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FIRST-PERSON: An evangelism ethos

DURHAM, N.C. (BP) — Among the lessons we’ve learned at our church, five elements are necessary to create an evangelistic ethos, either in an individual Christian or in an entire church:

1. Intentionality and sensitivity to the Spirit

One of the most important values in personal evangelism is cooperating with the Holy Spirit. We don’t hear messages like this nearly as much as we should.

We don’t build the Kingdom for God; we let God build it through us. That’s why the first command given to the apostles in Acts is to wait. Until the Spirit arrived, they could do nothing.

This is the only way to keep from being overwhelmed by the massive task of evangelism. God does not expect us to convert people; He invites us to walk with Him every day and be His instrument as He builds the church.

Sometimes there is a wide open door, other times not. But that should not stop us from instigating the conversation. Honestly, only about one in every five of my attempts to have a spiritual conversation turn out well. But that does not mean God is not in it. Stephen witnessed to Paul and was stoned, but that was definitely Spirit-filled evangelism!

I have heard that the average person has to hear the Gospel 12 times before they believe. We may get the joy of being that 12th person, or we may be one link in the chain. But the Spirit has a role for us.

You perceive when a door is being opened through prayer. Therefore, pray continually and listen as you pray.

2. Practical ways to get into the conversation

I’ve been reading through Jimmy Scroggins’ “Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations” recently, which helps to show the numerous ways you can use conversation openers to move mundane conversations into spiritual territory. It’s important that we develop these kinds of transitions in a way we can actually use, as opposed to cheesy, awkward, forced questions I’ve often been taught. “If you died tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity?” (Side note: Why is everyone is always dying at night?), or “What opinions about God do you have that I could correct?” Not that those are wrong (or at least the first one is not), but it’s good to have more questions for your arsenal.

3. Models

The best way to learn to share Christ is by watching someone else. That’s how I learned. I watched my dad and other believers share the Gospel. It’s often been said that discipleship is caught much more than it is taught. Nowhere is that more true than in evangelism.

As a pastor friend of mine once said, “The first thing to get cold on your body is your feet.” The same is true in the Christian life. It is easy — deceptively easy — for people in ministry to lose their evangelistic edge. But if we aren’t leading the way in personal evangelism, calling others to join us along the way, we should not be surprised if our people aren’t doing it either.

4. An ability to share your story concisely

Entrepreneurs have what they call an “elevator speech” for their product: even though they could talk for hours and hours about it, they force themselves to condense things down to a 45-second summary. We should have an “elevator speech” for our story too: 100 words or less that explain how Christ met our “felt” needs, which sets us up for a sharing of the actual Gospel. (NOTE: your story of how Christ met your felt needs is NOT the actual Gospel, just an intro to it).

5. An ability to share the Gospel concisely

Just as we need to have a polished “elevator speech” of our story, we should be able to express the Gospel in 100 words or less too. Far from making our presentation insincere, this helps us to appreciate the Gospel in fresh ways.

Some of the classic presentations are the most useful: the bridge illustration (Jesus bridges the gap between us and God) and the do/done dichotomy (Religions are all about doing; the Gospel is all about what Christ has done.). The possibilities are pretty extensive. Find what works for you and use it!

It matters much less which reliable illustration you use and much more that you have one to use. As a professor of mine once said, “I like my way of sharing the Gospel with people much more than your way of not sharing the Gospel with people.”

Just get out there and do it!