Edited by David MacLeod
Editor’s Note: This article is an edited transcription of a message delivered by Alex Strauch at the 2004 “Iron Sharpens Iron” Conference held on the campus of Emmaus Bible College.
Too many people think that the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19–20) is just for evangelists, elders or missionaries. In Colossians 4:2–6 the great Apostle clearly demonstrates that everyone is to be proactive in evangelism.
“Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”
In this text the Apostle addressed the entire congregation, not just a select group. He charged them to devote themselves to prayer. Prayer is to be a priority among the people of God. A new freedom of access was opened to God through the Cross of Jesus Christ. Believers may come into God’s presence anytime day or night with great confidence through the blood of Christ and in the name of Christ (Heb. 10:19–22; John 14:13–14).
Paul was a practitioner of his own words, so he immediately made two requests. First, he asked the Colossians to pray that God would open a door for him to preach the gospel (v. 3). It is a scriptural prayer to ask the Lord on behalf of any missionary or person in the Lord’s work that they would have opportunities for evangelism. Paul’s second request is that they would pray “that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak” (v. 4). Remarkably, this veteran missionary and preacher of the gospel asked for prayer for clarity in preaching the gospel.
Do you think it was easy for the apostle Paul in a Roman prison with polytheistic, pagan Roman guards to make the gospel clear? The gospel was almost unintelligible to these heathen Romans. The Christian message that a Jew had died on the cross as the Savior of the world and that one’s sins would be forgiven as a result of his substitutionary death on the cross would be meaningless to them. It was not easy for Paul, and it is not easy for us today to explain the gospel to post-modern people. People today just don’t comprehend the “one way only” gospel through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. So Paul asked the Colossians to pray that he will be clear in presenting the gospel to the Romans.
Paul’s two prayer requests are followed by two charges to the Christians in Colossae. Each of the two charges parallels one of the prayer requests. The first charge or exhortation is, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity” (v. 5). This parallels the first prayer request. They are to pray for open doors for Paul, and they themselves are to seize opportunities to communicate the gospel to outsiders, that is, unbelievers.
The second charge or exhortation is, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (v. 6). This parallels the second prayer request. They are to pray that Paul will have clarity in presenting the gospel, and they themselves are to speak graciously and clearly to unbelievers in order to win them.
The question often arises—we may express it verbally, or we may only think it in our minds—“Am I to evangelize? After all, I don’t have the gift of evangelism. I’m sort of timid. I don’t have that kind of personality.” Our text gives a very clear answer to the question. Every single Christian is to devote himself to prayer, to walk in wisdom before the outsider, and to seize opportunities to share the gospel, that is, to evangelize with grace and clarity. That doesn’t mean that every Christian has the gift of evangelism. It does mean that we all have a responsibility to our unbelieving neighbors, relatives, and fellow workers.
The Apostle wrote, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders [that is, unbelievers]” (v. 5). We are to think of our unbelieving contacts with wisdom. We are “to make the most” of our opportunities. We are to use our intelligence, or God-given wisdom, to keep us alert to evangelistic opportunities. The word “opportunity” has the idea of buying something up—jumping on a sale.
For example, if you were a car salesman man and someone walked on the lot, you would know exactly what this word means. You would think, “Here’s an opportunity to sell a car, and I need to make money to support my family.” You would seize that opportunity. If someone walked on the lot, and you said, “Oh my, there’s a good baseball game on now,” and you left the lot to watch it, you would have lost an opportunity. If you thought, “I just don’t feel like talking about cars today. I’m awfully tired, and I talk about cars all the time. This customer can figure it out. If he wants to buy a car, he can come find me. I’m going to go lie down in my office in the showroom.” No, you would never do that or you’d starve. Instead, you would seize the opportunity. You’d buy it up. You’d jump on it. That’s what he’s saying here. When an opportunity to share the gospel with an unbeliever arises, we are to seize it.
