The past two weeks we have talked about what the message of evangelism is and how to test our message. By way of review, the message of evangelism is: God has provided a way sinners can be reconciled to Himself; through Christ alone.
Now, how do we go about the task of presenting this message?
First, we must know the message ourselves. There is a difference between knowing and knowing, a difference the English language fails to capture. To borrow an analogy from Jonathan Edwards, think about describing the taste and other properties of honey to someone. After you had done your utmost to describe it they may be able to say, ”Yes, I know what honey is.” But it would only be after you gave them a taste of pure honey that they could say, “Ah, now I know what honey is. I have seen and tasted its sweetness.” So it is with the wonderful Spiritual truths of God. The Devil, I imagine, is a mighty fine theologian. He certainly knows about God, far more about him than many individuals here on earth. But God, the Gospel, and the good news of the Kingdom is not a body of doctrines or simply a set of truths one can memorize by rote as if it were a set of conjugations or a multiplication table. Yes, we must know the message, be able to say it and explain it to someone else, but more than that, we must truly know it. We can know this by experiencing ourselves new birth in Jesus, being reconciled to God. And we can know this by studying the truth of the matter in the Bible, and seeing the lives of others transformed. More is yet necessary.
Secondly, we must be able to articulate this message with an open Bible. Each word in the simple sentence above is fraught with meaning. The causes, reasons, and implications are tremendous. Do we know what they are? Can we point them out in the Bible and explain them? What does it mean that God has provided a way? Why do sinners need a way? Why was this way necessary? Why do we need to be reconciled? Why through Christ alone? How does that work? And there could be follow-up questions to even the answers of these questions.
How do we come to this kind of thorough understanding? We know God. We learn his attributes, the nature of man, and the person and work of Christ. We should be able to explain and show through Scripture basic, foundational doctrines such as justification by faith; imputed righteousness, substitutionary atonement for sin, etc. We should be saturated with Scripture. In an age and culture that teems with an endless amount of diversions around every corner this is difficult. It is far easier to become saturated with the messages of billboards, tv commercials, radio talk shows, the news, politicians, blogs, emails, financial markets, or the latest rumors floating around. All these fly at us endlessly. One would have to be a hermit to avoid them. So it takes a proactive attitude to saturate our minds and hearts with Scripture, committing it to memory, knowing key passages, becoming familiar with what chapters or books to turn to when need be. One does not simply gain this saturation from listening to a sermon once a week or even a five-minute daily quiet time. Finally, we should also become familiar with good commentaries and biographies of missionaries and other great men and women of the faith. Do you have a trusted source when you are unsure about what a text means? If you don’t have one, you won’t have one to go to when you need it most. In the West, we live in an age and economy when access to such resources is profoundly abundant.
Why take care to do all these things? Because we ought to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us.
“…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, 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 Peter 3:15) and “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
Finally, after all these things, remember that it does not ultimately depend on you. Belief in Jesus depends “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13) So pray for God’s leading and trust the Holy Spirit to lead to opportunities and to provide the words when opportunities for evangelism come. “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:19-20)