EMPOWER ’22: SWBTS evangelism prof says, ‘Nobody knows your story better than you’

Others need to hear how Jesus has changed your life, SWBTS professor says

Matt Queen is associate dean of the Roy J. Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, a professor of evangelism and the L.R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism (also known as the “Chair of Fire”) at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. He recently talked with Texan editor Jayson Larson about ways everyone can be more intentional about sharing their faith.

Jayson Larson: Let’s start here: what is evangelism?

Matt Queen: I’m glad that you asked! Evangelism is that Spirit-
empowered activity whereby all disciples of Jesus Christ give an intentional, complete, and verbal witness to his life, death, burial, and resurrection, exhorting unbelievers to become baptized, obedient disciples by repenting of their sins and placing their faith in Christ alone for salvation. Evangelism must be Spirit-empowered. If we do evangelism in our own power, we get our own results. A lot of us are trying to find the words to start evangelism when, if we asked the Holy Spirit, he would give them to us. We’re trying to find the courage, but if we would just trust the Spirit for a boldness, he would give it. We’re all to do it. We’re to give full gospel presentations about Jesus. And the end result is not a decision, not a prayer prayed, but we’re really looking for baptized, obedient disciples in the end that come to belief. 

JL: You’ve often said and written, “If you know enough of the gospel to be saved by it, you know enough of the gospel to share it with others.” Can you flesh that out a little bit for those who really want to be more effective in telling others about Jesus?

MQ: I’m very grateful for all the evangelism training I’ve had. It has made me who I am today. But an unfortunate consequence of the way Southern Baptists have done evangelism is that we have made evangelism equal to memorization or formal training. But as you look in the book of Acts, there was no formal evangelism training, yet everybody was evangelizing. So I began to wonder, “How did they know what to say even though they hadn’t gone through any training or had a memorization outline or anything like that?” As I read God’s word something struck me. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Paul gives the gospel and says, “For I delivered to you as a first importance that which I also received: Christ died for our sins according to scriptures, he was buried, and he was raised on the third day according to scriptures.” Paul believed what someone had told him, and then he could tell others so that they would believe. When we hear the gospel and believe it, that is our evangelism training. Listen—I’m not against evangelism training. The SBTC does evangelism events and I’m going to be helping train some of those. I train professionally, so I’m not against evangelism training. But no one can say, “I’ve never had any training in evangelism” who is a believer, because if they’ve heard the gospel and believed it, that’s what somebody else needs to hear.

I’m not against evangelism training. But no one can say, ‘I’ve never had any training in evangelism’ who is a believer, because if they’ve heard the gospel and believed it, that’s what somebody else needs to hear.

JL: How do you personally start gospel conversations with people you don’t know?

MQ: We don’t ever have a problem starting conversations about things we want to talk about. It’s easy for us to talk about things we want to talk about. So I think starting gospel conversations may be not so much a matter of “how to” as much as it is “want to.” What I do, sometimes, is one or two different things. My favorite kind of go-to is to say, “Hey, has anybody taken the time today to tell you that God loves you?” And unfortunately, most people say “no.” That gives me an opportunity to say to them something like, “I want to be the first person tell you that Jesus loves you. I know you don’t know me and I know I don’t know you, but here’s how I know God loves you.” And then I go into the gospel. That’s one way. Yesterday I asked somebody, “Have you heard any good news today?” Most people will tell you “no,” and that can give you an opening to say, “Well, you know what? I’ve got some good news for you” and just go into the gospel that way.

JL: We often think about personal evangelism as something that happens in a single moment and, when that moment is over, our responsibility with that person is over. There are certainly moments when the gospel is verbally shared, but can you talk about how we can develop relationships with the motive of sharing the gospel with others? 

MQ: I think there’s two extremes in evangelism. One is what you mentioned, a one-and-done evangelism. The other one is what some call “friendship evangelism,” but all it is is friendship. What we want to do is find the sweet spot between those two extremes. I’ve always found personally that when I’m doing friendship kind of evangelism, life-on-life evangelism, it’s always easier for me when I first start that relationship to begin with the gospel. I’ve done it whenever I have maybe met people in the neighborhood or something like that, where I intentionally insert the gospel in conversations from the beginning. Because what I’ve found is, as we keep going in a relationship and don’t share the gospel, we start to feel like the relationship may be at risk if we do share the gospel. When you first meet your neighbor, a co-worker, something like that, give just a brief testimony about Jesus. Then later in the relationship, you’re able to come back and say, “Hey, do you remember when we first met and I told you about that decision I made for Jesus? Have you come any closer to making one of those?” 

A helpful way for somebody to think through sharing with others is to share three things: your life before Christ, how you came to believe in Christ, and then your life since Christ became your Lord.

JL: What advice can you offer to people who might need help developing their own testimonies so they can share what God has done in their lives?

MQ: Nobody knows your story better than you. A helpful way for somebody to think through sharing with others is to share three things: your life before Christ, how you came to believe in Christ, and then your life since Christ became your Lord. When people share like this, they tend to share a lot about their life before Christ and how bad they may have been. Do talk about your life before Christ, but the real focus of a testimony that’s evangelistic is that middle part—how you came to Christ. What was it that someone else told you that you believed? The functions of the gospel, the sin, the Christ event, dying, being buried and raised and then the call to repent and believe. That’s really where the gospel is. And by the way, that is the testimony. We’re testifying to what Jesus has done in us. Then talk about your life afterwards. None of us are perfect. Our spouses, our children can attest to that. But talk about the ways that Christ has not only changed things in your life from what you use to do, but also what he is doing to give you greater intimacy and a Spirit-filled life right now.

JL: Teaching believers to share their faith is something that should happen in the ongoing process of discipleship from the very beginning. How can church leaders do that? 

MQ: We are never more ready to share the gospel and willing to share the gospel than when we first receive the gospel. I remember when I first got saved, I ran out of the church and was telling everybody, “I’m saved! I’m saved!” and I wanted a microphone to tell everybody how they can be saved, too. I think a pastor or even a lay person that leads somebody to the Lord, right from the very get-go, right next to baptism, needs to talk to them about who is someone that they know who needs to hear this message because they need Jesus, too. Encourage them to go tell at least one person they know about what has happened to them. I also think that pastor or lay leader needs to begin to take that new believer with them to actually do evangelism. I’ve been a pastor, I’ve been an associate pastor, been a youth pastor, I’m now a professor, and I will just tell you the tried and true method that I’ve seen is not just evangelism taught in a classroom experience. It’s when someone else takes someone along and they observe evangelism and talk about it, then that other person lets them start doing a little bit of the introduction when they’re sharing the gospel with someone and then talk about it, and then the one who took them now begins to observe them doing the evangelism. I’ve done that with countless people, and they’re still doing evangelism today. One other thing I would say is we need to be encouraging people to start praying for the lost, because that’s when we get a burden for lost people.

Digital Editor
Jayson Larson
Southern Baptist Texan
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