Evangelism is sharing Jesus Christ with people who do not know Him yet. The story of Jesus, which Christians refer to as the gospel or good news, is found in the Bible. The first four books of the New Testament tell us essentially the same story, but with slightly different perspectives and emphases.
The term “evangelist” is sometimes used to describe people who share the message of Jesus as their full-time personal ministry. But telling other people what you have experienced of God personally is a privilege available to anyone who believes in Jesus as their Lord and Savior (John 1:40-42, 45-46). In that sense personal evangelism is something I can do, and so can you.
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Jesus himself was the most skilled evangelist. He dedicated the last three years of His life to communicating and demonstrating what was true about God to people in desperate need of His message.
Jesus healed the sick, performed miracles, taught the truth about God, and ultimately died on a cross for the people He loved. Jesus met people in their place of need. He met them with grace and truth (Luke 19:1-10) and then gave them hope by pointing them toward His Father in heaven through a relationship with Himself.
Then Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” — Matthew 11:28-30, NLT
He lived life among people who had rejected the truth about God or had never heard it explained in a way they could grasp. He did not judge or condemn them but helped them on their journey toward a relationship with God.
We are called to do the same, and we are able to do the same as we rely on the strength of God’s Holy Spirit(link to Holy Spirit pillar page), who lives within everyone who trusts in Jesus. As we follow Jesus, we learn from Him and His example, and in the process we become more like Him (Matthew 4:19).
Evangelism is not a skill or a role reserved for the chosen few. Every believer is called to always be ready to give a reason for the hope within them, with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). Every believer is called to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20).
The answer is love. Love, for Jesus and others, is the reason to share Jesus. Think about it like this: What is the greatest thing that has ever happened to you? If the answer is knowing Christ personally, what then is the greatest thing you could do for someone else? Introduce them to Jesus.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. — 1 Peter 3:15, NIV
The gospel is what brings meaning to a broken world, and evangelism is the how. This sounds great in theory. Why, then, are three out of five followers of Jesus, according to Barna Research, not sharing Christ with the people in their lives?
Evangelism is first and foremost a work of God — He changes people’s hearts, not you.
Often, our perspective or assumptions shape how we feel about things. It’s important to have the right perspective about sharing Jesus with others.
Evangelism is first and foremost a work of God — He the one who changes people’s hearts, not you. Followers of Jesus have the privilege of entering into the work He is already doing in people’s lives by showing up and taking steps of faith to share their testimony or share about who Jesus is with the people He brings into their path.
Have you ever heard that perspective on evangelism? What about this one? Bill Bright, the co-founder of Cru, said, “Success in witnessing is simply taking the initiative to share Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, and leaving the results to God.”
These perspectives remind us that God is the one who changes hearts and transforms lives, not us. Our job is to be ready and take the initiative to share the reason for the hope we have with gentleness and respect.
Having these biblical perspectives can help you get over any obstacles that come your way.
Perhaps you have seen poor examples of witnessing. It seems the experiences people remember most are the ones most people remember most are those who ignore them or don’t take the time to listen to their feelings or personal needs. They are the ones who try to push the message of Jesus on people or make them feel like they are pointing fingers for not believing as they do.
Frankly, a negative experience of evangelism may linger in your memory longer than a positive one. But just because a past experience of someone sharing with you or trying to share your faith with someone did not go well, that does not mean you should write off evangelism as something for someone else. God can change your perspective as you trust in Him.
Often, fear is the reason people don’t share Christ with others: Fear that it will end a relationship. Fear that you will be misunderstood. Fear that you won’t have all the answers. If you know and remind yourself that God goes before you, that He is always with you, and what evangelism is, that can help you deal with any fear you face.
If you’re simply looking for some ideas about how to learn to share your faith with the people in your life, check out our guide to personal evangelism (link to pillar page when ready).
It’s important to have the right perspective as you share your faith and learn more about ways to do evangelism.
