The Biblical Basis for Initiative Evangelism
- Jesus took the initiative to come to us. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). See Luke 19:10. God always has been the one pursuing us. Jesus did evangelism here on earth and taught his disciples to do so also: Luke 9:1-6 & Luke 10:1-11
- Jesus commanded us to go and take the Gospel to all peoples, following the pattern of initiative taking that he began: John 20:21. Just as the Father sent Jesus into the world to pursue people, so has He sent us. See also Matt. 28:18-20.
- The apostles and early church followed through from Jesus example and command for initiative. As you read through the book of Acts, it is quite clear that the apostles and other leaders in the church were continually going to people, not waiting for people to come to them. Acts 5:42 - after the disciples are freed, despite being told to do otherwise, they continue to do evangelism “in the temple and from house to house” Acts 13-21 Paul’s 3 missionary journeys to the Gentiles, where he is constantly going into the marketplace and synagogues to reason with people that Jesus is the Christ.
- If we just live a good enough life, people will come to us and ask us, and then we can share our faith with them. This is clearly not the pattern set in Scripture, but there is also no guarantee anyone will see you being a good person and ask you. A much better idea is to be intentional to share the gospel with someone (or at least let them know you are a Christian) earlier on in a relationship, and then live out the gospel in your life so that they will see the message validated, and give glory to God!
- If we go to people we will turn them off. Our methods could offend people, turn them off, etc. if we are jerks. But why not be nice and sincere, doing things in a way that isn’t weird or off-putting? People will always be turned off by the Gospel if God is not at work in their life, but that is not up to us - we should try anyways!
- People don’t want to hear the Gospel; they don’t want to be bothered. Response: True, some are not interested at all, or at this time in their lives, but you would be surprised how many people in our Western world have spiritual interest… or at least could have spiritual interest after you ask some good questions or share some of your own experience. To give this excuse is to decide for people that they don’t want to hear the Gospel, when you really have no idea.
- You can’t share Christ with someone until you have a relationship with them. Sure, relationships are helpful for evangelism (most authentic conversions come through friendships), but they are surely not necessary. Besides this, what constitutes a relationship? Maybe a few minutes with a stranger is enough to build rapport such that you can meaningfully connect with someone and share the gospel with them? And even if this myth were not a myth, it would only change our methods of intentionality: instead of sharing only with the people I have a relationship with, I should also go out and build new ones! This is of course recommended!
- Initiative evangelism means street corner preaching or knocking on doors. God can really use any method of evangelism, and we’re not restricted in our methods by Scripture, but of course “initiative” does not only mean these things. It can be as simple as making a new friend with the hope to share the gospel, or visiting the houses in your neighbourhood on a Saturday afternoon asking them about their experiences with the church and getting to know their spiritual backgrounds.
Our Response to the Great Commission
Often, our challenges and fears boil down to us and our ability. Jesus knows us, He knows our ability, yet He still invites all believers to participate in evangelism. What does that tell us about evangelism? Evangelism is not dependent on me and my ability. God has NOT called us to something in which we are intended to fail. The key here is knowing our role and God’s role in evangelism.
Our Role in Evangelism: To be a Sower and Harvester.
Mark 4:26-29:26 and he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” As one workshop participant put it “we are farmers!”. Have the faith to ask for opportunities, be filled with the Spirit and depending on his strength to speak, and take action, stepping forward in courage and obedience when opportunities come. Let’s look at these a bit closer:
John 4:35: “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” Why would I sow if I didn’t think anything would happen? We should expect God to do something through us when we share the gospel. Our first role in evangelism is simply to have faith that God is at work and that God loves your lost friends and family, and the lost kids at Oasis. He has opportunities for us, and He can and does choose to work through those who are available to Him. One way to express this faith is by praying and asking God to give you opportunities to share with others.
