I like ice cream. Who doesn’t? Ice cream comes in all kinds of different flavors from vanilla to chocolate to pistachio. The basics of ice cream- dairy and sugar- remain the same whatever the flavor, but there are lots of different types.
Evangelistic methods come in different flavors. The basics of evangelism are always the same. Evangelism is the sharing of the message of the gospel with those who are lost. The message of the gospel is the same that it has been for the last two thousand years. (I Corinthians 15:1-8 provides a great summary of that message.) The necessary response to the gospel remains unchanged. We are separated from God by our sins. We need to repent of sin and place our faith in the Lord Jesus who died for our sin and rose from the dead in order to be saved. This is the basic message of evangelism.
But, like varieties of ice cream, there are varieties of ways- what we might call evangelistic methods- by which we do the work of evangelism. Let’s talk about some of those methods.
- Proclamation evangelism. One of the great methods of evangelization is through the public proclamation of the gospel message. Preaching is a method sent from God and is part of our evangelistic strategy. Those of us who are called to preach or teach should take this task seriously. We are dealing with God’s word and speaking it to others. This is a big deal.
Preaching and evangelism go hand in hand. Think of the sermon of Peter at Pentecost in Acts 2. God used the public proclamation of the gospel as a means by which lost people heard and responded to the truth.
Not every text that I preach is focused on evangelism. We are to preach “the whole counsel of God.” Not every person who hears my sermon is lost. We preach to all who will hear. But wise is the preacher who remembers the lost in his sermons.
I try to consider lost people in my sermon preparation. I want to use language people can understand even if they haven’t been to church before. My application isn’t focused only on those with a seminary education. I want to know how the lost think and the questions they may be asking. But more than anything I want to tell the lost the truth of the gospel message. I want them to hear the message of sin and salvation.
And, I want to preach the message of the gospel with passion. Note that Acts 2:40 tells us that Peter “strongly urged them, saying, ‘Be saved from this corrupt generation!’” This wasn’t a passive proclamation. It was filled with passion. Peter, like other preachers in the New Testament, cared deeply about the salvation of the lost and his preaching showed it.
Pastors and teachers should remember the importance of the gospel message in all preaching and teaching opportunities. We can present the message of the gospel on Sunday mornings and in small groups but also at weddings and funerals or any chance we have to publicly proclaim the truth. What opportunities are provided to us in these settings!
- Personal evangelism. Evangelism isn’t confined to just the sermon or just the preacher. Sharing the good news is for everyone who knows Jesus as Savior. And never has the need been greater for personal evangelism than today.
I am thankful for the opportunity I have to preach but I know my evangelism responsibility does not end there. I need to be involved in personal evangelism or soul winning. I need to do this for a few different reasons. One is that personal evangelism allows me to interact with lost people that I can’t in any other way. I can answer their questions and find out what they are thinking. Also, personal evangelism allows me to share the gospel with those who might never otherwise hear my messages.
I recently shared the gospel with a young man who had never been to our church services and had never heard me preach. He was in our church atrium waiting to pick up his girlfriend who was working in our nursery for a weekday activity. I struck up a conversation, asked about his religious background, asked for the opportunity to tell him what the bible has to say about salvation and led him through scriptures that talk about our need and God’s provision. This young man then gave his life to Jesus without ever having come to our church services. How awesome!
There is another reason why personal evangelism matters so much. It doesn’t just change the lives of others who hear the message from me; it also changes me. Through personal evangelism I learn what lost people are thinking. Through personal evangelism I begin to understand the needs and questions and problems of real lost people. And, through personal evangelism I get to obey the spirit of the great commandment (“love”) and the heart of the great commission (“go”). This is reason enough for all believers to be involved in personal evangelism.
- Bridge building evangelism. There are many ways to build bridges with the lost that allow us to share the gospel with them. We often host events in our church that help people connect their lost friends with the message of the gospel.
Certainly one part of our bridge building strategy is to encourage our members to invite their lost friends to a worship service. The witness of the worship and the message allows them to hear the message of faith. Often their stereotypes are broken down and they find themselves considering the truth of the gospel message. It often leads to deeper discussions with their friends after the services are over.
We also utilize many bridge building events beyond the Sunday worship services. We host a Men’s Wild Game event that focuses on reaching out to men. Many men who have never attended a bible teaching church will attend this event at the invitation of a friend or coworker. It is a chance for them to taste rattlesnake meat but to also hear that the gospel is relevant to their lives.
Events like Vacation Bible School reach out to large numbers of children who are looking for summer time activities. And, we use family night to reach out to their parents as well. Upwards Sports has been an effective tool for us to connect with children and families and to share the message of hope.
We have often had gifted evangelists (that gift and calling is found in the bible and the church would do well to rediscover this truth) with great results. Big events have helped us to make a first connection with many lost people. Often these special events and programs provide opportunities to reach people long after the event is over.
Evangelism, like ice cream, can have lots of different flavors. But like ice cream, it is best when experienced, not just talked about. I hope you and your church will jump into a big tub of evangelistic zeal this year! After all, we who have tasted and know that the Lord is good should want others to experience that same sweet joy for themselves.
*This was first printed in Resource magazine of the Illinois Baptist State Association