Conversational Evangelism-learning to enjoy the ride

I have had the privilege during the last couple months to present a pro-evangelism message to two different audiences here in Canada where my wife and I reside. One presentation was at an event that was specifically organized for my presentation, and another as the Sunday sermon and closing message for a denominational mission conference. My presentation’s title was The Cost of Evangelism: Its time to leave our comfort zones. (If the Lord so leads, I would be greatly blessed in assisting you in evangelism training for your church, if only to address your congregation via my presentation and sharing my evangelism experiences to get the ‘ball rolling.’ Feel free to contact me at: 4Lane.davis@gmail.com)

In my presentation, I used the definition of evangelism offered by Norman and David Geisler in their excellent book, Conversational Evangelism-how to listen and speak so you can be heard. Their definition of evangelism is:

“Evangelism is every day, and in every way, helping your nonbelieving friends to take one step closer to Jesus Christ.”

 
They follow their definition with the following emphasis:

“This means in practice that every day we need to ask ourselves, “What do I need to do today to help my nonbelieving friends take one step closer to Jesus?”

 
Building on the Geislers’ definition of evangelism, I presented the scriptural position that evangelism is a lifestyle, not just a one time experience, or something that we as Christians engage in on special occasions. Throughout my presentation I interjected my personal witnessing experiences in a variety of settings (at my job/workplace, when sitting at a coffee shop, when conversing with my neighbors, etc.) in order to illustrate how ‘sharing the Gospel’ opportunities are there “every day” if the follower of Christ is intentional, equipped and looking for such opportunities. My emphasis was that evangelism isn’t just one part of our calling, it is central to our calling. Jesus’ last words should be our first priority, (Acts 1:8), as should His first words in Matthew’s Gospel when calling His disciples, “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Matt. 4:19)

In regard to our Christian calling, Os Guinness states,

Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction lived out as a response to his summons and serviceCalling reminds Christians ceaselessly that, far from having arrived, a Christian is someone who in this life is always on the road as “a follower of Christ” and a follower of “the Way…Calling is not only a matter of being and doing what we are but also of becoming what we are not yet but are called by God to be…nothing short of God’s call can ground and fulfill the truest human desire for purpose. (1)

 
I shared with the audience that God uses not so much gifts for evangelism (though there is a biblical gift of evangelism) but the faithfulness of thousands and millions of Christians who would never consider evangelism  their gift. That you and I may conclude that we are not gifted for the task of evangelism, but that does not absolve us of the responsibility to obey. It is still our duty. God may unusually anoint a Peter and a Paul, a Dwight L Moody, a Spurgeon, a Billy Graham, but He calls each of us to share the good news.

As Matthew Henry so succinctly said, “The powerful influences of the Holy Spirit bind the true Christian to his duty.

After introducing the definition of evangelism, I showed the audience the following insightful video clip which highlights the reasons that Christians do not share the Gospel.

Why Christians Don’t Share Their Faith with Others

After viewing the video I made a list of the points mentioned and divided them into three sections:

1) Fear, fear and fear
2) Apathy/complacency/too busy
3) Lack of training

 
I covered points 1 and 2 emphasizing the need to become ‘soul conscience’, that we must realize everyone has a soul and that soul will spend eternity in heaven or hell as Jesus made clear in Luke 16 regarding the fate of the rich man and Lazarus who had died. Every time we come into contact with someone we must be sensitive to the fact that they will spend eternity somewhere, and that soul consciousness will help to remedy apathy and complacency.

As Alexander Maclaren stated, “Tell me the depth of a Christian’s compassion, and I will tell you the measure of their usefulness.”

Norman and David present the ambassador’s challenge to each Christian-“…keep in mind that our struggles in evangelism are not primarily about methodology but about maturity. Do we have a heart for God and do we care about the things God cares about (lost people)? If we have God’s heart, we will do whatever we can to advance His kingdom purposes in every conversation we have with our nonbelieving friends.”

The next portion of the presentation was devoted to the joy of evangelism, highlighting John’s first epistle. After presenting an apologetic regarding the eyewitness testimony of the disciples, John gives the reason for his writing and sharing the Good News, “and we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1:4) Even if we are enjoying our walk with Christ, our Christian experience is still incomplete until we can share it with another. This is the dynamics of joy and it must complete its circuit in order to be fully realized. The greatest thing we can do to excel in our own walk and joy in the Lord is to be engaged in sharing this joy with others. Os Guinness nothing short of God’s call can ground and fulfill the truest human desire for purpose.

John Piper once said that his Dad was the happiest man he’s ever known. When asking his Dad, “what would you say Dad, in a word, is a key to a life-time of happiness?” His Dad without hesitation said, “Tell somebody about Jesus.”

