I’m a professor of evangelism and missions in a seminary whose motto is, “Every classroom a Great Commission classroom”—but that doesn’t mean evangelism always comes easy to me. I’m highly introverted, and I have to work at the task. Here are some approaches that help me:
Recognize the battle of evangelism—and know you cannot evangelize in your own power
The apostle Paul often described non-believers in terms of spiritual conflict: they follow the prince of the air (Eph 2:2), live in darkness (Col 1:13), are blinded by the god of this age (2 Cor 4:3-4), are caught in the devil’s trap (2 Tim 2:26), and live under the power of Satan (Acts 26:18). Nothing we do in our own power can free non-believers from their darkness.
Enlist some believers to pray Ephesians 6:18-20 and Colossians 4:2-4 daily for you
Paul, the missionary extraordinaire, asked believers to pray he would share the gospel boldly and clearly and God would open doors for his evangelizing. If Paul needed that kind of prayer support, I suspect you and I do, too! Knowing others are praying this way should encourage us to hold ourselves accountable to them and watch for opportunities to share.
Always have the names of five non-believers on your prayer list
I generally have at least five names, but the number is not the primary issue; having a burden for several people by name is. A generic, nameless burden is hardly a burden at all. From my five names, I am usually most burdened about 2-3 people. Today, for example, I ask you to join me in praying for my sister, Sherry, and for Jorge, a young man who is like a son to me.
Always be developing at least one relationship with a non-believer
I try to have at least two such relationships at a time, but all of us must start with one. My goal is to get to know someone, spend time with him (usually doing a hobby like hiking), gain his respect, and seek opportunities to share the gospel with him. I do believe cold-call evangelism still works, but I also want to build relationships with intentionality.
Don’t be afraid to ask for an opportunity to share
I’ve now come to the place where I’ll simply ask, “You know I’m a follower of Christ. One of the things Christians do is tell others what Jesus means to them. May I take a few minutes and tell you what Jesus has done for me—and for you?” If my friend says “no,” I thank him and prayerfully wait for another time. If he says “yes,” I know the door is open to evangelize.
Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. For more from Lawless, visit chucklawless.com.