I assume many Christians are familiar with the obligation of the Great Commission, so I thought it might be helpful to provide a few biblical do’s and don’ts for completing it through evangelism. By looking to the examples set by Jesus Christ and saints of the Old and New Testaments, we can learn how to be faithful evangelists to those around us. The tips below are based on either clear commands in Scripture or the commendable accounts of believers’ obedience to God. They are organized into a list of what you shouldn’t do and what you should do instead.
Don’t #1: Sugarcoat the truth of the gospel to preserve peace and comfort.
Do #1: Know that telling the unadulterated truth of the gospel is one way we love and honor God and love the person with whom we are sharing the gospel. We often avoid speaking of the realities of Hell and judgment because we do not want to be uncomfortable or unliked, but that’s never honoring to God, nor is it beneficial for the hearer. To be saved, the person being evangelized needs to know that God is going to condemn to Hell every person who has ever lived for the sins that they have committed unless they acknowledge themselves as sinners and trust in Christ by faith alone for salvation. Jesus took the wrath of God on the cross in the place of sinners who would come to Him for rescue (Psalm 37:39-40, Isaiah 53:4-5).
Don’t #2: Interpret an angry response as a failure or as a success on your part.
Do #2: Remember that throughout history, God’s faithful people were vilified, ostracized, and even killed for proclaiming the truth that mankind needs to repent and submit to the triune God’s authority (1 Kings 18:17-18, Heb. 11:38-39). The very people who were offered salvation in Christ through prophecies and scriptures sought His death. Jesus informs us that we should not expect better treatment than He received from the world, which is naturally hostile toward God (John 15:18-20). He says, “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26).
On the other hand, we must not assume that an angry response means that we honored God with our evangelistic approach. The person may not have become offended because of the gospel, but because we were aggressive or disrespectful toward them. God charges us with sharing the truth with patience, boldness, gentleness, and love. If someone is offended, it should be in response to God’s Word, not our poor attitude (2 Timothy 2:24-26, 1 Peter 3:15).
Don’t #3: Measure your success by how many people come to faith through your evangelism.
Do #3: Recognize that somebody becoming a Christian is a supernatural act wrought by God alone. We don’t have the ability to bring spiritually dead people to life (John 3:1-8). God charges us with sharing the gospel while we leave the rest to Him.
Don’t #4: Wait until you feel comfortable/bold enough to share the gospel with unbelievers before you do evangelism.
Do #4: Commit to sharing the gospel despite your discomfort. If necessary, you can even find small ways to start obeying Christ in this area. This may look like starting conversations over texts or phone calls so that you can have time to reference notes and organize your thoughts well. I used to do this frequently. Keep in mind the goal is not to stay at this stage, but to progress to the point where you can clearly articulate and discuss the gospel during in-person conversations. You can expect to sometimes feel uncomfortable and timid even after you grow accustomed to sharing the gospel, but we are to persevere by the Lord’s strength. Most importantly, pray for God to give you strength to overcome your fear of man (Colossians 4:2-4, Proverbs 29:25).
Don’t #5: Neglect to build relationships with those with whom you share the good news.
Do #5: Love the people whom you’ve been given to evangelize in both word and deed. We as Christians can sometimes, perhaps unintentionally, give people the cold shoulder when they do not repent and believe the gospel when we first present it to them. Without showing the love of Christ to unbelievers, we ruin our testimony before them. I am certainly not advocating making immoral compromises, but we should seek ways to demonstrate to them that we earnestly care for them through relationships. Some people may eventually come to the faith, and maintaining an ongoing relationship with them may facilitate the process.
Don’t #6: Think of evangelism as being merely about your views and another person’s views.
Do #6: Our postmodern society likes relegating every truth claim to a mere opinion. In my experience, evangelism has been difficult because when I say “You need to repent of your many sins and trust in Christ alone for salvation,” people hear “In my personal religion that doesn’t have any to do with you, unless you want it to, we acknowledge Jesus as our Lord. I think it would be nice if you agree with this opinion of mine, but if you don’t, that’s fine.” If the gospel was just a matter of personal preference then we would be foolish to declare it as truth to others. All Christians should know that we don’t share the gospel because Christianity is our preference, but because the triune God, who has authority over all things, commands people to repent and turn to Christ (Psalm 22:27-28, Acts 17:30).
By applying these tips to your evangelistic encounters, I believe you will honor God by relying on Him more and reflecting Christ’s boldness and love. Though some of the tips are challenging, others will improve your dependence on God and alleviate unnecessary stress. May the Lord be with you as you seek the salvation of your family, friends, and acquaintances.