A Model of Personal Evangelism

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

John 4 contains the account of Jesus speaking with the woman at the well in Samaria. As a result of this conversation, she came to know that He was the Messiah (John 4:25-26). After that, she went and told others about Jesus (John 4:28-29). When others then came and heard Jesus speak, many believed in Him (John 4:41-42). Jesus told His disciples that the fields were “white for harvest” (John 4:35) because many were interested and open to hearing the truth.

When we think about personal evangelism, some wonder how to go about doing it. It may be that not knowing how prevents some from actually getting out and talking to others about the gospel. This chapter gives us a model of personal evangelism. We can learn from what Jesus did and how He spoke with this woman to give us insight as to how we might go about teaching the lost today.

Look for opportunities in everyday situations – Some congregations have big plans and programs to evangelize in the community around them. There is certainly nothing wrong with this, provided they do not go beyond what God has authorized in His word (Colossians 3:17). But what is often more effective is the effort of individual Christians reaching out to people they know (family, friends, co-workers, etc.). As we interact with people around us, opportunities to talk about the gospel could come up at any time. So we need to be looking for these opportunities. Notice Jesus’ example with the Samaritan woman. He was not traveling to Samaria to evangelize per se. He was traveling through Samaria to Galilee and had simply stopped there to rest (John 4:3-6). Yet he took advantage of this opportunity anyway. In reality, we do not have to set aside a specific time to evangelize; we just have to do it. Look for opportunities as you are doing the things that you would normally be doing. If you want to set aside a specific time, fine; but do not limit yourself to that time. You never know when an opportunity will arise.

Be open to talking with anyone – In the first century, the Jews did not have much to do with the Samaritans. This, coupled with the fact that Jesus was speaking with a woman, made it seem strange to the disciples that Jesus would be talking to her (John 4:9, 27). But Jesus chose to speak with her anyway. We may refrain from speaking with certain people/groups for a number of reasons. But Jesus not only spoke with those that others may have expected Him to speak with (Jewish men), He also spoke with non-Jews and with women. We should be willing to talk to anyone, regardless of gender, race, background, etc. “God is not one to show partiality” (Acts 10:34), so we should not either in our interactions with others. Otherwise, we may miss some of the opportunities that come before us.

Direct the conversation toward spiritual things – It is good to interact with those we meet, but simply being friendly and talking to people will not save them. The gospel is God’s power to save (Romans 1:16). So if we are to have success in reaching the lost, we must eventually turn our conversations with them toward spiritual things. Jesus did this in talking with the Samaritan woman. Being omniscient God, He knew her past and present situation. When He pointed this out, she recognized that He must be a prophet. She then asked Him about differences between worship practices of the Jews and Samaritans. This opened the door for Him to talk to her further about spiritual things. Of course, we do not have the ability that Jesus had to know people’s lives and hearts before they tell us. But we can try to say certain things that could spark someone’s interest or provoke them to ask a question about things pertaining to the Bible. There are many ways we can do this. It is up to us to try to integrate these things into our conversation so that others might open up to us to discuss spiritual matters.

Contrast God’s way with man’s way – This is something many are uncomfortable doing. Our society as a whole has developed a mentality that truth is subjective, especially in religion. Therefore, we cannot say that anyone is practicing or believing something that is wrong. But we need to be willing to make this contrast. We do not have to do so antagonistically; but if someone is going to be led out of error, he must first know that he is in error. God’s way is right, so there must be a clear distinction between His way and every other way. Jesus told the Samaritan woman of an hour that was coming when true worshipers would worship God “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24) and not in the same way that the Jews and Samaritans had been accustomed to worshipping. We need to point out – kindly, yet clearly – the difference between God’s way and man’s way when it comes to salvation, worship, the church, etc. People must be shown that man’s way is wrong and that if we want to be right, we must do things God’s way.

Point people to Christ – Jesus did this by simply telling her that He was the Messiah (John 4:25-26). In our efforts to evangelize, we must lead people to Christ. Salvation is in Him alone (Acts 4:12). So we must direct people to Him. We are to be part of His church, follow His word, and look forward to the salvation that will be revealed at His return. We are not promoting our preacher or ourselves. We must direct people to Christ so their devotion and allegiance may be to Him.

This account shows us how we can speak with others in order to help save their souls. But we must remember that there is more to personal evangelism than just a model like this. We must first be ready to talk to others about the gospel. This means we must study God’s word and learn how to teach it so that we will be prepared for opportunities that arise. We must also be watchful and recognize opportunities as they become available. And finally, we need to be willing to talk to others about the gospel. We may have a great knowledge of the Bible and can see open doors to talk to others about it; but if we do not use these opportunities, we will help no one. Let us prepare ourselves, learn to recognize opportunities, and be willing to take advantage of them. If we do this, we can use this model to help lead others to Christ. We may not always have the degree of success that Jesus did, but that is not our responsibility. We plant the seed, but God causes the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6). Let us use our everyday lives to work to plant the seed in as many hearts as we can.

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