If the methodological title of this short evangelism article is what inspired you to start reading, a theological explanation may first be required for it to prove fruitful. Let me explain.
After more than a decade of equipping the Church for the work of evangelism, I’ve learned the hard way that putting the methodological cart before the theological horse most often results in our Gospel witness going nowhere, or worse yet, in the wrong direction altogether.
In one of my favorite books on personal witnessing, Will Metzger suggests: “Methodology flows from theology.” In other words, the only way to ensure that our methods of evangelism are biblical is to first ensure that our theology of evangelism is biblical.
So does that mean the methods offered in this article won’t be beneficial to your life and witness? On the contrary, they will. But only if you are already engaged in a daily discipline of praying and studying Scripture while putting them into practice.
With that said, I do sincerely hope that this handful of pointers that I’ve used for many years when sharing Jesus with family and friends will be as helpful for you as they have been for me.
How do I get a conversation started?
Perhaps the most common question asked when I train churches for personal witness is: “How do I get a spiritual conversation started with a lost loved one?” Great question!
Intensely and intentionally. I pray intensely for my witness with that person and then reach out intentionally saying something simple like: “I really respect you. I’d love to take you out for coffee and tell you the story of how and why I became a Christian. Would you be up for that?” I’ve never had nor heard of anyone turning down such a non-confrontational invitation!
So the day has come and you’re together at the coffee shop. Now what? Well, like Jesus we all want to witness with genuineness and relatability, especially with non-Christians who know us best. So, over the years I’ve learned a couple very simple practices for encouraging authenticity.
First, if you’re nervous, tell them! It’s been my humble experience that those who already love and respect you will not only appreciate your transparency, but most often they’ll respond to your sincere confession by extending the mutual measure of grace you need to get a serious conversation started.
Also, before “the talk” I always list on a yellow Post-it any potential personal concerns that I have about the outcome of the impending conversation based on our specific relationship. I then candidly confess and check them off one by one as we agree together that these won’t become issues in our relationship, regardless of whether we ever see eye to eye on spiritual things.
Next, in an effort to lay a truly biblical foundation for our conversation, I always give my lost loved one a readable/reliable Bible and contextualize the free gift saying some version of this:
“As a Christian, the Bible is my authority. So, as we start chatting about spiritual things, I want to do my best to first share from the Bible how and why I became a Christian. Then, as life happens for both of us, I’d love to continue keeping connected to try and make sense of our experiences from the Bible. Would that be OK with you?”
Again, not only have all those with whom I’ve shared Christ responded to this offer in respect and thankfulness, but with my ultimate authority now clearly established I can much more comfortably center all aspects of our conversation on Christ and His Word.
Tell the Story
Now that the groundwork of authenticity and authority has been laid, we literally turn the page together as I tell the story of Scripture from beginning to end. Following Christ’s example on the road to Emmaus or Paul’s in Mars Hill, we traverse key texts while underscoring the defining historical events of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.
Do you know that all sinners find common ground in God’s big picture? However, most people have little if any knowledge of the history we share, and most are spiritually blind to how profoundly their faith in the past affects their fate in the future. That’s another reason Scripture plays out like a puzzle that they are unable to assemble and incapable of seeing where they fit.
For these reasons, I have found it helpful to first give them the benefit of beholding God’s big picture story pieces in hope that He helps them esteem the glorious centerpiece of Christ and His Cross.
Teach the Gospel
After finding common ground through telling the story of Scripture, I teach the Gospel and testify to my own experience of redemption with the risen Christ.
This initially involves navigating Scripture to clearly and comprehensively teach the good news of what Jesus Christ has done to reconcile sinners to God, but it also necessitates testifying to the fruit of Christ’s finished work on the cross in my new life as a born again believer. (Hopefully, they’ve noticed the change!)
I also interactively teach through the implications of this Gospel that initially justifies, continually sanctifies, and eventually glorifies. Practically, this means that Jesus has not only redeemed my soul for eternity but He’s also redeemed my reasoning now so that I can experience true peace in both this life and the next.
Take the time
After I tell the story and teach the Gospel, I take the time to listen to the person and the Holy Spirit for what’s next in our relationship.
In our training, we encourage seed sowers to faithfully commit to the simple biblical process of praying continually, sowing quickly, and watering for as long as it takes. This means that we should prayerfully and urgently share Christ all the while resting in the reality that only God can make the seed grow and always according to His perfect timing.
But while we wait, we walk … together! It’s been my experience that as I continue teaching Christ and His Gospel and walk in relationship with that lost loved one, then, when crisis hits or questions come, I can simply share something specific and relevant that Jesus said or did to make sense of life to point us to the only source of life, Himself!
Be encouraged … and exhorted
As I wrap up this evangelism article, I feel convicted to apply the witnessing example of Philip the evangelist with the Ethiopian eunuch as an exclamation point on the methodological note of caution expressed at the beginning.
While I can’t encourage you enough to grasp and apply all of the practical witnessing details that the Holy Spirit records in Acts 8:26-40, I also exhort you to not miss His active leading and empowering ministry throughout.
The more scientific we make the task evangelism, the less supernatural it becomes. So, as we continue knowing Christ and making Christ known to all the lost in our lives, may our speech and message faithfully demonstrate the Spirit and power of the only God who saves.
 Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel to the Whole Person by Whole People (IVP) by Will Metzger