Four Practical Principles on Evangelism
By Nelson Thomas, Mumbai
(Summary of a special message given at the concluding session of an evangelism training program)
Introduction: - What is evangelism? “ Evangelism is the act of proclaiming the good news of salvation to men and women, with view to their conversion to Christ and incorporation in to His Church". Careful study of the evangelistic activities of the early church shows evangelism involves:-
- Announcing good news.
- Proclaiming an authoritative and urgent message.
- Testifying an experience.
- Teaching a truth systematically.
- Convincing with an argument.
- Pleading to take a definite action.
Four important things to remember:-
1. Trust God. Never trust in ourselves-it is the Lord's work .
‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit' saith the Lord Almighty.” Zech.4:6 .
a. In relation to our effort. We are just instruments. We can do nothing by ourselves . Jn.15:4. He has to work in and through us. True ministry is God working in us. Act. 1:8 “ ye shall be witnesses”. It is the natural result of being filled with the spirit of God. He will break us and mould us first to make us know that we are nothing but instruments and He is the Master.
Training is necessary, qualification is good, but in spite of all what we are and what we have learnt, we can do nothing by ourselves . He has to work in and through us. True ministry is God working in us. Act. 1:8 “ ye shall be witnesses ”—no self effort is needed. It is the natural result of being filled with the spirit of God. God will never use a proud, arrogant person for His purposes.
It is only as we humbly yield to the spirit of God, He begins to use as instruments for His cause. I believe He will graciously teach us this lesson even if we try to serve Him with our self effort. He will break us and mould us first, make us to know that we are nothing but instruments and He is the Master—Lord.
b. In relation to the results of our work. It is God who has to work in the heart of people. Jn. 6:44 . Unless the Father draws them, no one can come to the Lord. When we share the Gospel, spirit of God has to work convincing him of sin, righteousness and judgment. Jn.16:8 .
So we need to yield to the Spirit of God and prayerfully sow the seed. Also don't worry about the results. It is of the Lord, no need to force any body to believe what we say.
2. Trust the Word . Never underestimate the potential of the word of God .
Gospel is the power of God. God's ‘dynamite' to break the hardened heart of man. Rom.1:17. Faith is never implanted through our reasoning. However clever we are, how ever logical and interesting our explanation may be, it is the word of God alone that can change the heart of people. So never trust in our own wisdom and explanation. Give the word.
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Rom.10:17 . Is. 55:11 . The word of God will not return void. So communicate the word of God, not our logic! Memorize the scripture portions and freely quote them while we share the gospel, it will be more effective.
3. Love people. Never see people as a potential customer.
Love people unconditionally and care them with concern. Others can make out our motive easily. If our intention is just to tell them the gospel somehow and bring them to Christ, but do not consider them as a person, they will not listen to us. They will treat us like a sales man or sales woman and look for opportunity to send us away. Even if we make a presentation they have already closed their ears.
How to show our love and sincere concern for others? Three things can be learnt from Christ's dealing with the people. Matt.9:36 – “ But when he saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.”
i. Understand and acknowledge their condition
They Lord always saw people as they are, in their need, in their true state. So we ought to see people as truly they are, do not be in a hurry to make a convert out of him. At least six things we should know about them:-
Culture : - Custom and manners. Breaking their custom might close their minds to the gospel. E.g. preaching on prodigal son to a Jain – vegetarian.
Education: - Speak to their level. Preaching on history, science to tribal men is meaningless.
Language: - wrong words make wrong ideas / message – different meaning to different people. Avoid biblical terms – such as propitiation, redemption. But explain the idea in a language in which they understand.
Religion. (i) Faith. - Our words, concept of salvation etc. are different to each religion. E.g. Hindu understanding of Rebirth and Biblical New Birth are different. Their ‘Mukti', and our salvation are different. Trinity – three gods! Once a Plymouth Brother tried to win M.K. Gandhi – emphasized the sin nature, result: - life long misunderstanding and hatred for the ‘brethren'! – (ii) Note the taboos of their faith and respect it if it does not violate our commitment to Christ!
Ego: - Everybody is different in their feeling and temperament. Some introvert, some are extrovert, some narrow – minded some other open, some speaks out, some speaks slowly. Some habitually adamant, anxious, worried, nervous etc. Many have various personality problems. Understand & discern their pain, sorrow, doubt, wrath etc. Then present the gospel accordingly.
Their needs : - What is that particular thing they are looking for in life? What are they in need of? The answer will help us to relate to them in their level. The Lord Jesus did like that. (Water to Samaritan woman, new birth to Nicodemus)
ii. Establish a rapport.
Build a meaning full relationship in response to the above understanding. Notice, the Lord did not immediately preach about the living waters. He simply and humbly asked for little water to drink. Jn. 4:7. Be willing to go to their level and build a strong bridge between them and us. If we fail there, we failed in imparting the gospel truth with them.
It is possible by doing a favour for them or asking for a favour as Christ did. Also, by listening to them intently and willingly; putting them first in the conversation; not trying to make show of ourselves etc.
iii. Express sympathy and concern for them .
Be moved with compassion. That feeling should be / will be reflected in our words and action. Feel their pain, frustration and all what they face in life. Matt.9:35, 36. Such dealings with people will give us the best opportunity to share the gospel easily. By this time they will be ready to listen to us and follow our counsel.
Do we have concern for others? What is our response when people go through various struggles or face a natural calamity?
John Maxwell said some thing like this, ‘People do not care how much we know, unless they know how much we care.' He is correct. Ultimately it is not our knowledge and skill that can touch the heart of the people, but our love, care and sympathy for them. Let them know that we really care for them.
Oswald Sanders writes this true story; Four years after the Titanic tragedy one young Scottish man gave his testimony in a Church in Canada . He was among the many who were trying to save themselves in the miles of water after Titanic was broke apart. There was one Lord's servant Rev. John Harper from Scotland . He was going to USA Moody Church on invitation.
This young man said John Harper an elderly man of God was calling upon the people around him to accept Christ and be saved. As this young man was near the bishop, he asked him, “Young man, is your soul saved?” The waves separated them again and again. Repeatedly John Harper asked this question, and then he replied, ‘I fear, not'. John Harper told him to believe in the Lord and be saved. Tired John Harper began to go down in the waters, first he said, ‘I am going down', and then he said loudly, ‘no, no I am going up'.
John Harper the man of God went down in the waters, this young man said, ‘there when there was miles of water beneath me I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ' and some how he was saved from the waters.
Do we have this burden like John Harper? You see, we may not have enough skill to preach, we may not be able to sing but if there is love and sympathy for others can win souls. “Preaching fails, singing fails, but individual concern does not fail”.
4. Redeem the time . Col.4:5 . Never wait for another occasion .
Always consider this as the final opportunity. Jn.9:4 . Night comes, when no man can work. The Lord was conscious of that fact. We may look forward to a better opportunity to share the gospel, but we may never get that best occasion.
Any thing can take place; death may come, circumstances may be changed and finally the Lord may come at any moment. All these should compel us to make use of the time today and share the gospel.
Remember these four things as we go out to share the gospel:-
Trust God alone—never in our self.
Trust the Word of God alone-not our wisdom.
Love people —unconditionally—care, sympathize with them.
Seize the opportunity –never wait for another chance.
Prepared by Nelson Thomas as part of his teaching ministry.
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