How to Evangelize

Effective Evangelism

By Grantley Morris

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    Spot the error in this Bible quote about evangelism:

      1 Timothy 4:16 Pay attention to . . . your teaching. Continue in these things, for in doing this you will save . . . those who hear you.

    That might be what some of us would like God’s Word to say, but study what it really says:

      1 Timothy 4:16 Pay attention to yourself, and to your teaching. Continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. (Emphasis mine.)

    For effective evangelism, one’s way with words is irrelevant:

      1 Corinthians 2:1-5  . . . I didn’t come with excellence of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. . . . I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith wouldn’t stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

    Even one’s message, though important, is only part of the critical mix. What is of divine importance is that our presentation of the gospel be empowered by us displaying the beauty of Christ in our lives by the depth of our sincerity, humility, devotion and our manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

    Among the numerous topics in my previous webpage, Soul-winning Tips: Witnessing Made Easy, I cited many Scriptures affirming how critical these things are in evangelism. So extensively does the Bible keeps emphasizing their link with evangelism, however, that there are still more Scriptures I wish to show you.

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    Grapple with this Scripture:

      1 Thessalonians 1:5 . . . our Good News came to you not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance. You know what kind of men we showed ourselves to be among you for your sake.

    Note how Paul saw this powerful presentation of the gospel as hinging on “we showed ourselves to be among you for your sake.” He expounded on this a little later in his epistle. As we turn to it, note the connection between the exemplary, sacrificial, love-filled life Paul lived and the Thessalonians accepting his message as being of divine origin. Try not to gloss over the detail but examine carefully what sort of lifestyle the inspired apostle found necessary to move his hearers to accept that the gospel he proclaimed was truly of God.

      1 Thessalonians 2:8-13 Even so, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you, not the Good News of God only, but also our own souls, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and travail; for working night and day, that we might not burden any of you, we preached to you the Good News of God. You are witnesses with God, how holy, righteously, and blamelessly we behaved ourselves toward you who believe. As you know, we exhorted, comforted, and implored every one of you, as a father does his own children, to the end that you should walk worthily of God, who calls you into his own Kingdom and glory. For this cause we also thank God without ceasing, that, when you received from us the word of the message of God, you accepted it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which also works in you who believe.

    Let’s re-visit a Scripture already cited, this time noting how it highlights the centrality of the cross in Paul’s presentation of the gospel. It is vital that we grasp this. Our message must focus on the fact that Christ was sacrificed and rose from the dead to secure our fellowship with the Holy Lord. See what else this passage reveals:

      1 Corinthians 2:1-5  . . . When I came to you, brothers, I didn’t come with excellence of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. . . . My speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith wouldn’t stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

    As the above reveals, Paul disdained slick presentation and persuasive arguments. Instead, he put all his faith and effort into ensuring his message is accompanied by a “demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith wouldn’t stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”

    As he said later in the same letter:

      1 Corinthians 4:20 For God’s Kingdom is not in word, but in power.

    It is undeniable from a careful study of evangelism in New Testament times that signs and wonders were part of this demonstration of power that confirmed the divine origin of the message. Nevertheless, in Scripture after Scripture we keep discovering that the life that the evangelist lived is another vital aspect of the spiritual confirmation of truth and power of the gospel. Here is an instance in this same chapter where Paul describes his lifestyle, which reflects his sincerity and devotion to God:

      1 Corinthians 4:11-13 Even to this present hour we hunger, thirst, are naked, are beaten, and have no certain dwelling place. We toil, working with our own hands. When people curse us, we bless. Being persecuted, we endure. Being defamed, we entreat. We are made as the filth of the world, the dirt wiped off by all, even until now.

    Notice how Paul was not pointing to prosperity and worldly success as proof of the genuineness of his message or as motivation for coming to Christ. It is not by such things that Christlikeness is revealed but by willing sacrifice and endurance in the face of oppression.

    Anyone can parrot words; what both God and humanity seek is living proof of the power of the Gospel. You are called to be that proof.

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    Below are two apparently contradictory Scriptures I would like you to wrestle with. Preferably, before reading my comments, work on the jigsaw until you can see how these two pieces can be fitted together to reveal how Jesus expects us to conduct ourselves.

      Matthew 5:15-16 Neither do you light a lamp, and put it under a measuring basket, but on a stand; and it shines to all who are in the house. Even so, let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

      [Houses where Jesus lived were dingy. Everyone appreciates light.]

      Matthew 6:1 Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (NIV) (Jesus expounds on this in subsequent verses.)

