Have you ever tried to share Christ with someone but it felt mechanical and superficial? Chances are if sharing Christ feels superficial to you, the people you are sharing with are likely to feel the same. When I started following Christ I was passion about evangelism. I read books on it, attend seminars and continually employed these strategies to share Christ with people in my sphere of influence. However, no matter how much I practiced or studied evangelism, my experiences sharing the Christ felt futile or superficial at best. I recognized something critical was missing but I had no idea what it was.
As finite beings we do not have the foresight of knowing the cravings and challenges of each individual we are sharing with. For this reason words spoken in our own strength will be meaningless and irrelevant those we are sharing with. However, God knows the deepest secrets of every person and through the Holy Spirit he is able to speak through us to touch the depths of the human heart. Only the Holy Spirit can give us the words to convict and compel others to follow Christ. I thank God for the many evangelism strategies Christians have devised however there is one essential component much of evangelism lacks. More specifically, there is one Person our evangelism lacks. Without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit all our evangelistic efforts are futile.
There is No Formula
As every person is unique, we desperately need the Holy Spirit’s wisdom to give us the words to appeal to every individual. Sometimes in the church we try to find an evangelistic strategy or formula to apply to everyone. It is far too easy to get caught up in our methods and try to d evangelism in our own strength forgetting about the only Person who can effectively speak to every individual. It is essential to develop our apologetic skills by studying resources and discover how we can become more relevant to culture. However, you must always remember the Holy Spirit is the only Person who is able to compel an individual to follow Christ and you are only the mouthpiece God is speaking through.
God Needs You
Take a moment and contemplate the incredible privilege and tremendous responsibility God has given you as his child. As his child, God has called you to be an agent and active participant in his redemptive plan. Each one of us has been called as an ambassador of God to represent his heart and fulfill his will in the earth. As the body of Christ, we are Jesus hands and feet on this earth who must continue the work that he began. Do you realize your participation in evangelism is not optional? You are essential to God’s will being fulfilled in the earth. Paul reminds us every member of Christ’s body is not only important but essential to the effective functioning of the entire body. Soberly consider the implications of this verse with me. If the Christ’s body will is unable to function without every member contributing, how will it be possible for Christ’s body to fulfill the great commission and God’s eternal plan for the earth without the complete devotion and participation of every member of Christ’s body in the earth? You are a very important member of Christ’s body. You have role to play. You have been called to be an ambassador of God to humanity. God is waiting for you to fully embrace your calling. Time is too short and you do not have a moment to waste!
Prerequisites for Effective Evangelism
1. Be led by the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6, 9-10). Unless the Person of the Holy Spirit is initiating and directing our evangelistic efforts will be future. All evangelism in the early church was initiated and lead by the Holy Spirit.
The only reason Paul ever start his first missionary journey was because the Holy Spirit called him to this purpose. Likewise, Philip was led into the desert to the Ethiopian (Acts 8). It would seem crazy to any modern day evangelist to leave a thriving Samaritan revival and go into a desert of Gaza. However, Philip’s only direction came from the Holy Spirit (instead of human popularity) and as a result the gospel was brought to Africa. Another time Paul wanted to go to Asia but the Spirit forbade Him. Instead the Holy Spirit lead him to Macedonia (Europe) and his ministry was far more effective there. This notion of the Holy Spirit leading may seem so foreign to our present day understanding of evangelism but as demonstrated throughout the early church the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit is a prerequisite for all effective evangelism.
When doing random evangelism, I am continually asking the Holy Spirit to lead me to people whose hearts are ripe and ready for the harvest. The parable of sower is essential insight for those who are doing evangelism. I pray for God to lead me to people with hearts that have been cultivated by a crisis or deep unsatisfied cravings. My prayer is for the Holy Spirit to lead me to those who desperately searching for more in life and will be open to God
2. Be convicted by eternal reality. It is important to examine our motivation for evangelism. Are we just doing it because it is the Christian thing to do? Are we doing it to try to please God by our good works? Are we doing it to try to grow a bigger church? Ironically our greatest motivation for evangelism is not the lost people we are trying to lead to God. This is a huge problem because without a sincere love for passion for lost people going to hell our evangelism will be shallow at best.
