One of the first things that Jesus said to His would be followers was "Follow Me, and I WILL MAKE YOU BECOME fishers of men" (Mark 1:17, NASV).
This command was expanded upon when we see that evangelism was the real mission of Jesus Christ when He was on this earth, "Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: FOR THEREFORE CAME I FORTH" (Mark 1:38).
Christ not only began His earthly ministry with evangelism but He also ended it with the command of the Great Commission. "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel TO EVERY CREATURE. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe..." (Mark 16:15-17). Verse 20 tells us that the disciples obeyed that command as "they went forth, and PREACHED EVERY WHERE, the Lord working with them, and confirming the Word with signs following" (Mark 16:20).
The phrases "preach the gospel & bring glad tidings" is the Greek word "euaggelizo" and means "to evangelize." Success in evangelism is not to see how many people we can win but rather it is sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and trusting God for the results. Jesus said, "No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him..." (John 6:44).
Ephesians 4:11-12 states, "It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service..." (NIV).
This must mean that the true purpose of God in giving the prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher is to prepare God's people to do the work of the ministry.
In Acts 8:4 it states, "The believers who had fled Jerusalem went everywhere preaching the Good News about Jesus!" (LB). In comparing Acts 8:1 it is clear that everyone except the apostles went everywhere and evangelized. Such was the result that within 300 years the whole Roman Empire was exposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why? Because everyone evangelized!
Where did the believers evangelize? In the temple area, common to the Jews (Acts 2:1-46), in the synagogue (Acts 14:1), throughout entire cities (Acts 8:5), in the desert (Acts 8:26), on the bank of a riverside (Acts 16:13-15), in jail and prison (Acts 16:23), and according to Acts 20:21-22, it was publicly and from house to house. A paraphrase of Acts 1:8 would state evangelism begins in your own home town, then surrounding cities, your state, country and then to the world. Evangelism begins where you live, anywhere there are people.
By studying Jesus' methods of evangelism we can conclude that true evangelism uses all the scripture, the whole counsel of God, in reaching people. The reason why one set of scriptures or one approach to evangelism does not work with everyone is that mens' hearts are in different spiritual conditions (See Matthew 13:18-23; Mark 4:14-20; Luke 8:9-15). Jesus' approach to the woman caught in adultery was pure grace (John 8:3-11). Jesus' approach to the woman at the well required a word of knowledge (John 4:16-18; 1 Corinthians 12:8). To Zaccheus it took a dinner invitation (Luke 19:1-10). To the rich young ruler Jesus ministered the law (Matthew 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-27; Luke 18:18-27). It took the law to show this man the need of the Saviour (See Galatians 3:24). (Tract No. 9, "Do Good People Go To Heaven?" is a good tract to use with this kind of individual.)
The idea that evangelism is a method such as a salesman approach is false. Jesus allowed the rich young ruler to walk away (Mark 10:21-22). We are not after quick decisions, but rather converts that will go on to become true disciples. Bill Fay, in his excellent booklet on witnessing states, "We need to get away from a 'win them' mentality. People do not put their faith in Christ because we cleverly 'force' them to believe. We must realize that if we 'win' someone to Christ, he's probably not saved. D.L. Moody, the evangelist, was riding on a train when a drunk came up to him and said, 'Mr. Moody, I'm one of your converts.' Moody replied, 'I'm afraid you are, because you're obviously not a convert of the Lord's'" (How Can I Share My Faith Without an Argument? by Bill Fay, p. 6). R.A.Torrey said, "One of the great faults of Christian work today is haste. We are too anxious for immediate results and therefore do superficial work. Many of those who followed Christ came to Him slowly. Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Peter, and even Paul - although the final step in Paul's case seems very sudden - are cases in point. Three days after Jesus appeared to Paul on the way to Damascus, Paul came out into the light and openly confessed Christ (See Acts 22:16). One man with whom slow but thorough work has been done, and who at last has committed his life to Christ, is better than a dozen who are rushed through the sinner's prayer and think they have accepted Christ when in reality they have not. It is often wise to plant a truth in a man's heart and leave it to work. The seed on rocky ground springs up quickly, but it withers just as quickly" (How to bring men to Christ, by R.A.Torrey, pgs. 87-88).
Scripture reveals a vast difference between trying to twist someone's arm to get them to say a sinner's prayer, and one crying from the heart (without manipulation) for mercy from God and forgiveness of sins.
Notice the following scriptures reveal that salvation results from the free will heart response of people (resulting in conversion) and not by well meaning people pressuring premature decisions.
"Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ. When the people heard this, THEY WERE CUT TO THE HEART and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'BROTHERS, WHAT SHALL WE DO?'" (Acts 236-37, NIV). Notice who asked what to do? It was the people under conviction.
"And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he PREACHED JESUS to him. And as they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, 'Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?' And Philip said, 'If you believe with all your heart, you may.' And he answered and said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God'" (Acts 8:35-37, NASV). Notice that when Jesus was preached it was the eunuch asking how he may respond. His heart was open and wanted Jesus.
