Take on the Opportunity!
Opportunities abound for sharing our faith. Things are happening all around us that cause people to ask religious questions.
Religion becomes news because of religious wars in the Middle East, a political leader makes a statement about their faith, or a sports personality makes it known that they are a thoughtful follower of Jesus. It happens every day in myriad situations. But often, followers of Jesus are silent.
But I want to encourage you: don’t duck out of evangelistic opportunities—take them on.
A Verse for Regular People
Recently I was in London teaching on evangelism at an Anglican church. During a time of Q&A the question came to me, “What do you think about passing out tracts on the street corner?”
Now, frankly, I didn’t think Anglicans even knew about tracts, much less about passing them out on British street corners. Another hand went up: “And what about talking to people about Jesus on the tube?” Apparently an evangelist had come to their church and taught them these evangelistic techniques.
“Well,” I said, wanting to be diplomatic, “I suppose gifted evangelists can actually strike up conversations with people as they ride to work on the tube.” (Though our British friends are notoriously silent while riding trains.)
“And others are good at passing out tracts,” I continued, “and I’m certainly not opposed to either; my wife even came to faith though a tract.” I didn’t mention that I had never heard of anyone who had come to faith while hearing the gospel on the tube. “But I think we need to make a distinction between what gifted evangelists do and what regular people do when they try to be faithful with the gospel.” Then I said, “After all most people don’t have the gift of evangelism; for regular folk evangelism is always pushing the ball uphill.”
Lots of nodding heads and many relieved looks from people who were guilty of not talking about Jesus on the tube.
Then I said, “I have a verse for more regular people.” Peter says in his first book, “Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15).
This is a wonderful verse. I quote it regularly when teaching or preaching, and to myself when I need to preach to myself about evangelism. This verse informs my definition of evangelism, which is: teaching the gospel message with the aim to persuade. I believe that all Christians are called to teach the gospel with the aim to persuade.
[1 Pet. 3:15] informs my definition of evangelism, which is: teaching the gospel message with the aim to persuade.
5 Elements of Evangelistic Instruction
Look at the practical and good instruction Peter gives us toward this end: He tells us to be prepared. That means to have both mind and heart ready to share.
This is more than just thinking though the gospel message so that we can say it in our own words—which all Christians should be able to do; it means that when you see that evangelistic opportunity coming your way, you don’t duck out. Your heart is ready.
Here’s ducking: “So,” someone at the water cooler asks, “what did you do yesterday?” You answer, “Oh, nothing much, just a regular Sunday; watched some football.”
Here’s not ducking: “Well, I heard this amazing sermon at my church about something I had never thought about before and I’ve been thinking about it all day.”
Not only does Peter tell us to be prepared, he notes that our message is for anyone: we remember the gospel is a universal message for all time in all places to all people. And it’s a message that we must be ready to defend; we are right to sweep away arguments that attempt tear down the truth of Jesus. Our faith in Jesus is a reasonable faith, Peter is saying. We don’t kiss our brains goodbye when we follow Christ.
But we don’t stop there. We have what the world needs. We have hope! Gospel hope is good news! In fact, if we don’t tell people about the hope we have then we aren’t sharing the gospel—we may be doing other things that are very, very good but we’re not evangelizing unless we tell people about the hope within.
And then Peter tells us the framework of our evangelistic attitude concerning our approach to people. We share with gentleness and respect—we have this aim in evangelism to persuade, not beat down; we understand that harsh answers and demeaning victories is no victory for the gospel. As Paul says, we want to persuade (2 Cor. 5:11).
And finally, we remember boldness. Notice the context for Peter’s command to evangelism: 1 Peter 3:15 is a bracketed between instructions about suffering for our faith when we share the gospel. This text is really a call to evangelistic boldness in the face of opposition, even hostile opposition.
So, be ready for the opportunities that are bound to come your way. Make a defense for our hope, the hope of the gospel, with the aim to persuade.
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