How to (and how NOT to) evangelize

Five things to do, and five things to avoid when sharing the Good News

Let’s face it. Evangelism is scary. At least for the 99%. We don’t know what to say and we worry we’ll mess it up or get in the way. We think that we don’t know enough, need more time to open the door, and wonder if it will ruin a relationship.

But, let’s face it. Sometimes we make evangelism harder than it needs to be. Don’t get me wrong – it takes Holy-Spirit inspired boldness and courage that flows from our confidence in Christ. We will need to get uncomfortable and sometimes it will cost us. But, by making evangelism into something it was never supposed to be we’ve made more work and worry for ourselves.

So, let’s take a look at our five things to do, and five things to avoid when sharing the Good News.

How-To Evangelize

  1. Be confident and bold. One of the reasons Evangelism can be scary is because we’ve lost sight of who does the work. It’s God, through the Spirit, who makes disciples. He’s the one who turns hearts, ignites faith, and sustains believers. Yes, He’s using you, but it’s not up to you. You might have the most beautifully crafted message, and nothing may come of it. Or, you might stumble through your words and yet God could do something beautiful. I don’t mean to suggest that we should approach this holy task with laziness. No, be prepared. Read your Bible. (and, I don’t want to get ahead of myself…but)Pray. Think of how you might answer questions and objections. But then trust that the rest is up to God.
  2. Tell a story. Everyone loves a good story. Stories, whether on TV, in books, or online, have the power to move us. A good story can change attitudes and behaviors and hearts way more than mere facts. I mean, think about it. What would move you more – a sheet of numbers outlining the dangers of unhealthy eating and lack or exercise, or a personal story from a friend who lost a lot of weight and turned their life around? I’d go with the story every time. The wonderful thing is that you know the story. It’s God’s story. It’s the story of a God who created the world out of love. It’s about a God who stuck with His people despite their rebellion and promised to fix them. It’s the story of a God who patiently endured their lack of faith through centuries, and who remained faithful to them through it all. It’s the story of God’s Son, Jesus. Tell that story. Nothing more, nothing less.
  3. Love your neighbor.  Remember the reason why we evangelize – out of love.  God loves the people He’ put in our lives and so should we.  God wants them to come to the knowledge of truth and salvation, and so do we.  Good works motivated by love will have way more endurance than those motivated by fear or responsibility.  So, take a look around you.  Look at the faces God has placed in your life.  And, out of love, share with them your hope and joy.
  4. Listen. I would argue that good evangelism starts with listening. What kind of questions does the person you’re talking to have? What are their fears? What are their worries? Where is their faith? What consumes their time, resources, and talents. Of course, the message is the same, but the way in which you present the story and the order in which you tell it might change. How you share God’s Word will be different with the friend who’s always chasing the next dollar, then with the friend who is broken by a recent miscarriage. So, listen. A lot.
  5. Pray. A posture of prayer is a recognition that this person and your words are all in God’s hand. To pray is to humble yourself before God and to give Him the glory should something good come. Pray for God to give you the words., that He would send His Spirit to create and sustain faith, and for yourself, that even if you don’t see the “results” you want to see that you would continue to believe and trust.

How-Not-To Evangelize

  1. Don’t be self-confident and brash. I suppose that this isn’t a problem for too many of us. But, I think we need the reminder that there are a lot of things we think we can manipulate. There are many things in our American world that we tell ourselves, “If I just try harder and put my mind to it, I can achieve whatever I want.” Hard work is good. Positive thinking is good. But, evangelism takes a humility born out of confidence in Christ. It’s not something you can manipulate. What we need is not just a can-do attitude. We need Jesus to do His work, send His Spirit, and do what He does best.
  2. Don’t rely on a list of verses or facts. Again, it is good to spend time in God’s Word, to memorize verses and to know all about the Bible. But, don’t think that if you just whip out a convenient few verses that that will do the trick. Of course, God can work through any of our mistakes and failures. If we are seeking to be faithful, I think we would be better served by telling God’s story (see above).
  3. Don’t debate and argue. Sometimes we think that we can (or have to) argue someone into the faith. That is, if we can just prove we are right, then they will believe. Other times, this approach comes about out of a selfish desire to be right and to “win” an argument. I can’t think of too many debates or arguments I’ve had that were born out of sincere love for the person across from me.
  4. Don’t do all the talking. Don’t be the megaphone-and-cardboard-sign-guy on the street corner who evangelizes out of duty or to simply check a box. Take the time to listen. Get to know the people God has brought to you. Hear them out and let them express their doubts and questions.
  5. Don’t keep all your fears and worries inside. God wants to hear from you. He knows that this is not an easy task. In the Lord’s Prayer, God lovingly invites us to talk to Him as our Good Father. Let Him know how you’re feeling. He won’t be turned off. Bring Him your questions and doubts. Ask for strength and faith.

Evangelism is hard enough. But, by keeping it what it is, rather than making it into something it’s not, it’ll be a whole lot easier.

Did you like what you read, and would you like more? Check out our little book on Christian discipleship and maturity called “Growing Up: In, with, and under Jesus”

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