Want more? Go to my archives section to listen to over 140 audio interviews.
Recently, I have not been recording evangelism encounters. I like to approach people and begin conversations in different ways at times to see what works best. A couple days ago at school, I started recording some interviews again. Here are links for two of them:
To get these interviews for the website, here is usually how the discussion goes:
Me: Can I ask you a question?
Me: I am going around today interviewing people for a Christian website that I put together. Do you have a few minutes to answer some questions about your spiritual beliefs?
Contact: Sure (If they say no, I ask them if I could talk to them “off the record”)
I get out a recorder or phone that records audio, turn it on, and begin asking the questions you hear on the audios.
A modern form of evangelism that is popular today is inviting people to worship assemblies. People have thrown out statistics for years that says people come to church because a friend or relative invited them. Based on this, preachers and pastors have been encouraging people go out and “evangelize” by inviting people to the worship assemblies.
Evangelism is the act of fulfilling the Great Commission by proclaiming the gospel either by word of mouth or by writing. Inviting someone to church is not sharing the gospel, and in and of itself is not evangelism. It is pre-evangelism as long as you know that the person will hear the gospel presented when they are in the assembly.
Secondly, there is a very good chance that the person you bring to church will not understand a lot of what is going on, and more than likely, will not hear the gospel being preached from the pulpit. The reason is this: the worship assemblies are for believers. They are not designed for unbelievers.
The purpose of the assemblies is to equip the saints for ministry. This is what the teaching during assemblies should be focused on. The problem here is an improper view of the church’s role in evangelism. Instead of equipping the saints for the work of ministry, there are churches who essentially create an environment where ministry only happens within the confines of a church’s building and its activities and programs, and evangelism is brushed off onto the evangelist or pastors.
Inviting people to church is at times a copout for those who don’t want to share the gospel with people. They would much rather invite them to church, have them spend time around Christians, and maybe, just maybe, they will decide to become a Christian because they like the church or the preacher. My friends, this is not evangelism. Christians must be equipped to open their mouths and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is what we are commanded to do. People deciding to become “Christians” because they like the church or the preacher are more than likely not really Christians, but false converts. Only the preaching of the gospel along with conviction and repentance can bring a soul to Christ.
Besides all this, whenever unbelievers are coming into assemblies, many times they take communion, and in so doing, eat and drink judgment on themselves (1 Cor 11:27-29) because they are not discerning the Lord’s body. We need to think about our practices more than we do. There may be times when unbelievers may enter into our assemblies, but we should not just welcome them in to have communion with the saints of God and to bring judgment on themselves.
Instead of inviting people to church, invite people to Jesus Christ. He is the one who people must be converted to. Only when they are pierced to the heart by the Gospel; only when they see their need for repentance and forgiveness, will they come to Him. And only when you are telling them about these things are you doing evangelism.
Francis of Assisi is often quoted as saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” There are two problems with this quote: 1) it is unbiblical; and 2) Assisi never said it. Catholic scholars have methodically and exhaustively searched the extant writings of Assisi and cannot attribute the quote to him.
This quote shows the emphasis of a popular method of “evangelism” used today called lifestyle evangelism. The premise of this method is to be as good of an example as you can be around people you see every day so they will see your godly character and ask you about Jesus.
I just have two responses to this:
- How often does it occur that someone, just from seeing your Christian example, walks up to you and asks you to tell them about Jesus? Hardly ever.
- Based on just example alone, how different are you from a moral Jehovah’s witness or Mormon? The “gospel” that your actions are sharing with lost people is not much different. At times, Mormons can put Christians to shame in how nice they are to people.
Is Being a Good Example Good Enough?
Jesus says in Matthew 5:14-16:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket , but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
We need to be godly examples to the people we see every day. We need to serve people; we need to do good. But what we need to think more about is: who gets the credit for the things I do? No matter how hard we try to do good works, no matter how hard we try to avoid doing sinful things around people, that does not guarantee that people will know that we are Christians. Most people will just look at me as a nice guy. My reputation may improve, but God is not glorified. I am. The purpose of being a good example around people needs to be to glorify God. But how do we live in such a way that that happens: that people see our good works and glorify God as verse 16 says?
I think it is true to say that we just do not give God enough credit for what He is doing through us in serving others. We need to confess to others why we do what we do! We need to confess to others who it is we are serving. All of the good works in the world mean nothing without confessing Christ. Unless you open up your mouth, talk about Christ, and share the gospel, people will never know why you are a moral person.