Campus Crusade for Christ tells us that every single person has as a minimum 75 people that he or she is in regular contact with. Some of us, because of our church contacts, may have hundreds of people that we are in contact with on a weekly basis. We all have contact with people at church, people at business, people in the neighborhood, people that serve you in different ways at the grocery store, the UPS man, the mailman, the gas station attendant, the doctor, etc. Most of us have at least 75 people in our little networks. Some of us have hundreds. In other words, my dear friends, you and I have opportunities! They’re all around us. Sometimes we are tripping over them, but we’re not looking; we are not being alert.
My younger brother was a sleepwalker when we were in our teens. On a number of occasions, when my dad and I were in the living room talking, my brother would walk through, and he was sound asleep. We would talk to him, but he would not respond—he was sleepwalking. The amazing thing is that he did not walk into one piece of furniture. Many of us are sleepwalkers. We walk right past people and we don’t even see them. They even come to our church meetings, sit next to us, say “Hello,” and tell us their names. We may mumble a response, but we actually ignore them. We are sleepwalking. We are not awake or alert, and the opportunities go right past us.
Every time we go into a restaurant, someone is being paid money to be nice to us—I cannot get over that! That’s an opportunity. All I have to do is be nice to them—be a little friendly and smile. It takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown. Just open a conversation. Give them your name and get their name. Joke with them a bit. It’s an opportunity. Over the past few years my wife Marilyn has spoken in a friendly, courteous way to the trash man who stops in front of our house every week. In the summer she would often bring a Coke out to him. As they spoke he confided that he had marital problems, and she got him into contact with one of our elders. Last year he was saved. Marilyn seized an opportunity. We walk right by such people. We don’t see them. We are sleepwalking spiritually. Paul says, when you’re with outsiders (unbelievers) open your eyes. Be wise toward them. Be intelligent towards them. They are people without the message of life.
Opportunities arise in our neighborhoods, and we don’t seize them. For example, every time we have a snowstorm, it’s an opportunity. Normally we see our neighbors briefly as they enter or leave their houses. But when it snows everyone comes out and spends time shoveling snow. We can shovel snow with them, or use our snow blowers to clear their walks. The Bible commands us to seize opportunities, and we either obey or disobey the command.
There are specific ways that you as a local congregation can seize opportunities. Nothing has helped my home assembly more in the past few years than forming an evangelistic committee. This committee meets at lunchtime once every six weeks, and its purpose is to think of creative ways to evangelize, inform the assembly about them, and to plan for them. The committee’s goals are to spread an atmosphere of evangelism in the church, identify all evangelistic efforts going on in the assembly, and identify people in the church who are interested in evangelism. The committee functions as a hub, center, or clearinghouse for everything evangelistic in the assembly—whether it be Sunday School classes, Vacation Bible School, Bible camp programs, etc. Let me encourage you, even if your initial efforts are small, to form such a committee. Without such a committee your efforts will be inconsistent and hit-or-miss.
If the leaders in the church have no passion for evangelism, very little will happen. By “leaders” I, of course, mean the elders. But I also mean leaders on every level in the assembly—Sunday School leaders, small group leaders, youth ministry leaders, high school and college age leaders, etc. All the leaders must wake up to this subject and ask, “How does our particular ministry fit into the over-all evangelistic thrust of this church? Which of our activities, with just a little adjusting, could be evangelistic opportunities?” Since most of us do not ask this question, we let opportunities go by. So leaders have to become a part of this. In our assembly we have several elders on the evangelistic committee. We’re not on this committee to add any more work to our busy schedules, but to show the church that this is important. You can’t tell the church it’s important and then have no part in it. Key Sunday school leaders and our youth leader are also on that committee. As a result concern for evangelism is being spread by leaders throughout the church.
Years ago we saw that leaders need to have time to communicate to the church. It’s so easy for the elders to be very busy eldering and yet not be communicating anything to the assembly. People start viewing the elders as “that back-room group” that opens the doors every week, prepares the elements for the Lord’s Supper, and picks the Sunday preachers. Some in the congregation think that this is all that elders do.
