Someone wrote, “Evangelism is more caught than taught.” In other words, new disciples will catch on to soul-winning when they go out to do personal evangelism with more experienced witnesses. Classroom evangelism, where one learns the basics, is important, but most evangelistic skill is learned and “caught” through practice. Indeed, it’s not just something you “go to do,” but something you “do as you go.” Churches that have strong witnessing and discipleship programs often, are the churches that grow.
The Apostle Paul, one of Scripture’s most ardent evangelists, described himself as a fearless ambassador in chains (Ephesians 6:18-20). In order to speak fearlessly, he asked for prayer (v. 19), so he could make known the mystery of the gospel. As we struggle against the spiritual forces of evil, prayer is the all important experience that makes the whole armor of God effective. Prayer is indispensable for sharing the gospel.
Another indispensable ally in the work of witnessing to the lost is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:4, 5 (NIV) declares: “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 human wisdom, but on God’s power.” The Holy Spirit gives us boldness in sharing the message of Christ’s good news of the kingdom.
“After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the disciples, clothed with the divine panoply, went forth as witnesses, to tell the wonderful story of the manger and the cross. They were humble men, but they went forth with the truth. After the death of their Lord, they were a helpless, disappointed, discouraged company—as sheep without a shepherd; but now they go forth as witnesses for the truth, with no weapons but the word and Spirit of God, to triumph over all opposition”—Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 66, 67.
This year, 2013, is the year of NY13—an evangelistic initiative for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with the people of New York City. As we go out to share, remember, we are not merely to take the people to church but to take the church to the people. When the gospel is presented, people will repent and many will be baptized, as Mark 16:15 reminds us.
Finally, as we fearlessly witness and share the gospel, we must remember to leave the results to God. All three phases of evangelism—field preparation, sermon presentation, and soul conservation—must be done in the power of the Holy Spirit. At every stage, we leave the baptismal results to God. We can’t convert or save the lost. We can only present the Good News, and rely upon God to save sinners.
Donald G. King is president of the Atlantic Union Conference and chairman of the Atlantic Union College, Inc., Board of Trustees.