Use Words. They Are Necessary.
by Harry Reeder
I wish I could claim originality for the title of my article, but it was actually given to me by a friend. The quote is designed to affirm the inevitable and beneficial impact of God’s grace displayed through His people and their redemptive relationships with others. But no one becomes a Christian by simply admiring and appreciating the lifestyle of a committed Christian. Our behavior can be an instrument of pre-evangelism and affirm the life-changing power of the gospel to the skeptic, but men and women are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Faith comes not by simply watching gospel deeds but by hearing gospel words: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17).
Since sharing Christ verbally is essential for people to be converted, how can we learn to do it effectively? Let me suggest three avenues every believer can use to engage in personal evangelism.
1. One of the most powerful ways to share the truth is personal testimony. Remember, a personal testimony is not necessarily evangelism, but it can be an instrument of evangelism. How many times in the Gospels do we witness converted people start sharing the gospel immediately after Jesus encounters them and draws them to salvation? From the woman at the well to the leper to the blind man and Zacchaeus at Jericho and others, they all heard the truth, surrendered to Christ, and began sharing their testimony. Additionally, there is the Apostle Paul, who used his testimony on multiple occasions. Sometimes he gives the full version of his testimony and sometimes an edited version. Personally, I have tried to model this by having my “elevator” testimony and my “lunch” testimony. If I have only three floors with someone, I have prepared a version of my testimony to share before the door opens. Sometimes I’ll have the opportunity to give my testimony and confess Christ in a thoughtful, inviting, and conversational manner over lunch. However you think through yours, be ready when the Lord opens up an opportunity.
2. Another way of engaging in personal evangelism is to ask good questions. Most are familiar with Evangelism Explosion, which teaches believers to treat others with dignity by requesting permission to talk with them about the gospel and then asking two questions to further a gospel conversation. I call them the “transitional” question (“If you were to die tonight, do you know where you will spend eternity?”) and the “qualifying” question (“If you were to stand before God and He asked why He should let you into heaven, what would your answer be?”). I know it is fashionable to critique this method, but I can only say that I have found these questions effective for forty years, and I will probably continue to use them because they open up the opportunity for me to share the good news from 1 John 5:13: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” I like the questions because they are comparable to what Jesus did on the road to Caesarea Philippi. He used questions to get to the truth of the gospel by first asking the disciples a transitional question (“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”) and then a qualifying question (“Who do you say that I am?”).
Also, I enjoy asking people, “Do you think there is a heaven?” Nearly everyone answers yes—even some who profess to be atheists. I believe they all answer the same because of what Scripture says in Ecclesiastes 3:11: “He has put eternity into man’s heart.”
3. I love to use Romans 6:23 in evangelism. I simply ask, “Do you realize that the thrust of God’s message in the Bible can be found in one verse?” It is not exhaustive of everything in the Bible, but it does bring the message of the gospel into sharp focus. It is one verse with the one word that is my favorite word in the Bible: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (emphasis mine). We earn death (spiritual, physical, and eternal death), but the sentence continues and next comes that wonderful word but. God has purchased us with a costly gift that He freely gives to those who surrender and trust Christ as Lord and Savior.
So preach the gospel, and as my friend said, “Use words. They are necessary.” Treat people with dignity through conversations that convey respect, and ask pointed questions, remembering that evangelism is not an event but a process. Sometimes you sow, water, and cultivate, but other times you get the privilege of reaping the fruit Christ has secured in the harvest.