soup kitchens, and ministries that could help them out. Also, imagine if a homeless person were to come to your church service. Do you think they would feel warmly welcomed?
7. Gospel Tracts, Outreach New Testaments, Gospel of John
Cheap, easy, and while not as effective per person, you never know how God could use each
People have read them right before they were about to commit suicide and were saved. One man had one in his glove compartment and was looking for something to write a suicide note on and ended up a Christian. The great missionary Hudson Taylor was originally saved after receiving a Gospel tract. I have a friend at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago whose family came to Christ after her father immigrated from Cambodia and was converted through a Gospel tract someone gave him. Consider leaving one along with a big tip when you pay for your food, and don’t tip 10% and expect them to read it. Consider also writing something on the receipt. After a good conversation with a stranger, it is great to leave them with something to read, so have one handy. Maybe even write your phone number on it so that they can contact you with questions. Consider writing your own Gospel tract, perhaps one contextualized to your neighborhood, and print it out. Be extremely polite when handing them out and when people reject it rudely, that is a God given opportunity to show grace, so show it. Your love in the face of their nastiness may speak more loudly to them than if they had read the tract. I recommend ordering “The Only Solution to the Greatest Problem” by John MacArthur.
8. Open-Air Preaching
Stand up and preach the Gospel in a graceful, hearable, and biblical way. Tell stories and make clear analogies while showing you love the people you are talking to. Your tone of voice matters. Just like the Gospel tract method, it’s a shotgun approach, but it’s also a time tested way that Christians have shared the Gospel throughout History. Jeremiah, Isaiah, Amos, Nehemiah, Noah, Jonah, Jesus, Paul, Stephen, and many more people in Scripture, and countless more throughout church history, who have stood up in public and preached boldly, and you may be called to do so as well. Great men like Spurgeon, Whitefield, and Knox preached in the streets and saw men converted, men who may never have entered a church and heard the Gospel if it weren’t for street preachers. God loves calling timid men to preach Christ and giving them supernatural boldness. Read of John Knox who ran away in tears when someone asked him to preach for his first time, and ended up preaching with such force that a hearer said it was more powerful and moving than “500 trumpets.” I started doing this and have five brothers at Wheaton who started doing it for the first time this year, and other brothers who have been doing it for years. Check out Paul Washer, Leonard Ravenhill, Jeff Durbin, Ray Comfort, and Jeff Rose on YouTube, they all have some great tips to draw from. This and tracts are like fishing with a large net, hoping to catch as many fish as possible or any fish if possible, whereas having individual conversations is like fishing with a rod with your eyes on the exact fish you want to catch and using the correct bait. You would be surprised as to how God uses this method, even if it is just through you sowing seeds. A.W. Tozer came to Christ after hearing a street preacher. George Whitefield preached to an estimated 10 million hearers, primarily through the open-air. When Paul went to a city, there were either riots or revival, so toughen up, expect resistance, and give it a try if you are called to this.
9. Conversation Starter
Pastor Voddie Baucham will often answer people’s ‘how are you’ with, ‘I’m better than I deserve.’ Which can spark curiosity in the person and open a door for the Gospel to be presented. Pastor Paul Washer recounted in a sermon how he has a friend who would answer every, ‘how are you,’ with, ‘I’m blessed,” and that the answer to why he is blessed is because Jesus was cursed. If you are going to just share about Christ like this make sure it is genuine and sincere.
10. Non Believers at the Table
When you pray for the food at a dinner with unbelievers, just share the Gospel in prayer. Ask if you can pray for the meal. Thank God for sending His only Son Jesus to die for all who will put their trust in Him. This can be good for those family members who are not open to talking about Christ but just happen to be at the dinner table. It can also start conversations following.
11. Going up to Your Crush
No matter what method you choose on this list or not on this list, just remember that this is just like going up to your middle school crush and talking to her. It’s really scary, but once you get the first word out you are committed and the fear subsides. Also a wingman could help, so bring a friend, especially if you are going to be sharing in a potentially physically dangerous environment.
12. Follow Up
This one is the most difficult for me. While we need to preach the Gospel to every person, it is ideal that we get them plugged into a Gospel-preaching church. It is important that this isn’t a one-and-done type interaction where believing in Jesus is like checking a box and then living the exact same way. Believing in Jesus is not like getting a flu shot or pressing a button a single time. While it must start with repentance and faith, true faith in Jesus should result in a lifetime of obedience and sacrificial love. I would encourage you to get their number and try to meet up for coffee if they are interested in learning more, have a series of Bible studies with them, or invite them to church, give them your number. When we make disciples, we should desire strongly for them to become disciple-making disciples themselves.