FIRST-PERSON: Evangelism as a discipline
ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)--It doesn't take a new Christian long to figure out this new life in Christ is a challenging experience. It is easy to look at others and diagnose their problems. However, the real difficulty is in addressing our own problems. Discipline becomes a vital component of the Christian life.
For a believer, self-discipline is submission to the Holy Spirit as He resides in and directs the life of a follower of Jesus. Paul said, "I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9:27).
One of the hardest areas of self-discipline comes in evangelism. Evangelism is much applauded and little practiced. Prayer, worship, service and even stewardship are easier topics to broach.
Don't get me wrong. It seems most believers understand the need for evangelism. Most will even lend support for the work of evangelism. But, too few want to be engaged personally in the practice.
Why is evangelism so difficult? One answer is the spiritual attack against us. If you agree with the Bible, we are not wrestling against flesh and blood but against the powers of the demonic. Satan does not want believers to share their faith because there is nothing more compelling and powerful than the story of someone's salvation. Satan does not want God's work to be glorified.
Another answer to the difficulty of evangelism is fear. Certainly, we agree that a person needs to learn Bible verses and be equipped in evangelism. However, a person shouldn't have to be trained to share the most amazing, life-changing story that has happened to them.
A friend of mine in high school was saved and the next Sunday he had several of his friends with him at church. Why did these guys come to church when it wasn't their normal practice? It was because my friend compelled them to come. He found something exciting in Jesus and couldn't wait for his friends to hear also.
Fear of failure is another factor Christians face in evangelism. The fear of failure often leads to a failure to share. The root of this problem is a lack of understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit in evangelism. A great presentation cannot be perceived to be the key to evangelism. Instead, a witness must understand the Holy Spirit will use what you do know and share to convict someone of his or her need for Christ.
Donald Whitney, the author of "Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, wrote, "Only the sheer rapture of being lost in the worship of God is as exhilarating and intoxicating as telling someone about Jesus Christ."
The key to getting started in the exhilarating art of evangelism is to have a plan. That plan must contain a way to turn a conversation from non-spiritual to spiritual. Questions like, "Where do you go to church?" or "Do you ever think about life after death?" are two good ways to turn a conversation into a spiritual one. Other questions like, "If you were to die today, do you know for certain you would have eternal life?" are more direct. One of my favorites is, "What do you think God requires for a person to go to heaven?"
To be perfectly honest, it is rare for me to have a bad experience when engaging someone in a conversation about the claims of Christ if I'm willing to listen to their beliefs. However, I do know I must initiate the conversation. If I waited until someone asked me about Jesus, I would seldom share my faith.
A quote by Bobby Welch, Southern Baptist strategist for Global Evangelical Relations, sums up this discipline. He said, "Stay on the offensive, stay out front for Jesus, and be proactive for the Kingdom of God in the name of Christ."
Keith Manuel is an evangelism associate on the Louisiana Baptist Convention's evangelism & church growth team.