Point 3 from the above list is what I consider to be of vital importance, that of training each member of the congregation to be an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:17-20) to their family members, co-workers, fellow-students, neighbors, and those that they meet during their day-to-day activities. Sadly, this training is not happening in the majority of churches in North America, which is borne out in the following statistics:

95% of all Christians have never won a soul to Christ.
80% of all Christians do not consistently witness for Christ.
Less than 2% are involved in the ministry of evangelism.
71% do not give toward the financing of the great Commission.(2)

 
It is a sobering reality that nearly 80% of unchurched people say they would engage in a spiritual or faith conversation, but that only 30% of Christians are actually telling people about Jesus.

I believe strongly that unless a church has an evangelism training program for their congregants, these statistics will not change, especially here in North America. There are so many equipping resources at our disposal that they amount to an ’embarrassment of training riches.’ So why aren’t we using them? (I have included such resources at the end of this article. Also, the list of web sites in the right column of this site’s home page offers the best evangelism resources available.)

I have visited a number of Christian bookstores, both in the U.S. and Canada, and when I ask where their evangelism resource section is I am often met with a blank stare as if evangelism was a foreign concept. At other times I am escorted to a small section in the back of the store where there is a small rack of Gospel tracts. Most of the store is used for displaying coffee mugs, posters, painting, key chains, etc., not to mention the plethora of books (many of which are ‘self-help’ oriented) on strengthening one’s Christian walk, etc. As mentioned above, even if we are enjoying our walk with Christ, our Christian experience is still incomplete until we can share it with another. This is the dynamics of joy and it must complete its circuit in order to be fully realized. The greatest thing we can do to excel in our own walk and joy in the Lord is to be engaged in sharing this joy with others.

I will conclude this article with a quote from Norman and David Geislers’ book, Conversational Evangelism, which in my view embodies the purpose, meaning, duty and calling that each of us as Christians has been given by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide…” (John 15:16) “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

“In spite of your great trepidation, your friend tells you it will be an experience worth remembering. You ignore your fear and tell yourself you’ll by okay. So you step into the roller coaster and strap yourself down knowing that if you just make it through to the end in one piece, that will be a great success. You may not even entertain the possibility that you will enjoy the ride. The bottom line is to just get through it so you can say that you’ve done it.

In many ways doing evangelism these days can be much like riding a roller coaster. You don’t really want to do it, and you certainly don’t expect to enjoy it. Worst of all, through the ups and downs, you always feel like you end up where you originally began.

But what if evangelism could be different? What if it could be something you do, not only because you have an obligation to do it, but more importantly because you see in very tangible ways how your obedience to Christ can make a difference in the lives of those you care most to reach? What if it can be something you enjoy doing so much that you end up doing it every day for the rest of your life? What if, as a result of learning how to effectively build bridges to the Gospel, you feel more and more compelled to make the most of every encounter with your nonbelieving friends to help them take steps to the cross?

This book is an attempt to make this a possibility in the life of the average Christian who increasingly finds it difficult to witness to those in a post-Christian world. Provided that we have the right framework for what evangelism is and have been equipped to engage people in our contra-Christian culture, we believe that not only can we make progress in our witness to people, but we can even enjoy the ride.”

I highly recommend the book, Conversational Evangelism for small and large study groups. It is one of the best contemporary evangelism training tools on the market. Interactive and engaging. Please avail yourself of it.
For a comprehensive book review of Conversational Evangelism, go here

Why Don’t Christians Witness-by Bobby Conway-One Minute Apologist

Conversational Evangelism-Q & A-by David Geisler

Resources

Ravi Zacharias Ministries-rzim.org
Stand to Reason-Greg Koukl-str.org
Cold Case Christianity-by J. Warner Wallace-coldcasechristianity.com
Want to share the Gospel?-Start with this question-Greg Koukl, here
It’s Time to Get Uncomfortable and Move Out of Our ‘comfort zone’-by Lane, here
The Intellectual ‘ostrich’-Pt. 1-‘apologetics isn’t for me’-Really? It’s time to open your Bible-by Lane, here
The Intellectual ‘ostrich’-Pt. 2-Survival to influence…the embarrassment of riches-by Lane, here
The Art of Asking Questions-the best defense is a good offense-by Lane, here

References
1) Os Guinness, The Call-Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life, W Publishing Group, 2003, pp. 102, 30, 4
2) Michael Parrott, Street Level Evangelism, Where is the Space for the Local Evangelist, Acts Evangelism, Spokane, WA, 1993, pp. 9-11.

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