There are those who would tell us that evangelism is a gift—some Christians may have it, and others do not. Yet neither Romans 12 or 1 Corinthians 12 list evangelism among the spiritual gifts. The office of the evangelist is mentioned in Ephesians 4, however, this is not a listing of spiritual gifts, but of gifted persons. The reason for the omission among the spiritual gifts is simple. God gave His command to every believer to preach the Gospel (Matthew 28:19–20). How can we personally and effectively share this Gospel?
Follow the Scripture’s Model
In many of our churches, it has become common to go soulwinning at a particular time each week. I think it is wonderful to have a definite, scheduled time to go out and give the Gospel to people. I believe that if we don’t schedule a soulwinning time, many of us are not likely to go. Just as we have a time to read our Bible and a time to pray, we should have a time to go soulwinning. However, we have not completed our mission or obeyed God’s command when we have gone an hour and a half each week. Remember, the commandment is that the Gospel is to be given to “every creature.” Please note these examples from the lives of our Lord and His disciples.
Their soulwinning was personal. Though the Lord Jesus addressed crowds on many occasions, He also spoke individually to the woman at the well, to Zacchaeus, to the man who was blind from birth, and to a host of others.
While the early Christians were personal in their witnessing, it did not limit the scope of their soulwinning. Look at how the Bible describes their witness, “And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house” (Acts 20:20). “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).
“…ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine…” (Acts 5:28). Paul said, “…I am pure from the blood of all men” (Acts 20:26).
While I have had the privilege to win people to Christ out soulwinning many times, some of my most wonderful experiences have not been during a scheduled “soulwinning time.” I’ve led people to Christ on airplanes, in restaurants, in the line at a grocery store, across the counter in a motel, and in hospital lobbies. Wherever there are people, there are people who need to hear the Gospel.
Listen to the Holy Spirit
While we are commanded to preach the Gospel to every creature, we must always be led by the Spirit in the way that we approach them. It is interesting to note how the Lord Jesus used the conversation about a well to turn a woman to Christ. The Apostle Paul used a statue to an unknown God to tell people of the true and living God and His Son, Jesus. Stephen gave a complete lecture on Hebrew history before making the Gospel application which so angered his persecutors that they picked up rocks and began to stone him. Each approach was different. Each approach was led by the Holy Spirit.
Just a few months after I had come to First Baptist of Bridgeport, I was feeling a bit frazzled with all I had to do. I needed to work on a Sunday morning sermon, a Sunday evening sermon, a Wednesday Bible study, a Bible school lesson and a Bible school skit. I asked the Lord which one of these I should work on next. The answer I got was, “Go visit John Bailey.”
Now, I had given a multiple-choice question to the Lord and He had answered as if it were a fill-in-the-blank! When I had visited Mr. Bailey just a couple of weeks before, he was kind, but he had made it clear that he had studied with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and was not interested in trusting Christ as his Saviour. As I reluctantly drove to his home in response to God’s fill-in-the-blank answer, I remember thinking, “What do I say to a guy to whom I’ve just given the Gospel a couple of weeks earlier?” I came up with an extremely clever approach.
When he answered the door, I said, “Hi, have you thought any more about getting saved?” (See how subtle and smooth I was?)
To my surprise, he answered “Yes, I have.”
That day, John Bailey not only got saved, but he became a faithful member of our church and his was the first wedding I performed.
Spread the Seed Everywhere
At first, it might have seemed that witnessing to John Bailey wouldn’t come to anything. But as we learn from Jesus in the Parable of the Sower in Mark chapter four, our responsibility is to spread the seed of the Word everywhere. Some were sown on the hardened path were people walked. Some were on shallow ground with only a few inches of soil covering rocks. Some were on thorny ground and some on good ground.
This distribution can seem inefficient. Why would the Lord want us to waste seed in places where it seems obvious that fruit cannot come? Because He wants everyone to hear the Gospel. In addition to that, we may not be as much of an expert at determining what the condition of the soil is as we think. Many with hardened exteriors have hungry hearts. That’s why we ought to give a tract to every person we can; to speak to every person we have the opportunity to, and not to disqualify anyone in our mind. Despite falling on several types of grounds which did not yield fruit, some did. “And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred” (Mark 4:8).
We plant, others water, but God gives the increase.
I am often reminded of a story that I heard Dr. Ford Porter, the author of God’s Simple Plan of Salvation, tell when I was a young man. He had ridden his bicycle to a bus stop and was passing out Gospel tracts. He began a conversation with a man on the bus. The man was interested and was listening to the Gospel but the bus was pulling away. As clearly as he could in a limited time, Dr. Porter explained the Gospel to this man and led him to Christ. He even rode his bicycle along the bus for a short time as it pulled away from the stop. Later on, someone said, “Ford, don’t tell that story. No one will believe it.” After all, the time was short, the conversation was rushed, and though Dr. Porter did the very best he could in the time allotted, it wasn’t what we would call a thorough presentation of the Gospel.
A few months later, Ford Porter was at the same street corner, this time without his bicycle, passing out tracts and trying to win people to Christ. He asked a passerby if he was on his way to Heaven and the man said, “Yes.”
“Wonderful,” said Dr. Porter. “When did you get saved?”
“Well,” he said, “A couple of months ago, I was riding a bus and a man on a bicycle came by and gave me a Gospel tract.” Let us give as much Gospel as we can to everybody we can and trust God, by His Spirit, to bring forth fruit.
For more practical tips on personal evangelism, see this issue’s toolbox: Fruitful Follow-Up.