If, as a Christian, you wonder, “What is evangelism?” or how to tell others about Jesus, how to share Jesus with a non-believer or someone different from you, how to share Jesus when it’s uncomfortable, or by door-to-door evangelism, you’re not alone. We’ve asked all those questions, too. In this blog post, we’ll share stories from personal experience in evangelism, including how to share Jesus when it’s uncomfortable, to help answer your questions.
What is evangelism?
Merriam Webster Dictionary defines evangelism as “the winning or revival of personal commitments to Christ.” Simply stated, evangelism is nothing more than sharing the good news of Jesus. How do we share Jesus with non-believers? Some people describe the process of sharing Jesus with others as “one beggar telling another beggar where to get bread,” specifically the bread of life.
If we accept the dictionary definition of evangelism, we may assume our efforts have failed if those with whom we share Jesus do not make a commitment to Christ. Scripture, however, tells us some sow seeds, others water, and some harvest but all are a part of the evangelism effort which results in a believer’s commitment to Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9)
Many people prefer to use a tract or an app to help them share the story of Jesus to a non-believer, and both can be very effective. They can be particularly helpful in situations where sharing Jesus is uncomfortable. In the early church, however, neither was an option. Instead, people practiced the kind of evangelism Jesus recommended in John 13:34-35.
What is Evangelism? The Evangelism of Love
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
We prepare to share Jesus with a non-believer long before the first conversation with them. To practice John 13 evangelism, we begin with a choice to love our fellow believers in the same way Jesus loved us. This is not romantic or “good friend” love, but unconditional, agape love. Jesus loved us regardless of our flaws and differences and willingly died to save us from our sins, therefore we should do the same.
We are to care for our fellow believers as if we were caring for ourselves or our family members and sacrifice when needed. In the years after Jesus’ returned to heaven, the disciples’ willingly died to defend His name. Their love for each other was so evident, people recognized them as Christians and would ask, “What does this mean?” The believers took every opportunity to share Jesus with non-believers, even when it was uncomfortable or dangerous. Despite the threat of arrest and imprisonment, they continued to share Jesus when it was difficult. It was hard to argue with such obvious love and, as a result, many people believed in Jesus and followed His ways.
The love Jesus expected is deep and rare.
The love Jesus intended His followers to demonstrate is deep, rare, and often stunning in a world consumed with self. If we want to know how to share Jesus with someone, especially with a non-believer who is different from us, or how to share Jesus when it’s uncomfortable, we can make a good start by involvement in a church, love for our fellow Christians, and prayer for those who don’t know our Savior. When someone asks, we simply tell them about Jesus and how He changed our lives. Truth, not a formula of special words, is the only requirement.
The Evangelism of Prayer
In Nottingham, England we partnered with a sister church for community-wide evangelism outreach. A woman there introduced me to a family friend who didn’t speak English. He attended their church often, drawn by the love and welcome he received, but he wasn’t a believer.
Since the first step in any effort to share Jesus with a non-believer, especially if it is uncomfortable, Is always prayer, we stepped away and prayed for him immediately. We asked God to draw the man to Him, help him see the love of the church and their willingness to welcome him, and soften his heart to Jesus. We prayed he’d want the faith he saw in the church members.
The Starting Point
Why is prayer so important as a starting point before we share Jesus with a non-believer? Jesus said no one could come to Him unless the Father drew them. We can’t interest someone in Jesus and we certainly can’t make them trust Him unless God is already at work in them.
Our job in evangelism is not conviction over sin or to drag unwilling people to God. Our job is to pray for God to move and say what God gives us to say to the non-believer when He gives us an opportunity. The work of conviction and drawing belongs only to the Holy Spirit.
A well-timed testimony of God’s faithfulness, an explanation of how we came to Christ, and an introduction to Scripture can all help as we share our faith with an unbeliever, including one who is different from us, or when it’s uncomfortable. We prepare through Bible study and understanding what we believe so we can answer questions from those who seek the truth of Jesus. When he/she asks, we take the time to answer, but love and pray first.
Door to Door Evangelism:
Our England team began each day with prayers for the community, specifically the housing complexes we intended to visit, and the non-believers we would meet. We prayed for grace to help us share Jesus even when it was uncomfortable. Afterward, we divided into teams for door-to-door evangelism. My job was to greet those who opened their door to us and make a quick acquaintance.
