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We practice ‘Fishing the World’ by living out our Kingdom vocation (calling) via our daily occupation (work). This naturally leads to EVANGELISM: sharing the good news of Jesus, who saves us through his life, death and resurrection. I’ve repeatedly said, however, who you are, how you behave, communicates much louder than what you say about Jesus. Last week I taught on the What? and Why? of evangelism; now we look at the How?
The Wisdom of Every Believer Evangelism
To be a follower of Jesus is to be his witness (evangelist). Every believer is his messenger of joy sharing The Gospel, ‘fishing’ people into his Kingdom. While some are gifted as evangelists (Eph 4:11), every believer is called to do evangelism… right where we are, and further afield, to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Therefore, we must “always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have… with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3:15, cf. Eph 6:15 & Is 52:7).
To ‘win’ people requires wisdom as Solomon says: “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and those who win souls are wise” (Prov 11:30). Those who are wise will lead many to righteousness, shining like bright stars in a darkening world (Dan 12:3). This applies to Jesus’ fishing image: to catch fish you need to be clever, knowing what fish you’re trying to catch, the season, the time and tide, and what bait to use! Because we ignore these factors we often don’t catch fish (people) – besides our lack of motivation and practice. Jesus used other images to teach the same regarding his disciples’ mission and witness in the world: “I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves, therefore be as shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16) – be cunning and clever, yet pure and innocent! To be “the salt of the earth” is to make people thirsty for God’s goodness, while stinging their corrupt conscience; and to be “the light of the world” is to show people the way to God by your good deeds, while confronting and driving back their darkness (Matt 5:13-16).
So, at one level evangelism is simple: just tell people about Jesus, gossip the gospel, sow seeds far and wide! At another level it requires knowledge and skill to be effective. Plus, we must see the picture from God’s viewpoint, where and how we fit in. God uses us to sow the seed of the gospel in some lives, to water the seed in other lives, and to reap the harvest when we lead a person to commitment in Christ (e.g. 1 Cor 3:5-9). We ARE “God’s fellow workers” (1 Cor 3:9), his ambassadors, who work with him to reconcile the world to himself through Jesus (2 Cor 5:18 – 6:1-2). By doing this, taking the gospel to all nations, we complete God’s plan, then The End WILL come (see Matt 24:14). What an honour! Christ-followers are God’s end-time messengers of joy who bring the new era of God’s Kingdom!
How to do Evangelism: Five Ways
Pre evangelism: See people as on a spiritual journey, on a spectrum, of being far from God through to being really close to God in Jesus by his Spirit. We can talk of three stages:
- Pre-evangelism: not knowing of Jesus, or are aware of him, but not interested or not ready to listen to talk about him, to…
- Evangelism: becoming ready to hear about Jesus, open to his good news, wanting more info… journeying toward faith in Jesus, then actually committing to him, to…
- Post-evangelism (discipleship): from initiation into repentance and faith in Jesus to growth in following him – including water baptism, joining a local church, being taught the basics of Christian faith, to sharing your faith with others, etc.
How do we move people along their journey in pre-evangelism, sowing seeds that prepare them to hear the gospel? By truly loving each person you meet each day. In the moment of encounter with them YOU are Jesus to them, whether they know it or not. Called presence evangelism: wherever you are your presence makes a difference, as in your godly attitude, behaviour, and good works (1 Pet 3:13-18). It’s also servant evangelism: selflessly serving people in society, in the name of Jesus, for no personal gain (e.g. Mother Teresa). This shifts public perception of Jesus and Christianity from a negative to a positive view. ‘Good works’, however, must never be used as a manipulative hidden hook to preach at people.
Prayer evangelism: Prayer is powerfully active in pre- and evangelism stages. It’s the mystery of working with God for people’s salvation, especially for family and friends. We underestimate and thus neglect the power of prayer in this regard. If we cry out for their salvation, God WILL intervene; if we sow in tears we WILL reap with joy (Ps 126:5-6). Use the prayer card we’ve provided: ask God to show you which three or four names you must write down to pray for daily – keeping it your pocket or wallet as a credit card to remind you to pray through the day. Then plan, as God prompts you, to invite them around for a coffee or meal, and seek God’s wisdom and guidance in beginning to talk about Jesus.
Personal evangelism: The book of Acts clearly shows how the gospel spread most easily through family and friends – evangelising via personal relationships – called natural, or relational, or friendship evangelism. It comes from the Greek oikos, “household”, which refers to one’s relational network of family and friends. Paul said to the Philippian jailor, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household” (Acts 16:29-34). It’s a matter of love, relationship and practical priority to pray for our family, friends and work colleagues, that they come to know Jesus. Then to strategise with God how to encourage them in their spiritual journey toward faith in God through Jesus.
Proclamation evangelism: The book of Acts also shows the power of proclamation in evangelism. When followers of Jesus preached, taught, explained, reasoned and discussed the gospel with others, many came to faith in Christ (Acts 2:14-41, 10:27-48, 19:8-10). We need to plan ‘evangelism events’ to which we invite people who may be ready to hear the clear and reasonable presentation of the good news, and commit their lives to Jesus.
Power evangelism: The Gospels and book of Acts record many stories of God’s Kingdom power breaking into people’s lives through supernatural words of knowledge, wisdom, healings, faith, miracles, and casting out of demons, bringing people to faith in Jesus. A great example is John 4:5-26, how Jesus ‘evangelised’ the Samaritan woman at the well. He began with what was common to each of them, their need to draw water from the well. And he concluded with a supernatural insight into her life situation (vv.16-19) that opened her eyes to see him for who he really was, not only a prophet, but God’s Messiah. She believed (in) him! When we are with a person we must cultivate the practice of listening to the Holy Spirit for that person, asking for the Spirit’s insight and supernatural gifts, so that the person can come to know Jesus. Power evangelism is our heritage in the Vineyard, we were ‘born’ in it… so HOW ABOUT IT? Let’s do it!
For Personal Reflection and Home Group Discussion
– Do you actually evangelise people? If not, why not?
– Think of the five ways of evangelising, which one or two (or three) work for you?
– Have you filled in the three or four names of family and friends (that you feel God has shown you) on your prayer card? Hold yourself accountable to your home group and/or accountability partner, to pray for these folk regularly with a view to ‘fishing’ them!