Here are some thoughts Les had after our time together Sunday morning I wanted him to be able to share with you regarding some “how to” points. These are points that go BEFORE you go. Check these out
- Go in the knowledge of the power of God in you. We are asked and commanded by Jesus to pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth with all of the glory that we see it revealed in heaven (Matt 6:9-10). We are told that that overwhelming power and authority of Jesus travels with us when we are making disciples (Matt. 28:18-20). We are told that the same Resurrection power of the Spirit who raised Christ from the dead is living fully in us (Rom 8:11). Practically, wake each morning and close your day each evening with reflecting and praying these words from these three passages back to God. Then invite God to go with you into the day and thank Him for walking with you at the end of the day and enumerate back to Him when you saw him present in your day. Evangelism’s effectiveness is born out of our abiding in Christ, John 15 says that we can only bear fruit when we are connected to the vine. Anytime we feel like we got this on our own, we are glory robbing and He will have none of it.
- As you make your list of people and pray over them for who to share with this week, make sure that you start your day the day you have scheduled to share with more time of reflecting on Christ and what he has done for you that day or the night before. In other words, let your sharing of the joy of the Lord be born out of your worship. Then when you go into the time you made the appointment, pray and thank God for saving you from all of your mess. Also ask Him to give you boldness and joy in sharing the good news with this person.
Q: How do we build endurance with long term relationships that have continuously said no to the gospel? Do we approach the gospel more gently? Do we sneak it into our words? What should this evangelism look like?
L. In long term relationships the tricky part is to winsomely put before the person the choice that they have while maintaining the love for them apart from their response to the gospel. I find that the best thing is to be bold and speak plainly. “Hey, this is really important for you to make this decision and even not making a decision is a decision. But know that no matter what you say or what you choose, I will always be here and will always be your friend.” Also let them know that you love to talk about these things and that you are always available if they have questions.
L. I think that being authentically and lovingly a follower of Christ is something that we should always strive to be. When someone shares a struggle or complains about their day or their kids or something at work, we can always immediately respond by saying, “I will pray about that.” Then pray either out loud then and there or silently right then (you follow the Spirit’s leading on that in the situation). Then followup later by saying “How did God answer what I prayed about last time?”
L. Evangelism should also look like a full proclamation of the overwhelming love of God. Don’t give a choice on whether or not to listen. Say for example, “I want to share with you what I am experiencing in these uncertain times that gives me peace and joy.” Or you can say, “This is my anchor when the world feels like it is going crazy.” Then tell them. We don’t see an awesome movie and then ask our friends, “Is it alright if I tell you about how amazing X movie is?” No, we just say this or that was amazing! So why do we do that with the gospel. Follow up with saying something like, “I am thankful that my life is built on the assurance that no matter the circumstances, God’s love is sure. It is sure because He created me and everyone on this planet in His image for relationship with Him, and that includes me and you. Everyone of us has rejected that throughout our lives, here is how I did that . . . . But God, despite that, has pursued me and invited me through His Son Jesus back into relationship with Him. When I returned to Him and accepted that the penalty of my warring against Him was paid for by God through Jesus on the cross, I received the fullness of His love and mercy for me and now I daily get to have a relationship with a God who cares for me and for my family and my burdens. It also gives me an eternal perspective, so that I am not just focused on the here and now, but I know that I will be restored fully and perfectly to enjoy His Love forever. I want that for you too.” Just an example, but you get the idea, and it should lead to a deeper opportunity to dialogue and share or for you to discern that this is not a time where the Holy Spirit is working in this person’s heart to open it to the good news. But you don’t know an open heart until you knock on the door with the good news.
J: I think a lot will depend on the specifics of the relationship. I think our lives have to back up the words we say. That we have a joy from knowing Jesus, and that our lives are genuinely transformed because we follow Him. If that’s true of us, then the gospel will be in our words as a natural overflow of who we are. Again, depending on the situation, the nuances required in the relationship would dictate how you continue to approach having gospel conversations with someone.
Q: How is God’s sovereignty important and encouraging as we consider evangelism? Is it sinful to not evangelize at work if our bosses command us not too?
J: God’s sovereignty is the great comfort we have in sharing the gospel with others. He is in control, and only He can save. Our task is to share the Good News, and let the Holy Spirit do His work of convicting of sin and bringing to repentance. Your boss at work can tell you not to use your work time to share the gospel with others, but your boss can’t stop you from forming relationships with your coworkers, and then sharing the gospel with them outside of work hours (whether that’s a lunch break, before or after work time, having dinner with them later, etc). As Les mentioned yesterday, our lives need to back up what we preach. Look for opportunities to love others and build relationships and in whatever ways you can, point people to Jesus.
