July 24, 2013

4 ways to cultivate evangelistic instincts

by Jim Stitzinger

ive got a messageEvangelizing unbelievers can be difficult for the same reason criminals struggle to find policemen…most are not looking for one. Instead of pursuing others with the gospel, we are cocooned with those who already know it.  A vortex pulls us into Christian activities and lulls us toward indifference to those yet to repent.

Genuinely drawing near to Christ will rightly submerse us in believer’s fellowship, but it will simultaneously thrust us toward others in gospel ministry.  Heavily evangelistic churches become that way as individual believers are passionate and proactive in daily life. They implement the faithful exposition of Scripture and are propelled out to reach sinners for Christ.

The Great Commission is an individual commission and it is not fulfilled in silence. but in conversations that confront ungodliness and unrighteousness with the kindness of God that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Day by day, we look for points of intersection, where the “salt and light” will collide with decay and darkness.  Transforming hearts forge evangelistic instincts, and here are four ways to  prepare those instincts:  

1. Spring load the gospel.

This isn’t complicated, if you’re saved, you know enough of the gospel to present it to someone else. However, it takes work to be clear and understandable. Memorize key passages of scripture that you can use to explain the gospel to others. You may not always hold your Bible in hand when an evangelistic opportunity presents itself, so spring load the gospel message in mind. Be alert and stay ready!

2. Live well.

Live with integrity. Peter wrote “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). Live so that when your name crosses the mind of unbeliever’s they associate you with Jesus. The most clear and accurate gospel presentation is muted if unbelievers identify you by patterns of sin (anger, lust, gossip, laziness) instead of patterns of righteousness (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self- control). In humility, repent when you sin, and use even your failures to magnify God’s mercy. Christlike humility and holiness should distinguish you from the world. Keep in mind that your example may be the first expose many receive to the transforming power of the gospel.

Doing it wrong

Doing it wrong

3.  Engage your mission field

The place to begin a life of evangelism is right where you are. As you read this today, who are the unbelievers you’re engaging with the gospel? God in His sovereign grace, chose to place you along side unbelievers – in your neighborhood, in your family and at work – are not there by accident. It’s not enough to talk about them, we must talk with them, using the natural points of connection in our lives to advance the gospel conversation. Don’t throw away the opportunity to proclaim His saving message. This is your first mission field.

What step will you take to engage them with the gospel, even if it means relational unease? What will be your first step in your strategy to fully present Christ’s message of repentance and faith?  Every unbeliever in our life should both know our identity as a Christian and know our desire to see them come to believe in Christ as Savior and Lord.

4.  Relentlessly love other believers.

The hard work of evangelism is carried out most vividly when believers speak and act with Christ-exalting love for one another. Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

Christian love is vital to evangelism because it makes the love of Christ visible for the world to see. The world is watching and must see the transforming power of the gospel on display in our lives. This was at the heart of Paul’s challenge to Philemon in extending forgiveness to Onesimus (Philemon 1:8-10).

The unbelieving world must see the Holy spirit enabling Christians to serve one another, encourage one another, endure hardship, refuse gossip, forgive, speak the truth in love and embrace suffering. How are the “one another’s” made visible in your relationships with other believers? Does your love for other believers lend credibility to your gospel presentation?

Are there any other tips you’ve found to make yourself more eager for evangelism?

This post was adopted from A Guide to Evangelism, written by faculty at Southern Seminary

Jim Stitzinger

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Jim Stitzinger is the Director of the Bevin Center for missions mobilization at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also the Associate Vice President for Advancement.