I am a pastor and I do not have the gift of evangelism.
I know people who get out of bed and the first thought is something like, “I wonder who the Lord will bring across my path to share the gospel with today?” (I am married to one of those people.) That’s not me.
But I want evangelism to be more a part of my life. I want to have more gospel conversations. I want to be someone who reaps some of the harvest of the fields that are white and ready for harvest (Jn. 4:35-38). Our Lord sent His disciples into those fields and encouraged them with the reminder that God has people ready to respond to the gospel; they just need to have someone speak it to them. The same encouragement applies to us — there were people ready for the gospel in the first century and there are people ready to hear and believe the gospel today.
They just need someone to tell them the gospel.
So how can I (and I suspect that I am not the only one who needs to answer this question) feed my soul to prepare for gospel conversations?
I must know the gospel. If I am going to tell it, I need to know that the gospel consists of no less than six realities:
- Grace — salvation is a gift of grace; no one deserves it and no one anywhere will ever merit it by his own efforts (Eph. 2:8-10).
- Man is a born a sinner and he also sins (Rom. 5:12), meaning he is born under God’s condemnation and he lives his life demonstrating that God’s judgment against him is just (Rom. 6:23a).
- God is a loving God (1 Jn. 4:8; Jn. 3:16). He loves all mankind, for all mankind was made in His image. But that love does not supersede His holiness and justice, so He will eternally punish all unrepentant sinners in Hell (Ex. 34:7). His love is infinite and His judgment is unrelenting (and those two statements are complementary, not contradictory).
- Jesus Christ is the second member of the Trinity, who was sent by God the Father to earth. On earth Christ became genuine man while maintaining His genuine deity; He then fulfilled every requirement of the Law of God without sin and died on the cross as the substitute for all those who would believe in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).
- Faith is the means by which men are saved. We believe that Christ satisfied God’s righteous (and necessary) anger against sin and that when we believe in Christ’s death and resurrection, God’s anger against our sin is satisfied and removed (Rom. 3:28; 4:1ff). Faith also means that we believe that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us not only to remove sin’s penalty, but also to free us to live with Him and for Him. We have faith that He will change us.
- Hope in Heaven, where we are enabled to be with God for all eternity is the final blessing of the Gospel. The gospel means we get God. We belong to Him and He belongs to us. The gospel means we are reconciled to Him as the greatest treasure of our affections (Jn. 14:1-3).
That’s the gospel in six words (grace, man, God, Christ, faith, hope). If I am going to tell someone the gospel, I need to know the gospel that needs to be communicated. (Aside: those six words are not the only way to explain the gospel, but they are one way, and if you don’t know any other means of saying it, those six words are a good place to start.)
I must pray for the gospel. I must pray in at least two ways. I must pray for boldness to speak the gospel, even as Paul asked from the Ephesians (6:18-20). He was weak and needed boldness and so do I (we). I also will be more inclined to speak the gospel if I pray for particular people who I know are not believers. That will keep me listening for opportunities to tell them the Good News when I am in conversation with them. So each week as I update my prayer list, I review who I need to add (or take off) my evangelism prayer list.
I can read about the gospel. Reading the Scriptures daily and seeing how often the gospel declaration is part of the passage I’m reading that day is an encouragement to me to look for gospel opportunities. Just this morning I read about Jesus the Evangelist in John 4 and was reminded how He encouraged the disciples that many are ready to hear the gospel, even if their readiness was not apparent to the disciples (Jn. 4:35-38). I need reminders like that on a daily basis.
I also am helped by reading about evangelism and the gospel from other writers. I make it a goal to read at least one book on the gospel this year (usually I do that in January, but I haven’t done that this year, yet; the book in my bag is Thomas Boston’s The Art of Man-Fishing). Here are some books I have found helpful in the past:
- Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism
- Will Metzger, Tell the Truth
- Randy Newman, Bringing the Gospel Home
- J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God
- Mack Stiles, Evangelism
Reading biographies of Christian men and women (and missionaries) is also helpful in two ways: it’s good to hear how they came to faith and how someone spoke the gospel to them so they could believe, and those who are subjects of biographies also often speak the gospel to others, and it’s helpful to read how they accomplished the evangelistic task and overcame fear and weakness.
I do not know how many gospel conversations the Lord might give me in 2020, but I know I need and want to have more of those conversations. I am attempting to prepare myself for those conversations. Will you also prepare to have similar conversations?