At Littleton Bible Chapel we determined to regularly communicate to the congregation as a body of elders. Every week after the Lord’s Supper we have our little time with the congregation. At that time the people hear from the elders, and the elders share their heartbeat and set before them their vision for the future. Some weeks we give a report; other weeks we have a time of prayer or interview a visiting missionary. It is our time to communicate. Another large elder-run church I know puts a report of the weekly elder meeting in the church bulletin. They tell the people what was discussed, and they include prayer requests for the elders. However it’s done, the elders must do a good job of communicating with the congregation. And if evangelism is something you’ve been neglecting, you’ve got to verbally communicate that to them.
So think of a time when your elders can communicate something of their work, as well as their direction, values, vision, and guidance for the assembly. As elders, do not think you’re communicating with the people because you’re talking among yourselves. The elders can be speaking to themselves and the people in the congregation really don’t have a clue what’s on their minds. In some churches they might not even know who the elders are. So communication is extremely important—the elders have to be verbalizing.
“Fishponds” is an expression that some have used for evangelistic opportunities. It is an important concept and one that has helped our assembly. A fisherman knows that he has to go where the fish are. He has to go to a fishpond if he wants the possibility of catching fish. There are no fish in his bathtub, so he doesn’t fish there. There are evangelistic “fishponds”—opportunities to win people to Christ that are right in front of us, but that we are not seizing.
Let me give some examples of “fishponds.” Easter is the biggest fishpond of the Christian calendar. People who have no thought of Christian things will come to church on Easter—it is the most highly attended Sunday of the year. This past year many were open to religious things because of the film, The Passion of the Christ. In any case, Easter is a fishpond, a wonderful opportunity to evangelize. Your church can either seize the opportunity or sleepwalk right by it. Sadly there are churches that use Easter morning for a service totally unrelated to the Cross and the resurrection.
To make the most of this opportunity you must not wait until the week before Easter. You must start planning for it right after Christmas and the New Year. Twenty years ago our assembly started an annual Easter breakfast to which the congregation was encouraged to invite guests. We have sought to make this a beautiful, positive event with a full breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, and pancakes). Our people have grown to love this event, and they bring friends, relatives, and neighbors. We speak to the congregation about how to reach out to new people. This year we prepared invitations for the Christians to give to friends they felt would come. The whole church gets mobilized for this event, and weeks ahead of time prayer groups are organized to pray about the Easter morning service. Every year we have many visitors. They have decided to go to church on Sunday, and they then decided to go where they would get a meal as well as a service. At such a service you will want to use you most gifted preacher to give an Easter message that is specially designed to communicate to unsaved people. You will also want to give special attention to your music program for this important day. Easter morning is our biggest annual evangelistic outreach as far as a church service is concerned. And the people want to be involved with something they can put their hand to—setting up, cooking, cleaning, greeting, etc.
A second “fishpond” is Christmas, another time of the year when people think about Christian things. All kinds of Christian music is being played on the radio. All of the groups in the assembly need to be alerted to make good use of Christmas. We all have a little niche in the church (a ladies group, a high school or college group, a small group fellowship). We need to ask, “How can we use Christmas to evangelize?”
Perhaps you could have a special party. As a family we’ve held neighborhood Christmas parties. Over the years every single one of our neighbors has attended, and they love it. We tell them ahead of time when the party is to be over, but many of them stay around and talk to one another. Most of these people are so busy that they never talk to one another during the year. At the Christmas party they can meet with their neighbors in a home. We have literature on one of the tables, and we invite them to our Christmas service.
Many people think it is nice to attend a religious service on Christmas Eve. Seize the opportunity with such people. Some time ago we rented a barn and had “Christmas Eve on the Farm.” We provided lots of food and brought in a special speaker to give an evangelistic Christmas message. People were all dressed in heavy coats and draped in blankets. Large bonfires were burning outside, and it was a wonderful “Christmas” atmosphere. This is only one of many things that can be done when people think creatively about “fishponds.” It doesn’t have to be a big thing—perhaps just a rented room in a restaurant with a guest speaker.
