"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."
"Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus' Great Commission to the church to carry out the work He began is a direct, clear, and major theme of the New Testament. Of all the callings in scripture, it seems that most Christians in our culture would point to this as the greatest weakness in all of their spiritual disciplines. My tendency in evangelism has been to either employ a narrow systematic approach that emphasizes boldness at the expense of discernment or to ignore the call altogether while appeasing my negligence with the doctrine of God's sovereign election. It is common to fall off the horse on both of these sides.
A close study of the New Testament will teach us that, far from a rigid system, evangelism has many forms and expressions. Consider the approaches Jesus modeled in seeking the lost. With the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), He saw the need to break down cultural barriers and build rapport before bringing the Gospel. In reaching Nicodemus (John 3), He discerned the ripeness of his heart and aggressively answered a question that Nicodemus never asked. With the rich young ruler (Matt. 19), Jesus sensed the need to blow up a false system of righteousness before the man could see his need for a savior.
In looking at presentations from other New Testament accounts, consider Peter's sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2), where, when speaking to a group of Jews, he was given the wisdom to use Old Testament prophecy to create credibility and a platform from which to share the gospel that Jesus was the Christ. Full of the Spirit, Stephen (Acts 7), after preaching a sermon that skillfully traced Old Testament history, was led to directly confront the wickedness of the Jewish ruling council who had crucified their Messiah. Philip was sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8), who directed him to preach the Gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch. While in Athens (Acts 17), Paul connected with a group of Gentile philosophers by tying a presentation of the Gospel to a statue in their city that had the inscription “to an unknown god.” While defending himself before Felix and his Jewish wife (Acts 24), Paul inserted a clear presentation of the Gospel in the context of his defense.
Andrew simply brought his brother Peter to Jesus (John 2)—think about Andrew's spiritual family tree!
All of these people were sovereignly brought into the lives of these New Testament believers. Who does the Lord have in your life? Who is on your mind and in your prayers? Are they ripe for a Gospel conversation like Nicodemus was? Do you sense the need to build a better relational platform like Jesus did with the Samaritan woman? Does someone who is blind in his sin need a bold and direct presentation of his need for a savior like Stephen gave? Like with Philip, is the Holy Spirit laying someone on your heart with whom He is calling you to share Christ? Is there the opportunity, like Paul, to insert the Gospel into the context of a speech or event that carries an entirely different purpose? Maybe you are not so confident in articulating your faith—how about bringing people before those that are? Who should you invite to go to church or hear a speaker with you like Andrew did? Are you intentional with the relationships God has brought into your life?
For most of us who do not possess the gift of evangelism, consider that your spiritual gift can be employed in the sharing of your faith. If you have the gift of service, how can you serve the needs of an unbeliever and win the right to be heard? If you have the gift of giving, how can that giving be directed toward a need that might open an opportunity for a Gospel conversation? If it is encouragement, who in your life needs encouragement that does not yet know Christ, and could that encouragement lead to an open door for a spiritual conversation?
Evangelism can be intimidating, but when we consider that Jesus left the bliss and community of heaven to seek and save His lost creation, the charge of Matthew 28 begins to make more sense. With the power of the Holy Spirit promised in Acts 1:8, we are equipped and filled to be His witnesses, to get outside our Christian community to seek and save His lost creation. Who has He sovereignly brought into your life?
Stop. Pray. Listen. Go.