Personal evangelism is a topic that should interest every Christian. The great commission is a fundamental Bible doctrine that we learn from an early age. God wants, yea requires, His people to spread the good news throughout the world. From time to time, it is good for us to “sharpen our sword” in order to improve in the area of personal evangelism. Here are some practical suggestions that will help us to be the best personal evangelists we can be.
First, remember that it is a process. Rarely will a person obey the gospel after only one bible study. Usually, it takes a fair amount of time, effort, and patience in order to convert a person to Christ. Consider the persistence and stick-to-it-iveness of the early church.
- “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42).
- Paul “spake boldly for the space of three months” in the synagogue when he first arrived in Ephesus (Acts 19:8).
- He was “disputing daily” in the school of Tyrannus for two years (Acts 19:9-10).
- While in Ephesus Paul taught “publicly and from house to house” (Acts 20:20) over a time span of three years (Acts 20:31).
It is sometimes easy for us to become discouraged and give up, thinking that our efforts are futile. But, we must be patient and persistent. Paul wrote, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves…” (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
Second, understand that personal evangelism is more than just verbal teaching. Certainly, a person must hear the gospel before they can obey it (Rom. 10:17). But often a person is prompted to ask about the gospel because they can see it displayed in someone else’s life. In 1 Peter 2:12 Peter commands that we “have our conversation honest among the gentiles.” The word “honest” carries the idea of “attractive.” So, we are to live beautiful lives that people are attracted to. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven” (Matt. 5:16). The Christian life is the best life. It is beautiful by design. Thus, as I live consistent with the doctrine that I teach, people will take notice and be prompted to ask “why?” and “how?” They will say, “we will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you” (Zech. 8:23).
Third, maintain a proper understanding of success. Remember that success in personal evangelism is not necessarily measured by baptisms. If the parable of the sower teaches us anything, it teaches us that we have the power to sow the seed, but we do not have the power to make it grow. That power belongs to God (Luke 8; Rom. 1:16). Too often we give up on our evangelistic efforts because we think that we have failed when in reality we have not. Remember that we plant and water, but it is God that gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:6), and His word will always accomplish what He intends (Isa. 55:11). It is not our job to force someone to become a Christian; all we can do is teach them. Thus, success is measured by sowing the seed in the right way, and for the right reason.
Finally, practice wisdom in evangelism. Every circumstance is unique and thus requires a thoughtful and personalized approach. Jude said, “And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire: hating even the garment that is spotted by the flesh” (Jude 22-23). Do you remember the story of Apollos? The scripture says that Aquila and Priscilla “took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly” (Acts 18:26). That they “took him unto them” indicates that they took him aside privately and taught him. Why did they choose that approach? Scripture does not tell us, but surely it was because they believed it would be the one most effective. In our evangelistic efforts, we must exercise that same wisdom in judgment. Some situations may call for a group bible study, while others may be better suited for one on one attention. Some are able to wrestle with difficult subjects in scripture, while others may need more time. Whatever the situation may be we must address it with wisdom.