The following is a report on the practical applications of Ché Ahn's new book, Fire Evangelism: Reaching the Lost through Love and Power, (Chosen Books, 2006).
Do you evangelize just to fulfill a sense of obligation? Do you dread evangelism so much that you avoid it altogether?
If evangelism seems like a chore, you need to discover fresh passion for it. God will give you that passion – and the power you need to evangelize lost people every day.
Here’s how you can find passion and power for evangelism:
* Put first things first. Realize that all your evangelism efforts must spring from a close, ongoing love relationship with God. Make your relationship with Him your top priority above all else in your life. Place your focus on being close to God instead of doing tasks for Him. Then your evangelism will flow naturally out of your connection to God. Know that your love for God will draw people to you who are curious about His work in your life and need to hear the Gospel message.
* Answer the call. Understand that evangelism isn’t just for clergy members or other ministry professionals; it’s a sacred call that Jesus wants every one of His followers to answer. Don’t worry that you don’t have the right personality to succeed at evangelism. Know that there are many different ways to evangelize, and all you need to do is be faithful to undertake the task in whatever style works best for you. Be assured that the God who made your unique personality knows just how you can best evangelize, and He stands ready to help you. Be alert to evangelism opportunities God sends your way, and make the most of them, realizing that time is precious because your chances to reach the lost are over when you die. Seek to bring God joy by doing your best for Him.
* Check your motives. Ask yourself why you’re evangelizing other people. Don’t do it because you have to; do it because you want to. Let your love for Jesus and your gratefulness for what He did for you and others on the cross motivate you to share His message. Evangelize because God’s good news is too good to keep to yourself and you want others to experience the freedom you enjoy because of Jesus. Recognize that evangelism is vital because it gives God honor and glory that He deserves, it brings Him joy, and it was a priority for Jesus.
* Recognize that your life is a witness. Understand that your life as a whole sends a powerful message to people who are watching you to see whether or not your faith is truly genuine. Know that the levels of integrity, peace, and joy you demonstrate to others will speak louder to them than your words in any Gospel presentation. Ask yourself hard questions on a regular basis to determine if you’re showing others real faith in action. Consider issues like these: Do you keep your promises to people? Do you pay your bills on time? Do you choose to trust God to overcome challenges instead of worrying about them? Do you speak positively about others rather than gossiping about them? Do you choose to be honest in situations when lying would be easier for you? Do you give your best work instead of just enough to get by? Do you retain a hopeful attitude even while you’re suffering? Remember that your life preaches for you and make sure that the message your life gives to others is the right one.
* Build strong character. Every day, seek to keep growing more and more into the person God wants you to become. Stay close to Him through spiritual disciplines like worship, prayer, and meditating on the Bible. Regularly ask the Holy Spirit to fill you so you’ll have fresh strength for evangelism and everything else God wants you to do. Deal with the root issues of unhealthy attitudes and behaviors in your life. Confess and repent of your sins on a regular basis. Seek deliverance from evil that may be harming you. Ask God to remind you of His vision for your life, and stay focused on it when you make decisions.
* Love and accept others. Recognize that God’s love is the greatest force in the universe, and that you must let His love flow through you to other people to successfully evangelize them. Understand that you cannot reach lost people if you don’t love them. Realize that they don’t care what you know until they know that you care. Look to Jesus as your role model of how to interact with people, and remember that He was willing to spend time with people and demonstrate love for them, no matter what. Ask God to help you avoid the temptation to use fear and fire-and-brimstone tactics to evangelize people. Ask Him to help you meet people right where they are – sins and all – and accept them as people unconditionally. Stand by them no matter what they’re going through. Think the best of them instead of the worst. Don’t judge them. Make them feel safe in your presence. Never demean or insult others when talking to them. Speak with humility. Don’t be easily offended by lost people; keep in mind that they have been wounded. Be willing to invest significant amounts of time into building relationships with people. Be flexible and patient with them. Remember that people aren’t just numbers to add to your evangelism achievement goals; they’re God’s children, whom He loves and wants you to love.
* Know your message well. When presenting the Gospel message, be sure to include these essential truths: Tell the story of what Jesus did on the cross to reconcile people to God. Explain why sin separates people from God, why they can’t reach Him on their own, and why they need His help. Lead them to repent (turning away from selfish thinking and sin and turning their hearts toward God). Encourage them to believe in Jesus and what He has done, and to trust every part of their lives to Him. Let them know how to become baptized, filled with the Holy Spirit, and committed to a local church. When talking with people, take the initiative, show genuine interest in them, arouse their curiosity, ask them questions that motivate them to think about their spirituality, introduce them to Jesus, invite them to begin a relationship with Jesus, and help them become incorporated into God’s family. Ask God to give you the confidence you need to share the Gospel boldly and joyfully.