"And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled. And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshipper of God, was listening; and THE LORD OPENED HER HEART TO RESPOND to the things spoken by Paul" (Acts 16:13-14, NASV). Notice that the Lord opened Lydia's heart to respond and she did!
A jailer said to the apostle Paul, "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:29-31). Again, a man under conviction, who had just witnessed an earthquake, realized his need for salvation. It was the unbeliever who asked how to be saved. Again this is evidence of an open heart that wanted Jesus. No manipulation was involved.
A rich man asked Jesus, "Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17). This man asked the right question to the right person.
A thief knew he was a sinner and under just condemnation. Out of his heart's need he cried for Jesus salvation. "Lord, remember me when you enter into your Kingdom." And Jesus said, "Today (at your death) you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:42-43).
A tax collector humbled himself before God, beat his breast, and cried, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" God accepted him, forgave his sins and declared him in right relationship with God (Luke 18:9-14). This man's heart was opened and prepared to receive God's grace because he knew his need for the Saviour.
Anyone that has done a lot of evangelism is aware of the problem that I am addressing. Evangelism takes discernment and skill at using God's Word. It also should not stop short of an invitation to receive Christ as both Lord and Saviour. But it should never be manipulative. (For a somewhat controversial, yet informative, booklet see "Prayer, Repentance & Salvation".)
If we ever needed discernment and the power of the Holy Spirit it is in evangelism (Acts 1:8). I hesitate to give a method lest it is turned into a formula. But I also believe that through prayer and reliance upon God that these methods may be very helpful in beginning a life of fulfillment by obeying the Great Commission.
Approach No. 1 is what I call prayer walking. Prayer walking is when you knock on doors an ask individuals if they have any prayer requests that you could pray for. It is non-threatening because you are not presenting some form of dogma but rather showing that you care about them and want to pray for them and their family. We have had great success with prayer walking.
One example is that around Christmas I was knocking on doors an asking individuals if they had any prayer requests that I could pray for. A lady named Debra answered the door and said that she had just lost her job, her car had been stolen, she had no money to give presents to her children and she was living with her sister. I told her that it was no coincidence we met, I prayed with her, told her that Jesus was calling her to Himself and offered her a tract which she took, and I left.
A few days later I returned and gave her some money. She was overwhelmed that anyone cared.
After Christmas I returned to find she was in the hospital. When I visited the hospital she immediately recognized me and thanked me for helping her and her children. I told her of God's love and the gospel. She immediately wanted to be saved. I told her I could lead her in prayer but why not tell Jesus what she had just told me. She called out to Christ from her heart for the salvation that He offers. And I was the one to witness the fact. The key to true soul-winning is to get the person to go directly to God for themselves, through Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of their sins and eternal life.
Lately, we have seen some good results through pray walking, as a local church and I have gone out on Saturday mornings. Several people have turned to Christ.
Approach No. 2 is the use of a tract. The real purpose of a tract is to open a conversation with a stranger so that you may talk. The most effective tract I use for this purpose is the testimony tract about the Death of my Daughter. Some people have said, "Well I don't have a testimony as powerful and dynamic as that." I say, "You don't have to, use mine!" Joe Rose, one of my friends and companions on our evangelism ministry team, tells my testimony better than I do, with great results! You can do it to!
This is the way I usually start. "Hi! My name is Don Krow and we are in your neighborhood today praying for people's needs. By the way, are there any needs that you have that you would like for us to pray about, or prayer requests that you have that we could take back to our church and pray for?" "No, not at this time." "By the way I would like to leave you this pamphlet about my daughter. I have two daughters, twins actually, and they will be sixteen years old in December. One of them was stillborn, you know what that is? Well, she is alive and perfectly normal in every way. She was dead for around eight minutes. This pamphlet tells you how this miracle took place, would you like to have it? In fact if you've got a few moments I'll tell you the story." See the tract "The Death of my Daughter" for the full story. (Every time I tell the story I then proceed to give the gospel. The story is the open door to present the gospel.) I usually say something like this, "Since the time that happened with my twins, I've studied the Bible a lot. This is what I discovered. There is a kingdom of darkness and there is a kingdom of God's dear Son. When Jesus came to earth the Jews thought He was going to be a political Messiah that would put down their enemies and destroy Roman rule. But Jesus said, 'My kingdom is not of this earth.' Jesus was calling people into His kingdom and rule by repentance (having a change of heart & mind) and turning to Him for the forgiveness of their sins through His shed blood. I don't know where you are in all of this. Have you ever heard this message before?" Depending on how a person responds at this point will determine if I leave or go right into the Word. I always leave tracts to then reinforce the message.
If you sense any open response then go directly to the scriptures. I find that the words of Jesus spoken to the lost are very powerful and convicting. I recommend reading R.A. Torrey's book, "How to bring men to Christ," to give you many, many examples of how to use the scriptures in winning souls. Let me give you just one: "Many years ago, I noticed a white-haired man in a meeting who did not stand up to acknowledge that he was a Christian. At the close of the service, I walked over to him and said, 'Are you a Christian?' He said he was not. I was sure he was interested, so I asked him the direct question, 'Would you become a Christian tonight if I would show you the way?' He replied that he would.