We should talk about the Lord more often if He is so important to us! He should be what we talk about the most! How many other things do I confess to others about more than the Lord? Sports, hobbies, games I play, books I read, food i like to eat? The things that we walkabout with others show how important the Lord and His word really are to us! We should not be content with being closet Christians, only being a Christian in how we act, and not in what we confess.
“Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 “But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt 10:32-33).
If all you are being is a good example to your neighbors, coworkers, and friends, you are not doing any evangelism. Open up your mouth. Proclaim the name of Christ.
A Biblical form of lifestyle evangelism would look like this. In every area of your life, look for opportunities to share the gospel, and do it! Make evangelism a way of life.
One of the most popular methods of evangelism is friendship evangelism (also called relationship evangelism). It is popular, in my opinion, because it is one of the most comfortable methods of evangelism being used today.
I will come clean from the beginning of this article that I do not believe friendship evangelism is Biblical. Before I get into sharing why this method is unbiblical, let me first define what friendship evangelism is as practiced by most people:
Friendship evangelism is a process of developing meaningful relationships with people in which they can see the gospel lived out in your life, which hopefully will lead to spiritual discussion, and maybe even an opportunity to share the gospel.
I do not take any issue with making friends with people that are not Christians. I have non-Christian friends. I also do not have a problem with being a godly example in front of my non-Christian family members and neighbors. But I do have four problems with this “evangelism” method:
1. Some people after they become friends with someone never get around to sharing the gospel. It becomes harder to share the gospel with people as you get closer because you have more to lose now. The longer you wait, the probability you will share the gospel with your friend will diminish greatly.
2. This method slows the sharing of the gospel down, and assumes we will be given the time to build a relationship before Jesus returns or we or our friend dies. Who are we to think that we will have another year to build a relationship with someone so we can share the gospel with them. “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:13-14). You and your friend are not promised tomorrow.
3. You limit the amount of people you will share the gospel with (if this is the only way you share the gospel with people). If you limit the people you share the gospel with to your friends alone, you are going to neglect the other 99.9 percent of the people that need to hear the Gospel.
4. There is not one Biblical example of Jesus or His disciples using friendship evangelism. I don’t know of one passage of scripture that can be pointed to that shows Jesus or any other person building a friendship with someone so they can at some point down the line share the gospel with them. The only passages that are normally given to defend such a practice are passages in which Jesus goes into peoples’ houses to teach them about the kingdom. One such example is in Luke 7:34:
“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard , a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’
There are two things that I must make note of concerning this verse:
- Those who say this are not Jesus friends. This statement is a statement of derision towards Jesus and filled with false statements. Jesus was not a drunkard and a glutton.
- Where is the evidence from this verse or any other that Jesus would build a friendship before talking to them about the kingdom and calling them to repentance? The different passages in which Jesus spent time with sinners shows that the purpose He went into these peoples’ houses was to teach them. He taught them right away. He didn’t wait till months or years after he met people to talk to them about God’s word.
Remember, the command to evangelize in the Great Commission includes “proclaiming” the gospel to people (Mark 16:15). Building friendships is NOT evangelism. Only when you open you mouth to proclaim the gospel are you actually fulfilling the Great Commission.
A common form of this type of “evangelism” is called servant evangelism, which is defined as:
“Actively looking for ways to do small acts of kindness for people so you can “win their hearts” and open them up to share the gospel with them” (servantevangelism.com).
We should be getting out and serving people. This is a good idea. But I have one question to those who believe that this is evangelism: “Is the gospel not powerful enough on it’s own to bring people to Christ?” The Apostles and early disciples preached the gospel no matter how they thought the people would respond. Timothy was commanded to preach “in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4:1-5).
In closing, let’s look at what a Biblical form of friendship evangelism looks like. Whenever you make a new friend, share the gospel with them. This shows you are truly a friend. Don’t wait. Care enough about them to try to rescue them from eternal damnation. If you wait, you are not being their friend, and you are not doing evangelism.
Please watch the following video:
Does this video describe you or your church? A lot of churches are in this position: there is a lot of talk about evangelism, but nowhere near as much evangelism being done. We love to talk about lost people, their condition before God, where they will end up if they die, but we never overcome the fears and distractions in our lives to actually do the work that the Lord has left for us to do.
A faithful Christian and a faithful church fulfill the mission that the Lord gave his people. The mission we have been given is in Matthew 28:19-20.
