Our English word "evangelism" comes directly from the Greek word EUAGGELIZO [e)uaggelizw], and that prefix EU in Greek always has the idea of something that is good, something well, something beneficial, and AGGELIZO is the verb to announce, to tell, proclaim. So it means to tell somebody good news. That is the point of the gospel, telling people the good news for the purpose that they will believe in Jesus Christ. It is not just drive-by witnessing. This often entails more than just a ten or fifteen-minute conversation, sometimes it may take thirty years of a relationship with someone before they finally trust Christ as savior. Paul demonstrates the purpose of this in two statements he makes, one in Acts 14:15 where he says, ""Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them." Giving the gospel isn't salesmanship, it is to bring men to a decision point. Acts 26:29, Paul said: Paul replied, "Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains." There is a purpose, and that is to bring them to a decision point about the gospel. We also recognize just from the meaning of the world that we are giving people good news.
One of the greatest things that interferes with our giving the gospel is that there is a certain level of anxiety and a certain fear factor. Why is it that we experience this fear, this anxiety, this trepidation when we get a chance to give the gospel? One of the reasons is that it is like stage fright. We understand about the importance of it, and if we really care about somebody we realize what is at stake. So like anything else of importance, we get nerves, butterflies in our stomach, and that is just part of the adrenalin that comes and makes us more effective in what we do say. Another more negative reason that we become anxious is just self-absorption; we are afraid of rejection, afraid of generating some sort of hostility. It may be a work mate we want to give the gospel to, but what if they reject the gospel and then that impacts the way they relate to me at work? We are afraid that there might be negative consequences. Sometimes we are fearful of losing a friendship. Another fear factor is just a fear of adequacy, we are uncertain because we don't do it enough. Probably the most prominent reason that we are fearful is just because of the consequences.
We need to realize that the God whom we serve has given us the spirit of power and courage and not the spirit of timidity, because the issue is giving the gospel and the real power, the real agent in giving the gospel is the Holy Spirit. So when we are fearful, what do we do? How do we handle that? The solution is twofold. The first thing we should do is pray. We need to deal with the sin of fear and worry, we need to confess that and then put the situation in the Lord's hands and just relax. We need to realize that we are not the ones to close the deal. It is not up to us to ultimately be the convincing agent. We have to realize that the real power in evangelism isn't us. Even if we screw up, even if we don't have the right answers, we are part of a process. Paul talks about one person coming along and planting the seed, another waters, another cultivates, and another person bears the fruit. And we never know where we are in that chain. W never know, so we just relax and rely upon the Holy Spirit. Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter two: "I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling." This is the apostle Paul! So if Paul faces the fear and the anxiety so do we, but we don't let that control our decision-making. "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power." In other words, it is not about constructing an air-tight case that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that you have to trust Him as savior. We don't have to give an air-tight case on the validity of the Bible, the inerrancy of the Scriptures and solve every doctrinal issue, we just need to have the facts of the gospel as clearly as possible. It is God the Holy Spirit who is the sovereign executive in witnessing. He is the one who is working in and through the situation; He is the one who is working in the life of the person to whom you are witnessing.
John 16:7-11 tells us what God the Holy Spirit is doing when we are witnessing. First of all He is going to convict the world concerning sin. That means when we are giving the gospel to somebody God the Holy Spirit is at work in that individual convicting him, revealing to him that he is guilty before the bar of God's justice. So if we are not giving scriptures and information related to the guilt and condemnation of sin then the Holy Spirit doesn't have any tool to work with. Second, He will be convicting the world concerning righteousness, i.e. they don't have righteousness. That is the issue in salvation, that they don't have righteousness. They need righteous ness to have a relationship with God. And judgment. Jesus goes on to explain these: "concerning sin because they do not believe in me." "concerning judgment": The issue is faith in Christ, not how many sins you have committed. Christ died and paid the penalty for all sin, so that sin isn't the issue any more. It is not about the sin that a person has committed in their life. The focus is on the fact that the sin has been paid for, the penalty has been paid for, and the issue now is what are you going to do about Jesus Christ? "concerning righteousness": "because I go to the Father." This was the night before He went to the cross. On the cross Jesus Christ who knew no sin was made sin for us that the righteousness of God might be found in us. That is the purpose: we lack righteousness, and the creature who lacks righteousness can't have a relationship with God. The sins may be paid for but you don't have the kind of righteousness to have a relationship with God. When a person believes in Jesus Christ as his savior God credits to his account, He imputes to him, He gives him, He covers him with the righteousness of Christ, so that when God looks at him it is Christ's righteousness, not his, and declares him to be just. That is what we mean by justification by faith alone. Then in verse 11 Jesus says, "Concerning judgment because the ruler of this world has been judged." In other words, the victory is won at the cross. That solved the problem.
So it is God the Holy Spirit working behind the scenes with our witnessing. If we are talking about inviting Jesus into your heart, or some of the other non-biblical ways that people try to communicate the gospel, then it is off-center, off-target. God the Holy Spirit is going to be focusing on three things: that they don't believe in Jesus Christ, they need righteousness, and that the battle is won, it is complete, it is sufficient, and that is going to be the focal point of what we communicate in the gospel.
