None of us possesses the power to convert another; yet we are called by God to share the Gospel. He is pleased to use us to bring others to faith. But what does that mean? What is true biblical evangelism?
The book of John places strong emphasis on the theme of Gospel witness, including several instances of evangelism by Jesus Himself. In Jesus the Evangelist, Rev. Richard D. Phillips, senior minister of Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, S.C., explains biblical principles for evangelism, the theology of the Gospel, and shows us Jesus' own practice of evangelism.
How does Jesus' personal evangelism differ from typical modern efforts at evangelism?
Sadly, we're living in an age when much that passes for evangelism does not conform to the biblical standard. The church has lost much of its zeal for personal evangelism. We identify ourselves as an evangelistic people, but for the most part, we rely upon dynamic personalities to lead people to Christ.
It's very striking to see Jesus relating to people. He has good news to share and is going to proclaim it to people. Likewise, we are to be people with a message that we can clearly and boldly proclaim.
When it comes to Jesus' manner of evangelism, Jesus connected with people on a personal basis. He was loving, caring, and treated people with dignity. He built strong relationships with people, yet, He boldly spoke truth.
What are some crucial elements of Jesus' outreach that we must emulate?
John's gospel brilliantly highlights four things out of Jesus' evangelistic encounter with the woman by the well. First, Jesus was passionate; He cared for the lost. He was weary so He sat down by the well. He wearied Himself in bringing the Gospel to people. He was going to die on the cross to bring salvation so He didn't really have to go and meet the woman by the well. But He did because He cared for her.
Second, Jesus crossed the boundaries of social taboo, false religious restrictions, and gender divides. He was willing to take the Gospel to people who were not going to enter into the religious world that produced Him.
Third, Jesus connected on a personal basis. The woman by the well is a messed up woman. But Jesus asks her to do something for Him. He sees that she has something to offer. He enters into a real relationship.
He then clearly, plainly, and boldly communicates His good news: "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is offering it to you, then you would ask." That's what we need to tell people. The one, true God has the gift of eternal life for them. They need to know Jesus Christ.
If God is sovereign, why must Christians engage in evangelism?
Many people are hung up on this issue. We think if God is sovereign anyway and He determines who is going to heaven and who is not, then why do I need to inconvenience myself, take risks, and share the Gospel? The answer is that God has commanded it. He not only ordains the ends; He ordains the means. I know that I don't have regenerating power. But God, who saves by sovereign grace, is pleased to use my witness and your witness to give the eternal gift of saving life in Christ.
I always assume that if God has placed me in a certain relationship, in a certain work place, and a certain neighborhood, He must sovereignly have chosen for them to hear the Gospel.
Why did you write Jesus the Evangelist?
I wanted readers to walk alongside Jesus as He evangelized. To give encouragement and biblical counsel on what evangelism is and what it is not. Evangelism is our great calling -- to proclaim and minister and live out this Gospel for the salvation of others. It has been said before, rightly, that previous generations of evangelicalism were great because average Christians willingly crossed the ocean to take the Gospel to distant peoples. Now when those distant peoples have come to us, we won't even cross the street to enter into a relationship and take an interest in their souls and proclaim the Gospel. I pray that every Christian learns that he is called to be an evangelist alongside Jesus the evangelist.