2. Equip People to Share their Faith
The second thing we must do if we are to do the work of an evangelist is to train people to share their faith. One of the tasks of an evangelist it to “equip” the entire church to do the ministry of evangelism (Eph.4:11-12). God wants every Christian to be a soul winner. Jesus told his disciples, “I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). The Holy Spirit comes to give us power and boldness to witness for Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8). The apostle Peter told all believers to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have” (1 Pet.3:15). Solomon tells us, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life and he who wins souls is wise (Prov.11:30).
Most Christians know that they should share their faith but often they’re too afraid, they’ve tried and failed or they don’t think that they are capable. Our role as leaders is to not just tell them “what” they should be doing but to teach them “how” so that they gain confidence. People need help with application not just more information. They need to know how to share their faith.
One of the best training courses available is Becoming a Contagious Christian. It teaches people a number of things including:
- Understanding that God can use you just the way you are. There are different styles of evangelism and you don’t have to become something you’re not to reach people for Christ.
- How to start spiritual conversations based on people’s level of readiness.
- How to use your personal testimony.
- What the gospel is.
- How to lead someone to Christ.
- How to answer common questions or objections.
I taught this entire course to our church over a series of Sunday mornings and we had follow up discussions in small groups during the week. We offered this course for many years and we continue to ensure that we regularly share messages that equip people to share their faith with confidence.
Any training course doesn’t guarantee life change, as it is easy for people to learn more without it affecting how they live. However, in a church context where the principles of the training are being modelled and taught consistently, and where there is accountability and follow up within a small group environment, the chances of the training translating into behavioural change is enhanced considerably.
One of the key concepts that believers need to understand is that evangelism is a process. Most people go through a long pre-conversion stage because it takes time for people to move from a position of resistance to the gospel to a place of readiness to receive. Because of this we must not rush the process or force people. It takes wisdom to know where each person is on their spiritual journey and then to encourage them to take the next step. God usually uses a number of people and events to lovingly move this person toward Christ.
Cliff Knechtle (an effective evangelist) puts it this way, “A person’s coming to Christ is like a chain with many links. There is the first link, the middle links and a last link. There are many influences and conversations that precede a person’s decision to convert to Christ. I know the joy of being the first link at times, a middle link usually and occasionally the last link. God has not called me to only be the last link. He has called me to be faithful and to love all people.”
The Billy Graham Association estimates that the average person meets eleven different Christians and has fourteen meaningful conversations before becoming a Christian. We do not have to feel that we individually carry the full burden of leading family and friends all the way to the point of committing their lives to Jesus Christ. One plants, another waters but God gives the increase (see 1 Cor.3:5-9). We get to be co-workers with Him (see 1 Cor. 3:5-9). Keep sowing the seed. God will bring the increase.
In Luke 10, Jesus gave his disciples some clear instructions for their outreach work. He told them to first of all be a blessing wherever they went (speak “peace”), then to build relationships with people (“eat and drink”), then to meet people’s needs (“heal the sick”) and finally to preach the gospel of the kingdom. Notice the progression – the first three steps, what we could call “pre-evangelism”, involve touching people’s hearts and earning the right to be heard before preaching to them. If we start with sharing the gospel without taking the other steps first we often hinder the preparatory work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s heart and life.
I experienced this process when our family was only holidays a few years back. We were in the beautiful state of Queensland and were heading out on a boat to do some snorkelling on Green Island. We met a Sri Lankan couple who we started talking to. As it turned out they were moving from New Zealand to Australia due to a new employment appointment for the husband. This new job happened to be in Melbourne where we live. I took their name and offered to have a few people from our church help them settle in when they arrived. I didn’t mention that I was a pastor and I didn’t share anything about the gospel with them.
When we returned home I arranged for some Sri Lankan people in our church to contact them. This family from our church accommodated them for a number of weeks and helped them settle into their new home. On the weekend they invited them to our church. To their surprise I was up front speaking! At the end of my message I gave opportunity for people to respond and these two people came forward and surrendered their lives to Christ. I was so excited. These people were literally loved into the kingdom.
Stories such as this demonstrate that all of us can learn to share our faith and on a daily basis reach out to people and help them take a step closer to knowing Christ personally. As church leaders we can equip our people to give them this kind of confidence and as a result help them experience the joy of seeing their friends come to Christ.