2) Be filled with the Spirit
Acts 1:4, 8: 4 “On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The disciples were given the command to be Christ’s witnesses and take the gospel to the ends of the earth, however, they were instructed not to leave Jerusalem until they had received the Holy Spirit. As Christians we have the Holy Spirit and these verses show the necessity of the Holy Spirit in effective evangelism. We need to depend on Him as we share the good news, rather than sharing in our own strength. We can do this by asking the Holy Spirit to fill us and give us his courage, strength, words, and direction, as soon as we recognize an opportunity or God’s leading to be a witness.
3) Take action
This is the result of the two responsibilities we just discussed. As we have faith and ask for opportunities, and as we are filled with the Holy Spirit, it’s our job to pray, take the initiative, and step out in obedience when God gives us opportunities to share the good news. The great thing is you don't have to be a super-Christian or have an amazing gift of evangelism; because you have the living God inside of you!
"you don't have to be a super-Christian
1 Corinthians 3:5-9: 5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. God is the one who causes growth in people’s lives, not us. It is his role to produce fruit and change people’s hearts. Jesus promises that He will play His role – there will be a harvest for us to bring in, and His Kingdom will always grow. And if we step into our roles, we get to be a part of it all! When we are faithful to the opportunities God gives us to share Christ, and we leave the results up to him, we are truly partnering with God in his kingdom work.
Rebekah’s Oasis Story
Before and during Oasis, I had been praying for opportunities to share the gospel with the kids. I was impacted seeing others get up early to ride the bus with the kids, and decided to do it one morning. The day I rode the bus to camp one of the campers, lets call him Bartholomew (not his real name), was singing one of the camp songs “My Hope is in the Lord,” and joking around. I saw an opportunity to go deeper. We got talking about what the word “Lord” meant, and I asked if anyone had ever explained to him what it meant to have Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. He said no, but he had wanted to know for years. We were almost at camp, so I asked if I could share that with him at lunch. He said yes! At lunch his leader and I prayed for God to speak through us. Then we sat aside with Bartholomew and got to share the gospel with him. We asked him many questions along the way to see how much he understood. He was able to repeat back clearly what Jesus had done for him. We asked him if he believed this, and if he wanted to receive Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. He said yes, and we got to lead him in a prayer to do so! Afterwards, Bartholomew had a huge smile on his face and said, “I’ve wanted to do that for years, but I never knew how to!” He called us “brother” and “sister in Christ” for the rest of Oasis. There are many opportunities at Oasis to share the gospel with kids, so I encourage you to start praying now for opportunities and for God’s strength to take them!
How to Share the Gospel
- The Story model (very history based)
- The Concept model (the purpose of the story)
For Oasis the most relevant model is the concept model because it can help put the pieces together for the kids. Effective evangelism is listening yourself and being present. Getting to know your listener is very important to understand their starting point. If they have a belief in God introduce, then to Jesus. If they know Jesus share that they have an opportunity to respond to Him and ask if they ever have. Sometimes there have been years of investment from others and the Holy Spirit and someone just needs to lay out the gospel in a clear way and leaves them with an understanding of what they need to make a response on.
We’ve all experienced vulnerability breeding vulnerability but we can’t stop there. Vulnerability should be paired with curiosity. If we are just vulnerable it can get awkward but if we are vulnerable and then follow with curiosity the person we’re talking to has a starting point. For example, if we share about how we are struggling with anger and then ask a question like “How do you deal with that? Can you relate to what I’m going through?” the foundation of vulnerability is set and the other person can begin with answering the question before opening up themselves.
- What did you learn today?
- Whish quadrant does that fit into?
- What has stuck out for you this week? That's only one part of the story, can I fill out the blanks for you?
- You've learned a lot this week, can I lay it out for you?
- What do you do in your free time? On the weekends?
- Movies/books/TV shows/current events
- Brokenness in the world
- Sharing about your experience at a conference, event or mission trip
- Holidays; Christmas, Easter, real love for Valentine’s Day, etc.