L. Exactly, Justin. Sovereignty of God in evangelism is so freeing. We are not the saviors, it is God and he uses us. I know that as each of us grows in our faithfulness in this area, God will bless us with the blessing of preaching to ourselves and others. I think often we can be sharing the gospel and realize someone already believes and feel that this is a waste, but it is not, for your boldness has served the body of Christ to continue on in boldness of sharing and created an opportunity for worship over the glory of the gospel in the public square. What about sharing in the midst of persecution pressures like an unbelieving boss. I agree with Justin, try to share outside of working hours and build up through seeking opportunities to display the love of Christ. But if your boss even then yells at you for having gospel conversations outside of working hours, then you must obey God rather than man. Many of our brothers and sisters across the world have governments that prohibit their sharing of the gospel. Yet they follow the example of the apostles in Acts 5:29 when they say to the powerful religious leaders, “We must obey God rather than man.” Another aspect of this is that we should emulate is to follow their example in praying to God for boldness. None of us experiences a total lack of fear in this area of our walks, but we can all ask for the help of the Spirit of the Resurrected Christ to give us boldness.
Q: Can you give us some tips on how to avoid “reasoning” someone into the gospel? Especially when people ask difficult questions about the Bible?
J: I think the important thing for us to remember is that reasoning is not bad. The point in us discussing it yesterday was to reassure us all that our job is not to reason someone into the faith. We don’t have to have all the answers to every possible objection we may face. But that doesn’t mean we avoid reason and logic altogether. If someone asks a question and we have an answer, by all means share it. But the power of God that leads to salvation is the Good News about Jesus Christ, as Paul said, I resolved to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified (ICor 2:1-4).
L: I want to make a distinction between reasoning someone into the faith through “lofty speech” or “arguments” (I Cor 2:1-4), and being willing to give an answer for the hope you have within you (I Peter 3:15). Peter says that giving an answer must be done with “gentleness and respect”. So I think the tone on our part makes a difference here. Our intent is never to win the argument, but to proclaim AND display the love of Christ. It is also OK to not have the answer and say so. “I don’t know, but I will look it up and answer that great question next time we talk.” That is what your elders or other mature believers and the Holy Spirit who the promised teacher within you are here for (John 14:26).
Another distinction I want to make is on the part of the unbeliever who you are spending time with, is their intent to win the argument for the sake of winning or are they really seeking knowledge of God with a heart to grow. This is something to silently pray about in the moment, “Father, help me to understand the heart of Jane, are they open to you now or are they seeking to simply argue?” Only He knows the heart of a person and He will give you insight. Another thing to do often is to ask them how they reconcile difficult things in their world view. In other words, we can follow Christ’s example and answer questions with questions. “From your perspective, where does evil come from? How do we determine good from evil?” Often, a person has not thought about this deeply for themselves, when they are forced by the question to think about it, they are more ready to hear your answer from the grand story of God in the Bible.
I would also add a note for when people ask the question or make the statement that “all religions are the same aren’t they?” I love this question, because we have finally gotten to a place where we can talk frankly. I always begin my answer with, “I agree that all religions are almost the same.” Then I go on to explain that “religions all seek knowledge and understanding of God and a chance at paradise or nirvana. But all religions are filled with doubt over whether or not that is achievable for any one person. What I love about the God of the Bible is that He gives us a way where we can know for sure that we are saved from this broken world and our broken lives. Let me tell you how that works:” Then share the gospel.
If we have this amazing story to carry this message and believe and agree with these things (evangelism), what are the words that need to be included when I share? (Hope? Invitation?) How do I follow up next?
J: The context of the conversation will inform the exact words that are used. But some key words and phrases would be “sin” or “sinful”, “repent” or “repentance”, “faith” and “believe”. The invitation is to repent and believe in Jesus.
L: It seems as though the biblical pattern of evangelism in Acts, the Gospels, and the summaries of the story of the good news in the Epistles is to point people to the universal nature of sin and call them to return to God through Jesus as being the only hope and way back to our restore our broken relationship with God. It is a good story and we should take joy in sharing this grand “Meta-Narrative” of the Word with them. In fact, I often use that as a bridge to tell people the good news. “I want to tell you the story of the bible. . . .” We are living in a day and age when biblical literacy is at an all time low and even when people know specific bible stories like Daniel and the Lions Den or Jesus feeding 5000, they don’t know the full biblical narrative in its basic four movements:
1. Creation: We were created as people, in the image of God for relationship with God.
2. Fall: Our ancestors rejected God’s law back in the beginning and we do the same each one of us now and that breaks that relationship.
3. Redemption: But God’s Love is such that even though He cannot have a relationship with anyone who has broken his law without paying for it, He is willing to make the payment himself through Jesus death. Jesus, is God and was sent by God to live perfectly and then to die a death he didn’t deserve. This pays our debt fully. God calls us to return to Him through the path He has made for us, not through our own imperfect plans.
4. Restoration: This life is not all there is, which is why we are dissatisfied with the lack of perfection, but He will take us to live one day with Him to enjoy his perfect love forever.