    Clearly, Jesus does not want us to boast or flaunt our “righteousness”. Nevertheless, he wants us to be so filled with good works that they impact people’s lives so profoundly that they not only cannot fail to notice but it causes the observers and/or recipients to praise God, that is, it draws them closer to God.

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    Here’s an incident that highlights both the apostle Paul’s passion and his diplomacy:

      Acts 17:16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw the city full of idols.

    The Amplified Bible puts it this way: “his spirit was grieved and roused to anger”.

    According to the Online Greek Bible lexicon the word describing Paul’s feelings means, to irritate, provoke, arouse to anger, to scorn, despise, make angry, to exasperate, to burn with anger.

    Keep this firmly in mind as you read how the anointed, Spirit-filled apostle responded when he had the opportunity to preach to these idolatrous pagans:

      Acts 17:22-23  . . . “You men of Athens, I perceive that you are very religious in all things. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I announce to you.

    Despite his disdain for idolatry, the divinely inspired evangelist addressed them with respect and politeness. Later in his address he quoted their own pagan poets approvingly:

      Acts 17:28 ‘For in him we live, and move, and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also his offspring.’

    Paul had clearly invested time and effort not merely into prayer and Bible study but to understanding the beliefs of his non-Christian audience, and rather than ridiculing or blasting them, he sought to find as many connections and points of agreement with them as he could.

    Records of his speeches in Acts confirm that he adjusted his presentation of the gospel according to his audience. For example, he used the Old Testament Scriptures far less when addressing pagans than when addressing Jews.

    Paul’s message to the Athenians cannot be glossed over as unusual nor even the approach of just one apostle.

    Stephen was clearly a powerful evangelist. He was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit”, “full of faith and power”, and those who opposed his message “weren’t able to withstand the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke” (Acts 6:5, 8, 10). Let’s look at the sole example Scripture provides of his preaching power. He begins:

      Acts 7:2 . . . Brothers and fathers, listen. . . .

    That’s not just respectful, it is warm, even affectionate. Here he is oozing the love of Christ even when they were about to murder him. He continues:

      Acts 7:2-3 . . . The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Get out of your land, and from your relatives, and come into a land which I will show you.’

    The differences between Stephen’s beliefs and those of his hearers were so stark that they were about to stone him for blasphemy. Nevertheless, rather than zero in on their differences, this fearless, anointed preacher began by affirming exactly what his hearers believed; things he had in common with them. He not only began this way, he kept it up for a massive 49 verses. A word count in the Greek New Testament puts it close to 95% of his entire message.

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    Ponder the implications of this Scripture:

      Colossians 4:5-6 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

    Note that Paul is targeting how to conduct oneself with “those who are outside” i.e. those who are outside the Christian fold. [“Outsiders” is, for example, the same Greek word Paul uses twice in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 to refer to those outside the church, in the passage where he is chiding those who go to non-Christian judges to settle disputes between Christians. (Further Confirmation that “Outsiders” Means “Non-Christians.)]

    So Paul is saying that when conversing with non-Christians you should “make the most of every opportunity” by ensuring “your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”

    Note how for the great evangelist Paul, the key to knowing “how you ought to answer each one” is not having some clever argument or slick response but being kind, gracious and respectful when witnessing. For insight into what Paul had in mind, study the following Scriptures:

      Proverbs 12:18 There is one who speaks rashly like the piercing of a sword, but the tongue of the wise heals.

      Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

      Proverbs 16:24 Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

      Ecclesiastes 10:12 The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but a fool is swallowed by his own lips.

      Matthew 12:34 . . . out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.

      Mark 9:50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, with what will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.. (Emphasis mine.)

      Ephesians 4:29-32 Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but only what is good for building others up as the need may be, that it may give grace to those who hear. Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, outcry, and slander, be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other, just as God also in Christ forgave you.

      James 1:26 If anyone among you thinks himself to be religious while he doesn’t bridle his tongue, but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is worthless.

      James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by his good conduct that his deeds are done in gentleness of wisdom.

      James 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

      (Four More Scriptures.)

    Two other Pauline references to “outsiders” are noteworthy. See in both of them God’s concern about us living a life that positively impacts non-Christians:

      1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders . . . (NIV)

      1 Timothy 3:2-3,6-7 The overseer therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, modest, hospitable, good at teaching; not a drinker, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous . . . not a new convert, lest being puffed up he fall . . . Moreover he must have good testimony from those who are outside . . .

      (Emphasis mine.)

