A guest post from Aaron Mansfield, one of the best evangelists I know. When I began writing about evangelism, I told you that I’m not very good at it (though I’m working on it). Aaron is. Much better for you to get wisdom from him than from me. This is great, practical encouragement. Enjoy!
Teddy asked me to write a few words on how a person can become an evangelist–not in a caricatured sense, but in the real sense of someone who shares the Good News that Jesus died for our sins.
I’ll start by saying I do not have the spiritual gift of evangelism. The gift of evangelism is not necessary to do the work of evangelism. There is no excuse for a believer who does not share his or her faith.
There are some immediate hindrances to evangelism that seem almost insurmountable. You have to get over them. You have to come to the point where you accept that the gift of salvation that you have is simply more important than your fears or worries.
- “I think it is intrusive to tell someone about my faith.” What if any of the Apostles thought that? “I know He said to go into all the world, but we can’t really interrupt people’s privacy to tell them about the Kingdom–” if Christians thought this way, you would not be a Christian. No one would have told you.
- “People will think I am weird.” That’s the least of your worries. They already do think you’re weird. You believe a man’s tragic death 2000 years ago has something to do with you and the fabric of the universe. You believe He was resurrected from the dead and He sent a spirit to guide us since then. You are already weird. Weirder than you know.
- Fear of rejection. It will happen. A lot. But Jesus was honest about this: “narrow is the way that leads to eternal life and few find it.”
- “You can’t just do evangelism. You have to make disciples.” (As if evangelism can exist without discipleship, but that’s another issue…) This is the worst excuse there is because it sounds holy. My experience is that people who say this are not making disciples, either. If they’re doing it without “evangelism” then someone else did the work of winning them to faith. Do both.
- “We should build relationships first.” This, too, sounds holy, but it’s a complicated excuse to allow us to call “hanging out” evangelism. After a few months of playing golf or whatever, you’re going to tell them about Christ? You’re already worried people think you’re weird… And… is it biblical? In the New Testament, no one waits to tell the Good News. It’s too important to wait.
- “I don’t know what to say.” We can fix that, and now.
To engage in effective evangelism, you have to have your heart broken for people who do not know Christ. They go to Hell without Him. They have no benefit of His peace, joy, and righteousness. I fear that this, finally, is the stumbling block: We do not really believe that Jesus is as important as He is. Ask God to break your heart. It is a terrible process, but a joyous result.
And then what? The story is so simple, so plain. We want to dress it up, complicate it. Don’t. Here it is:
1. God loves you. And He has a plan for your life (John 3:16-17, John 10:10)
2. Your sin has broken the relationship with Him. (Romans 3:23)
3. Because He loves you, He sent Jesus to die for your sins, to be the bridge back across the broken relationship. Jesus is the only way back to God. (John 14:6)
4. Trust Jesus, that He will do for you what He says. Repent of your sin and have faith that He has died for your sins and was resurrected to life, and you, too, will be resurrected to new life. (Mark 1:15, Romans 10:9, John 5:24)
It’s just that simple. [You will also have to get over whatever it is in you that thinks this is cheesy. I had to get over the resentment of “this isn’t cool.” You have to get over it not being very sophisticated.]
There is a bit more. You have to practice these “steps.” Repeat them to a friend or family member until you know them well enough to repeat on demand.
Then, tell the Good News! Perhaps there is a friend or coworker who needs Jesus. Or just a stranger you meet and start chatting with. My favorite “pick up line” (ha ha) is “Do you know what it means that God loves you?”
Can I embarrass you even further? While we’re being weird here, you need some tracts. I suggest two: biblica.com has my favorite, “The Bridge.” I have used it successfully to lead to faith adults, youth, and even a guy who didn’t speak English.
The other one is Billy Graham’s “Steps to Peace With God.” Get it from BillyGraham.org He starts in that most Methodist place: the love of God!
You can use either tract with your basic explanation of the Good News, but I suggest using both.
Pro-Tip: put a sticker on the back of the tract with your contact info and your church’s worship time. You can leave them laying around, for someone to read later: you don’t have to talk to everyone. If you do get a chance to personally witness to someone, get their contact info and follow up with an invite to church, an offer to go get them–at least meet them outside the door.
Please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions you have, and also let me know how it works out–the good and the bad! If you’re going to do evangelism, you have to know going in that it is hard and often disappointing. An evangelist needs a lot of encouragement–and I would love to encourage you in that work!
Start telling the Good News and don’t stop once you’ve started!
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14 thoughts on “How to become an evangelist”
Thanks for sharing this Aaron. In my (albeit limited) attempts at interpersonal evangelism I’ve been able to consistently move people to spiritual conversations, but have one hiccup you may be able to help with.
Consistently folk claim to be Christians and then talk about how they’re living good lives or point to how their lives are clearly better because of their religious acts. (“God has blessed me because I do this.”) These folks largely are not church goers, but I am stymied when I get to this point. They’re either comfortable because they prayed a prayer at some point or are stuck in works righteousness thinking.
Great point, John. There’s a lot of confusion about faith and salvation in Western culture. I think we never recovered from the revivalism of the 19th century. It took a lot of emphasis off of sacraments and holiness and put everything in terms of whether people had made a decision.
