This is a really strange time for ministry generally and evangelism specifically. Over the last few weeks, I have been writing a series of short posts designed to aid us in evangelism during this unprecedented time (See Step One, Step Two, and Step 3a).
Step 3b: Tell the Lost About Christ: Taking Opportunities
The last post established that it’s not actually evangelism until we’ve talked about Christ. We must speak the gospel. Simple instructions were also developed for recognizing opportunities with the lost people in our lives. This post will focus on what to do when the conversation moves beyond small talk.
First, I think more needs to be said about why we don’t take opportunities to talk about Christ. I mentioned in the last post that I’m convinced I regularly gloss over opportunities for the gospel. Perhaps you’d say the same is true for you. Why is that?
One reason is that we’re just too busy. Frankly, we don’t have time to stop and talk to someone in the neighborhood, grocery store, or the gym about Christ. We have to get on to the next thing. Our schedule is full, so we don’t have time for a spontaneous conversation about the meaning of life! We squeeze every minute out of every day and often for our own advantage. I am definitely guilty of this! But think of the example set by Christ. He was consistently selfless with his time. He used his time to proclaim the kingdom of God and to serve others. He did so to the extent that he found personal time to pray before the sun came up (Mark 1:35). On one of his journeys to Galilee after a fruitful time of ministry in Judea, he sat down by a well tired and hungry. You know how the story goes. A woman in desperate need of living water came to draw from the well. Jesus could have explained away that opportunity from so many angles:
- “I’m tired. I was busy serving people in Judea, and I’ll be busy serving people in Galilee.”
- “This is a woman, and I’m a man. She’s a Samaritan, and I’m a Jew.”
- “Besides, I’m on the way to Galilee; I’m not planning to stay in Samaria. I’m just passing through.”
You know, however, the way in which Jesus skillfully and compassionately walked through that open door for the gospel. He made the most of a routine, daily opportunity to talk about Christ. The woman of Samaria is forever rejoicing in heaven because Jesus took time out of his busy schedule to tell her about living water. Let’s slow down and speak the gospel as Jesus did.
Another reason we don’t take the opportunities we should is that we don’t want the blowback that comes from talking about Christ. We don’t want people to think that we’re small-minded, weak, or intolerant. We don’t want our friends or loved ones to distance themselves from us. We don’t want to fall out of favor with the people we admire who are talented, wealthy, or influential. Often we don’t want the cost that comes along with bringing Christ into the conversation. But we know the answer for this hesitancy. We know that Christ clearly and repeatedly warned us about the cost of discipleship (Matt 10:24–25). It would be so naive for us to think that we can dodge these consequences since Christ himself suffered them. Furthermore, Christ gladly laid everything on the line for us. It is hypocritical, to say the least, to respond with self-preservation! Finally, it is ultimately unloving not to talk about Christ with those who desperately need him. As Penn Jillette said, “How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?” Eternity hangs in the balance, so we must talk about Christ no matter the cost.
“Well, I’m motivated now, but what do I actually say?” Let me begin by admitting that gospel conversation is an art and a science. It’s an art in the sense that it is a skill to be developed. There is no one-size-fits-all gospel presentation. Good evangelism is not mechanically regurgitating the same outline on every occasion. Jesus evangelized both Nicodemus and the woman at the well, but he went about it in different ways. I find this encouraging! It would be boring if it were a standard fit for every occasion.
It’s a science in the sense that there are core truths which must be explained to preserve the integrity of the message. God revealed the gospel to us in Scripture. It is his message. It’s not something that we create or edit. It is written. It seems to me the most succinct summary of the gospel is in 1 Corinthians 15:3–4 (“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…”). I find it most helpful to keep in mind four foundational truths which a person must understand in order to comprehend the gospel.
- God created us. (God)
- We rebelled against God. (Man)
- Jesus dies and rose. (Christ)
- Turn and trust Christ. (Response)
As we open our mouths to testify about Christ, we must remember that there is a certain content to get across. I think the content is summed up in those four foundational truths. As I said before, there is no one-size-fits-all gospel presentation. When God opens a door for the Word, don’t just spit out those four sentences. However, you can use them as waypoints to guide the conversation. Does the person you’re talking to understand the truth about God, sin, and Christ enough to respond properly to the gospel? You will not have the opportunity to explain all four truths in every evangelistic conversation, so we must seek repeated opportunities with the same people.
Ask God to help you take opportunities to share the gospel by saying something about one of these four foundational truths. The next post will further explore the art of evangelism.