How to be an effective evangelist
Practical help for scripture teachers, youth leaders, and other evangelists
I’m an evangelist! It’s literally my job to preach the gospel to anything that moves and invite it to start following Jesus! Whether it responds or not is ultimately up to God!
But as an evangelist, I think there are two equally damaging extremes towards which we can gravitate. I’ve outlined them below:
1. Never challenge our listeners for a decision
I think this is probably the one I gravitate towards more often. I preach the lostness of man, the reality of judgement, the glory of the cross, the freedom of forgiveness and then stop. It’s as if I just assume the implications of the message are obvious.
Don’t get me wrong, I regularly appeal for people to turn from their sin and put their faith in Jesus, but it’s usually during a talk or from the front of a classroom.
Think about it. Who was the last person you actually invited to follow Christ? Have you ever personally challenged someone to start following Christ?
Our job is not just to preach the Gospel, but having done that, to invite people to follow Christ!
2. Always challenge our listeners for a decision
I think the danger of the second extreme only becomes obvious after a few months or perhaps even years.
Sometimes we can be so eager to have our listeners make a decision for Christ, that it becomes all we care about. With good intentions, we can urge people to pray a prayer of commitment, assure them of forgiveness and merrily send them on their way to Hell.
It’s only after a few months go by that you realise something’s wrong. Where is their fruit? Where is their passion for God’s word? Where is their love for his people? Why do they seem so uninterested?
Perhaps in your eagerness for a decision you unintentionally gave them the impression that if they simply prayed “The Prayer” they’d be ok.
Both extremes are incredibly damaging. The first leads to theologically articulate non-Christians, and the second leads to uneducated non-Christians with a false sense of security! Either way, the end result of our evangelism is the same. Our listeners are still dead in their sins and in danger of God’s judgement!
I want to suggest a third way:
3. Make disciples of all nations
Not surprisingly, it’s what Jesus commands his disciples to do. And it’s what Jesus did. The fact that I’m writing this today is evidence enough that it worked.
Jesus chose 12 men and discipled them for three years. He not only shared the Good News with them but his life as well. They got to watch how he prayed, listen as he taught, and learn as he loved. They had three years of the best Bible study in the world, and then he sent them out, mature in him, ready to do the same.
A disciple is a follower of Jesus. They know who he is, they’ve counted the cost, and they’ve given up everything to follow him.
Jesus wants true disciples! Not informed non-believers or quick decision makers, but deeply devoted, cross-carrying, Christ exalting disciples! That’s the kind of ministry that will see the other side of judgement day.
Disciple making is harder than options 1 and 2 for a few reasons:
- It takes more time.
- It involves relationship.
- It’s less impressive.
- And it’s costly.
But it’s worth it because:
- Jesus did it.
- People actually become Christians.
- And in the process they learn what it looks like to be “disciple-making disciples”.
I believe it is my responsibility as an evangelist to walk the fine line between these two equal and opposite extremes, and instead, make disciples who will follow Jesus wherever he calls.
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