Understanding and growing in personal evangelism depends on a willingness to learn and a desire to trust God. If your heart is open and willing, God will help you grow in your skills for sharing Him with others. He will use your open heart, your words and your actions to change other people’s lives.
A good way to understand more about what evangelism is and why God invites us all to be involved in it is to think about the way God has designed it to function.
God’s master plan is to use humans to spread the message of Jesus Christ to the world.
Jesus came and told His disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” — Matthew 28:18-20, NLT
God could have used any strategy, but He chose us. Why? Because our personal spiritual growth as Christians and the mission He gave us were never meant to be separated.
We grow as we trust Him. He wants us to see Him at work in the world and know we are part of it.
This is both an exciting and humbling reality. Even though evangelism is first and foremost a work of God, He wants and invites you to participate with Him. He wants to use you.
Right before Jesus left earth to return to His Father in heaven, He said to His followers, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 25:19-20, New International Version).
This was a direct command, and you can imagine the dumbstruck faces of the men and women He was speaking to.
But He also said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NIV).
There are two important truths in these passages. The first is that Jesus wants His followers, including you, to take His message to the world.
The second truth is the reason that it does not feel like mission impossible: He promises to always be with you. The Holy Spirit lives inside every Christian. He directs and empowers Christians to share the message of Christ. (link to Holy Spirit pillar page with link on “Holy Spirit” in previous sentence)
If evangelism feels overwhelming to you, perhaps that’s because you have yet to share God’s perspective on it. This is so important, so if you take one thing from reading this page, I hope it’s this:
It is not up to you or me to make someone else believe in God. That is God’s responsibility. He may use you to offer an invitation to someone, but whether they accept it or not is between that person and God Himself.
Your job is simply to share the truth about Jesus with people who have yet to hear it or accept it. God does the real work of changing the way people think and what they believe is true. Your responsibility is to simply take the initiative and share Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to God.
God wants Christians to feel compelled to share their faith in Him, not just obliged to. This, in itself, is a work of the Holy Spirit in your heart. Most of us are naturally reluctant or anxious about talking about our beliefs with people who do not share them. We cannot control how they will react or how it might affect our relationships. This is why evangelism depends on trusting God.
People who love sharing their faith are also often people who regularly pray for their non-Christians friends. As you ask God to help someone see the truth about Him, your heart becomes ready to be part of how God answers that prayer.
Two Bible verses point to these ideas:
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Colossians 4:2, New International Version)
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15, New International Version)
If you do not have a love for evangelism, practice praying for your friends and family who do not have a relationship with God. Also practice treating people with kindness and compassion, especially when you are talking about God. They do not want to feel like they are being corrected any more than you would.
The way Jesus treated people laid the foundation for Him to share the truth about God with them.
To have a healthy perspective about evangelism, it also helps to be familiar with common misunderstandings about it.
If you asked a room full of Christians what evangelism is, it’s likely you would get a wide range of answers.
Here are some common false beliefs about evangelism:
This simply is not true. People might be unwilling to listen to us lecture them about what they should believe. They might be reluctant to hear us tell them everything they have ever thought is wrong. But people are searching for hope and meaning in their lives, today as much as they ever have.
The ways people want to talk about God might change over time, but people are open to thinking about spiritual things if they can find safe people to do that with.
People who do not call themselves Christians want some of the same things as people who do. They want to be listened to and treated with respect. They want life to make sense.
God is the answer to life’s big questions, and people will be willing to explore those questions if you treat them with kindness and respect.
To find out more about this, read “How People Really Want to Talk About Jesus.”
There is a popular saying, commonly attributed to Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” There is actually no historical record that Francis ever said this, and more importantly, it's not a complete view of what the Bible teaches.
In the Bible we read these words, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17, NIV).
People cannot respond to an invitation they have not received. The gospel message is an invitation from God to return to the relationship with Him that every person was designed to enjoy. God asks us to be part of bringing that invitation to the world. People will not know God wants to forgive them for everything they have done and that He offers them eternal life unless someone tells them. That means words as well as actions.