I feel like the best way to address these sorts of things with people who claim faith is to get them into a deeper examination of Scripture and their own lives. For the person who “believes but doesn’t care for religion,” I’d love to know if they would be open to letting me come back for a small Bible study. I’d use that to intentionally draw out some Scriptures on the nature of repentance and the Church. I might start with Eph 5:21-32 and Eph 2:8, using Eph 2 to summarize Wesley’s “Salvation by Faith” sermon. And then I’d ask life questions – about doing good and avoiding evil. When we examine Scripture and life, I think it’s tough to keep up the same facades and misconceptions.
But then, this requires an extended time. If someone won’t give that to me, I’d want to do as much of the same in the 5 minutes I have in front of them.
Good question, John; you have come across a common way people have to deflect your mission! “I was baptized at Antioch Christian Church…” “I’m a member of Sunrise Baptist…” “I believe…” and things like you mentioned. There’s a kind of folk religion that says all you have to do is be a good person. And of course, in our weird culture people also think any reference to spirituality will get you off their porch. I have had a lot of people tell me they are into Eastern religions as if that should matter to me. We have a lot of work to do to keep the focus on Christ!
When people tell me they go to church, I ask who the pastor is. If they stumble around, I press a little further and remind them that if they aren’t in worship, their membership is meaningless.
If they tell me the “I’m a good person” line, I remind them they are the only person who will ever get to heaven that way– how do they expect to get there unless by grace?
One of the problems is, you don’t have a lot of time in encounters like this. Teddy is right to underscore the need for Bible study– but we need to have something ready (i don’t know, Methodist small groups?!?!?!) we could invite them to.
And it could just be they are asleep and it is not yet time that they be awakened. But you have done your part! You’d be surprised how just being reminded that there is a God gets people thinking. ANd that’s the goal of this baseline evangelism. Get people thinking, remembering that there is a God and how we relate to Him has eternal consequences.
Thank you both for your feedback.
One thing I’ve done a few times, and have no way to track, is to ask folks who say they are Christian what one thing they could be doing to grow closer to God. My hope has been that the question alone will get them thinking, but with one exception they weren’t comfortable committing to anything other than what they were already doing (which was usually ambiguous).
I think it some ways I’m a natural evangelist, but I wasn’t even exposed to the concept directly until later college having grown up in a large-ish church in a growing community that never really talked about evangelism.
I have found that most folks are willing to listen to you for a bit if you’re willing to listen to them first. 🙂
Awesome discussion. Teddy, totally agree with your point about emphasis being taken off of the sacraments and holiness…today we think a sacrament such as baptism is something we can choose for ourselves as opposed to a gift that is given to us (enjoyed William Willimon’s book “Remember Who You Are” on this subject). And Aaron, totally agree that the small groups are ESSENTIAL! I am both convicted and inspired (and still Catholic, lol;) Thank you all!!!
This is my problem, I love God and I want to be able to lead people to christ. I’m only 17. I remember talking to my grandfather, it was last week and i was telling him about this girl that i go to school with and she’s a buddhist, and these two other girls, their atheists. I started telling them how God loves them very much, its unexplainable, but they didn’t want to hear that, but i keep telling them, i just cannot stop telling them that. I refuse to. He created us, He created the universe. I told them about the Book of Genesis, and John, its crazy because the girl is a atheists and her name is Genesis, so in my mind, I’m thinking her mom had to be a Christian but i don’t know. I told my grandfather long ago how i wanted to help people and lead people to Jesus Christ and I wasn’t ashamed. I get laughed at all the time at my school, yeah it hurts a little, but I’m used to it. So as my grandfather was talking to me he said “Tori? Read the book of John and i have a feeling that your going to be a evangelist”, and i said what’s that? He said a person that goes around and preaches the Gospel about Jesus christ and how he died for our sins. I responded “OOOOOOOO YESSS!! I WOULD LOVE THAT. I do it everyday, I just have to have my Scriptures and remember them by heart. but i do need help. I want to also experience God’s beautiful amazing love and i know i will.
Awesome!!! I joined a new church from a 1500 body congregation, now totaling 20 at the most and choir size 5 me making it 6, I was just trying to stay in faith until I was ready to go back but the longer I stayed I would find myself walking around the church praying and I enjoy the teaching small Sunday School class, my daughter is Teaching Sunday School which is very nice and she like’s the children.
I talked to the Pastor and was talking about being an Evangelist and he (stated i can see that and you should join) I said no not yet, I was Praying in the church my prayer changed to whatever is your will lord ill do, I talk to people about God, finding a faith believing Bible teaching church and talk with my sick christian church goers often in the neighbor hood and grocery stores.
The pastor announced to the church that I would like to be an Avangelist and the amen and claps were so loud.
I want to become an Evangelist, I want to do the work of God as I also believe that the field is plenty and workers are few I want to tell people about Jesus Christ who is our Savior
Hi! My name is Joy Robinson, I have been call by God to be a evangelist. I am researching different things. The church is pressing me, appreantly I have the gift of healing. I’m a bit nervous but I’m ready. I have no training but lots of bad experiences that put me in this position.
I wish to become evangelist . My love for God is amazing. My relationship with God is awesome. My greatest wish is to share the joy. I know it is my calling because God has giving the gift to hold a casual conversation with a person that had their doubts or little to no faith in God to suddenly want to draw near God, to trust and believe in his word. Yet, through it all my greatest wish is for me to eat utt people know to me n general but to Praise God by carrying out his mission in full.