Are you waiting for someone who looks friendly or interested? Don’t wait for someone who looks “friendly” or “interested”!
In Acts 10, God sent an angel to Cornelius telling him how to find Peter so that Peter might explain the message of salvation to him. Why didn’t the Lord simply instruct the angel to share the Gospel with Cornelius?
Because God has given the privilege of sharing the Good News to people. First Thessalonians 2:4 says God has entrusted the Gospel to us. It is our responsibility to witness for Christ.
This means every Christian, not just our leaders. Ephesians 4:11-12 says, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (NASB). All the saints are to be equipped for the work of service. There is no difference between leaders and ordinary Christians in this respect. Our leaders are to help equip us to witness, not do the witnessing for us. So let’s look at some guidelines for witnessing.
First, use the Bible. The Word of God is alive (Heb. 4:12) and is the source of salvation (1 Pet. 1:23). Romans 1:16 says the Gospel of Jesus Christ is “the power of God for salvation.”
The Gospel is not primarily persuasive, but creative. It creates new life. So we don’t have to know everything about philosophy, science, theology, the eastern religions or anything else. We don’t have to convince anybody of anything. Our job is to sow the seed, the Word of God, and let the Holy Spirit take that word and create new life.
Second, pray for boldness and compassion.
Third, remember the source of our power. In Romans 15:18, Paul says, “For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed.” Who was making the Gentiles obedient? Not Paul, but Christ. Paul was simply His instrument for doing that.
Paul’s foremost responsibility was not horizontal, but vertical. First he had to stay in vital contact with Jesus Christ.
Don’t get too busy
Even though we should be active in serving Christ, it’s possible to get this out of balance. Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators, used to say, “Don’t get so involved in the work of the kingdom, that you don’t have any time for the King.” All our activity is useless unless we stay in vital contact with Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5).
There are two major principles in evangelism. First, God does it – not man, but God. The second major principle: He uses people. Acts 1:1, “The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach,” intimating that Jesus is continuing to work and teach in the world. He is still working and teaching.
In Acts 2:47, it says they were “praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” It was God that was adding to the Church, not man. Man cannot do the work of God.
Acts chapter three, beginning with verse 12, says, “But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, ‘Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.’” Peter says, Why are you looking at us? We didn’t do anything. It was Jesus that did this. We didn’t do it.
“If we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead – by this name this man stands here before you in good health” (Acts 4:9-10).
When I was in college someone told me, “If you’ll give these verses in this order, I’ll guarantee 90% success.” That was my first taste of the idea of a method-oriented approach to evangelism. I couldn’t accept that idea. As if you could put God in a box and force Him to do something! God is God. He is not our servant. We are His servants. We must let God do His own work in His own way.
It does help to have a plan to share however. Not that success depends on a plan. Everything is a result of God’s grace. But a plan often helps us know what to say next. Our minds are free to answer questions. A plan can also make it easier for the person we are talking with to understand what we are saying. It can be an illustration you draw yourself, or a printed booklet like the “Four Steps to Peace and Eternal Life”.
We are sent to reap
Often we’re afraid to ask, “Would you like to accept Christ as your Savior right now?” Give a person an opportunity to respond to the Gospel. John 4:38 says, “I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored…” Jesus sends us to reap. What if a farmer only planted his crops, but never harvested them? All his efforts would be wasted. Yet sometimes we sow the Word of God, but are reluctant to take the necessary steps for reaping.
The final key to witnessing is simple – get started. We can usually think of reasons for not witnessing: “He doesn’t look friendly.” “She isn’t the type who would be interested.” Jesus says the problem isn’t with them. I’m sure that Saul of Tarsus didn’t look “friendly” or “interested” on the day he was converted on the road to Damascus.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Matt. 9:37). We think it’s the other way around. We expect that people won’t respond.
But Jesus says they will. The harvest is plentiful. The problem is with the laborers. If we will just share the Gospel, many people are ready to respond.