What Does the Bible Say about Evangelism?

This article is part of the What Does the Bible Say? series.

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Definitions and Summary

**In a Nutshell — ** Evangelism is teaching or preaching the gospel with the aim to persuade. That’s it. I’m lifting that definition from 2 Corinthians 5:11 where Paul describes what we do as ambassadors for Christ.

**Summary — ** Evangelism is commanded for believers, but for many it’s a frightening thing to do. Evangelism, though, is not to be feared but is a privilege to embrace. Again, evangelism is simply teaching or preaching the gospel with the aim to persuade. So when you sit down with a friend over coffee and the topic of religion comes up, you explain what you believe about Jesus with the aim that they might come to faith. That is evangelism.

Unfortunately, there are so many bad understandings of evangelism out there that it’s easy to be confused. Evangelism is not apologetics—that is, it’s not defending the Christian faith, as great as that is to do. It’s not sharing how you came to faith (unless the gospel is front and center). It’s not a program with a great speaker who explains the gospel—again, not that that is a bad thing to do. I speak at events like that myself and I think it’s great, but in that situation the only person who is actually doing evangelism is the speaker. Remember, evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade, not sitting with a friend at an evangelistic event. But if you take the opportunity after the event and begin a discussion about the gospel, you are evangelizing.

When I say that evangelism is something to be embraced, what I mean is that we are privileged to take part in God’s plan for the world. If God wanted, he could send angels to share the gospel. They would do a better job than us and without fear. But for some reason God has chosen us to do it. Even when he sends angels to kick start evangelism, it is still up to us to do it. Think of when angels coordinated the meeting between Cornelius and Peter in the book of Acts so that Peter could deliver the message.

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Why Evangelism Matters for Everyday Life

Evangelism matters for numerous reasons.

First, it invigorates our faith. Even when people don’t come to faith—as sad as that is—in sharing the gospel we are reminded of our own conversion. We’re reminded of the gospel: the holiness and love of God, the ways we’ve been loved by Jesus by taking on our sin on the cross, the joy of the resurrection, and the fact that for some reason we’ve been invited to the feast of God (as Isaac Watts penned) when so many chose to starve.

Secondly, I’ve noticed in life that when I don’t share the gospel, I get rusty with the gospel. It’s really a spiritual truism that if you don’t use it, you lose it. Jesus said it better than that: “For the one who has, more will be given and from the one who has not even what they have will be taken away.” (Matthew 4:25)

Thirdly, it is powerful for the life of the church. In our church we have an active outreach to a large campus, and almost weekly there are baptisms. Students who have come to faith, often from non-Christian backgrounds, stand before the congregation and explain how they came to faith. Though they were caught in spiraling darkness and evil and heading toward despair and death, they heard the gospel from a campus minister or fellow student and came to faith. They have become new creations, as Paul says. And it’s hard to describe the joy and vibrancy these new believers bring to the church.

Lastly and best of all, when we are faithful, over time we will see people come to Jesus. Ninety-nine percent of my evangelistic efforts are flat out falling-on-my-face, going-nowhere fails. At times I’m tempted to be discouraged, but then there’s that one out of a hundred that comes to faith—that lost lamb that is found and is saved. What a joy to see those who have been in the darkness come to the light.

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J. Mack Stiles

Warning against the temptation to uncritically embrace the latest evangelistic fad, this book will help churches cultivate a culture of evangelism within the context of community.

Key Passages about Evangelism

Here are some key passages with comments that you might find helpful:

  • 1 Peter 3:15: “. . . always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you,”

We must know the gospel backwards and forwards. Don’t just memorize a gospel outline—God, Man, Christ, Response (which is critical)—but know what the gospel is not. Be able to distinguish between the gospel and the fruit of the gospel.

  • 1 Cor 5:11: “. . . since we know the fear of the Lord we persuade men.”

Speak the gospel. It’s a message, and therefore it must be communicated with words, not just your life.

  • Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,”

Have confidence in the gospel. Don’t trust in cultural relevance, don’t trust in your skills and savvy, in how you communicate. Don’t think it’s a great book written by smart people. Share the gospel yourself. It’s powerful regardless of method or presentation. Don’t put obstacles in the way of the gospel if you can help it, but remember awkward is better than silence.

  • Ephesians 6:19: “pray . . . also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,”

Be bold and clear with the gospel. Take risks in sharing the gospel. It will honor Jesus.

  • Romans 10:1: “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.”

Pray for those you know who don’t know Jesus.

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FAQ About Evangelism

​​Q: Should I share the gospel even if I don’t have the gift of evangelism?

A: There is a gift of evangelism, and we should be grateful for those to have it, but all believers are called to be faithful in sharing their faith.

Q: How can I evangelize if I don't know enough about the Bible or the Christian faith?

A: Actually, the best evangelists I know are new believers. They don’t know much about theology, but they know the gospel and that’s what you need to know. They are so in love with Jesus and what he has done for them that the gospel just comes out.

Q: I'm afraid I’ll say the wrong things. What if I do?

A: Well, you might, but remember, God hits straight with a crooked stick. That are many who say dumb things about Christian faith, but God is the one that speaks to people’s hearts. I’m not giving a pass on heresy here; I’m just saying that we’re not going to get everything right at all times. What you need to know about evangelism is something you can say in a minute—that is the gospel.

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For Personal Reflection

  1. Have I made a commitment to share my faith? Why or why not?
  2. What areas of the gospel do I need to study more?
  3. How can I find a person to hold me accountable to share the gospel?
  4. Has God brought someone my way that I could talk to about Jesus?
  5. Paul says in Act 20 that he did not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God. In what ways, or what settings, are you tempted to shrink back from evangelism?
  6. Who is someone I can be praying for to come to faith?

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J. Mack Stiles is the author of Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus.

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