The Challenge of Personal Evangelism
by David Dunlap
Witnessing for Christ is a way of life. By
virtue of the fact that one is a Christian, one is a witness for Christ. I may
or may not be a good witness, but nevertheless I am one. Jesus said,
"...you will be witnesses unto me..."
(Acts. 1:8). Our witnessing is important. We can have a considerable impact
on those who do not know Christ. The question is not when to witness or where
to witness. If we are Christians we are witnesses. But how can we become more
effective communicators of the gospel? Knowing the truth is essential for an
"Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free"
(John 8:32). We live in a day of methods. By and large our evangelism has
become method centered. Many have attended seminars on better methods of
evangelism. Yet at the same time the church has become weaker in its
understanding of the content of the message, and in her ability to communicate
it. We have forgotten that the New Testament defines "to evangelize" as "to
tell/declare/announce good news. "News", by the very meaning of the word means
content. Any presentation to the unsaved must have Bible-based content.
GOD--THE HOLY AND LOVING CREATOR :
We can't assume that people today have a proper concept of God. We must make
them see that He has an absolute claim on their lives. The concept that we
want to drive home is God's ownership of each one of us. We should speak of a
sovereign Creator who brought all things into being out of nothing, creating
and sustaining us of His own will so that we are dependent on Him for
everything (Gen. 1-2, Acts 17:25, Isa. 40:28, Ps. 100:3). From this
foundation come the two great pillars of His Being--light and love. Light
speaks of God's majesty, truth, and holiness (1 Jn 1:5, 1 Tim. 6:15-16). But
our God is also a God of love. Out of His love He created us in His image so
that we could have fellowship with Him. Worship, therefore, can be the only
appropriate response (Deut. 6:4-5).
MAN--THE SINFUL CREATURE :
Man disobeyed God and willfully rebelled. The Bible calls this sin. We must
both define sin and state it consequences to a lost world. Sin is comprised
of two parts: first, it is the attitude that I am my own god and therefore try
to live as if God did not exist. Romans 1:21 portrays this attitude when it
defines sin as not worshipping God. We thereby deny all that God has revealed
to us about Himself. Second, sin is rebelling against God--breaking His law.
Using the Ten Commandments in evangelism helps people feel the guilt of sin,
and creates a desire for the forgiveness found in Christ alone. (See : Rom.
3:12, James 2:10, Jer. 17:9)
The consequences of sin is death. The Bible
speaks of death as separation of the spiritual and physical. Theses two
elements, when joined together comprise the essence of life. Physical death is
separation from the body. The symptoms of disease and physical suffering
indicated that physical death is near. Spiritual death is separation from God
for eternity. Symptoms that one experiencing this type of death: hatred, war,
alienation, purposelessness, guilt, and despair. (See: Isa. 59:2, Eph. 2:1)
CHRIST--THE MERCIFUL REDEEMER :
When you read the Old Testament, you see clearly that Jesus Christ came to
fulfill three roles: prophet, priest and king. Evangelism over the last 100
years has tended to speak merely of His role as Saviour. This has led many
people to make superficial "decisions for Christ." We must present Christ in
all three roles--His perfect life, sacrificial death, and His victorious
resurrection: As Prophet, He revealed God through His teaching and life (Deut.
18:15-19, John 1:14-18, 7:16-24). His perfect life qualified him to be our
substitutionary sacrifice. The Priest represented the people to God. We must
present the cross not simply as a vague demonstration of God's love, but as the
place in history where, in the death of His Son, God dealt with the sins of the
whole world. God is still just and holy, yet loves us through Christ, who bore
our sins (1 Pet. 2:24, Heb. 7:27, 10:10). We must speak of His office as
King. The New Testament refers to Jesus Christ as
24 times but calls him
694 times--more than 28 times for every reference as
All who will have Jesus as Savior must, after salvation, also have Jesus as
their King. Jesus now lives to rule his people in love and truth (Mt. 25:24,
Acts 2:3-36, Rev. 5).
OUR NECESSARY RESPONSE FOR SALVATION :
Since man's only hope is to be saved through the finished work of Christ, how
can man come to know Christ as Savior? We must urge the unsaved to acknowledge
with their mind and heart that they stand guilty before God and deserve His
judgement. They must acknowledge their rebellion against Him and turn from it,
trusting in Christ's redemptive work. They must realize that they can do
nothing to make themselves acceptable to God. We then invite them to trust in
Christ and rest in Him as Savior (John 1:12, 3:16, Eph. 2:8-9).
SOME KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER :
Use your Bible: Have the person read the text himself, and have him explain
to you his understanding of its meaning. Many times this has turning point in
the presentation of the gospel. It prevents tangents and arguments, and
confronts them with the God's final authority. Memorize Scripture: Memorize
verses and their references so that you can give the appropriate portion of
God's Word to that person. Pray: Our message may seem foolish to the
non-Christian, but if we really believe that only the Holy Spirit can make them
respond, we will pray--before, during, and after our presentation of Christ to
the sinner. Communicate: Communicate absolute biblical concepts clearly so
that the person does not read his or her own ideas into them. Be careful to
explain that your are speaking about absolute truth, not just your opinion.
Your message should be faithful to the Word of God in content and emphasis.