A month or more before Christmas we make Christmas tracts, Christmas cards, and Christmas books available to the congregation. We encourage them to send them to their friends and relatives. They’ve got to be in the mail a good month in advance, so in early November we begin telling people to send tracts and books to their relatives. Most people send some kind of Christmas cards. It’s a time of year to connect with your unsaved relatives or people you’ve known from the past. The church should be prepared, all geared up, by the end of November for these things.
Thanksgiving has proven to be a big “fishpond.” We have usually just some small refreshment and an evening of music. Earlier in the month we remind the congregation it is the start of the holiday season, and it’s a nice time to invite people to a Thanksgiving evening. I would suggest that you make such an event an evening of testimony. But if you don’t plan ahead, nothing is going to happen. You’re going to have holiday after holiday pass you right by and you’ll say, “Oh, we’ve missed another opportunity.” Well, the Bible says walk with wisdom. Seize opportunities.
The Fourth of July can be a “fishpond.” Our chapel has sponsored 4th of July parties and picnics with all kinds of food and activities for the kids. Valentines Day can be a “fishpond”—invite friends and neighbors to a dinner with a special speaker who will speak on romance and recharging your marriage. There are many such fishponds that you can use to connect with the community. They’re opportunities looking you right in the face.
The key to this is planning ahead. It’s too late to be planning for the 4th of July on July 1, but you can start planning on July 1 for some things coming up in the fall. Talk to each group at the church. Ask them, “How are you going to use your group for some evangelistic opportunity this fall—at Thanksgiving or Christmas?” Every single group in the assembly should be seizing these opportunities. But if you’re not preparing people early enough, they won’t get anything done. That’s why you need some kind of committee that has a calendar and that will start warning people that the next big fishpond is coming.
The Apostle writes, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt” (v. 6). He is speaking of our conversation with “outsiders,” that is, unbelievers. We are to seize opportunities, but once we have seized them, we must speak with clarity and we must season what we say. The ancient world didn’t have the delicious, tender meats that we have today—that we can preserve with tenderizers and refrigeration. The ancients would take meat and beat it to tenderize it, and they would salt it to preserve and flavor it. Paul is saying that our conversation with unbelievers is to be salted, that is, it is to be attractively packaged.
Paul tells his readers that they need to know how to respond to each individual unbeliever the way the Lord Jesus responded. Elsewhere Peter wrote, “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet. 3:15). We are always to be ready to evangelize!
One message on evangelism every three or four years will not do the job. We need to be constantly and consistently training and helping people to seize opportunities and to be comfortable with opportunities. This means that as an assembly you must have sermons on evangelism. But more than that is needed. You will need to have classes on evangelism. Even if only one or two people show up for the class, you need to have it. You need to get started at some place.
At our assembly we’ve done a number of things. A couple of times a year we have classes on personal evangelism during the 11 o’clock Sunday service. We take some people out of the preaching service for a two-week course. One of the elders will give them training on the content and methods of evangelism. If one of our missionaries is home and is an excellent evangelist, we will ask him to run a Sunday evening class on evangelism. These classes, incidentally, are not long prolonged courses—people today will not commit to that. Rather, they are short courses instructing Christians in the many methods and approaches to evangelism. We want to help people evangelize.
One of the most important things in training people is to help them to learn to be simple. I think many of our messages and presentations are far too complex. We have to remember to whom we’re speaking today. Modern people do not know anything about the Bible. Whenever I go to a restaurant and I meet a waitress or waiter who has a Bible name, I have an automatic opening to start talking to them. For example, the name Sarah is very popular today, and about once a month we’re waited on by a Sarah in a restaurant. Just this week we were waited on by a Sarah, and I said, “Sarah we want to have fun this evening at this restaurant. Are we going to have some fun?” She said, “Yes, you’re going to have fun.” I then said, “Do you know your name is in the Bible?” She said, “Yeah, I know that.” I then asked her, “What was the name of Sarah’s husband in the Bible?” As in ninety-nine percent of the cases, Sarah didn’t have a clue. However, she really took the question as a challenge. “It’s on the tip of my tongue,” she said. “Ichabod?” “Ichabod,” I said, “where did you ever get that?” She said, “Am I right?” I said, “No, his name was Abraham.” Then I asked her, “What was the name of Abraham and Sarah’s son?”
