Methods of Evangelism in the New
Christian university student shared a room with a Muslim.
As they became friends, their conversation turned to religion.
The believer asked the Muslim if he’d ever read the Bible.
He answered no, but then asked if the Christian had ever read the
Koran. The believer
responded, “No, I haven’t, but I’m sure it would be interesting.
Why don’t we read both together, once a week, alternating books?”
The young man accepted the challenge, their friendship deepened,
and during the second term the Muslim became a Christian.
One evening, late in the term, he burst into the Christian's room
and shouted, “You deceived me!”
“What are you talking about?” the Christian asked.
The new believer opened his Bible and said, “I’ve been reading it
through, like you told me, and just read that the Word is living and
active! You knew all along
that the Bible contained God’s power, and that the Koran is a book like
any other. I never had a
chance!” “Now will you hate
me for life?” asked the believer.
“No,” he said, “but it was an unfair contest!”
We never really know what can happen when we attempt to convert others.
It was amazing to me to see how quickly that Muslim converted!
Sometimes we think that our times might even be some of the
toughest in which to convert others.
Yet, the first century also had its difficulties.
Listen to how one author describe the situation which the early
Christians faced: “They demanded repentance and [baptism] in response to
the proclamation of the gospel.
They were very bold about it, despite the opposition encountered.
... This was flying in the face of all convention and social propriety.
... They lived in a world [with] more relatives[m]
(or nothing matters) and [with] more pluralis[m] (or more ideologies)
than our own. And
yet they would not make any compromise on the issue.
What was needed was not more religion, but a new life—and Jesus
could provide it” (M. Green).
By the end of the second century, the Gospel had been presented
all over the Roman Empire, and Persia and Egypt were also beginning to
be evangelized (K. Latourete).
How did these early Christians reach so many despite the fact
that they had no mass media?
Let's look at four methods, the basic methods, which they used.
The first method might be called public evangelism.
One type of public evangelism was synagogue worship.
This was a readymade audience, especially for Jewish Christians
who wanted to teach other Jews.
During a synagogue worship service, any male could be called on
to read Scriptures and to give an exhortation.
Notice what Acts 13:14ff tells us: “But when they [Paul and
Barnabas] departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisdia, and went
into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down.
And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of
the synagogue sent to them saying, 'Men and brethren, if you have any
word of exhortation for the people, say on!'
Then Paul stood up and motioning with his hand said, 'Men of
Israel and you who fear God [that's the Gentiles in the audience who has
become Jewish converts], listen: ...”
Then Paul proceeded to explain how Jesus was the promised
Messiah. Preaching in the
synagogue was Paul primary strategy during his missionary travels, and
the Gentile converts to Judaism often became Christians.
Here was a structure filled with an audience who already
respected the Scriptures and knew something about the Messiah.
Perhaps the closest thing we have to synagogue preaching would be
our Gospel Meetings. We
meet at a church building or a large arena and try to gather an audience
so that they can hear a presentation of the gospel.
The more who attend, the more chances we have of converting
someone. They will work IF
we will work! Another type
of public evangelism used by the early Christians was marketplace
evangelism. Paul used this
approach as well in Athens.
Acts 17:17 states: “Therefore, he reasoned in the synagogue with the
Jews and the Gentiles worshipers, and in the marketplace daily who those
who happened to be there.” The
Roman marketplace was a civic center where all kinds of people gathered.
Buyer and sellers were there, but many others were there as well:
tax-collectors, philosophers, the unemployed, gossips.
Some people came for recreation, and the proud came to show off.
Usually, there was also a place for court hearings and a forum
for public discussions and debates.
Paul took advantage of this situation to share the Gospel.
We don't have much open air preaching anymore, but our
marketplace would probably be our workplace.
Just as the marketplace drew a wide variety of people, so the
workplace does the same today.
Now, ideally, our workplaces are supposed to be neutral
locations, where religions and ideologies have no place.