But be encouraged: God did not commission tape recorders to evangelize so He
could have the "perfect message." You will make mistakes, as all do. But if
you seek to be faithful to God and His message, He will teach you on the job.
WORK HARD AND KEEP AT IT :
"Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we
(Gal. 6:9). Many Christians give up too quickly at gospel work. They go out a
few times and knock on door during a weekend.
When a few contacts are made, they tell themselves, "This isn't for me. I'm
just not cut out for it." No one is cut out for it: it's hard work! Satan
will fight it at every turn. Keep at it, keep praying, scattering seed, and
God will give the increase.
BE AUTHORITATIVE :
They said of Jesus, "He taught them as One that had
authority, and not as the scribes" (Mk. 1:22). A witness must be
authoritative, but not arrogant. Some Christians witness with almost an
apologetic manner. Generally this approach does not see many results. The
unsaved will not have confidence in a message that is given in an unsure,
indecisive manner. They need a "Thus saith the Lord."
LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN :
If the person being witnessed to is not receptive, don't push. If the person
makes smart remarks, never give an unkind remark in return. This can damage
all the progress you have had thus far, or bar opportunities others may have
in the future. Never argue.
"The servant of the Lord must not strive"
(2 Tim. 2:24). You may win an argument, but lose a soul for Christ. If a
witnessing situation is beginning to heat up, stop! Apologize. Let the person
know you don't want to argue, and that you are sorry for anything you might
have said or done to be offensive. If the gospel is offensive, so be it. But
if I'm offensive, that must be corrected.
DON'T USE DIFFICULT THEOLOGICAL TERMS :
A witness must learn to think as the unsaved think. Put yourself in their
shoes. Many have heard the term
but don't know what it means. To talk about
may only confuse the issue. They will understand terms like
"sin", "forgiveness", "heaven", "hell",
Keep it simple.
LEARN TO GIVE INVITATIONS :
Truth not only informs but transforms. Many people will take up the offer
when it is given. Learn to give people the opportunity to respond. Don't
manipulate or force decisions, but do give the unsaved a chance to say yes to
God. You never know the heart. An individual may be bursting with conviction
inside without any indication or outward emotion. After you have explained the
gospel and answered objections and questions, you might want to simply say,
"Would you like to receive Christ tonight?" The biblical pattern is to call
men and women to response after presenting the gospel. Paul said,
"We...preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living
(Acts 14:15). Peter said,
"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out"
AVOID DETOURS :
Don't get off on a tangent. If Satan can't defeat you, he'll try a detour.
If a person asks a question that may be a detour, suggest that you first finish
presenting the plan of salvation and then you will answer the question. Don't
get into discussion about the doctrine of other churches, or the errors of
prominent television preachers, Bible translations, etc. The main thing is
that the main thing remains the main thing: presenting the gospel.
PRESENT THE ISSUE OF SIN :
We must clearly and boldly press the issue of sin in their lives (Romans
6:23). We should present the love, grace and mercy of God, but we must present
the judgment and consequences of sin. This is the biblical method. Note Peter
"Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murdered to be granted unto
you; and killed the Prince of life."
GIVE PERSONAL TESTIMONY :
Learn how to give a brief yet clear account of how you were saved. Emphasize
your need of salvation because of sin, and the change in your life afterward.
You may want to open the conversation by saying, "May I tell you the most
amazing thing that ever happened to me?" After a brief account, you can say,
"I found it so wonderful to know that all my sins were forgiven and that I'm
going to heaven, I had to tell others about it." Afterwards you can add, "Do
you know for sure you are going to heaven?"
USE THE WORD OF GOD :
In answering the temptations of Satan in the wilderness, Christ used the
Scriptures. In the preaching of the apostles in the book of Acts, the Old
Testament was used. Jeremiah says,
"Is not My word like a fire? saith the Lord; and like hammer that breaketh the
rock in pieces"
Many have used established methods of
presenting God's salvation plan with great success. One of the best known is
called "The Romans Road"--3:10; 3:23; 5:8; 6:23; 10:9. Many use this outline
but add variations. It's good to have an outline to keep you on track; then
other verses can be added to suit the individual's need.
One fatal mistake is to be accusative: "You
need to know that you are a sinner." They will usually become defensive rather
than receptive. Instead, have them read,
"There is none righteous, no, not one"
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God"
(3:23). Then say, "We've all sinned, haven't we?" More will admit being a
sinner when we include ourselves. Otherwise, they conclude that we think that
we re holier than they, and unfairly judgmental.
Use illustrations for emphasis and explanation. For example, one way to
illustrate the nature of sin: "Suppose we had a ten-gallon jug of pure water
and someone poured a cup of poison into it. Would you drink it? Of course
not. Sin is like poison. One small amount will pollute us, making us unclean
and unfit for heaven."
"Lord, make me a crisis man. Let me not be a signpost on a single road; make me
a fork in the road, that men must turn one way or another in facing Christ in
"The preaching of the gospel must come with the understanding the messenger
will not be popular and that he will be called to stand where Jesus stood
before the world: to be admired by many, loved by a few, and rejected by the
A. W. Tozer
"It was seven years...
--Before William Carey baptised his first convert.
--Before Judson won his first disciple in Burma.
--That Morrison toiled before a Chinaman was brought to Christ
--Before Moffat, saw the moving of the spirit upon the Bechuanas in Africa."
A. J. Gordon
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