The Father’s heart weeps and breaks over every individual who is living in rebellion and headed for destruction. Pray and ask your Father to give you his heart for the lost. When God shares his breaking heart with us, we will share his burden for the lost.
A True Heart For Evangelism
Does your heart break when you think about unsaved love ones and friends? Does your heart break for the condition of God’s church in the earth? Last night I was at a prayer meeting and our Pastor announced two Pastors in Africa had been burned at the stake for sharing the gospel. In that moment, my entire being was flood with emotion and I started to pray. But I woke up this morning and completely forgot. There have been times in my life where I have seen unsaved loved ones die and my heart is grieved but then I get distracted with other things in life. Without the Holy Spirit our “passion for the lost” are flashes of emotion that come and go. Only the Holy Spirit can awaken within our hearts an unwavering conviction and sincere love for every human being you encounter.
3. Be relevant and learning your audience’s soul cravings. Paul always appealed to the deepest soul cravings of his audience. The Greeks were obsessed with their “gods”, so Paul explained to them, these gods were only a cheap imitation of “unknown God” who is the one True God. The Romans were infatuated with glory, so Paul emphasized human glory is only a shadow of the immortal glory they will experience as God’s children. The Jews were religious fanatics, so Paul revealed to them the only they can become truly spiritual is through Jesus Christ. Every human being as a vague notion of god or higher power and our job in evangelism is to lead individuals to the realization the object of their present desires is only a shadow and cheap imitation of their true desire for God.
To be relevant to your audience always try to appeal to their cravings for purpose, meaning and significance in life. Your job as an evangelist is to learn the cravings of your audience and then delicately awaken them to recognize the fulfillment of all their cravings can only be found in God himself.
4. Develop relationships. Jesus was the most effective evangelist in history because of his love and not his divinity. Every individual who came in contact with Jesus could sense how deeply and personally Jesus loved them. Jesus was the complete expression of the Father’s love to the world. The love of God flowed like a spring of living water from the life of Jesus. In one of his letter the apostle John writes that people will come to know God because they see and experience the Father’s love through Christians in their sphere of influence. It is very easy to develop superficial relationships with someone but a mere surface level relationship will not compel them to follow Christ. When God’s love flows through you, people are compelled because you care for them so personally and passionately it almost seems supernatural. God’s flowing through us is a far more compelling argument for the Creator than any scientific evidence of God or theological argument. I believe all of these components are important aspects of evangelism but love is by far most effective.
So how are your relationships? How can you allow God’s love to more freely flow through you? Are people in your sphere of influence compelled by how passionately and personally you care about them?
5. Preach Jesus. Keep things as simple as possible. If the individual you are sharing with has never heard of Jesus it is probably not a good idea to try to explain the Trinity. Focus on who Jesus is and what he has personally done for you. Individuals in your sphere of influence don’t really care what popular Christian speakers, evangelist and apologist think but since you have developed a relationship with them, they will listen to you. People will be most compelled by your thoughts and experiences because they know you. (It is great to include powerful thoughts from others but if you are quoting other people all the time, the individual is left wondering if Jesus is just a rumor spread by religious people.) If Jesus is a tangible reality in your life, he is far more likely to become a tangible reality in the individual you are sharing with.
