I can remember the pressure that I used to feel, the knot in my stomach, the bead of sweat on my upper lip when I felt that I needed to tell a stranger about Jesus. There was the sheer awkwardness of it all, the thought that I would just spew out a bunch of jumbled words, or the fear that they would flat out deny a conversation with me. I'm not sure what I was expecting, though. I am so thankful that God has put a burden on my heart to share the gospel. After all, I believe it and want others to know the feeling of a heart that is free. But I think I was expecting to have a five minute conversation with someone and have them be convicted, trusting in Jesus and baptized before I said goodbye. That's enough to make anyone sweat. So what are we to expect in evangelism?
We are certainly called to share the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15), but how are we to share? What is a way that we can measure if we are being steadily faithful to Christ and His mission?
A first thought about evangelism (sharing the good news of Jesus) is that you really don't have to think too much about it all if you are growing in holiness. It becomes as natural as breathing. When you are growing in your love for Christ, when you see Him more and more in His splendor (2 Cor. 3:18), then you become less and less concerned about yourself. You become compelled to look to Him for satisfaction, and you begin to look to others with eyes of compassion. Your words will be words of hope in Christ. Your actions will be increasingly selfless and beautiful. Your fragrance will be the aroma of life, or death, to all those who you are around (2 Cor. 2:15-16).
But if my main advice would be to fall more in love with Christ, seek to obey Him, and it will happen as an overflow of the heart, then my second bit of advice would be to make a plan to obey. Don't wait around to share the gospel when all of the parameters are exactly right for the conversation. Jesus tells us that the fields are white for harvest. Do you believe it? The parameters are right, let's go. Let's make a plan and go on the great adventure of our joy and the joy of others.
The plan that I have recently been following certainly isn't the only way to do things, but it does offer a lot of clarity to each relationship in my life and how I can be faithful in them. It's called the 4E's, and it comes from a great book called 'The Vine Project'.
It stands for Engage, Evangelize, Establish and Equip.
Engage: To engage simply means to reach out to new people and make new relationships. Remember how I used to feel when I met someone new? I used to feel like I had to tell them all of my theology in a matter of seconds. To engage simply means to start a relationship and be ok with that. God may lead you to share the gospel the first time you meet someone, and you need to be sensitive if that is what God wants you to do, but most of the time your faithfulness might just need to be a friendly, genuine interest the person. Your faithfulness might be that you stop wearing your headphones when you walk the dog and decide to say hello to your neighbors who you don't know. Your faithfulness to engage might be that you take an interest in the person you work with everyday who you don't really know too much about. To engage is to simply start a relationship.
- Who are you engaging in your life?
- Who are the new people in your life that know that you care for them?
- When is the last time that happened and how could you change that this week?
Evangelize: To evangelize, like we said earlier, is to share with someone the hope that you have in Jesus. You have probably heard the old phrase "they don't care how much you know until they know how much you care". Well, that's pretty true in life. While you can certainly share the good news with strangers, and I think you should, most of us already have credible relationships with people who know we care and they would be willing to hear about Jesus from us. This is of course where your 'engagement' is leading you - to a credible friendship that makes hearing the gospel less out of left field and more by a friend who cares for them.
- What are the friendships and acquaintances that you can share Jesus with?
- Who have you been engaging lately and now need to share the good news with?
- Do you know how to share the gospel clearly? Try explaining it to yourself regularly so you will know what type of clear language you will use.
- Do you share the gospel with joy or with fear? Have the words of your mouth and its expression match. Here's a tip: It's odd to hear someone share the greatest news in the universe with a look of obligated terror on their face.
Establish: To establish is to help a professing believer in Christ have the tools they need to grow in their relationship with God. This involves things like helping them learn how to read the Bible for themselves, how to pray, how to worship and why it matters, and how to begin to share their faith with others. Mature believers in Christ should always be helping to establish younger believers in the faith. In some ways, this step in the process never ends. Our whole lives will be ones of growing, or being established, in our relationship with Christ
- Who are you helping establish in the faith? Your children? Your spouse?
- What could you be using to help you?
- Consider giving a good book to someone, sharing a sermon online or send an article - they are missionaries that never sleep.
- Who are those not in your family that you are helping?
- What is something that helped you in the faith? How could you share that with someone it might bless?
- Have you ever engaged, evangelized, and are now establishing someone? What was that process like?
Equip: Our last stage is equipping. Now I do need to note that there are not different levels of Christian. There might be differeing levels of maturity, but there should be no hierarchy in the Church of Christ. (Yeah, I'm talking to you Pope!) This stage is simply one where mature believers are given the tools necessary to lead in a greater capacity. Things like training to lead a Bible study in their home or small group. It simply means that we should seek to sufficiently equip, or be sufficiently equipped with, the knowledge, character, skills, language, resources, etc. to live a life making disciples.
- Do you feel sufficiently equipped to teach the message of the gospel? What might you need to help you communicate clearly?
- How are you equipping those around you? Do your children know how to pray? Could they share a simple gospel message?
- What small group might you join this year to be better equipped?
- What might you do this year to help equip the college students coming to church to stay faithful at their schools?
I hope this short post helps you as you seek to be faithful to the Father by spreading the good news of His Son. It is not a perfect plan. And like I said, it’s not the only one. But it does help to see everyone in my life through the lens of discipleship. Everyone in my life has an E. My job is to figure out what that E is and be faithful to help them where they are and to try to move them along to the next E.
We love because He first loved us. “Our mission is to reveal the glory of God, in Jesus Christ, as the only savior and the supreme delight of all people.”