I told Sarah that she could ask for help from friends back in the kitchen. “Tell them I am giving you a test, and if you get the questions right I will double your tip.” She went back with our order and returned with an answer, “Isaac.” I asked her who knew the answer, and she replied that one of the girls knew quite a bit about the Bible. “All right,” I said, “What was the name of Isaac’s wife?” “Oh, that’s a hard one,” she said. She brought our order, and said, “Rebecca.” I said, “That’s good. You girls are doing well. Let’s keep this going. What are the name of Isaac and Rebecca’s children?” We went on the whole evening that way, and we had a lot of fun together and got other people back in the kitchen talking about this. Most people don’t have a clue about the Bible.
So, one of the most important things you can teach Christians—and this will help them in their witness—is that they have to be very simple. In witnessing, we cannot be like a dump truck and dump fifty Bible verses on non-Christian people. They won’t know what we’re talking about. Give the unbeliever one verse—a simple verse like John 3:16 or 1 Corinthians 15:3. “Christ died for our sins” is five words. Or use simple illustrations. For example, explain that the Cross is like a bridge spanning the chasm between sinful man and a holy God. The person who died on that Cross was both God and man and is a perfect bridge between God and man. Leave a simple seed in people’s mind.
So, “keep it simple, stupid,” remembering that you cannot keep it simple enough in today’s world. If we keep it simple we are less likely to be afraid. Just cover the essentials—we are sinners, Christ died for sinner, God forgives sinners on the basis of the Cross. We’re afraid because we actually think that we’ve got to answer everyone’s questions. No one is smart enough to do that. Encourage people to be simple, friendly, and non-argumentative, and that will help them immensely.
In being prepared, I believe the Lord wants us to be creative. Paul rented the school of Tyrannus, where he reasoned with unbelievers, both Jews and Greeks (Acts 19:9). That was like renting a university room and giving lectures where people would come and hear him. It was a very creative idea in the city of Ephesus. It might not have worked in another place, but it worked in the cosmopolitan city of Ephesus. Let me suggest a number of ideas that might work for you.
Many people will not go to a church today—they find it too too scary. They will, however, come to your home for a cookout. They’ll come over on a holiday. Your home is one of the most powerful evangelistic tools in your neighborhood. It’s a lighthouse in a dark place. Have some kind of plan to have your neighbors over for a meal at your dinner table or out in the back yard so you can, at least, meet them. And then you can start praying for them and be the neighborhood prayer warrior for all your neighbors.
The Lord has greatly used home Bible studies—especially home Bible studies for women. It’s very significant, I believe, that one of the apostles’ primary methods of evangelism was using homes to spread the Word. Peter and the apostles taught and preached “from house to house” (Acts 5:42). Paul taught “from house to house” (Acts 20:20). A private home has a very natural atmosphere. It is informal, relaxed, and non-threatening. Home Bible studies have been one of the most powerful tools of evangelism in our assemblies.
I recently watched an advertisement for contemporary Christian music CDs, and I thought, “What a terrific idea for evangelism.” We’re going to have a music concert this summer and try and use it for evangelism. Music is a wonderful tool for evangelism—especially with young people
Counseling is a marvelous tool for evangelism—especially pre-marital or marital counseling. Unsaved people will frequently call our church and ask to rent our building for a wedding. We permit this if such couples will consent to a program of pre-marital counseling. Just a few weeks ago we married an unsaved couple at the chapel. For five months they were mentored by one of our assembly couples. For five months they opened up their hearts and talked about their lives. The newlyweds are not saved yet, but their mentoring couple gave them a special wedding gift—they are going to have a home Bible study with them on the Gospel of John. They young couple responded, “That’s neat, we’ve loved our time with you.” Marriage is a great way to enter peoples’ lives.
Incidentally, divorce counseling—helping people through a terrible marital tragedy—is another way to enter peoples’ lives evangelistically.
