Passage: Matthew 28:18-20
Most of you reading this week’s pep talk will be familiar with the Great Commission at the end of Matthew’s Gospel as Jesus addresses his disciples before returning to be with His Father- “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” The work of the church ever since has been making and maturing disciples of Jesus. Integral to this ministry is the work of evangelism, as Christians proclaim the good news of Jesus to those who at present don’t believe in Him. In my experience most Christians know that this is what we are meant to do, but the vast majority of us feel very inadequate and chronically lacking in confidence to do it. Most of us are very happy to leave it to the professionals who appear on evangelistic courses or those in the church with clear gifts in evangelism. However, there’s no escaping the fact that Jesus has made us His witnesses in the world and empowered us by His Spirit to make Him known (Acts 1:8). So the focus this week is going to be practical. Our need is not another reminder of what we’re meant to be doing, but an encouragement about how we might go about it. The focus in the following notes is on personal evangelism- scary eh!
#1 Mix with non-Christians. Many genuine followers of Jesus start at a disadvantage in terms of personal evangelism because they don’t really know any non-Christians. So a great first step is to very deliberately put yourself into contexts where you can’t avoid non-Christians, and an easy way of doing this is by taking up a hobby or doing something that you love. It might be the Saturday morning Park Run, or joining a choir or orchestra, coaching your kids sports team, playing golf, tennis or bowls, starting a sewing club or joining a cookery class, becoming a MAMIL (middle-aged man in lycra) on your road bike, getting involved in U3A, and so on. The list is endless. Obviously Covid affects some of these things at present but it won’t be around for ever.
#2 Love and care for those you get to know. No-one wants to feel like they are just your latest evangelism project, so take time and make an effort to get to know your new found friends. Invite them for dinner or lunch, meet them for coffee or a pint. Show a genuine interest in their lives. More often than not, as we get to know people then we discover we often have much more in common with them than we thought. And the beauty and power of love is that it is hard to fake it. Most people can spot pretty easily when someone is being inauthentic.
#3 Pray for non-Christians. I was reminded recently that Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good but to make dead people alive!! Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:1- “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins”. Being spiritually dead is the natural state for us all, until God breathes his life into us by His Holy Spirit. The miracle of this new birth is something that only God can do, so it seems only right that we should be asking God to do this by praying for our non-Christian friends. Pray too that the Lord would open up opportunities for us to have some spiritual conversations and that we would have the gracious words to speak (Colossians 4:2-4).
#4 Question your friends. By that I don’t mean grill them but simply get into the habit of asking them questions and be attentive to their answers. Some Christians approach evangelism as if it is a commando raid- get to the point fast, tell them what we’ve carefully prepared/rehearsed, and then get out quick!! Have you ever been on the receiving end of such an approach? It’s not great is it. Asking questions is a great way of finding out what really makes a person tick, what are some of their hopes and dreams, but also what are some of their scars. The more we do this, the better we will become at it, and the more attuned to the spiritual signals being sent.
#5 Introduce them to Jesus. One of my favourite lines in John’s Gospel is after Andrew has met Jesus for the first time and he immediately goes and tells his brother Simon (who’d become Peter) that they have found the Messiah (Christ). Then John adds this beautiful detail- “And he (Andrew) brought him (Simon) to Jesus.” (1:42) He simply introduced his brother to Jesus. This is what we are to do in evangelism- we are introducing a person to Jesus. Three things to keep in mind in introducing Jesus- Who is he? Why did He come? What is my response? He is the Son of God. He came to reconcile sinners to God through his death and resurrection. He calls us to repent and believe the good news- ie turn and put our trust in him. God is not in heaven with a stop-watch seeing how quickly we can nail our evangelistic presentation. We may have many conversations with our friends on each off these three questions.
#6 Share your own story. Generally people love to hear personal stories and that is no less true when it comes to the Christian faith. It is well worth the effort of writing out your conversion story and practicing it a bit so that you know what you want to say if asked. This is not in order to come across as super slick but to avoid the danger of a 40-minute ramble through your entire life story and never get to the point. Look no further than Acts 26 where Paul shares his conversion story with King Agrippa for a personal testimony template- my life before Christ (v4-11); my conversion (v12-18); my life since (v19-23). Most of our stories will not be ‘Damascus Road’ encounters like Paul, but they will be real encounters with the living God who brought us out of darkness and into his marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9).
There’s no silver bullet in evangelism, but many joys and disappointments. But remember this, success in evangelism is not whether the person we introduce to Jesus becomes a believer or not. That’s not in our hands as it’s something only God can do. Success in evangelism is faithfully introducing people to Jesus. Making Him Known!