“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always , even to the end of the age.’”
The church’s mission is summed up in these verses. We are to 1.) Go share the gospel with the lost, and 2.) Teach and equip our brother and sisters in Christ to obey and serve the Lord. How are you doing in fulfilling this mission? Usually, Christians are a lot better at encouraging their brothers and sisters, and feel that they are being faithful to the Lord. But they are forgetting that the Lord also has commanded that we share the gospel with the lost. They think the words of Jesus in Luke 9:18-21 apply to them:
“And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, "Who do the people say that I am?" 19 They answered and said, "John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again." 20 And He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered and said, "The Christ of God." 21 But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone”
Jesus is not giving you and me this instruction! Are you telling anyone about Jesus, the Christ of God? It seems that for many Christians that the Great Commission has become the Great Omission.
The Great Commission is a command that is given to all of God’s people, not just those who want to share the gospel. You can be successful in sharing the gospel with the lost of this world. Do you believe this? If you are going into this world, and do what you can to give the word of God to others, whether that be by preaching, one-to-one conversations, handing out tracts, etc., you are being successful in the mission that God has given you. Success is not measured by the amount of converts that we make or the amount of lost people that come and visit the church for worship services. It is ALL about us obeying the Lord by doing the work of sowing the seed of the word. If we are faithful in this, the Lord will bring the increase. This is our mission! A church cannot begin to call itself “sound” in the faith if it is not fulfilling its mission of sowing the seed of the word of God and encouraging God’s people to serve and follow in the steps of Jesus Christ.
Lack of Knowledge?
For some reason, it seems like we think every person that we walk up to will be a devout atheist with a ton of knowledge and arguments that we will not be able to answer. Or we may think that we need to know everything there is to know about God and His word to share the gospel. Is this the case? IF so, no one would share the gospel!
• What do you need to know? What do the lost need to know? These are the important questions we must know the answer to, and the answer is not that difficult. Every true Christian should have this knowledge. What the lost need to know is the gospel! Do you know why you became a Christian? Were you convicted of your sin? Did that conviction lead you to Christ? IF so, you know enough to share the gospel!
• There are really just a few things a lost person MUST hear about:
• Good News
• The Call of God to Repentance and Conversion
This is where we should always start. But you may be saying to yourself, “Yes, but how do I answer some of the questions that aren’t about the gospel?” I have the perfect answer that you should give to lost people who ask questions that you do not know the answer to: “I don’t know the answer to that question, let me get your email address, and I will get the answer for you.” Give this answer, and then get back on track teaching them the gospel.
There is something else concerning a “lack of knowledge” that must be dealt with. IF you do not know how to respond to some questions, how much are you getting into God’s word to learn about these questions? At times, this is the reason why we feel like we have a lack of knowledge. Remember, Peter commands us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us (1 Peter 3:15). That means we need to be studying God’s word!
Too Busy? Don’t Have the Time?
If there is an excuse that shows clearly that our priorities are wrong, this is the excuse. There are so many times that we fill up our schedules to the point with what we want to do that we just squeeze the Lord and His will out of our lives (except for going to “worship” of course). Is the Lord pleased with this? No, He isn’t! When this is how our lives are, we are like the soil with the thorns in Matthew 13. We are being choked spiritually, and are bearing no fruit for God. Remember what Jesus says about disciples that bear no fruit, “"Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away…” and that branch is “thrown into the fire, and burned” (John 15:2, 6). It is clear that we make time in our schedule for what is important to us! The question you need to ask yourself is, “Is God’s will important to me? Is obeying God important to me? ” If we answer these questions with a “no,” then we have many things in our lives that are IDOLS! Anything we are putting before God and His will is an IDOL.
Make evangelism something that is important to you! Plan to do it on a daily basis. If you do this, you will find time to do it!
Not concerned enough for lost?
I think most of our excuses point to this fact. The reason why we give so many excuses is that we just do not have the kind of concern that we should for lost people. Here are two things concerning this that you should think about:
1. Someone cared enough about you! Was someone concerned enough about lost souls to help you come to Christ? With this being the case, you should do likewise! Show God you are grateful for your salvation by sharing your hope with others.
2. Would you warn someone if their house was on fire? If your neighbor’s house was on fire and they were still inside, what would you do? More than likely, you would call 911 and then go bang on the door or kick it down to get your neighbors out! Why don’t we do this when it comes to lost people that are going to spend eternity in flames? This is a much more important issue than a lost neighbor’s house! We are talking about an eternity of torment!