My partner, a university student on holiday, used a Christian booklet to go deeper. He talked with them about the church and gained permission to ask a few questions about faith and belief. People didn’t hesitate to answer, “Do you think you deserve to go to heaven or hell?” Such questions seemed shocking, but people were candid.
A few hard truths about the community soon became apparent. The level of Biblical illiteracy was heartbreaking. Many people cobbled together a bit from here and there to turn a variety of faiths into one jumble that had nothing to do with the truth of Jesus. Quite a few people had never considered “religion” or faith in God at all. Unfortunately, the situation in this country is no different.
Some people with whom we spoke wanted to learn more, so we shared the gospel in a clearer way. We invited everyone to a barbecue at the church later in the week and many came.
What about praying the prayer?
We didn’t press anyone to commit to a relationship with Jesus although many people consider this an essential part of door-to-door evangelism. A decision to follow Christ begins with an understanding of sin as an offense against our righteous God and the payment God provided in Jesus, but it must also include a willingness to accept His sacrifice and commit our lives to a relationship with and service to Christ. Most lacked enough clear information to make an informed decision. For those who had never considered God at all, their greatest need was to understand who God is, the cost of sin, and the payment of Jesus in order to make an informed, life-altering commitment.
Encouragement to pray words they didn’t understand to a God they didn’t know in order to make a commitment they didn’t mean would not result in salvation or eternal life. It would be a grave disservice to them and might prevent them from making a meaningful commitment to Christ later.
How to share Jesus with non-believers even if it’s uncomfortable
When we knocked on one door, someone called to us from inside. “I can’t come to the door right now. Can you come to the window?” she asked. She was feeding her baby, so she opened the window and we propped elbows on the window sill for a nice chat.
This young woman chose to accept Christ a few years earlier but had some hard experiences at church because of her lifestyle choices. She was no longer part of a local congregation and no one had taught her what it means to be a follower of Christ. She missed the connections in a church family but was reluctant to risk more censure because of her lifestyle.
We view conviction for sin and the work of changing lives as God’s responsibility, so we chose to love and leave the God-work to the only One able to accomplish it. “Come as you are,” we suggested and invited her to the barbecue. She was surprised to have an invitation despite her situation, but she was hungry for a connection and invited us to come inside and visit some more.
Almost immediately it became clear she knew nothing about sin, Jesus, or judgment. She told us she only believed in love. After a long and quite lovely visit, she decided to come to the barbecue on Thursday and go through the “Christianity explored” class. Her partner didn’t join in our visit but we suggested she come on Thursday, too. We prayed for grace to abound for this lost but very sweet young mother.
What we didn’t do and why we didn’t do it
Some people might think we did a poor job of sharing Jesus with this non-believer who was so different from us in her lifestyle choices because we didn’t push for a decision or confront her sin. Instead, we chose to love, ask hard questions, and continue to love when her answers didn’t match ours.
When we encounter people whose lifestyle choices differ from ours, we must remember one simple truth. ALL have sinned, and that includes us. Jesus died for every sinner, not just those who sin as we do. Responsibility for the work of conviction is not ours but belongs to the Holy Spirit. Our job is to love like Jesus loved—no matter what—and pray for God to complete the work He began in this young woman.
We chose to share Jesus with a non-believer who was different from us by intentionally demonstrating the love and acceptance Jesus showed us when we came to Him. She responded by welcoming us into her home and joining us later in the week for the barbecue. She even enrolled her older child in a church after-school program.
Door to door evangelism:How to share Jesus when it’s uncomfortable
One evening we visited with “a massive bloke” who was shirtless and had extensive tattoos. His size and demeanor were initially intimidating, so sharing Jesus with him felt uncomfortable. His family wasn’t religious but he agreed to answer a few of our survey questions. He didn’t know about sin or Jesus but thought He had something to do with Easter. This man, too, was very different from us and his initial suspicion and reticence made sharing Jesus uncomfortable. He wasn’t sure about the state of the world but thought we needed more community.
When he recognized my American accent, he had lots of questions. “Is America as beautiful as on TV? What are people like?” I answered them with a couple of stories and made an instant connection. My hand was bandaged from a recent surgery so I also shared how people from church helped take care of me and the sense of community we have because we’ve become a family. He wanted what we have and was willing to consider visiting a church in order to have it.
