Google “evangelism methods,” and you may quickly have 512,381 options to browse through at your leisure. Online, one huckster declares, “I will teach you precisely how to lead your unsaved family members and friends to Christ.”
That’s right. You can’t miss. Just sign up for his online course. I’m not sure how much he charges.
Another self-promoter guarantees every pastor that his super plan will “get 70% of your church to evangelize and invite after just one Sunday.”
The con: “I guarantee … ”
Now, I want to believe people, especially those in the body of Christ, when they’re making great claims about anything. After all, we do serve an all-powerful God. However, I’m just an unwilling skeptic at heart when anyone guarantees his new super cure-all tonic to grow hair on my bald head, his financial-security-in-six-months scheme, or his promise to increase my miles per gallon by 50 percent. The same goes for his absolute assurance that his “new” approach to evangelism is “guaranteed.”
Granted, since New Testament times, evangelism – outreach, witnessing, sharing Christ, whatever label it wears – has been a central tenet of what is expected of the follower of Christ. Recent decades have seen many strategies for evangelism, for example, the Romans Road or Friendship Evangelism; or the more structured Four Spiritual Laws or Evangelism Explosion. Generations have used them with success. But even those who developed or advocated them never guarantee them.
New paradigms are still emerging, many promising phenomenal success like our online friends above. But Ecclesiastes 1:9 tells us “there is nothing new under the sun.” When it comes to sharing one’s faith, that Old Testament principle still rings true.
The core: seeking the lost
Let me put pessimism aside. Some new models – especially those crafted to reach a specific demographic – do, indeed, often show exciting potential. The Greatest Journey is one such new tool developed by Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse ministry to reach and disciple Third World children. The ultimate goal is for every child who receives a Christmas Shoebox from Operation Christmas Child to have the opportunity to be introduced to Christ and be discipled via this 12-week study.
During an Operation Christmas Child vision trip to Ibarra, Ecuador, last winter, I had the privilege of observing that ministry’s impact on children who receive those Christmas Shoeboxes. I also attended a graduation for about a hundred boys and girls who had completed The Greatest Journey discipleship curriculum. It was a moving experience.
But the truth of the matter remains – there is no one best way to reach others for Christ. And on this vision trip, Michael Talley, a young pastor, called our attention to the fact that even God’s Word does not spell out a specific strategy for evangelism. I suppose God thought men and women down through the ages would be smart enough to find ways to share the gospel with their own generation.
One simple way of looking at evangelism is well articulated by Talley, college pastor at Alliance Bible Fellowship in Boone, North Carolina. In Ecuador, he led morning devotions for the Samaritan’s Purse team of some 75 people there to distribute Christmas Shoeboxes from Operation Christmas Child. Talley said, that first, evangelism must be defined. We must know what it is.
He taught from Luke 15, where Jesus taught in three parables – a shepherd seeking his one lost sheep, a poor woman searching diligently for a lost coin, and a father longing for the return of his rebellious son (the “prodigal son”). Seeking the lost – that’s the core of evangelism, the definition.
The care: seeing them worthy
Talley challenged the team not to regard the children receiving Shoebox gifts as “projects” or “less than” in any way, but to care about them as souls worthy of being reconciled to God.
He read from 2 Corinthians 5:17-20:
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
To team members, Talley said, “Never forget – you are Christ’s ambassadors.” So the caring part of evangelism compels us to represent Christ to those not yet reconciled to Him and to share the gospel with them. Because they are worthy – just as worthy as you and I.
The commission: showing them Christ
Finally, Talley cited Jesus’s command in the Scripture usually called the Great Commission – “Go … and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). But he pointed out that the Bible stops short of a one-size-fits-all scheme. No precise prescription to be found. No 1-2-3 steps.
To summarize, Talley cited Colossians 4:5-6: “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”
Talley said Christ followers are to walk in wisdom, seize every opportunity, and demonstrate the grace and truth of the gospel. But how to evangelize?
I believe God thinks we’re smart enough to figure it out. The heart of the Great Commission is quite simple: Show Christ through your life. The best way to evangelize is to be you. Just go – on your own way, in your own voice, with your own experience of salvation through the grace of God.
Learn more about Operation Christmas Child, Samaritan’s Purse, and The Greatest Journey at samaritanspurse.org or call 828-262-1908.