If the disciples had not shared the gospel with the known world, it would not have made its way to you and me. Someone had to share the gospel with someone else, who in turn shared it with still someone else, in order for you to believe. This is true for all of us.
I know evangelism can feel this way. It’s a side effect of sharing a message with someone you think might not want to hear it.
I’ve felt an inner conflict about sharing my faith with someone, especially when I have felt distant from God before doing it. But even if I do not feel close to God, the truth is He is as close to me as ever. The best way to avoid evangelism feeling like a sales pitch is to be authentic about how God has changed your life and also how it did not automatically make your life perfect.
People will respect your honesty and vulnerability if they see you as a person continuing to wrestle through life’s questions with God.
God does not love you more if you evangelize. He does not love you less if you are unwilling to tell others about Him. I used to struggle with this false belief. I thought if I shared my faith, God would love me more. This is a lie.
The truth is you cannot do anything to make God love you more; He loves you infinitely already, and He will not stop.
This false view of sharing Jesus with others can result in unhealthy and even harmful encounters, like evangelists yelling at people or bothering them until they respond to a message. People with this view must convince others because their “success” at evangelism depends on their own efforts.
If you’ve experienced someone sharing Christ this way with you, first, I want to say I’m sorry. This approach does not reflect the heart of God or the heart of most Christians.
Evangelism is supposed to be about asking good questions, asking for permission to share your perspective, showing empathy, and continuing to care for a person no matter how they respond to the message of Christ.
Misconceptions about evangelism are common and normal. But it’s vital we see things from a biblical perspective if we want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. If you are unsure about your own perspective on evangelism, ask the Holy Spirit to give you insight, and talk to mature Christians about it.
Cru is a community passionate about connecting people to Jesus Christ. We want to come alongside others on their spiritual journeys and help them take their next best step of faith toward Christ. We long to see movements of Christians sharing their faith in every walk of life so that everyone knows someone who truly follows Jesus.
Cru continues to exist as an organization because this vision has not yet been fulfilled. There are many people around the world who have never heard the message of Jesus.
Evangelism is the heartbeat of Cru. Through ministries like the Jesus Film Project, the gospel is constantly being translated into new languages so it can be taken to groups of people who have never heard it in their native tongue.
Cru also offers lots of opportunities for people to go share the gospel within the U.S. and overseas. If you want to develop your confidence in evangelism in another part of the world, Cru can send you there. The “Share the Gospel” section of Cru’s website also provides tools for you to use if you would like to share your faith but are not sure how.
For example, if you want simple, clear presentations of the gospel message you can discuss with a friend, try the GodTools app.
If you want to be more intentional in taking steps of faith with the people in your life or you want to find a community of others you can do this with, have a look at MissionHub.
Cru loves helping people like you with evangelism. Below you will find more evangelism resources designed for you.
Each of the resources below offers something slightly different. I recommend spending some time looking through them all to find something that meets your current needs. If you have someone mentoring you, this would be a great thing to discuss with that person. If you have never had a person take that role in your life, consider reading “What Christian Mentoring Is and How To Do It” or sign up to find a mentor through Cru.
Evangelism has changed the course of human history. Without it, the message of Jesus Christ would not have made it to nearly every corner of the world. In fact, you are reading this article right now because the gospel has been shared enough times for the story of Jesus to make it to your corner of the world. It had to be translated and written down in new languages, and eventually, it made its way to you. That is the love of God. He knew you would read this article today, right where you are. That is simply amazing.
God’s plan has always been for people to share about Him. He loves you, and He wants to give you an opportunity to step into the beauty of evangelism. How might God be inviting you to step into evangelism?
Who are three people in your life you could initiate a spiritual conversation with? Try asking them a question or two from the article “99 Wondering Questions.”
MissionHub is an app designed to help you be intentional with the people in your life by giving you steps of faith you can take with them. Try MissionHub.
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