The Word Among Us

January 2011 Issue

You Want Me to Evangelize?

Four Practical Steps to Sharing the Good News

You Want Me to Evangelize?: Four Practical Steps to Sharing the Good News

The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

It’s not always easy to evangelize. For most of us, it’s all we can do just to put in a full day at work and take care of our families. We seem to have no time or energy left to do much else, let alone look for opportunities to share the gospel. But if we put ourselves in God’s place, we can see why he still calls us to evangelize: He longs to draw every person to himself, and he knows that we are an essential part of his plan to do so. Just as he told his disciples, he tells us: “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.” And so he asks us to rethink our priorities and develop a plan that will make us into “laborers for his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38).

The Call of Moses. This call to go above and beyond is not new. It’s the same call that God gave to Moses three thousand years ago. When God first appeared to Moses in the burning bush, Moses was already married and had at least one child. He was living in Midian and working as a shepherd for his father-in-law, Jethro. Still, God appeared to Moses and said that he wanted Moses to be his messenger to Pharaoh. He told him to give Pharaoh the message: “Let my people go” (Exodus 5:1). But Moses courteously declined God’s invitation. What’s more, he declined not just once but five times.

First, Moses protested that he was unworthy of such a high calling: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). Then he painted himself as too ignorant for the job: “When I go to the Israelites . . . what am I to tell them?” Neither of these strategies worked, however. God reassured Moses, saying: “I will be with you” (3:12-13). So Moses decided to try a different approach: “Suppose they will not believe me, nor listen to my plea” (4:1). So God empowered Moses to perform some astonishing miracles—works of wonder that would surely convince Pharaoh. He also promised that more miracles would come if needed.

Struggling to find a way out, Moses then suggested that he wasn’t a good communicator: “I have never been eloquent . . . but I am slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10). But God would hear none of it. Finally, Moses dropped all his excuses and made a simple, honest request: “If you please, Lord, send someone else!” (4:13). Still, God persisted and eventually convinced Moses to gather his family and begin what would be one of the most famous missions in history.

Answer the Call. This story of Moses and God was remade about twelve hundred years after the original one played out. This time, instead of Moses, the main character was Jesus. The mission was a bit different, too. But the challenge at the heart of the story was the same. Instead of a deliverance from Egyptian slavery, this remake had to do with a deliverance from slavery to sin.

Though these stories had different characters and different settings, they both ended the same way: Through the obedience of a chosen servant (Moses and Jesus), God set his people free from slavery. What would have happened if Moses had rejected? God’s call? What would have happened if Jesus had rejected the call? Things would be very different today. It’s a good thing that Moses finally agreed to God’s plan for him. And it’s an even better thing that Jesus never wavered from his call, even though it meant a cruel death on the cross!

As inspiring as these two stories are, however, there is a note of sadness. Despite all that God has done in this world, a great many people are still in slavery. They don’t know about the freedom that Jesus won for them on the cross. They don’t know the joy of repentance. And most important, they don’t know how deeply God loves them. That’s why God is calling us to spread the good news. He is calling us, just as he called Moses and Jesus. He may have to ask us five times or even ten times before we accept the call. But one thing is certain—God longs for us to become his witnesses.

Pray, Pray, Pray. Preaching the gospel is not just a matter of our mustering up the courage to talk about Jesus. It is also a matter of God’s grace working in the people we are evangelizing. That’s why the first thing we should do, before we even try to share the gospel, is to pray—and to be specific and focused in our prayer.

One way you can be specific and focused is to develop a list of the five people that you most want to evangelize. This list may include your spouse, your children, your friends, people you work with, even neighbors whom you don’t know so well.

Once you have decided on these people, write their names in your prayer journal. Keep this “evangelization list” with you every time you pray, and make sure that you are spending at least five minutes praying for these people each day. Ask God to pour his grace on them. Ask him to give you opportunities to share your faith with them. Be diligent. Don’t miss a day. Remember that Jesus longs to fill these people with his living water and that he is calling you to be a vessel of that living water.

Jesus once said: “I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours” (Mark 11:24). Clearly, faith is critical to evangelization. Have faith in God’s desire to touch the people on your list. Believe that these people can be brought back to the Lord—there is hope for everyone! Evangelization calls for steadfast faith and persistent prayer. Remember that you are praying for people to be freed from the grips of unbelief, from the power of Satan and the world, from past hurts, and from every other force that has kept them away from the Lord and his church.

Listen, Encourage, Evaluate. Psychologists and pastors alike agree that one of the most effective ways to bring healing—and, by extension, evangelization—is simply to listen. Everyone appreciates it when someone takes an interest in them—in their needs, their challenges, their hopes, and their dreams. We all want someone we can talk to, and those who are distant from the Lord can often feel even more isolated. How encouraging and uplifting it can be to discover that there is someone—you—who cares about them and takes their situation to heart!

Coupled with the ministry of listening is the call to encouragement. Just as listening can heal, words of support and affirmation can build up the people we are praying for. They can also help create opportunities to share about our own lives and our experiences of the Lord. Of course, our words of encouragement should not be idle flattery. Neither should they be a constant stream of advice. They should be reminders about the goodness of the Lord. They should be words that encourage someone not to give up or invitations to look at a challenging situation from a more positive vantage point.

Sometimes all that is needed is a word of affirmation that reminds the other person of his or her dignity, or of the way you value him or her. Statements like these, if they come from the heart, can be very powerful in helping that person experience a touch of God’s own love and compassion.

Another key element to evangelization is evaluation. In the business world, sales associates are constantly evaluating their prospects. They assess and analyze the market, and they explore every possible strategy that will help them close a deal. Similarly, we should be constantly assessing and reassessing our work in sharing the gospel. We should ask ourselves questions like: “Which approaches have been effective, and which have been ineffective? How can I listen better? Am I being faithful to prayer? Am I speaking words of encouragement and hope?” And coupled with all these questions is the most important one: “Lord, what should my next step be?”

It’s Not Impossible! Developing a list and praying every day for the people on that list is not demanding. It requires just a little bit of our time. Talking with, and more importantly listening to, the people on our list is not hard to do. It is not too daunting to try to encourage these people and reach out to them in kindness and love. It shouldn’t feel overwhelming to spend some time each week assessing our efforts and evaluating how we are doing in helping bring the gospel to the people on our list.

God wants us all to evangelize. Just as he called Moses and empowered him, he is calling us—and he is empowering us to fulfill the call. So go ahead and put your prayer list together. Pray for these people, and build your relationship with them with the goal of leading them to Jesus. Just these few steps are all you need to begin. Then watch as God opens more doors for you and begins to make great things happen!