|Volume 23 Number 3 March 2021
There is no doubt that evangelism is important. Jesus told His disciples to go everywhere teaching the Gospel (Mark 16:15). Jesus left His disciples a plan of how they were to begin in Jerusalem and eventually cover the entire Roman Empire with the Gospel message (Acts 1:8). The early church was successful with its evangelistic efforts from the start as they began in Jerusalem (Acts 2:37-41). Before long, they had as many as 5,000 men who were converts. When the church was scattered through persecution, Christians continued to teach the Word and successfully won people to Christ (Acts 8:4). Even in one-on-one encounters, we read of people being taught the truth and obeying the Gospel (Acts 8:26-40).
I am convinced that many of us want to be better at evangelism. We want to share the truth about Jesus and not live in a state of constant guilt over our inability to reach some people with the Gospel. Sometimes, we are simply unsure of how we should go about talking to people about Jesus. In a culture that is drowning in “political correctness,” it is hard to know what will offend some people. Also, it seems that as secularism rises, fewer people are interested in the truth about Jesus Christ. Though the odds seem stacked against us, all hope is not lost. The more we know about the Bible, human nature and the times in which we live, the better prepared we will be to talk about Jesus (1 Chronicles 12:32). In this article, I want to briefly mention several things we can all implement to better talk with our friends, neighbors and loved ones about Jesus.
Talk to God First
Before we can excel at talking to men about God, we must learn to talk to God about men. Everything that we do for the Lord must be bathed in prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Before the apostles preached on Pentecost, they were engaged in prayer (Acts 1:14). Paul told Timothy that prayers of various kinds should be offered for all men (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We should be praying to God before we think of various things to implement concerning evangelism. Our prayers in this regard can be general as we pray that God would open doors for us to reach people (Colossians 4:30). We can pray that the Word would be able to run freely throughout our community (2 Thessalonians 3:1). Additionally, we can pray that we are led away from those who have no interest in the Gospel message (Matthew 7:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:2).
Still, our prayers can be more specific concerning evangelism. If we are honest, sometimes we are timid or nervous about sharing our faith with certain people. We should pray for boldness to speak the truth with courage and confidence (Ephesians 6:18-19). By looking up to God in Heaven, we can gain the strength to overcome our fear of men below. We may not be interested in sharing the Gospel at all, in which case, it would be appropriate for us to pray that God would help our love for Him and others to grow. We can pray that God would providentially lead us to those who are seeking Him (Acts 16:9-10).
If there are specific people to whom we have been talking already, it would be wise to appeal to God for their hearts to be opened and their circumstances to be such that they would develop a deeper interest in spiritual things. God can do far more than we can; therefore, we should talk to God about how to talk to men (Ephesians 3:20). Pray for wisdom because God promises to give it to us (James 1:5). Step one for talking to others about Jesus is ask for God’s help.
Learn to Listen
We may be more concerned with having the right answers than we are listening to the person to whom we are speaking. We should listen to people intently and hear the things that they are telling us. When Jesus spoke with people, He always gave them the opportunity to speak, even though He could read their minds (John 2:24-25)! By listening to others, Jesus was able to give them the answers they needed for their specific situations. He answered Nicodemus (John 3) differently than He did the woman at the well (John 4). We need to learn from His example.
When you are talking with your neighbor or the cashier at the store, listen to the things they say about their beliefs. People will tell us where they are hurting and on what they currently depend to help them. By becoming better listeners, we will be better equipped to point them to the One who is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). Listening allows us to learn what people learned to believe or not to believe. We will learn what they think about God, the Bible, Jesus and the church. Before we can provide an answer, we need to hear the questions people ask (1 Peter 3:15). Being a good listener takes practice, and I am not an expert in this field. However, being a good listener also takes humility. Listening well means that we believe the other person and his life matters enough to be heard. The best evangelists are good listeners (Matthew 11:15).
Ask Good Questions
Jesus had all of the answers, but He loved to ask people questions. He would ask them what they thought about certain Bible passages (Matthew 22:41-46). He would ask them how they read the Bible or what it said (Luke 10:26). He would answer their questions with questions of His own (Matthew 21:23-27; 22:17-19; John 18:33-34). Jesus was not afraid to answer questions, but He knew there was more value in letting people arrive at the truth themselves than there was in telling them the answers.
Learn how to ask people good questions. Ask them where they go to church and why. If they believe they are already saved, ask them when they were saved and what they did to become a “Christian.” If something erroneous is stated, ask them if they would like to read a verse in the Bible that teaches otherwise. Ask questions about their work schedule, and then ask them if they would like to attend worship or Bible classes (provide them with the time). Ask questions about their families, religious history, hobbies and other interests. All of these questions (and others like them) will help the conversation to flow smoothly and to build a bridge rather than a barrier. Read any of the Gospel accounts and be impressed with how often and skillfully Jesus did this. The apostles did the same later (Acts 8:30; 10:29; 19:2).
Sow and Trust
In the end, the increase will come at the hand of God (1 Corinthians 3:6). You may not always be able to have a full-fledge Bible study with someone, but sow the seed and trust God to do the rest. Give a card; leave a tract; send a link to a biblical resource and trust the Lord to work in the lives of people. Time and circumstances can change people, and they may become more interested later (Acts 24:25; 26:9-19). Talking to people about Jesus does not come as easily for some of us as it does for others, but we can all do it. The world is in desperate need of the Gospel. Let us do all that we can to get it to them.
Patience is a required trait and behavior for one to be a faithful Christian. We are struggling with this requirement today. We are accustomed to having our wants and needs immediately and are stressed and frustrated when we are required to wait. Many things in everyday life are instant and immediate that once were not that way. Communications, news, business services, fast food, travel, career change, etc. are quick and easy today. We seldom are required to be patient. This may not be a good thing, considering the teaching of the Bible concerning patience.
Jesus stated in Luke 21:19, “By your patience possess your souls.” Patience is an essential element required for one to behave acceptably as a Christian. Consider Romans 5:3-4, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance [patience]; and perseverance, character; and character hope.” James 1:2-4 states, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trails, knowing the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
Patience is required for one to possess all the traits to make one’s call and election sure (2 Peter 1:4-6). First century Christians were commended for their patience (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:4; Colossians 1:11; 2 Timothy 3:10). Leaders are commanded to be patient (Titus 2:2) in order to be sound and acceptable. Through patience we can inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:12) of God for a better life.
Paul’s plea to the Ephesians to “be worthy of their calling as followers of Christ” (Ephesians 4:1-2) receiving all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3) includes the teaching that one must be patient, along with humility, gentleness, love, kindness, tenderheartedness and honesty.
In summary, we must develop patience if we hope to sustain effective saving faith to please God and to project the image of Christ as we live in a troubled and difficult world. Behaving appropriately as Christians will result in increased influence on others for good and improved quality of our personal lives. The teaching of Scripture about patience is not a suggestion but rather a requirement to be faithful.