Personal Evangelism

Personal Evangelism

Sometimes we speak of the “works of the church.” We use this type of language to refer to the works of evangelism, edification, and benevolence. It may be more accurate to describe these as works God has given His people to do. These works do not exclusively belong to the church because individuals can and should do them as well. We do these works collectively (through the organization of the local church) and individually. With regard to evangelism, sometimes we may spend so much time talking about evangelism being a work of the church that we forget to remind ourselves that it is also the work of individual Christians. Let us notice some ways in which we, as individuals, can help reach the lost and bring them to Christ.

Evangelism through Teaching

Teaching is probably the most obvious way in which we can evangelize. Various passages speak of our responsibility to do this. Peter said we are to always be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Explaining to people why we believe what we do and why we have such a hope is part of evangelism. Earlier, Peter wrote that as God’s people, we are to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9) This is what preaching is – proclaiming the greatness and holiness and grace of God. This is what we need to be doing.

We also see examples of Christians acting apart from the local church in the work of evangelism. Acts 8 began with the persecution that erupted following the death of Stephen. Because of the persecution, all the disciples in Jerusalem, except for the apostles, were scattered (Acts 8:2). Those “who had been scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). One such person was Philip who began preaching in Samaria. He went there “proclaiming Christ to them. The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip” (Acts 8:5-6). Luke then recorded, “When they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike” (Acts 8:12). The gospel was being preached and people were being saved due to the efforts of one man – Philip.

In Acts 18 we find a husband and wife – Aquila and Priscilla – doing the work of evangelism in Ephesus. They encountered Apollos who was “an eloquent man…mighty in the Scriptures” (Acts 18:24). He was teaching boldly and fervently in the synagogue, but he was “acquainted only with the baptism of John” (Acts 18:25-26). We know when Apollos came to Ephesus he was not a Christian since he knew only the baptism of John. The Scriptures plainly teach that one must be “baptized into Christ” (Galatians 3:27; Romans 6:3) in order to be saved. But Apollos knew nothing of this, despite the fact that he knew and accurately taught the things contained in the old law that pointed to Christ. So Aquila and Priscilla “took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26). From these examples, we can see that we can be engaged in public and private teaching as individuals.

Since we have a responsibility to teach, we need to prepare ourselves to do so. We prepare ourselves by studying and familiarizing ourselves with the word (2 Timothy 2:15). Why is this important? It is because the gospel is the means God uses to call people (2 Thessalonians 2:14). And not only do we need to be able to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9), we must also be able to “make a defense” or “give an answer (KJV)” (1 Peter 3:15). It is important to teach the truth. But what is often necessary is to give defense as to why a thing is right and others are not. Typically, in order to lead people to Christ, we must first lead them out of their old beliefs, practices, and denominations.

Evangelism through Invitation

Some are unable to teach others or feel uncomfortable doing so. If this is true about us, we need to work to improve in this area. But in the meantime, we can still help reach the lost. One way is through invitation. In John 1, we find the example of Philip (a different Philip from the one we looked at earlier). Jesus called Philip to follow Him (John 1:43). After this, “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph’” (John 1:45). This was exciting news! The Messiah that the Jews had looked for was now here. Nathanael, however, was skeptical: “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip simply told him, “Come and see” (John 1:46). After Nathanael came to Jesus, he developed faith in Him as the Son of God (John 1:49). This came about because of Philip’s invitation.

We read of Cornelius in Acts 10. He was “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually” (Acts 10:2). Cornelius was a good man who wanted to please God and do what was right. So an angel came and told him to send for Peter (Acts 10:4-6). A few days later, Peter came with Cornelius’ men to Caesarea. However, they did not find Cornelius there alone. They found Cornelius “waiting for them and [he] had called together his relatives and close friends.” He understood that when Peter came, he would teach him the will of God. We know this because after explaining what prompted him to send for Peter, Cornelius told him, “We are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord” (Acts 10:33). Cornelius knew Peter was coming to teach the gospel to him. So he invited his friends and relatives to come hear the message as well. As a result of this meeting, all those present were baptized into Christ (Acts 10:48).

All Philip and Cornelius did was extend an invitation. When Philip invited Nathanael, he came to believe in Christ. When Cornelius invited his friends and family, they heard the gospel taught and were obedient to it. These men, in these particular situations, did not have to actually teach. They just had to bring people to where they would be taught. We can invite others to Bible studies, Gospel Meetings, and church assemblies and they can be taught there. Anyone, really, can extend this invitation – “Come and see.

Evangelism through Example

Timothy and Titus, two young evangelists, were instructed to be examples. Timothy was told, “Show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:12). Paul told Titus, “In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds” (Titus 2:7). We need to keep in mind that those in the world will notice our actions (1 Peter 2:12; Matthew 5:16). What do we speak through our actions?

Perhaps one of the biggest complaints people have about religion is the perceived hypocrisy of those who claim to be religious. The Pharisees were told their hypocrisy would prevent others from entering the kingdom (Matthew 23:13). Even if we teach the truth, many will ignore it if we are hypocrites. People need to see our lives as the truth put into action.

However, being a good example should not be a “crutch.” That is, we should not think that since we are setting a good example to those around us, we are doing everything we need to do to help reach them. Teaching is still necessary. No one will develop faith by our example. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). But our example is important because it can either open the door for teaching or reinforce teaching that we are already doing.

Evangelism through Love

Showing love for one another is one proof that we are Christ’s disciples. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). However, this cannot be our sole means of evangelism. Many groups – religious and non-religious – show love. But this can, like our example, open the door for teaching or reinforce teaching.

As we noted with the point about hypocrisy, many will not listen to our message if we are not living according to it ourselves. Similarly, we may speak the truth, but will people listen if we do not show love? After all, can really say we love God if we do not love the brethren? John wrote, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). This love must be genuine. Earlier, John wrote, “Let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18). If we show genuine love, we help show the world that we are Christ’s disciples. This will also lead others to be more receptive to the message we try and teach them.

Conclusion

As individuals we have a responsibility to spread the gospel. We should try and implement all of these methods to reach others. We should also avoid the mistake of shaking the dust off our feet too quickly or too broadly. Sometimes we may think we have done what we could to evangelize in our area and people just are not interested so we give up. We cite Jesus’ instruction to His disciples as our reasoning: “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet” (Matthew 10:14). But these were traveling preachers sent to reach as many people as they could to prepare them for the coming of the kingdom. We are located in a certain place (most of us) and we can proclaim that the kingdom has come. It is true that some will not be receptive to the gospel. When they refuse, we should move on to someone else, not give up entirely. The temptation is to give up altogether when we do not have much success in the work of evangelism. But we must not be deterred. Instead we need to remain ever busy, even as individuals, in the work of evangelism.


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