Funerals are a tremendous opportunity to share the gospel. I do a lot of them—at least ten or twelve a year. We’ve had some funerals with literally hundreds of unsaved people sitting there for an hour and hearing the gospel. I did the funeral for one of our neighbors, a well-known businessman, and there were five hundred people in the audience. Ninety percent of the group were unsaved people. It’s good to think ahead about what you are going to do at funerals. Read up on this and develop some techniques. There’s a way to do it, and a way not to do it. People are serious at that moment and, strange to say, most of them love a good funeral.
Many preachers will yell and scream at the audience; that is inappropriate. We use the story of the deceased person’s life and we build about 20 minutes of the funeral service around that story. Beforehand we ask all the family members to write out characteristics of the person’s life and humorous events from his or her life. Focusing on the person’s life captures the audience’s attention, and you can easily transition into a presentation of the Gospel. It’s not necessary to mention whether the person was unsaved if that is the case. Go right from the person’s biography to the wonderful story of salvation. You may tell the audience that they have a wonderful opportunity to listen for 20 minutes to the truth about eternal life—something that they do not normally do in their busy lives. I have never had a person complain. Funerals are a terrific opportunity for evangelism—take as many of them as you can.
People today are concerned about their young children and their teens. They are willing to leave their homes and go somewhere if someone can give them help. There is a wonderful film series entitled, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, that can be shown in your church. Advertise it in your local newspaper, and invite people to come. Another way to get families to come is to offer a class on raising young children or raising teens. This will provide another opportunity to share the Gospel.
Youth evangelism is one of our most important tools. Be willing to put money and manpower into any evangelistic outreach to youth—Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, and Bible camp. God has used Bible camps more than anything else we do to reach youth. I meet people all the time who were saved at camp. People are most open to the gospel when they are young. Statistics show that the older people get the more closed they become to the truth.
Whether we like it or not, Americans think that Sunday morning is churchy time. So why fight it? Take advantage of it. If you have a church that unsaved people come to, use the opportunity. You have time during the service to teach God’s people, and you also have time to proclaim the Gospel. It is important that the elders think long and hard about how to make your Sunday service one that is conducive to inviting unsaved friends, neighbors, and fellow workers. It should be a time that has your best preachers and quality music.
Last summer we advertised a three night series of meetings on Pilgrim’s Progress. Many people have heard about Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, but they don’t know much about it. We showed film strips, and we had a speaker who narrated it and explained it. The program was aimed at young people, but parents were invited to come if they wished. At the end of the three days a lady from the neighborhood, whom we had never seen before, came up front and sat down. I thought she might want to talk about her children, but she said, “I want to get saved.” Someone did get saved as a result of this opportunity. This summer we’re having an evangelistic series using a video presentation of C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In addition to the video, we shall use power point slides and a sermon. If one is creative, there are a wide variety of evangelistic series that the local assembly can sponsor.
Your assembly should have plenty of evangelistic resources. The local church should be a gospel church, and a gospel church must have gospel literature. Someone should be put in charge of selecting and replenishing a display of good, contemporary tracts. The assembly should also have available a wide variety of tapes and books. Recently a man asked for a book for his non-Christian mother in law, who is dying of cancer. You need to make the assembly aware of good books for unsaved people, and you need to have such books available.
The best evangelism is personal evangelism—person to person. Everyday life brings all of us into a network of natural contacts with people. And the apostle Paul tells us, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom” toward these people (Col. 4:5). We are to keep our eyes wide open, and we are to be alert for opportunities. Be alert especially for those seasons in a person’s life when he or she has tragedy or need. His time of suffering or grief, his financial problems, and his marital woes are all opportunities. At such a moment, you can say, “My church can help you in such and such a way.”
Keep your many personal contacts fresh and open. I grew up with a number of young men, who all went the camp together and to the local assembly together. Around the age of eighteen we all went our separate ways, and three of these very close friends walked away from the Lord. It is probable that, although they had made professions of faith as children, they were never truly converted. They married non-Christians and lived non-Christian lives. Yet we kept our friendship going because we had such a wonderful relationship growing up. We would do vacations together—they would visit us in Colorado, and we would visit them in New Jersey. For thirty years we maintained this connection, and in the last five years all three of those men have been saved. Isn’t it interesting how God uses tragedy (terminal cancer, lives ruined by sinful habits, shattered marriages) to awaken people to their rebellion and rejection of the Lord. And when they have been awakened, God can use a Christian friend to lead them to the Savior and a new life. Do not neglect your contacts with unsaved friends. Keep those relationships, for the Lord may use you to win them back to Himself.
