I have a confession to make: evangelism used to terrify me. Knocking on doors, giving out tracts, stopping random people on the street – it all felt so awkward. I felt like a newborn giraffe with wobbly legs doing nothing more than making a fool of myself. Plus, people certainly weren’t coming to know Jesus because of their encounters with me. If anything, I had this nagging suspicion that I just made Christianity look as awkward to the world as the lanky giraffe trying to share it with them. This sometimes made me want to give up on evangelism entirely. “Best to leave it up to the professionals” I thought.
Maybe you can relate?
Over the years, I’ve felt this a lot. Even as a youth pastor during my first few years of college, evangelism didn’t come naturally to me.
Fast forward to today, I’m almost finished with my master’s degree in Apologetics and Evangelism. Today, evangelism isn’t hard for me anymore. In fact, it’s something I deeply enjoy. I learned over the few short years of Bible college and now seminary that even an introvert like me can enjoy sharing the gospel.
What’s more, I believe you can, too – and no, you won’t have to feel that pit in your stomach every time you do it, either.
How did I get from terrified wobbling giraffe to confident evangelist? While my actual journey was a bit more back-and-forth, ultimately, the change came down to three specific steps. Incidentally, these steps also make up a cool acronym: B.E.T. Let’s take the next few moments to work through them together.
STEP 1: Build on the Right Foundation
Jesus says in Matthew 7:24-25, “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock.”
If we want to have enduring evangelistic ministries, we must build them on a solid foundation, lest they crumble and fall apart all around us. What better foundation exists than the one Jesus set forth for us? What better foundation than obedience to His commands?
Herein lies perhaps the biggest question of them all: how do we build our lives on His commands? Do we just try harder to do what He says? Believe it or not, Jesus actually answers this. In response to a trick question posed by the religious leaders of His time, Jesus tells us something incredibly profound: that all of God’s commands come down to a single most important duty. He says: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command,” (Matt. 22:36). In other words, the absolute most crucial thing we can do in evangelism is to first cultivate a deep love for God Himself. It would not be an exaggeration to say that everything in the Christian life flows downstream from that single endeavor – including evangelism.
This, of course, raises a second question: how do you cultivate love for God? Once again, scripture tells us. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” We are transformed by the renewing of our minds. Many of us have heard the proverb “garbage in; garbage out.” The inverse is also true: Christ-centered truth in; Christ-centered truth out.” If you want to love God more, the key is humbling yourself before God and filling yourself with truth from God. Study the gospel. Dig deep into the theme of our purpose in life and cultivate continuous learning about God and His ways. A few great books to get you started would be:
Gospel by JD Greear
Enjoying God in Everything by Steve DeWitt
Happiness by Randy AlcornThe more we build on the foundation of genuine, heartfelt love for God Himself, the easier and more naturally evangelism – as well as everything else – becomes. Click To Tweet
The more we build on the foundation of genuine, heartfelt love for God Himself, the easier and more naturally evangelism – as well as everything else – becomes.
STEP 2: Embrace Your Evangelistic Style
When you think evangelism, what is the first thing that comes to mind? If you’re like me, it’s that very assertive door-knocking, street preaching, tract-handing sort of evangelism.
But what if I told you that isn’t the only way to evangelize?
In my time studying the topic of evangelism for my own life, I’ve learned that the people of God are actually very different (shocker, I know). This wasn’t that surprising. What was surprising was that these differences translate into how we evangelize. The sort of evangelism that makes me (and probably you) wobble like a giraffe is not the only type of evangelism there is. In fact, it’s only one of six “styles” out there; there are actually five more! Unfortunately, many of us have never even heard of these other styles and for that reason, simply don’t evangelize. Even worse, many churches not knowing these styles have been guilty of pressuring Christians into styles that don’t come naturally to them, leaving them ineffective and sometimes even bitter towards the whole endeavor of evangelism. What are these styles? Mark Mittelberg, in Becoming a Contagious Christian, labels them as follows:
Style 1: Direct (Matthew 3:1-12) – This is what we traditionally think of when we picture evangelism: street preaching, door knocking, and cold calling strangers. It’s very assertive and is ideal for very confident public speaking types who don’t mind the pressure of the spotlight.