    In the following, consider yet again the importance to God of us not being quarrelsome but kind and gentle to those who are not Christlike, “perhaps God may give them repentance leading to a full knowledge of the truth”:

      2 Timothy 2:24-26 The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but be gentle toward all, able to teach, patient, in gentleness correcting those who oppose him: perhaps God may give them repentance leading to a full knowledge of the truth, and they may recover themselves out of the devil’s snare, having been taken captive by him to his will.

    Likewise, Peter – that other great, divinely chosen leader of the early church – wrote in the Word of God:

      1 Peter 3:15-16 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, with humility and fear: having a good conscience; that, while you are spoken against as evildoers, they may be disappointed who curse your good way of life in Christ.

    This Scripture is often quoted in reference to Christian apologetics but did you notice the emphasis in this divine directive to reverent submission to Christ (“sanctify the Lord God in your hearts”), having “humility and fear” for those whose spiritual understanding does not mirror yours, and being Christlike (“having a good conscience”). According to the Bible so much more than fancy arguments are required when presenting the Gospel.

    Viewed in this light, the following Scripture is not solely for wives but is consistent with what all that Scripture says about reaching the lost:

      1 Peter 3:1-4 In the same way, wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; so that, even if any don’t obey the Word, they may be won by the behavior of their wives without a word; seeing your pure behavior in fear. Let your beauty be not just the outward adorning . . . but in the hidden person of the heart, in the incorruptible adornment of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God very precious.

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    It is disturbingly easy to be sure we are being rejected or persecuted for Christ, when we are actually eliciting that reaction merely because we are not acting like Christ and are therefore misrepresenting him. In Jesus’ description of the final judgment, everyone was taken by surprise (Matthew 25:31-46). Before that cataclysmic day when it was too late to change, neither the sheep nor the goats knew how the Judge had been interpreting their actions. This highlights how terrifyingly easy it is to be sure we are serving God and glorifying him when we are actually defaming God and acting like those of whom Jesus said, “Woe to you lawyers! For you took away the key of knowledge. You didn’t enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in, you hindered” (Luke 11:52) and the Jews of whom it is written “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Ezekiel 36:20-23; Romans 2:24).

    Let’s examine the context of that last quote to see how not to evangelize:

      Romans 2:18-24 and know his will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide of the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of babies, having in the law the form of knowledge and of the truth. You therefore who teach another, don’t you teach yourself? You who preach that a man shouldn’t steal, do you steal? You who say a man shouldn’t commit adultery. Do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who glory in the law, through your disobedience of the law do you dishonor God? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” . . .

    We all have a grave tendency to fool ourselves by defining sin in a way that condemns others but excuses ourselves. God has no partnership with such hypocrisy.

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    Here are still more Scriptures affirming the importance of the life we live because of its impact on non-Christians:

      1 Timothy 5:14 I desire therefore that the younger widows marry, bear children, rule the household, and give no occasion to the adversary for insulting.

      1 Timothy 6:1 Let as many as are bondservants under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and the doctrine not be blasphemed.

      Titus 2:5-10 to be sober minded, chaste, workers at home, kind, being in subjection to their own husbands, that God’s word may not be blasphemed. Likewise, exhort the younger men to be sober minded; in all things showing yourself an example of good works; in your teaching showing integrity, seriousness, incorruptibility, and soundness of speech that can’t be condemned; that he who opposes you may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say about us. Exhort servants to be in subjection to their own masters, and to be well-pleasing in all things; not contradicting; not stealing, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God, our Savior, in all things.

      1 Peter 2:12 having good behavior among the nations, so in that of which they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they see, glorify God in the day of visitation.

      (Emphasis mine.)

    This principle of the vital importance of living a godly life not just for our sake and God’s but for the sake of non-Christians extends through the Old Testament as well:

    Nehemiah 5:9  . . . Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God, because of the reproach of the nations our enemies?

Because David repented of his atrocious adultery, God let him live but he nevertheless punished David harshly “because by this deed you have given great occasion to the Lord’s enemies to blaspheme” (2 Samuel 12:14).

We should model ourselves on Daniel:

    Daniel 6:4 Then the presidents and the satraps sought to find occasion against Daniel as touching the kingdom; but they could find no occasion nor fault, because he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him.

If you have not yet read Soul-winning Tips: Witnessing Made Easy, I urge you to do so. It is not only much more interesting than this webpage, its scope is far wider, it is more encouraging and inspiring, and it includes real-life examples.

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How to Evangelize

Effective Evangelism

Soul Winning


Reaching the Lost