I opened my Bible to Isaiah 53:6 and read the first part of the verse, 'All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way.' I then said to him, 'Is that true of you?' and he answered, 'Yes.'
'Now,' I said, 'let us read the rest of the verse. 'And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.' What has the Lord done with your sins?'
He thought a moment and said, 'He has laid them on Christ.'
'What then,' I said, 'is all that you have to do to be saved?'
He replied promptly, 'Accept Him.'
'Well,' I said, 'will you accept Him tonight?'
He said, 'I will.'
'Let us kneel down and tell God so.' We knelt down, and I led in prayer. He followed in a simple way, telling God that he was a sinner, but that he believed that God had laid his sins on Jesus Christ. He then asked God for Christ's sake to forgive his sins.
When he had finished, I asked him if he thought God had heard his prayer and that his sins were forgiven. He said, 'Yes.' I then asked him if he would begin to lead a Christian life at once, set up the family altar, and openly confess Christ before the world. He replied the he would. Some months later, I met his pastor and found that he had gone to his home in a distant city, set up the family altar, and united with the church. Apparently all that this man was waiting for was for someone to make the way of salvation plain to him" (How to bring men to Christ, by R.A.Torrey, pgs. 27-29).
Examples of scriptures that I use in evangelism and the questions I ask are as follows:
Matthew 22:35-38 If this is the great commandment of scripture what do you think the greatest sin might be? (The purpose of this question is to show a person his need for the Saviour.)
Mark 8:36-37 What are you exchanging for your soul? You said you didn't want Christ at this time, what are you exchanging for your soul?
Luke 12:16-21 Jesus said that any of us are foolish to think only of all we can get out of this life and not about the things of God.
Luke 13:1-5 Do you think that these people were terrible sinners because they suffered such things? Jesus said unless we have a change of mind, a change of heart toward God that we will in like manner perish as these people did.
Luke 15:1-10 Don't you see that God rejoices over all who have a change of mind and heart and turn to Him?
Luke 16:19-31 Have you ever had a friend that died? Have you ever realized that this dead man had a request for the living, that they may repent lest they come to this place of torment?
Luke 18:9-14 Tell this story in your own words. Emphasize that those who humble themselves before God, find His mercy.
Romans 3:23 Is this true of you?
Romans 6:23 Do you want your wages?
For those who think they will go to heaven because they are basically a good person (this includes about 60-70 percent of those we talk to), I tell them if they compare themselves to other people they might look pretty good, but if compared to God's standard of righteousness they indeed with come short. I then show them Romans 7:7, 12 and also Exodus 20:3-17 and explain the material found in tract no. 9, "Do Good People Go To Heaven?."
For a real understanding of how to use Scripture and questions in ministering to others please obtain the book, "How to bring men to Christ," by R. A. Torry.
Approach No. 3 is similar to No. 2, that is, use a testimony. People may argue with your theology, but not your personal experience or testimony. I use my testimony, but also use others. That's why I wrote tract no. 11, "Do You Believe in Miracles." This is a testimony of how my wife received a healing. I find that these testimonies work similar to the accounts recorded in the gospels, except that they are modern day miracles. The whole point is as John's Gospel states, "These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name" (John 20:31).
I encourage my evangelism partners to write their own testimony in tract form. A friend (Joe Rose) has written three of the tracts on this website and uses often his testimony in conjunction with mine. Sometimes he shares mine. Use your testimony in conjunction with others and always salt and pepper it with Scriptures in between. Real success in soul-winning results from using God's Word. Testimonies, tracts, etc. are only a means to an end, that is, to present the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Book - "How to bring men to Christ," by R. A. Torry, Whitaker House Publishers. (This book takes you step by step in using the Scriptures in leading others to Christ.)
Booklet - "How Can I Share My Faith Without an Argument?" by Bill Fay, Radio Bible Class, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA 49555-0001. (This booklet gives you a step by step approach in sharing your faith. This booklet has been very helpful in evangelism work.)
Booklet - "What the Lord God has to say about Prayer, Repentance and Salvation" by James Brand. (This is a somewhat controversial booklet with some things for us to think about. You may read this booklet here.)
Book - "Hell's Best Kept Secret" by Ray Comfort. Whitaker House publishers. (As Christians we are not under the law, but the law does have a proper place in leading people to Christ. This book comes from that perspective and gives us a lot of things to think about.)
Book - "Evangelism Explosion" by Dr. James Kennedy. E.E. III International, P.O. Box 23820, Fort Lauderdale, Florida USA 33307 (A book that gives a program for lay witnessing.)
Book - "Evangelism A Concise History" by John Mark Terry. Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee USA (A great book that gives evangelism history throughout the church.)
Book - "Power Evangelism" by John Wimber. Harper & Row publishers. (A good explanation of the Kingdom of God vs. the Kingdom of Darkness and the place of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in evangelism.)