- Sharing something you’re struggling with or suffering from, but how knowing Jesus is helping you with that
- What was your family like growing up?
- I know you know that I’m a Christian, but I’ve never asked you what you believe. Would you be open to sharing that with me?
- What do you want most in life? What do you think will make you happy?
- What worries you the most?
- Talk about your weekend then ask have you ever gone to church? What do you think Christians believe?
- Do you have a belief, or a faith background? What does that mean to you?
- Talk about meaningful relationships you have with other believer.
- Did you know that the Bible is actually one story made of many? Do you know what that story is?
Some ways to segue from a Spiritual Conversation to the Gospel
- Thanks for sharing what you believe. Do you mind if I share with you what I believe as a Christian?
- If God exists and you could know him personally, would you want to?
- Has anyone ever taken the time to explain to you how you can begin a personal relationship with God?
- Would you mind if I shared with you what the Bible says about how you and I can know God personally?
- Bridge off of whatever spiritual topic you are on, connecting it with the gospel.
- Love and contentment: I experience deep and satisfying love through knowing God. Can I share more about that with you about how that’s possible?
- Security: I have confidence and security in this life and after I die, through my faith in Jesus. Can I share with you what I mean by that?
- Suffering: I have a hope that is bigger than my suffering, and a peace that carries me through it. I’d love to share with you how I experience that through Jesus; would you be open to talking about that?
10 Practical Tips
- Learn to listen to and depend on the Holy Spirit in evangelism. Pray and ask God for opportunities to share your faith, and when he gives them, depend on his strength for courage to step out in obedience. Luke 12:11-12, “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” Example prayers: “God, I surrender to you and desire for you to use me to help others know you. Please give me opportunities to share your gospel today/at this event/in this time with my friend.” And when you see those opportunities, “Lord, please fill me with your Spirit and help me to depend on your strength, not my own. Give me the courage I need to be your witness in this opportunity, and give me the words to say and ask.”
- Journeying with people takes time; it’s not just a one-time conversation! Invest in non-Christians in your life. Spend time and do fun things together that you have in common, invite them to church and introduce them to other Christians. Have spiritual discussions with them, when the opportunities arise. Build a relationship with them and share Christ throughout it. In P2C we call this process of relational evangelism, “journeying with people.”
- Consider making a “Top 5” list of friends/family who are in your daily life who you can journey with: who you can trust God to pray for, share the gospel with, and be intentional with in helping them take steps closer to Christ. Take greater steps of faith in personal evangelism by answering this question: Who is it that really scares you to share the gospel with or journey with? A close friend? Family members? Or someone in your life who is really hard to love? Begin praying for them, even daily, and pray for opportunities to share with them and the courage to take them, then take the initiative to do so.
- Start with getting to know the person and caring about them, not just proving your point. Love them, rather than having an agenda.
- Build trust with them. “Vulnerability breeds vulnerability” if you are open and honest with them, they will be far more likely to be open and honest with you.
- Ask good questions; and LOTS of them. Healthy evangelism is a dialogue and a process, not just preaching or just telling someone what you believe. Asking questions as you go through the gospel also helps you to gauge their understanding.
- Be honest if you don’t know the answers to their questions; you can find answers afterwards and get back to them. Being real is a better witness, and more important, than knowing it all (or acting like you do!)
- When you’ve explained an important gospel point, ask them to explain it back to you as they understand it. You’ll be able to catch any misunderstandings and clarify them, rather than assuming they understood it the way you intended.
- Share your story! Your testimony is one of the most powerful tools God has given you. People can debate with you about theology and philosophies for ages, but they can’t dispute your personal experiences.
- When bringing someone to a point of decision to receive Christ, help and challenge them to count the cost of following Jesus. What might they have to give up? Are they willing to surrender their whole life and will to him? What response might they face from family and friends with this decision? And are they willing to follow him anyway? Faith grows deep roots when someone has truly counted the cost and decides to receive and follow Jesus.