My young partner asked if he’d go through a few more questions with us and the man agreed. He remembered Jesus was resurrected so we had a bit of a head start there, but he was shocked to learn he’d sinned and might stand at the judgment in danger of hell. It was clear he didn’t want that at all so he decided to come to the barbecue and read the gospel of Mark, a book on difficult questions, and go through Christianity Explored.
Door to Door Evangelism: How to share Jesus with a non-believer who is different from you, especially when it’s uncomfortable and feels dangerous
On the last visit of the last day, we had a real surprise. The man who opened the door hated anyone who goes door to door. He especially hated Christians and had a variety of unkind things to say, in addition to calling us “no better than ISIS.” We wanted to disagree but it wouldn’t have helped so we simply stayed to listen to the tirade without a hostile reply. We did share a few words about Jesus with this non-believer, even though it was uncomfortable.
As we left this unpleasant encounter, we decided to retaliate in the best way possible. We prayed for the biggest blessings we could imagine, including that he would see Jesus in a new way and choose to follow Him.
Evangelism and Spiritual Warfare
The warfare was intense and our challenges included poorly healing wounds, threats from armed thugs in the night, a crazed man stripping off clothes in the church parking lot. a lockdown at the school we visited while we were inside because of a police emergency – all within one 24-hour period. We doubled up on efforts to recruit prayer and saw an immediate change. Peace prevailed throughout and the chaos and confusion ceased. (If you’re among the hundreds of people who prayed for us on the trip, please accept our thanks and know that you made an enormous difference! Thank you!)
Lessons Learned about door-to-door evangelism and sharing Jesus when it’s uncomfortable:
- Many people are isolated and desperate for meaningful connections. People were far more gracious and open than we imagined possible. People were gracious, warm, kind, and friendly.
- Pray is a critical part of evangelism and in how to share Jesus with a non-believer. Before, after, and during the outreaches, the church members bathed every event in prayer. They prayed with expectation but also with hearts breaking over the lost condition of their community. “We have the best news in the world. How dare we keep it to ourselves? It’s not right to refuse to share what we know.”
- When we share Jesus in a non-threatening, loving way with non-believers who are different from us or when it is uncomfortable, most people are gracious, kind, and willing to listen.
- Our job is to sow the seeds. God can handle the work of bringing the harvest to fruition.
- Life-changing decisions are not snap decisions but need careful consideration. We must be willing to give time for God to work.
Evangelism is the job of every believer, whether they have the gift of evangelism or not.
The commitment of the church in Nottingham to the souls of the people in their community was stunning and beautiful to behold. Their fervor for loving their neighbor and the tenacity with which they reach out to those in need is relentlessness. They are welcoming to those who are different and inclusive of those who view life differently even when it’s uncomfortable. Our American team left with a few important lessons that changed our lives, deepened our faith, and expanded our ministry.
Seven Evangelism Truths Every Christian Needs to Know:
- “Go into all the world” includes the part of the world outside my door.
- If we believe we have the Good News of Jesus that can save us from hell and damnation, we are remiss if we fail to share that news with those in need of His love, whether I have the gift of evangelism or not.
- Every difficult outreach effort must be bathed in prayer but “difficult” or “uncomfortable” is not an excuse for the failure to try.
- People respond to the love they see in us.
- God can and does make the impossible possible – no matter how unlikely.
- If God can save and change us, He can save and change anyone.
- If people in our town go to hell without knowing the truth about Jesus, or because of Biblical illiteracy, it’s not the fault of the lost people. It’s the fault of the body of Christ. We can do more and we must.
Our Responsibility for Change
We saw a paucity of Biblical truth that shocked us to our core. People cannot believe what they do not know. They cannot know what they have not heard. The telling, the sharing, and the teaching are the responsibility of God’s people and, judging by our experience in England, we’re doing a poor job of it. The heartbreaking truth is Biblical illiteracy is just as common here as across the Atlantic.
If we want to change the world, we must start with our own homes and expand first to our own neighborhoods – those directly outside the doors of our churches. We must be willing to share Jesus with those who are different and when it is uncomfortable. Combined with the love of Christ and the acceptance that says “I’m a sinner, too, so come along with me,” we can change the world. And we must.
“Some men want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell. I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.” C.T. Studd
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore 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 28:18-20 NIV
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