Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Intentional Evangelism

Evangelism.  It’s the main job Jesus left for his followers (Matthew 28:19-20), yet it’s the one job that often gets shoved to the back burner in our lives.  We know we should do better, but we just don’t. There are many reasons for this oversight, but I suspect that one problem is that we aren’t intentional enough. We don’t make a plan and follow it.  While it is certainly possible for someone to come to us and say, “I’m missing something in my life, and I think you have it.  Can you tell me how to get it?” and then happily agree to everything we tell them and become followers of Christ with little or no outreach on our parts, it’s not very likely.  In our examples of Biblical evangelism, Jesus and the apostles were very intentional about spreading the gospel.  They had a plan to share the good news, and they followed it as best they could.  Sure, there were bumps in the road and detours created by the Holy Spirit.  But if they had never had a plan and sat in their homes waiting for someone to come to them, the church would not have spread like it did.  

We need to be intentional about evangelism too.  That’s what I loved about a book I read recently, Evangelizing your Community, by Dr. Stafford North. He lays out steps that individuals and congregations can take to improve their outreach into the areas in which they live.  The book is written so that church leaders, whole congregations, and individuals can all benefit from the practical ideas he lays out.  

The nice thing about the way he organizes these ideas is that he goes from least scary to most scary.  I don’t know about you, but when I think of “evangelism,” two things come to mind. Door knocking (ugh) and one on one Bible studies. But to go from “I’ve never shared the gospel in my life” to “I’m going to have a one on one study with a neighbor” might just give you the screaming heeby jeebies. It did me. But if you start instead with “I’m going to greet visitors to my congregation warmly,” then move to “I’m going to make the most of my opportunities to show Christian character in the world,” it doesn’t seem so nerve-wracking to move up the “scary scale.”  And with each step, he gives a plan for making that kind of evangelism an intentional activity. 

My favorite chapter (and third up the scale) was on what the author calls “conversational evangelism.” This isn’t “Have you met my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?” Or “If you died today, do you know where you would go?” No. This is just using our everyday conversations to interest people in Christ by bringing up something about the Church, mentioning a Scripture, or some other spiritual topic. He used the example of a hairdresser.  The ladies at the salon are always asking about your life, right? Since your church activities should be a big part of your life, mention them! Be specific about where you go to church, and invite her to the activities your congregation is planning.   What a good way to begin to get comfortable talking to others about important things!  And if you have opened that door, then when your friend or bank teller or hair dresser wants to know more about the Bible, if they don’t know anyone else they can go to for answers, they know they can go to you. Making this an intentional activity involves nothing more than prayer and an awareness of the opportunities that present themselves. Ladies’ teachers can also help by having their class members practice this skill on each other in class. 

Once you have built a relationship with a seeker, and she is ready to hear what you have to say about God’s plan of salvation, it’s a good idea to plan ahead how you’ll go about presenting it.  There are lots of good ways, but I found the method presented in this book to be particularly helpful.  For one thing, it is more inclusive than some plans I’ve seen.  For example, some plans are really good at showing why we need to be saved, but fall short on showing how.  Others are very detailed on how, but skip why. North’s plan includes the total package, complete with Scripture, but he simplifies it so that any audience can understand it.  He does this by presenting a series of ten very simple graphics (letters, pictures, or a combination of both).  Each graphic is associated with a short phrase that you as the evangelist can expound upon with Scripture.  For example, the fourth graphic is the word SIN sandwiched between the letter G and a sad face. The phrase is “Sin separates us from God,” and the associated verses are Isaiah 59:2 and Romans 6:23.  

Dr. North shares how to present this information in a one on one study session, but I modified it for my ladies’ class at the prison as well by making a flip book.  The graphic was on one side, and what I would say was on the other. No memorization needed!  He lays out the plan really well in the book, but if you would like to see if for free, he has it available in the form of a correspondence course at his faculty webpage at Each graphic is presented as one printable lesson with a few questions that a seeker can answer.  

That is just one of the resources that Dr. North has in Evangelizing Your Community.  The book is full of ideas on how to make spreading the gospel an intentional activity, as well as extra resources with even more ideas.  If you are a ladies’ class teacher who would like to teach about evangelism or if you want more ideas to make spreading the gospel a purposeful goal in your life, then this book would be an excellent resource. 



  1. These are great ways to get started in sharing Christ with others. I'm with you, it seems so intimidating and awkward to think about walking up to someone that you don't know to share the Gospel. But, really, this type of sharing is best done within the context of building a relationship. When I'm with friends, regardless of their beliefs, I try to always mention Jesus and give credit to Him for everything in my life. This opens the door to questions and sharing without seeming like I'm trying to push something on them. Like you mentioned, these are just casual conversations but still powerful in sharing the love of Christ. Thank you for your words of wisdom!

  2. So comfy I am in my little Christian ghetto of a life. I needed these words, Helene. Thanks.