Style 2: Intellectual (Acts 17:22-34) – This style tends to be more apologetic-centered, focusing on making a reasoned case for why Christianity is the best explanation for reality. In other words, it starts by helping the unbeliever see the credibility of the gospel. This strong foundation of logic and evidence then segues naturally into sharing the actual content of the gospel.
Style 3: Testimonial (Acts 26:12-23) – This style emphasizes God’s work in your own life. If you’re a natural storyteller, this approach might be most natural for you. A changed life is a powerful tool for helping others see the gospel’s authenticity – especially when Christian hypocrisy is the subject of so much attention in our modern era.
Style 4: Relational (Acts 2:44-47) – This style focuses on building long-term rapport over short-term proclamation. Through building deep, meaningful relationships, a person can demonstrate how much they genuinely care for their unbelieving friend as they proclaim the content of the gospel message. This style should look like more intentional discipleship–such as inviting your friend over to read Scripture together. Remember, the goal in every style is to proclaim the fullness of the gospel.
Style 5: Invitational (John 4:28-42) – This style focuses on inviting others to hear others who will clearly proclaim the gospel message. Inviting someone to an evangelistic event or a Christmas/Easter service are both examples of utilizing an invitational approach. The person with this style doesn’t just occasionally invite others when asked to; instead, it comes naturally to them out of the overflow of their excitement.
Style 6: Service (1 Peter 3:1) – This style focuses on tangibly showing the unbeliever the selfless serving love of Christ through the Christian as the basis for why they should take the gospel message seriously. This lays the groundwork for sharing the entirety of the gospel message.
Notice how different these styles are? Any believer can be an effective evangelist if they understand the style they’re actually good at. I’m a perfect example of this. As you’ve probably picked up, I’m not a Style 1 evangelist. Instead, I’m somewhat of a hybrid between a Style 2 and 4. Once I realized this, I embraced my styles and went deeper into refining both my understanding of apologetics and being intentional with my day-to-day conversations. Having done this, while the other styles are still harder for me, I’ve become an expert in mine. This has made me into an effective evangelistic Christian.
I would encourage you to do the same. Find your style, and once you do, lean into it! If you’re like me, that means memorizing apologetic arguments and compiling a list of deep evangelistic resources to share with your non-Christian friends when the opportunity arises. If you’re like my father (Styles 1 and 3), it means preparing a two-minute testimony and a concise 6-point presentation of the gospel geared toward strangers. But please note that every one of these styles must lead to actual, verbal communication of the content of the gospel. If they don’t, then your “evangelism” is empty. These styles should simply be methods of getting to where you’re ultimately going.
STEP 3: Train Yourself to Use Questions
Finally, as you navigate the world of sharing the gospel, remember to use questions. Jesus was a master of this practice, and we see examples of it all throughout the gospels. The more we stop and ask questions, the more we will understand, the more we will love our neighbors, and the more effective our conversations can be.
The best resource for learning how to do this well is a book by Greg Koukl called Tactics. Three types of questions should always characterize our evangelistic efforts:
1. “What” Questions – this type lays the groundwork for our conversation. When someone shares their view with you, press in and try to understand them better. Only after truly knowing the person and what they believe can you effectively point them toward the truth.
2. “Why” Questions – this type encourages the unbeliever to consider the reasons for their beliefs. Why do they think all roads lead to heaven, for example? Why do they think they’ll go to heaven when they die? Understanding why a person holds their beliefs can go a long way in helping you be an effective evangelist.
3. “Pointed” Questions – this type gently challenges the unbeliever to consider the truth of Christianity. For example, “How could God let you into heaven when you’re a sinner?” While these types of questions could be posed in statement form (i.e., “God would not let you into heaven because you’re a sinner”), phrasing it as a question forces them to really consider the weight of your words. Why? Because a question requires a response.
You Are Sent
Now that you have what you need to become an effective evangelist let me encourage you to get started. Do the gospel-centric legwork of Step 1. Learn your style of Step 2. Finally, engage with others using the questions of Step 3.
Let the following passage, which may have been a cause of anxiety for you before, become an encouragement to you today:
“Jesus came near and said to them, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Jesus is with you, my friends; you are sent.