Ideally, maybe, but in reality, many workplaces promote an agenda
and push an ideology.
Lunchtime is often a perfect hour for Christians to discuss religious
issues and to share their faith and the Gospel.
A third type of public evangelism was the school.
Paul also used this approach in Ephesus.
Acts 19:9 informs us: “But when some [of the Jews] were
hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way [or of
Christianity] before the multitude, Paul departed from them and withdrew
the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.
And this continued for two years, so that all those who lived in
Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.”
It is interesting that
archaeologists have discovered this very place.
Paul worked out some agreement with the owner to use this
facility, and Luke comments that it was very effective in teaching
others! Today, in our
educational system, teachers are limited to a great degree as to what
they can share openly with regards to religion, but they can still have
a great influence. Students
can know their stance and their religious convictions.
I'm glad our brotherhood values Christian education.
Several congregations have begun academies (with students from
kindergarten to High School), and private Christian colleges have had an
important role in spiritual formation and in converting unbelievers.
Let's keep trying to use public evangelism to convert others!
A second method might be called household evangelism.
In the Roman household, the father was the undisputed head, and
he could try any household member in a family court, especially women
and slaves. In addition to
his own relatives, there were three other groups associated with the
household: the slaves who served the family, the clients who were freed
people who determined to take the family name and remain with them, and
the friends who enjoyed the family's trust and from whom the family
expected devotion. One
writer observes: “The family, understood in this broad way as consisting
of blood relations, slaves, clients, and friends was one of the [great
strengths] of the Greco-Roman society.
Christian missionaries made a deliberate point of gaining
whatever households they could as lighthouses, so to speak, from which
the gospel could illuminate to the surrounding darkness” (M. Green).
If the household's father was converted, there was a good chance
that many of the rest of household would be too.
Remember what Cornelius did when Peter came to him?
Acts 10:24 informs us that Cornelius “had called together his
relatives and close friends” and verse 27 states that Peter had
found “many who had come together.”
By the end of the story, we see
that all of these in Cornelius's household were converted!
In some culture's, the father is still seen as the head of
family, and if he is converted, others will often follow.
Sometimes, the same principle worked with a female.
Remember Lydia of Philippi?
Acts 16:15 reports: “And when she and her household were
baptized, she begged us saying, 'If you have judged me to be faithful to
the Lord, come to my house and stay.'”
In some cultures, the woman
calls the shots for the family.
So it is wise to try to convert the mother first so that her
influence can help to bring about other conversions.
Lastly, we must not underestimate the importance of sharing the
Gospel with teens and children as well.
Timothy had the blessing of being raised by godly woman.
Paul recalls the genuine faith exhibited by Lois, Timothy's
grandmother, and by Eunice, his mother (2 Tim. 1:5), and how these women
had taught Timothy the Scriptures during his childhood (2 Tim. 3:15).
Parents, one our greatest duties is to bring up our children as
well “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Doesn't it stand to reason
that parents who read the Bible and teach their children at home, and
bring them to Bible classes, and take them to youth activities, send
them to Bible camps and let them help in service projects are much more
likely to strengthen their faith than if they do not do any of these
things? Listen, if we can
push and support our children in sports, and gymnastics, choirs, bands,
drama, pageants, and field trips, why can't we push and support them in
spiritual matters? Visiting
in homes, another form of household evangelism, is still a great way to
reach out to others. One
church growth specialist, who has written many books on this subject,
made this interesting observation: “Despite this [variety] of creative
ideas and programs, the best single approach is still the old-fashioned
system of personal visitation.
This system affirms the value of face-to-face relationships and
requires the [preacher] and [the members] to call, on a regular basis,
on individuals and families [in their homes] who do not have an active
relationship with any ... congregation” (L. Shaller).
In other words, going out and visiting people in their homes is
still the best way to grow a church!
Let's keep practicing household evangelism to bring others to
The third method could be called personal evangelism.
In the first chapter of John's gospel, we see this method used.