We Just Don’t Care or Don’t Want to Evangelize
There is only one way to respond to this excuse: Repent! If you have no desire to evangelize, more than likely, you are not saved yourself. Remember that you have made a profession of Jesus as your LORD. If you are not obeying Him, any confession you may make is worthless. Jesus says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46), and “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Matt 7:21).
- Evangelism is Not My “Calling”
- Fear, Lack of Courage?
- Lack of Knowledge?
- Too Busy?
- Not concerned enough for lost?
Is it possible for us to overcome these obstacles? The answer is yes IF we truly desire to evangelize! There are many people that make these excuses because they simply do not want to do this work, and if this is the case for you, you must repent. As we go through these excuses we so often give, hopefully you will see that evangelism is commanded of every Christian, and we must do it if we want to be faithful to God and if we want to be like Christ.
Not My “Calling”
“I am not a preacher or pastor” may be the statement that runs through your mind. But is the fact that you may not hold one of these two positions within the church mean that you should not be evangelizing? I will answer this question with three questions:
• Are we called to “love our neighbor as ourselves”? The answer to this question is YES. The second of the greatest commandments given by Jesus is to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). We obviously love ourselves enough to want to get to heaven, but do we love the lost in this way? If we do love them, we will act!
• Are we called to serve people?We are called to be servants. Jesus says that the greatest in the kingdom are those who serve (Matthew 23:11). We need to be like the Apostle Paul when he says “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them” (1 Cor 19:20).
• Are we called to be like Jesus?This is really the crux of the matter. Anyone who wears the name of Christian is someone that desires to be like Christ. The fruit of the Christian will show that Christ is living in Him (Gal 2:20). Jesus said that we must deny ourselves and follow Him (Luke 9:23), and this means that we need to say no to our own will and do His will. Jesus had a compassionate heart for the lost. He had so much love for them that He was willing to even die so they could have hope. What kind of compassion do we have? Do we see lost people as Jesus did, as helpless sheep without a shepherd? (Matthew 9:36).
The simple truth is that we all are given the command to share the gospel. Jesus tells the Apostles in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." He clearly in this verse is talking to the Apostles, but it is interesting what Jesus tells them to teach the disciples. He told them to teach His disciples to observe ALL things that were commanded of the Apostles, including the command that He just gave them to go into the entire world to teach the Gospel.
Fear, Lack of Courage?
How often is it the case that we are just too afraid to start a conversation with someone? Sometimes this may seem like a constant battle for us. The question we must ask is, “what is it that we are afraid of?” Are we afraid of what people will think of us? Are we afraid that we will get ridiculed or mocked? Maybe a door will get slammed in front of us? Maybe you are afraid of messing up; afraid of failure. The truth is, the only real time that we fail is when we do not share the gospel with others! So how can we overcome fear? Here are a few tips:
• Prayer! When the early disciples were going through persecution (which is nothing like we endure), they approached God in prayer. A perfect example is in Acts 4:24-30. Peter and John were threatened by the Jewish leaders. After this they went among their companions and prayed for boldness to speak in spite of the opposition. God answered their prayer.
• Work with others. This is a very simple piece of advice, but it is so helpful. From my own experience, I am so much bolder when I have a brother with me encouraging me and challenging me to do what’s right. Jesus sent His disciples out two by two to preach the gospel of the kingdom (Mark 6:7).
• Remember that God promises to be with you. This is an important thing that we too often forget! God promises us as His people that He is with us. Jesus told His disciples in the Great Commission, “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20).
• Use “Ice Breakers.” Find easy ways to start conversations with strangers
– Talk to strangers daily. This is a simple thing to try. Try to make it a goal to greet a couple people you do not know daily. Over time this will make you more comfortable.
– Ask questions. The easiest way I have found to start a conversation with someone is by asking questions. My favorite question to begin with is, “Excuse me, Can I ask you a question?” This most of the time gives me an open door to ask them if I can interview them for a Christian website, or to begin teaching them the gospel by asking them what they believe happens when someone dies.
– Use tracts to start a conversation. Hand someone a tract, and ask them “Have you gotten one of these yet?” When they ask what it is, tell them it is a gospel tract, and then ask them “what do you believe happens when someone dies?
In Part two, we will deal with deal with the final 3 excuses we make:
- Lack of Knowledge?
- Too Busy?
- Not concerned enough for lost?