With the tremendous influx of immigrants to America, teaching English has become a very popular. It can be an evangelistic opportunity. For the first time this year we are offering a course in “English as a Second Language” (ESL). We had no idea how it would work, but we advertised with a large sign in front of our church. Almost fifty non-Christians signed up for the course. Our building is near the public library, and a large number of Spanish speaking people from the area saw it and enrolled. A committee set up the program, purchased books and materials, and priced the course so that all could afford it. We now have another opportunity to evangelize in our own building.
Evangelist Bob Smith says, “Ninety percent of evangelism is love.” Evangelism involves loving people, wanting to reach out to them, being friendly and open to them, and serving them. We must not be argumentative in witnessing—conveying the impression that we have all the answers. We must not be obnoxious and proud, dominating every conversation. We must learn to relax—to simply give people the gospel and let the Holy Spirit unleash its power. If the Holy Spirit does not work in a person’s heart, all of our arguing is not going to help. Answer questions the best you can, and if you do not have an answer tell the person to whom you are speaking that you will try to find it.
Paul says, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6). When you know that you’re to be gracious and seasoned with salt, then you don’t get so frightened and think, “I’ve got to argue them into Heaven. I’ve got to show them I’m right. I’ve got to show them I’m orthodox and not in one of the cults.” It is an amazing thing when you seek to be gracious and winsome. You don’t get concerned when the unbeliever argues and calls you names. You can quietly respond, “I understand your perspective, but I want you to know my sins have been forgiven. I have a new hope because I know that God’s new life is in me.
The Apostle wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). It is a very serious matter to be ashamed of the gospel. The great apostle himself said, “And pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to men in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph. 6:19–20). Frankly, we are not seeing people saved today because we are afraid, and we are not speaking up. Do you know why certain groups are seeing so many people saved—even if their gospel is somewhat defective? They are speaking up! No one gets saved if we don’t speak up.
Luke introduced one of Jesus parables with the explanation that the Lord was seeking to show his listeners, “that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart” (Luke 18:1). When it comes to evangelism many of us have lost heart. Many of us have never seen a person saved through our personal witness. People today ridicule the gospel, which is more and more out of sync with our modern culture. Biblical Christians are more and more offensive to the contemporary worldview. The end result is that we clam up and hide our Christianity. Many feel, “No one is going to believe me. They’re going to misunderstand what I say.” It’s normal to feel that way, but we must not neglect to pray about it. Our prayer should be, “Lord, make me bold. Help me to seize opportunities.” We should make a list of unsaved people to pray for. We should ask the Lord to give us an opportunity to speak to our neighbor across the street, our unsaved relatives, and the people with whom we work every day
May I challenge you to keep praying about this. Never give up praying about this matter. May we all be challenged by Paul’s words in Colossians 4:2–6. Remember that the Word of God is a transforming word. Its purpose is to transform and change us. If we don’t have change, it’s because we are not letting it do its work in our lives. May we end this study rechallenged—recharged with fresh vision, new boldness, new graciousness, and new excitement and love for the Lord and his work.
Pray for yourself personally and your local church that these words of the inspired apostle will have transforming power in your local church and in your personal life. Pray that the Lord will give our local assemblies unity in these matters. We can do almost nothing if we’re fighting. We’re paralyzed and the devil loves it. And the first casualty of fighting is the gospel. Who’d want a gospel where the saints can’t get along? Who’d want to bring people to a church like that? So ask the Lord to forgive us for fighting, pushing our petty agendas, and wanting our own way. Ask the Lord for greater skill in changing and moving people for His glory with patience and wisdom. With skill and humility and the power of the Holy Spirit we can see change. Let’s be change agents.