6. Be empowered (Acts 1:8). Before evangelizing you should completely yield your life to God and pray for the Holy Spirit to empower you with the right words to say. Learn to look to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and allow the Holy Spirit to take over the conversation. As I am trying to share the gospel with people, I am continually searching and praying for the Holy Spirit to lead the conversation to seize the individual’s heart and attention. For example, if I find out they are passionate about playing music, I will share about my Christian friend who is the most gift musician I have ever met hoping they might ask more about this and I can naturally share Christ with them. Another time during random evangelism I discovered someone was studying world religions in university, this opened up incredible opportunity for God to guide our conversation into spiritual things. The Holy Spirit can also empower us by giving a sense of an individual’s cravings or struggles in their life. When I first meet an individual, after only a few minutes of conversation, I often sense the Holy Spirit impressing on my heart topics that would speak directly to the cravings in their hearts.
7. Have faith (Mark 16:16-18). Know with confidence God will lead you and give you the right words to say to the right individuals. Our heavenly Father’s heart is far more broken and desperate to save the lost than we could ever be. As a result he will do everything within his power (without superseding human freewill) to empower you and intervene in the life of the individual you are sharing with. Your heavenly Father is backing you one hundred percent and he desires to see people saved far more than you could comprehend.
8. Be patient and faithful. It is important to clearly understand your role in evangelism. Your responsibility is to be faithful, not to get results. I believe our definition of effective of evangelism is very different from God’s. In North America typically use the number of people who accepted Jesus to our results. By these standards Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah Ezekiel and many others would be considered complete failures yet God considered them faithful.
For many people evangelism can be very discouraging because they don’t see immediate results. Though the ultimate goal of all evangelism is to lead people to Christ, it may not happen overnight. Sometimes we think it is our job as believers do to all we can to make sure those we evangelize come to Christ the first time we talk to them. In reality, every person is in a different place in their journey and some may not be ready to fully commit their lives to Christ. Our responsibility is to simply lead them further down the path and bring them closer to finding a relationship with their heavenly Father. Sometimes, when we try to push people too far too fast, and they feel pressured or manipulate.
Maintaining your faith and patiently waiting to see results is the most difficult part of evangelism. My friend who was a former drug addict reminded me this morning God had to send countless individuals to lead him to Christ. If the Christians in my friend’s life tried to push my friend to accept Christ too early, he knows for certain he would have turned away and would have never discovered a relationship with God. My friend’s real life story demonstrates our desperately need for God’s wisdom and guidance in evangelism. Only God can show us how to effectively evangelize
9. Pray unceasingly. While the Holy Spirit takes the lead in evangelism, our role is faith, patience and prayer. The most overlooked, undervalued yet most essential component of evangelism is prayer. Recently, I have come across numerous autobiographies of Christian leaders who confess the prayers of their parents are the only reason they are saved today. Many of these men spent years in complete rebellion to God but their parents never ceased praying for them and as a result they have eternally impacted the lives of many. You may have loved ones or friends you have been continually praying for years to come to Christ. Do not give up hope! The moment you stop praying is the moment your evangelism will cease to be effective. Prayer is the catalyst initiates God’s will being done on the earth. When we yield ourselves to God the Holy Spirit is able to fulfill our prayers as he in and through us.
Sharing the His-Story
Have you ever struggled with how to present the gospel in a practical way every person you meet can not only understand but also personally relate to? Maybe you are a practical person and you feel uncomfortable using theological jargon or don’t know how to share the gospel effectively. Jesus used to powerful stories to illustrate biblical truth in a new way to compel and awaken individuals to follow God. Sometimes our theological apologetics fail to capture the wonder and awe of His-story. History really is the Father’s story. Sometimes in the way we explain theology God feels distant deity who created the world and is now watching indifferently from a distance. On the contrary His-story, depicts a loving father who cares very deeply and personally for every human being ever created. His-story reveals the infinite love of a broken hearted father who is willing to do anything and has done everything to bring his children back into right relationship with himself. As Jesus demonstrates the most powerful evangelism is using the power of story to engage our audience and speak to the very depths of their hearts.
