The New Testament presents evangelism as both a gift and a command. On the one hand, evangelism is the main task God has given Christians to do (cf. Matt. 28:18–20). All believers are to be witnesses, and to fail to proclaim the gospel is to miss the very essence of what God has left us on earth to do.
But while all Christians are called to be active in evangelism, not all Christians are equally gifted at this particular calling. Passages like Acts 21:8 and Ephesians 4:11 imply that some believers have the gift of evangelism, and some do not. So, while God commands all Christians to evangelize, in His wisdom He has only specifically gifted some in that area.
The conclusion then is that God commands most Christians to do something at which they are not specially gifted.
For many believers, evangelism is stretching, uncomfortable, and time consuming. It can result in feelings of humiliation and failure. It involves the proclamation of a “foolish” message (1 Cor. 1:23) that is intolerant and exclusive. Yet this is what God would have us do.
Perhaps you are one of the many who does not find evangelism easy or natural. Here are five practical steps to jump start your evangelistic efforts:
1. Live a Transformed Life
The most eloquent and fluent gospel presentation is muted if your life does not reflect the truth of the message. The more holy and set apart our lives are, the more powerful our evangelism will be. In fact, the consistent testimony of a changed life is one of the more compelling proofs of the truth of the gospel (Rom. 12:1).
2. Pray Relentlessly
A sign of godliness is earnest prayer for the lost (Rom. 10:1). In my own life, I have seen that the more I pray and ask God to open doors for evangelism, the more opportunities I have. That prayer is not only answered by God bringing more non-believers into my life, it is also answered by God allowing me to see the opportunities that are already present.
3. Start the Conversation
Because of your love and compassion for your neighbors and co-workers, develop relationships with them. Get to know their names, interests, joys, and trials. Ask them questions, and listen to the answers. I am always surprised by how many Christians don’t even know the names of their neighbors. Start conversations with them, and watch how God develops relationships that can lead to the gospel being presented.
4. Explain the Gospel
In the course of your relationships with friends and neighbors, talk about spiritual things. Ask questions in a loving way, and be prepared to explain what you believe, and why it is different from their beliefs. Be ready to articulate the reason for your eternal hope (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15). Explain who God is, that He is holy and that He is the creator. Explain why man is sinful and in need of a Savior. Identify Christ as that Savior, and explain how His death and resurrection can restore us to a right relationship with God. And finally, tell them what a saving response looks like by challenging them to count the cost, deny themselves, and become a follower of Christ.
5. Don’t Give Up or Get Discouraged
At some point, those who are faithful to evangelize will experience rejection, and possibly even persecution. (Yet, even in this we can rejoice—Acts 5:41). Sinners refuse to embrace the truth because they are spiritually dead and blind to the things of God (Eph. 2:1). The evangelist has an impossible task, one for which he or she is personally insufficient (2 Cor 3:5–6). But we rely on God who can do all things, including raise the dead to life (Eph. 2:4). And we recall that we too were once in that same condition.
It is important to remember that success in evangelism is not determined by the response of the sinner. Rather, it is measured by our faithfulness to proclaim the message. When we are faithful with the opportunities that God gives us, we can rest in knowing that we have been obedient, and we can trust Him with the results.