Introduction:We live in a world that needs Jesus. With a population of over seven billion people on this earth, there are around six thousand who die each hour while around fifteen thousand who are born. Every one of these people is in serious need of the opportunity to hear the gospel. Every one of these people is headed to an eternity of bliss or torment. In light of this population explosion, Christians live under the command of Jesus to make disciples of all the nations, Matthew 28:18-20 [All scriptures references are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted]. The method of making disciples is baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit and teaching them all things that are commanded. This need for evangelism has been the call to the church for centuries and is especially important for the church in our century.
Heart of the Message: Methods for Evangelism
There are several models of evangelism used in the New Testament that are effective today as well. A major one is mass proclamation. In Acts 2 Peter and the apostles preached the very first gospel sermon. Using the proving power of the Holy Spirit along with proof from Old Testament prophecy, Peter confirmed that Jesus had been unlawfully crucified and yet he rose from the grave. The crowd interrupted Peter with the question, “What shall we do?” Acts 2:37. This mass proclamation harvested 3000 souls who obeyed the gospel. Other instances of mass proclamation are found in Acts 3, Acts 7, and Acts 17. In our modern day, mass proclamation can be done in lectureships and gospel meetings. In decades past in the last century, the gospel meeting was a primary source of evangelistic work. However, today many of our large gatherings include few outsiders who are unfamiliar with the gospel message. This means that our large public gatherings need to be designed to bring in outsiders and to fulfill purposes other than evangelism.
Another model of evangelism is through media. Many of the Apostles wrote letters to churches they visited or to areas in which they had influence. While some of these letters are no longer preserved, the ones that remain today are our inspired Scriptures. The letters, or as we know them, the epistles are valuable in that they reach a wider audience than the spoken word. Since they are written, they can be preserved so that they can be passed around to others and they can last through many years. Today we live in an age of media. From television to radio to social media, there are countless ways for the Lord’s church to reach to the far corners of the globe with the gospel message. Huge numbers are contacted by a single blog post or tweet. Yet a weakness of this method is that there is so much media being sent out that it has a diluted effect. People today are highly discerning of what they read and the time they spend listening to a message. But well written and well-designed communication still can accomplish a huge harvest.
The Bible also has many examples of evangelism through personal relationship. The apostle Andrew’s greatest contribution to the cause of Christ was in who he brought to Jesus. While we do not see many of Andrew’s words, it was he that brought Peter to Christ, John 1:40-41. Aquila and Priscilla took Apollos aside and taught him the way more fully, Acts 18:26. By doing this, they contributed to him becoming a very influential preacher in the early Church, 1 Corinthians 1:12.
While mass proclamation and media proclamation have their roles in getting the message of the gospel out, the most effective method of reaching the lost in the Twenty-First Century is through personal relationships. For proof of this fact, next time you are in a Bible class go around and ask people who or what influenced them to obey the gospel. While there will be some who were converted by radio preaching or by reading a blog, most people in the congregation will refer to a personal relationship such as their parents, their spouse, a friend a work, or someone who took an interest in them. Therefore, the modern church must utilize the personal relationships of its members to enhance evangelistic opportunity.
Messages For Today: How you can develop personal relationships for evangelism
- Meet people where they are
- Turn conversations to a spiritual purpose
- Don’t lose sight of your purpose
- Disregard distractions
We see some good rules for influencing others for Christ in our personal relationships as we read John 4. As a first rule of influence, we see that Jesus met people where they were. While he did spend time in the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus often went to people rather than expecting the people to seek him out. In John 4 we see that Jesus had to go through Samaria and he met the lady at the well as she was gathering water for her family. A second principle we see for personal evangelism is Jesus naturally turned everyday conversations toward the spiritual realm. He took the lady’s task of gathering water and began a discussion of the living water of the gospel. He took her question about worship and explained how the gospel led people to worship in Spirit and in truth, John 4:24. A third principle shown by Jesus is he never lost sight of his purpose in teaching. As the Apostles sought to interrupt Jesus so he could eat he said, “My food is to preach the gospel.” Later he would tell the Apostles to disregard distractions and “Lift up your eyes and see the harvest.” There are times our good works in the church actually become a distraction to our reaching out to others. It is good to feed the poor and it is good to be known as a supporter of the community. But when we focus on social work to the neglect of saving souls we fail in our purpose of preparing people for eternity.
A Message of Hope For You
Our culture today looks much like the culture of the First Century church. We live in an environment of pluralism (a view that truth depends on individual perception), moderate persecution (there is a segment of our population that is adamantly against Christianity), and a good number of truth seekers who will obey if approached with the gospel message. So how are we to present the gospel to this twenty-first century world? Paul explains our method in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.
In verse seventeen we see the need to be authentic. “If you are in Christ…old things have passed away.” One of the major necessities for reaching the lost is a sense of “realness” on our part. Our Christianity must make a difference in our lives in the way we think and the way we act. There is also a need to be incarnational. What this term means is that we participate in the daily lives of others. Just as Jesus Christ was sent by God to live among us (verse 18), so also we must go to the world rather than expecting the world to come to us. It is good to invite people to gospel meetings and to events at the church building. But it’s more effective when the members of the church go into the community to show God’s love and share God’s message. This can be done in nursing homes, schools, community events, and in other ways as well. Thirdly, we see the need for humility. Many people in the world think that Christians are prideful and judgmental. They’ve seen some Christians screaming condemnation to the lost and being self righteous to those who disagree with them. As ministers of God, Paul reminds us that we too are in need of saving grace. Verse 18 tells us that God has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ so that we then can participate in this ministry to reconciling others to God as well. When we remember that we need God’s forgiveness as much as everyone else, then we will have the proper attitude in our interaction with the world. Fourth we see in verse twenty that Christians must be driven. That is, when we see that Christ is working through us; we will not let anything get in the way of our leading others to the Lord. While the term for ambassador is a specific term that technically applies to the eyewitness Apostles, there is a sense in which we too are witnesses for Christ’s work. We know the power of the gospel and we must work diligently to let others know it as well. We see the fifth point of Paul in this passage is we are to be concise, verse 21. We should be able to specifically and simply tell others what they need to know to be a Christian. Paul here emphasizes God’s work in making Christ be our substitute on the cross. We do not need to preach a complicated gospel that breeds confusion, rather we are to simply spread the good news to all people. This world needs Jesus and we have an obligation to participate in and use our culture in ways that reach the lost.