Whenever we are going to share the gospel with lost-people, there are many methods of doing it. When choosing which method to use, we need to consider why we are choosing it. For example:
- Are we choosing certain methods solely on how comfortable it is for us? If we are most focused on how we feel when doing evangelism, we may not really be denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following Christ. In my experience the methods that are used that are most comfortable are not even evangelism because the message of the gospel is never proclaimed to the lost person.
- What do the statistics show? Many people choose a method solely based on what other peoples’ experiences have been and what surveys have said. But honestly, you have no clue what the best evangelism methods are unless you try them. Don’t take peoples’ word for it. Most statistics show that “evangelism” methods in which the gospel is not always proclaimed are the most “effective” methods. Some methods are only more effective because they are practiced by the majority of believers. IF the other, less popular methods were done just as much as the popular ones, we would see that they are just as effective. The Gospel being shared is ALWAYS effective, no matter which method you use (as long as the gospel is shared). If your method doesn’t share the gospel, it is not evangelism.
These are the big two criteria that people use when choosing an evangelism method. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with doing things that are more comfortable (I do them), and I do not have a problem with using methods that have been proven to be effective (I do them also), but the things I take issue with are:
- When the gospel is not proclaimed. Once again, if your method does not lead to the gospel being taught, it is not Biblical.
- Not having a desire to get out of our comfort zones. Having a desire to only do things that are comfortable is not denying self, and it does not show love to those who you are neglecting to share the gospel with.
With these things in mind, here are some helpful criteria to use in picking an evangelism method:
- Make sure it gives the opportunity to a lost person to hear the gospel. You fulfill the Great Commission when you “proclaim” the message.
- Choose a method that gets YOU active in evangelism. Don’t brush off the responsibility on other people, such as the evangelist/preacher or pastor. You are commanded to proclaim the gospel also.
- Make sure it is Biblical. Is it done in scripture? If Jesus, Prophets, and the Apostles did it, we know it is a method that brings glory to God.
- Does it show you believe in the power of the gospel? For instance, If you have to bribe people to come hear the gospel using fun, games, and food, your faith in the power of the gospel may need checked, and you more than likely will lose those people if you ever stop offering those things. The Apostles and early disciples preached the gospel no matter how they thought the people would respond. Timothy was commanded to preach “in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4:1-5).
Please look at the articles I have provided on my website that examine common evangelism methods that are used today using the criteria mentioned in this article.
One evangelism method that has fallen out of practice in the church lately is door-to-door evangelism. The reasons for this may be many:
- Some believe it is not effective
- Too many people are not home
- Fear. Afraid of scary people answering the door
- Just don’t want to do it
- Hate it when people think I am a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness
One reason that is not provided in this list is, “It’s unbiblical.” It is not on this list for a very good reason. It is Biblical. Door knocking is Biblical because it is a form of one-to-one evangelism, which is seen many times in the scriptures. The only difference between door knocking and other forms of one-to-one evangelism is the location. My experience is that the real reason many Christians do not like to go door knocking and criticize this method is because they do not like to do one-to-one evangelism to strangers. They have made up their mind ahead of time that talking to strangers is ineffective in spite of hardly ever doing it themselves. Also, when you do it with the attitude that it is ineffective (that God cannot do anything through it), of course you are not going to accomplish much for God’s glory.
Here are some quick tips in breaking the ice when going door-to-door:
- When the door is opened for you, remember this, “God gave you an open door to share the Gospel!”
- Always smile and act like you are privileged to have the opportunity to talk to the person that opened their door for you
- Pray as you are approaching each door that if someone answers you would have the courage to share the gospel.
- Always introduce yourself (and whoever may be with you)
- Ask for prayer requests. This is a helpful way to get names and contact information so you can follow up later, and it shows which people are open to spiritual things
- When you go door-to-door in your neighborhood, don’t be afraid to invite the person over for dinner. People are more open to this than you think.
- If you are only inviting people to church or to a special service, don’t leave without attempting to share the gospel with them. You more than likely will not see them at the meeting. Sharing the gospel with them may make this more of a possibility.
- Use tracts. Tracts are always a helpful way to break the ice.
- Remember this fact in using any evangelism method: YOU ARE SUCCESSFUL WHEN YOU DO IT! Effectiveness is measured not by how many people come to Christ, but by how much God is being glorified in you.
Using some of these tips can make door-to-door evangelism much more easier and a lot less scary. If you have any other ideas for door-to-door evangelism, please let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.