Evangelism gives Christians an opportunity to participate in God’s work of arranging for others what was arranged for us: an introduction to Jesus Christ. God, in his loving grace, gives us roles in his plan of salvation. In order to make the most of our opportunity, however, we need to understand what God’s Word says about evangelism. Here are three principles to get us started.
Jesus’ instructions to his disciples in Matthew 10:5–20 are revealing:
These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food.
“Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”
There’s nothing remotely comfortable in those arrangements, but that follows biblical tradition. If you look at the most extraordinarily impactful and life-changing events in Scripture, you’ll find that few, if any, of them take place in people’s comfort zones.
When we’re in our comfort zone, we tend to rely on our own strength and wisdom. We feel confident and in charge. When we’re outside of our comfort zone, we’re more likely to rely on God’s strength and wisdom. We recognize our limitations and allow God to lead us. And that’s when good things happen.
The evangelism that Jesus envisions for his followers doesn’t always involve a formal presentation of the gospel message. Many people are resistant to encounters they see as clichéd or orchestrated. Often, the best evangelism tool is a well-lived life.
The apostle Peter said,
Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11–12)
We help other people see Christ not simply by abstaining from certain things, but also by joyously embracing other things. We help them see Christ by maintaining a humble and loving attitude in the face of conflict; by sacrificing our own time and resources for others; by demonstrating a consistently caring spirit; and by being an encourager, a protector, and a unifier.
One day the apostle Philip encountered an official from Ethiopia, who was sitting in his chariot, trying to make sense of the writings of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah.
“Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked the man.
“How can I, unless someone guides me?” the Ethiopian replied.
Philip explained the passage, and how it related to Jesus of Nazareth. A short time later, he baptized the Ethiopian official.
In Acts 8:26-40, Luke presents the encounter as somewhat miraculous. The Ethiopian needed someone to explain Scripture to him, so an angel of the Lord directed Philip toward him at exactly the right moment. What was a blessing for the Ethiopian, however, might be seen as a challenge for Philip.
Imagine someone stopping you on the street and asking you how Old Testament prophecy connects to Jesus. Could you do it? More to the point, can you answer the questions and doubts people have about your Christian faith?
Peter urges believers to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). That’s a lofty goal—but a worthwhile pursuit.
This commentary is from the New King James Study Bible. With more than 2 million copies sold, it’s no secret that the NKJV Study Bible is a reliable guide for your journey into God’s Word. This Bible provides a complete resource for study, including thousands of notes, articles, extensive cross-references, and features contributed by top evangelical scholars.