Okay, we all admit that the church isn’t doing enough to reach the lost. Sure, there are libraries full of evangelism how-to books and enough training material to start a university, but those things aren’t making much of a difference. Some people don’t know which books are worth reading. Others have been trained in EE and CWT and any other acronym of your choice and it’s still not helping. The art of personal evangelism is struggling these days.
If you’re struggling, let me offer some practical suggestions:
Make sure that you’re a believer yourself. Ask yourself the hard questions. Do I believe the Bible? Do I think Jesus is the only way to salvation? Have I trusted him implicitly with my soul? Does my life bear out my testimony? Am I living like a Christian?
Many who are sharing their faith, or trying to, are doing so without the benefit of a real faith. They come to church. They like the fellowship. It salves the wounds of their daily lives. They want others to know the joy they find in church. That’s not evangelism. That’s recruiting.
If you’re find yourself in this predicament, don’t panic. Church history is full of stories of “believers,” very often ministers, who came to the painful realization that they were not true believers even though they were engaged in the work of the Lord. If that’s you, repent. Ask God to forgive you of your sins. Trust Christ as your substitutionary atonement. Then tell others about the marvelous work He’s done in your life.
Make sure that you’re reading the Bible. We cannot do evangelism without the Bible. You don’t have to have it in your hand every time you’re sharing your faith but you need to have it in your heart. You have to know it in your mind. The faith that we share is the faith that we find detailed in the Bible. You’ve got to know it to share it.
You need to be reading the Bible regularly. Start reading the Bible daily. In a few short weeks it will become a habit. In a few short months it will become an addiction. Challenge yourself. Read the Bible all the way through. There are plenty of reading plans available. Find one that fits your schedule and personality and stick to it.
Read the Bible but don’t just read it. Make it your goal to understand it. I’m not saying that every Christian has to be a Bible scholar. I am saying that every Christian should be a person of the book.
(Three books that I would recommend for the novice are: Living by the Book by Howard and William Hendricks (a basic primer on how to read and interpret the Bible accurately); The Message of the Old Testament and The Message of the New Testament both by Mark Dever (these readable commentaries help the reader see the big picture of every book in the Bible).)
Make sure you know what you believe. One of the best evangelistic tools that you can use is your own testimony of God’s work of grace in your life and your own beliefs.
You need to be able to engage unbelievers without notice, to answer their questions and challenges without a second thought. Tell your co-workers about what you believe. Be ready to explain why Easter is so important. Don’t be afraid to defend the key tenets of the Christian faith. When you’re equipped to explain your beliefs, you can challenge them on theirs.
This one requires some work on your part. You need to read the Bible. You need to struggle with sdifficult issues. You need to be willing to seek theological guidance when you hit a dead end. You need to do it because the lost person you’re trying to share your faith with doesn’t want to know what your pastor or the pope believes. She wants to know what you believe and why. Know what you believe and tell her.
(There are many wonderful resources to help you in this part of your journey. Several entry-level theology books are very helpful: Introducing Christian Doctrine by Millard Erickson; Christian Beliefs by Wayne Grudem; and Concise Theology by J. I. Packer. The most important tool, however, you need to create. Write down your confession of faith. Ask yourself what you believe about things like the Person and work of Christ, the doctrine of creation, and abortion. Don’t stop there, however. Dig into the Bible and see if you’re beliefs are biblical and then write down the verses to back up your beliefs.)
Make sure that you’re living the Christian life. Christians need to be discipled and they need to be disciplined. You can seek the former. You can control of the latter. See what the Bible says about Christian living and live it.
One of the biggest complaints aired against the church is that it’s full of hypocrites. It sounds like a trite diversionary tactic offered by the unbeliever. Unfortunately, it’s all too often true. Too many people in our pews live like unbelievers. When unbelievers hear them preaching the Gospel but living like world, they ask themselves why bother. They can live the same way and sleep in on Sunday. We need to practice what we preach. Unbelievers expect it. Christ demands it.
(In addition to the Bible, I would recommend Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life and 10 Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health, both by Don Whitney. These books discuss Christian practices like prayer, Bible reading, and fasting and help you find ways to implement them in your Christian walk.)
You see, evangelism is about more than memorizing some polished presentation or inviting people to church. It’s sharing the Gospel with your whole life. It’s believing it, studying it, and living it. When you become a self-disciplined, Gospel-saturated Christian, you’ll be evangelizing and not even know it.
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About Peter Beck
Peter serves as assistant professor of religion at Charleston Southern University where he teaches church history and theology. While serving as senior pastor in Louisville, Ky., he completed his PhD in historic theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His dissertation, The Voice of Faith: Jonathan Edwards's Theology of Prayer, is soon to be published. He, his wife Melanie, and their two kids, Alex (12) and Karis (7), live near Charleston, SC. Peter's goal for his teaching and writing ministries is "love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Tim 1:5).
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