* Don’t stop short. Recognize that evangelism includes more than just sharing the Gospel message with people so that they repent and begin saving relationships with Jesus. Understand that it also entails helping people be baptized, filled with the Holy Spirit, and incorporated into a local church. Keep it touch with people who say a prayer of salvation with you to make sure they’re on track to grow as Christians.
* Let the Holy Spirit lead you. Don’t use a standard formula to evangelize people. Instead, approach each one differently according to how the Holy Spirit leads you. Tailor your conversation to each person’s unique needs. Share the Gospel at the right time in each person’s life, since everyone is at a different stage of readiness to hear and respond to it. Pray regularly for God to give you divine appointments with the right people at the right times.
* Pray for lost people. Realize that praying for the lost releases great power to help them. Every day, pray for people in your circle of influence – unbelieving family members, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and acquaintances. Add fasting to your prayers when you can, since doing so takes your focus off yourself, places it on spiritual concerns, and urges God to move in response. Pray with someone else when you can, since prayers are even more powerful when two or more people agree about them. Never give up praying for unsaved people you know; remember that it may take lots of time for them to come to faith, but that God is always at work and nothing is impossible with Him. Move outside your circle of influence by praying for unbelievers in specific cities and nations worldwide. Know that your prayers will impact their lives because prayer has no geographic boundaries.
* Serve others. Respond to God’s nudges to serve other people, whenever you sense Him urging you to do so. Understand that even a small act of kindness can have a huge positive influence on someone, and that people never forget acts of loving service. Ask God to give you a servant’s heart, and remember that it’s an honor to serve people for Him.
* Build friendships. Know that most people who come to faith do so because a friend helped lead to Jesus. So, whenever possible, don’t just evangelize people and leave, but stay connected by developing meaningful friendships with them. Bring evangelism into your existing friendships, as well, by discussing the Gospel when you’re talking with your friends and people you know casually (such as from the gym, the PTA, or a professional association). Make time to talk with people who want to talk with you even when it’s not convenient. Invite people to your home for coffee or a meal. Listen to them and become involved in their lives.
* Rely on the Holy Spirit. Depend on God’s unlimited power rather than your own limited abilities when evangelizing people. Trust that God will give you all the help you need to do an excellent job each time. Don’t try to make successful results happen on your own. Instead, look for open doors that the Spirit leads you to go through. Pray regularly for the Spirit to make you aware of people you encounter who need to God’s loving touch, expressed through you. Always be available to talk with people and pray for their needs. Ask the Spirit to give you insight into their hearts. If you receive some particular wisdom unique to them (such as information about their circumstances that you couldn’t have known without the Holy Spirit’s help), be brave about mentioning it while you talk to them. Know that if you’re willing to do something that may even seem ridiculous, God will do the miraculous.
* Become a channel for God’s presence to awaken others. Seek to maintain intimacy with God, so that your close relationship with Him will strengthen you and make others notice that something is different about you. As you enjoy God’s presence with you, know that it will flow through you to attract others. So spend plenty of time communing with God in prayer and worship. Help other people sense God in your life and desire close relationships with Him themselves.
* Help plant churches. Whenever you can, help plant new churches. Pray for them, support them financially, and do volunteer work to help them start. Understand that church planting is a highly effective way of evangelizing the world because new churches can reach all types of people in innovative ways and serve their communities well, releasing new leaders to take on new ministry opportunities.
* Remember that you’re in full-time ministry, even in the secular marketplace. Always keep in mind that your evangelism work is just as valuable as the work of someone in paid vocational ministry. Know that God will constantly bring you important opportunities to evangelize, in your workplace and elsewhere, and that your efforts matter. Decide to do your best for God, reaching lost people at all times and in all situations in which you sense Him leading you to do so.
Adapted from Fire Evangelism: Reaching the Lost through Love and Power, copyright 2006 by Che Ahn. Published by Chosen Books (a division of Baker Publishing Group), Grand Rapids, Mich., www.chosenbooks.com.
Ché Ahn (M.Div., D.Min., Fuller Theological Seminary) is senior pastor of Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, California; CEO for The Call (a global youth revival movement); and overseer of the apostolic team for Harvest International Ministry, an affiliation of 1,500 churches in many nations. The author of numerous books, Ahn travels and teaches extensively throughout the world. He and his wife, Sue, have four adult children who love Jesus.