What evangelism is and is not
Evangelism is derived from the Greek word euaggelion which means “gospel” or “good news.” The verbal form euaggelizesthai means “to announce good news”.
Based on the above definition, we can see that evangelism is not converting someone into a Christian. No one can do that except the Holy Spirit.
1 Cor 12:3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
Our job is simply to announce the good news.
Romans 15:1819 (NIV) I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done 19 by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.
The announcement of this good news need not be restricted to just words. Paul says that he Afully proclaimed the gospel of Christ@ by Awhat I have said and done@ and by Athe power of signs and miracles@. If God is the almighty God, that message can be announced by the performance of signs and miracles. And if God has done a marvelous work in transforming us, that message can be announced by demonstrating that changed life to others.
The Biblical basis for the gift of evangelist
Eph 4:11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers…
The one who has the gift of evangelist has the special ability to share the gospel in such an effective way that people readily come to know Christ.
How do I know if I have the gift or not
Here are several helpful clues to gauge if one has the gift of evangelist. A person who is called to be an evangelist is likely to be someone who:
– Has a strong desire to share Christ with others and see them won to Christ.
– Is not embarrassed to share Christ with others, even those who are strangers.
– Has effectively brought many to Christ in the past.
– Is able to minister to non-Christians in such a way that they feel comfortable with him and can relate to him. (Some people are very close to God but non-Christians find themselves uncomfortable in their presence.)
This was said of Philip, the only person in the Bible specifically referred to as an evangelist (Acts 21:8).
Acts 8:56 (NKJV) Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. 6 And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
A person who has the gift of evangelist is especially effective in leading people to Christ.
The responsibility of every Christian to evangelize.
1 Peter 3:15 (NIV) But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
2 Corinthians 5:1820 (NIV) All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
The task of evangelizing to a lost and dying world is too massive and urgent to be done just by those who have the gift of evangelist. While not everyone has the gift of evangelist, everyone should be evangelizing. Paul says that we must be ready to give an account of our faith. The Bible also says that we have been committed the ministry of reconciliation. Evangelism is a constant search for opportunities to share the good news. It is not to be restricted to inviting our friends for the church evangelistic rally once a year or doing street evangelism once a month.
But there should be a difference between those who have and those who do not have the gift of evangelist. Those who do not have must still be ready to give a reason for his faith when called to do so. He must live a life worthy of the gospel. He should at least have a responsibility to see that those within his circle of friends and family are saved. Those who have the gift of evangelist should incorporate a systematic way to share Christ to people. He should be involved either in evangelistic preaching or engage actively in street evangelism. The point to make is that God=s expectations for the evangelist should be far greater.
How can one be an effective evangelist (even if one does not have the gift)
This section is relevant to anyone who wants to be a more powerful witness to his non-Christians relatives and friends.
The life of an evangelist must reflect the character of God.
1 Thessalonians 2:910 (NIV) Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.
Our lives must be consistent with what we preach. We lose credibility when we say that God is able to transform our lives but our own lives are not transformed. Many will agree that many times our lives speak louder than our words. Non-Christians will not want to listen to our message until they are convinced that our lives are indeed different.
An evangelist must have a special passion for souls and feel obligated to share the gospel.
Romans 1:1416 (NIV) I am obligated both to Greeks and nonGreeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. 16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
1 Cor 9:16 Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
Paul is obligated to preach the good news to everyone because he is indebted to Christ for saving him. Our gratitude to Christ should result in our obligation to save others as well.
If we want to be an effective witness for Christ, we must first have a sense of urgency. We have to grasp the fact that our loved ones will be eternally lost if they do not believe. It is this sense of urgency that will overcome the fear of witnessing.
1 Thessalonians 2:2 (NIV) We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition.
It is God who can give us the sense of urgency and the courage to meet oppositions.
An evangelist must be willing to invest time.
1 Thessalonians 2:8 (NIV) We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.
Sharing the gospel usually means sharing our lives as well. We have to be patient and cultivate the relationship. Not everybody can be saved after only 10 minutes of sharing the 4 Spiritual Laws with them.
If there are friends whom we want to reach out to, it is not enough if we only call them if we want to invite them for evangelistic meetings. They will feel resentment if we are only after them for that purpose. Even Paul teaches that evangelism is investing our lives. Our concern for their daily lives is also a part of effective evangelism.
An effective evangelist asks the Holy Spirit to prepare the hearts of people before he even starts to do the work of evangelism.
We earlier noted that evangelism is literally announcing the good news. In other words, our responsibility is not to produce converts. Nevertheless, few people would be satisfied if nobody gets saved after they have announced the good news. That is why we need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to complete the work. The Holy Spirit helps us by preparing the hearts of those we will witness to to make them more receptive to the message. In the parable of the sower, we learnt that the seed (which is the good news) can fall on different types of soil (Matthew 13). Only the seeds that fell on good soil became effective and bear much fruit. We can ask the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of our friends to make them more responsive to the gospel.
In the following verses, we see a good example of how the Holy Spirit prepares the individual even before the evangelist goes to work.
Acts 8:3035 (NIV) Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. 31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” 34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
At that time, the Christians still do not have the New Testament. The only Bible that was available was the Old Testament. That Old Testament was probably the only one that speaks specifically about Jesus= death for our sins. And yet the eunuch Ahappen@ to be reading this passage. What a demonstration of how the Holy Spirit goes before us to help us to open up conversations in order to evangelize. We can be a more effective evangelist if we enlist the Holy Spirit=s help to prepare every situation where we are getting ready to evangelize.
An evangelist must be willing to make the message relevant to his hearers.
APhilip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus@
Philip began the discussion from where the man was. When we share the gospel, we should start with where the other person=s concerns are focused. Then we can bring our gospel to bear on those concerns. For example, if we are speaking to a person with deep hurts, we can present God as one who cares and will heal our inner wounds. If we are presenting the gospel to one who is looking for proofs that God exists, our approach will be different. The keyword is flexibility and relevance.
1 Corinthians 9:2022 (NIV) To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.
An evangelist must not be afraid of offending his hearers with the truth but must learn to bring the message across tactfully.
1 Thessalonians 2:45 (NIV) On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greedGod is our witness.
AWe are not trying to please men@. The Living Bible says Awe change His message not one bit to suit the taste of those who hear it@. Do not be afraid to offend our friends by telling them of their sin or that their way to salvation is not correct although we can always do such things tactfully. We may offend them now or even lose the friendship but we are doing them an eternal favor.
1 Pet 3:15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
Gentleness is important. Harsh condemnation only makes a person defensive.
An evangelist does not rely on human wisdom to get the message across but trust in the power of the gospel.
1 Cor 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospelnot with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
1 Corinthians 2:15 (NIV) When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
In other words, one should not be concerned about whether we are able to speak articulately or convincingly. We should trust in the power of the gospel. The persuasive power is in the story and not the story teller.
An evangelist must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit=s direction as to who He wants us to evangelize to
Acts 16:910 (NIV) During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Acts 8:2628 (NIV) Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the roadthe desert roadthat goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet.
The person who has the gift of evangelist should specifically pray that God will guide him to persons He wants him to spread the good news to. And God will indeed work to make sure that these people cross your path.
Do not decide who will or will not be saved. Salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit. You never know who He will bestow salvation on next.
John 3:8 (NIV) The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
ASo it is with everyone born of the Spirit.@ The Living Bible translates this as AWe do not know on whom next he will bestow this life from heaven.