Summary: You can share your faith without changing who you are.
[Much of the material in this sermon was taken from the book Becoming a Contagious Christian.]
When I say the word “evangelism” what pops into your mind? Many people immediately conjure up memories of infamous televangelists, known primarily for extracting large amounts of money from their well-meaning followers. Or they think of the stereotypical street preacher, megaphone in hand, blaring out indictments about the end of the world and the impending judgment of God.
In the book The Day America Told the Truth by James Patterson and Peter Kim, it’s reported that when a national survey asked people to rank various professions for their honesty and integrity, TV evangelists came almost at the very bottom, below lawyers, politicians, car salesmen, and prostitutes. Out of the 73 occupations compared in this integrity rating, only two ended up lower on the scale: organized crime bosses and drug dealers! Fair or unfair, it’s easy to understand why so many of us struggle with our perceptions of evangelism. We want to honor God by directing those around us toward His love and truth, but we wonder what we’ll have to become in the process.
Evangelism is a part of our purpose! “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.”—Matthew 28:19-20a
Does the dreaded “E word” fill you with fear and guilt?
Common Excuse: “Evangelism is not my spiritual gift.” Another spiritual gift is encouragement (Rom. 12:8), but every Christian should encourage others. “Let us encourage one another” (Heb. 10:25).
Common Misconception: “I have to be someone I’m not in order to effectively share my faith.” (For example, “I have to be like Billy Graham.”)
“The Big Idea”: You can share your faith without changing who you are.
God uses all kinds of people to reach all kinds of people.
SIX STYLES OF EVANGELISM
[Note: The material below has been borrowed from a book called Becoming a Contagious Christian by Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg.]
1. The Confrontational Style
Example: Peter (Acts 2)
It’s no secret that Peter was a “Ready-Fire-Aim” kind of guy. Whatever he did, he did it without hesitation and with full force. When Jesus asked the disciples in Matthew 16:15 who they thought He was, Peter immediately declared flat-out that Jesus was the Messiah. Then a few verses later he challenged Jesus’ stated mission head on. Can you imagine trying to correct the Son of God? You might, if you have a confrontational style yourself!
When Peter was in the fishing boat and wanted to be with Jesus, he didn’t hesitate to do whatever it took to get close to Him, even if it meant trying to walk on water. And when their enemies came to take Jesus away, Peter was ready to cut off their heads.
All Peter needed was to be convinced he was right, and there was almost no stopping him. He was direct, he was bold, and he was right to the point. Is it any wonder God chose him as His spokesman on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2? It was a perfect fit! Verse 14 says, Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.” God needed someone unafraid to take a stand, right there in Jerusalem, the city where Jesus had been crucified a few weeks earlier. He wanted to let the thousands of people who were there know in no uncertain terms that they had crucified the Messiah, and that they needed to call on Him for His mercy and forgiveness.
Peter’s personality was custom-designed to fill the bill. With the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, he stood quite naturally and confronted the people with the facts. And God miraculously used his efforts; 3,000 people trusted Christ and were baptized that same day.
As exciting as that historical event was, we need to turn our focus to today. Do you realize that there are a lot of people in your world who won’t come to Christ until someone like Peter holds their feet to the fire? Some people are just waiting for a Christian who won’t beat around the bush, but who’ll clarify the truth of Christ and challenge them to do something about it? Do you resonate with Peter’s approach, or are you ready to move on to the other five options?
If this approach is for you, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to know how, when, and where to direct your words and challenges.
Caution: Mix grace with truth.
2. The Intellectual Style
Example: Paul (Acts 17)