Evangelism Through His-Story
There once was a Father who desperately longed to have children to love and care for. Motivated by love the Father set in motion plans to create an entire universe to continually express to his children his great love for them. The Father carefully designed even the most intricate details of this new world. He carefully scrutinized everything he created to ensure it was good and it would be the ideal climate for his children. After extensive designing and creating of the entire universe, the father was now ready to unleash his divine masterpiece. A creature that would be the crowning glory of all creation, fashioned after the very image of the Father himself. So the Father intricately knit together children who would grow up to become just like him.
The father loved his children very much and he would do anything for them. These two children were so special the father took extra special care in planning a perfect world that would provide for and satisfy every desire of his most precious children. The father treasured his children above everything he created. In fact his very purpose in creating this world and everything in it was to make a perfect world for his children, so he could live with them on the earth. The father loved his children very much and would do anything for them.
Tragically the children were deceived into thinking their father was holding out on them and did not have their best interest in mind. Although, this could not have been further the truth because of their distorted view, the children began to wonder if they should trust or listen to their father. Why would he keep the knowledge of good and evil from us? Maybe he is keeping these secrets from us so that we don’t become as powerful as he does. Though the father longed to give his children everything, all wise father’s know you must wait till children are mature enough to handle the responsibility you give them. In the same manner no parent would allow their five year old to drive their car, the Father knew his children were not ready for this responsibility. The Father “kept secrets” because of his passionate love and desire for his children’s wellbeing.
Yet the children were deceived into thinking their Father did not have their best interest in mind, so they openly disobeyed him. It is important to note the father gave his children full control over the earth. They were the earth’s rulers and kings. They had final authority and the decisions they made could not be revoked. In disobeying God, mankind willingly chose to subject themselves and all creation to the rule of God’s archenemy Satan. The first human beings decision imprisoned the entire human race and all creation for all time.
Now from a human standpoint this may seem tragic but imagine how the father feels. He poured his entire being into designing a perfect world for his most precious children to live and walk with him. Have you ever days or even years on a project only to have it destroyed? The father had poured all his creative energy into making a world so perfect to express his infinite love for his child. The father intricately and personally fashioned his children in his image, so he could have a perfect relationship with his children. After pouring his entire being into this project, his perfect world has been destroyed and much, much worse his children have rejected him and he can no longer have a relationship with them. Imagine the pain of never being able to see your children again? Now imagine the even greater agony knowing your children are still alive but that they never want to see you again? Our finite minds cannot begin to comprehend the agony and sadness flooding the Father’s heart. All his work had been destroyed and his children were forever lost. All hope dissipated leaving a gaping hole in the Father’s heart.
Though all hope appeared to be lost the Father knew all of this would take place. This is what I find most unfathomable about his love. He poured his entire being into creating a perfect world knowing it would be destroyed. The Father’s love was so great he created freewill beings in his image fully aware they would reject him and pollute the perfect world he made. God knew before beginning creation, if he wanted to have a family, it would require the ultimate sacrifice of personally coming into this world and dying for the very beings he created. Imagine dying and giving your life for a robot or something you created? The thought seems absolutely crazy. Yet God loves you so much he saw you before the foundation of the world and decided he would personally enter this world and be mocked, tortured and hung on a cross by the very beings he had created. Since human beings had complete decision making power over the earth and the human race, God knew he would have to personally enter the human race and exchange places with us, so we would have the freedom to choose to have a relationship with God.
What is even more unfathomable is God did this personally for you, fully aware your life is in complete opposition to his ways. Imagine a person who hates you and purposely does things to express their contempt towards you? Never in a million years would you be willing to die for that person. Yet this is the very thing God has done for you.
As a passionate, desperate Father longing for a relationship with you, he has done everything to enable you to come home. God was thinking of you when he humbled himself into human form and became the scum of the earth, was despised and rejected only so you could be his child. Freewill is a reality. Though God has personally wrote a perfect plan for your life when he created you and has given his very self to bring you back into relationship with him, the choice is up to you. This is the most important decision you will make in your life because it will determine where you will spend the rest of eternity.