Written by Stephen Cox
Jackie Deshannon sang: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love”. Then Whitney Houston sang: “The greatest love of all is to love yourself”. The world does need love. But what it needs most of all is to respond to God’s love. That’s the greatest love of all!
His love is really worth talking about.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16 (ESV)
At WWEC we want to share this message. Our church life is centred around the purposes that God has given us in His word – so that we might be growing together in Christ for God’s glory. This means that we will urgently pursue evangelism motivated by God’s love for the lost. The Gospel motivates us to pray for people, connect with people, to talk to people about what it means to be a Christian and invite people to take positive steps forward in their relationship with God
Personal evangelism begins on the inside. The essence of what we are doing by sharing our trust in Jesus face-to-face is allowing people see and hear about Christ … through us. Personal evangelism is not simply a matter of taking the gospel package down from the shelf to hand to someone. Rather, the gospel comes to reside in us—Christ himself moving in and beginning the process of spiritual redecoration (Eph 3:17). This should encourage us. Our hope is not in being whiz-bang evangelists, but in Christ and the message of the cross.
Even though all evangelism involves sharing the same amazing gospel message, not all evangelism occurs in the same manner. Here are three kinds we see modelled in the New Testament.
1. Family Evangelism
God intends gospel proclamation to take place within Christian homes as parents raise their children “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Children of believers, then, are specially set apart as front-row witnesses to and beneficiaries of gospel influence (1 Cor 7:14). The practice of family evangelism is seen in the life of Paul’s protégé Timothy (2 Tim 1:5). Timothy’s faith in Jesus first bloomed at home, thanks to the witness of his Grandma and Mum. By God’s grace, Timothy could not remember a time in his life when he wasn’t acquainted with the Scriptures and their saving power.
2. Friendship Evangelism
The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), and he did so in the context of authentic relationships. Paul, too, modelled such “relational” or “friendship” evangelism:
“Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” (1 Thess 2:7 – 8) The apostle was emphatic that his team’s ministry in Thessalonica wasn’t some
hit-and-run gospel invasion. They were happy to stay, to form friendships, to invest their lives. Friendship evangelism can be a beautiful thing—so long as the friendship doesn’t crowd out the evangelism. It’s easy to build relationships with unbelievers in the name of gospel witness without ever getting around to gospel witness. Intentionality, then, is vital. As Matt Chandler has aptly quipped, “Relational evangelism? Go for it, as long as it turns into actual evangelism.”
3. Contact Evangelism
The final (and least popular) type of evangelism involves initiating gospel conversations with people you’ve never met. In John 4 Jesus strikes up a conversation with a woman beside a well. He goes out of his way to meet her and turns their “natural” chat about water into a “spiritual” one about himself. He doesn’t waste much time either, moving from “Will you give me a drink?” (v. 7) to “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would’ve asked him and he would have given you living water” (v. 10).
If the danger in friendship evangelism is never getting to the evangelism, the danger in contact evangelism is not caring enough to remember the person’s name. We aren’t manipulators, and we don’t work in sales (2 Cor 2:17). God-honouring contact evangelism, then, requires healthy doses of social awareness, common courtesy, and authentic concern.
People need to hear the good news about Jesus Christ, and there is no one-size-fits-all prescription for how that has to happen. It just has to happen. Whether we’re hoping to witness to a child, to a friend, or to a complete stranger, may the Holy Spirit grant us the courage to live lives of gospel intentionality this week—humbly and prayerfully seizing opportunities to brag about our great Saviour.