The best way to deal with the fear factor is to realize that it is not up to us, it is up to the Holy Spirit. We are just a conduit. We just have the privilege of being the mouthpiece. We just have to know what to say and how to communicate it. It is not a rational or empirical issue, it is a spiritual issue. They are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness because they don't want to have to deal with the justice of God, and they are trying to keep God's justice as far away from them as possible. What we are doing is communicating to them that there is the justice of God that has to be dealt with and Christ dealt with it on the cross, and so we can be adjusted to the righteousness of God and the justice of God by faith in Jesus Christ. So it is up to the Holy Spirit, it is not up to us.
The second way we deal with fear is that we have to be familiar enough with our own information that we are comfortable explaining the gospel. If you are not comfortable with what you are doing and are an actress or an actor in your lines, then you are really nervous. If you are a pastor and haven't done your homework and you get in the pulpit, then you're really nervous. But if you have a command of your material and you know what you are doing, then you can relax because you know the Holy Spirit is in control, you know the content of what you are trying to communicate, and you know that even if you don't know the answer you can check it out and try to find an answer, come back with it from that direction. So we have to know the content of the gospel which means we have to understand what evangelism is and what it isn't.
Evangelism primarily, in terms of what it isn't, is not social action. It is not helping people, it is not soup kitchens, not going out and building habitats for humanity. It's not that those things are wrong, and in some cases they can be aids to evangelism, but in and of itself is not evangelism. There are two basic kinds of evangelism. There is the non-verbal witness of the life and there is the verbal witness with our lips. But if it is said that your life is a witness nobody is going to hear that they have to believe in Jesus Christ just by watching you. That may provide you with a platform and there may be one or two people who see how you might handle a crisis in a relaxed manner and ask you about why that is, but there are whole lot of people who are never going to ask that. They might observe that but they are not going to have the opportunity or the courage or whatever it is to come right out and ask you that. So the witness of the life simply provides a foundation. And it can destroy your foundation if there is not some sort of consistency of application in your life.
We need to make the gospel clear, and Paul makes the foundation of the gospel clear in 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4: "For delivered to you first of all what I also received [or, accepted, believed. LAMBANO/lambanw is a synonym in the New Testament for belief in Christ]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." This is the foundation of the gospel. He is not saying you have to believe in the burial and the resurrection of Christ. He is not giving the content of the gospel here, he is giving the basis for salvation, i.e. that Christ died for our sins. That was the focal point of his message.
When we give the gospel, the gospel is good news, but for people to have the good news implies that first and foremost they have to understand the bad news. They have to understand what that condemnation is all about. Sometimes people debate this. Some say just tell people what Christ did for them, it is not necessary for them to understand that they are a sinner and under condemnation. That is just not true. An Old Testament analogy: In the Old Testament when they had the Passover, which is the greatest picture in the Old Testament of salvation and redemption, the solution was to put the blood of the sacrificed lamb on the doorpost of the house and the angel of death would pass over. If people weren't aware that the angel of death was coming why would they want to apply blood? If you don't know that there is a problem, that there is coming condemnation or judgment, that there is an issue, that there is separation from God, then there is no need or recognition of why I need to do this, because I'm already condemned. And the Scripture makes that clear.
Every time we see Paul giving the gospel he establishes—like in Ephesians 2:1-7—that we were dead in our trespasses and sins. There has to be a recognition of the problem before there is an understanding of the need for that solution. So we use verses such as Romans 3:23, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Ephesians 2:1 says, "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins." So the problem is spiritual death and separation from God. When we are talking about Scripture and we use words like sin and condemnation and Christ died for our sins, we have to define those things. We n longer live in a culture where we can take it for granted that people understand what a sin is, or that people can understand who Christ is, or that people understand what death is here—spiritual death, not physical death. We have to explain these things, that spiritual death is separation from God and the problem derives from a lack of the same kind of righteousness that God has. We have to understand that even our best deeds, our highest morality, is just filthy rags in God's sight—Isaiah 64:6. This can't be corrected by good works—Ephesians 2:8,9; it is the gift of God and a gift is free; Titus 3:5. So what is the solution? John 3:16, ""For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." The issue isn't the sin you have committed, the issue is believing in Jesus Christ. Romans 5:8 is another good passage: "God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." Why did He die for us? 2 Corinthians 5:21, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God in him." So that at the instant that we trust in Christ His righteousness becomes our righteousness. We gain His righteousness and that is the basis for our salvation. So what must we do? Believe in Him. John 3:18, "He who believes in him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God." John 3:36, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." Acts 16:31, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved."
Don't get sidetracked by false issues
Sin is not an issue in salvation. It is not about what people have done, it is about Jesus Christ.
Avoid false issues, like cultural taboos, various opinions, politics.
Always make sure you don't add anything to faith alone in Christ alone.
Don't adopt a rigid form of evangelism. Just relax, it's a conversation with people.