As soon as John the Baptizer pointed two of his disciples to
Jesus, Andrew immediately seeks out his brother Peter and brings him to
Jesus (John 1:35-42).
Andrew has this outstanding trait—whenever you read about him, he is
usually bringing someone to Jesus.
The next part of chapter one shows Jesus finding Philip, and then
Philip immediately finds Nathaniel and persuades him to come and to meet
Christ. Maybe we need to
follow their lead. Those
who have studied patterns of church growth have determined through
interviews that about 75% of the people say that they began coming to
church because a relative or a close friend invited them!
Isn't that amazing?
If we'll just ask our relatives or a close friend to attend worship
services, there is a pretty good chance that they can be persuaded!
If asking them face to face might be too nerve-wracking, why not
mail them a nice written invitation?
Now let's consider another example.
Over in Acts 9, our Lord tells Ananias to go to the street called
Straight to the house of Judas in order to share the Gospel with Saul of
Tarsus. God knew exactly
where Saul was and exactly what he needed in order to be saved. What was
Ananias' response? “Yes,
Lord, I'll get right on it!” No,
no, he was really reluctant because of Saul's destructive reputation:“Lord,
I have heard much from many about this man, how much harm he has done to
your saints in Jerusalem.”
something here that's important.
Was Ananias right?
Yes, from what he had heard others had said Saul was a mean fellow, but
at the moment he talked with the Lord, what was Saul's disposition?
He was blind, fasting, repenting or having a complete change of
heart for Jesus had stepped in and revealed Himself to Saul.
The point is that despite the reputation we may have heard about
another, we do not know how that person might be changing until we go to
visit and to talk with them.
Or to put it another way—we never know what's going on in the
heart of that person whose door we knock.
What if Ananias hadn't gone to Judas' house to find Saul?
One of the world's greatest missionaries might never had left
Damascus! We won't know the
fruit of our labors until we knock on someone's door and try to plant
the seed of God's Word as we talk or study with them.
Personal evangelism is talking with relatives, friends, and those
we try to reach by going out and knocking on their doors!
Finally, it's also talking with those who might come to us.
The book of Acts ends with this affirmation: “Then Paul dwelt
two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to
him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern
the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him” (Acts
2830-31). Paul was
under house arrest, but he was still able to welcome others to his home
and teach them. One brother
I knew in York was looking for a home to buy.
When he saw this big den area in
the basement of one house, I said, “Wow, this is great!
We can have small group Bible studies right here in this area!”
Now there's an evangelistic mindset!
Brothers and sisters, have we ever thought of using our homes as
places of outreach? You
know, your home can be a little taste of heaven, a refuge from
worldliness, and a place where people can discover the real meaning of
life! Did you know that
having small groups over to learn about our Lord in homes has been one
of the most effective strategies used in recent years by churches that
are growing? Some even say
that it is THE MOST effective strategy to reach the present generation
(J. W. Ellas)! Personal
evangelism still works, whether it be asking someone to attend a worship
service or Gospel meeting, or going to their home, or inviting them to
your home. Let's be
obedient like Andrew, Ananias, and Paul and keep utilizing the method of
The fourth method used by the early Christians was literary
evangelism. The early
Christians would use the four Gospels to tell others about Jesus.
Despite what critics claim, like those in the Jesus Seminar did,
the four gospels in our New Testaments are still the most reliable
sources that exist about Jesus' life!
They tell us about a historical Jesus, and not a legendary Jesus.
Sometimes when just the Gospels were distributed into difficult
neighborhoods, their impact caused the crime rate to drop significantly
(R. Shelley). We can still
distribute the Gospels, but we also are blessed to have many tracts on
various topics that we can utilize as well.
Someone is doing a good job in keeping our tract rack in the
foyer well stocked! Hey, if
you feel bashful about sharing the Gospel personally, why not pass along
a tract to another person?
If there's not a tract in our rack that seems to be suitable for what
you want to communicate, let me know and we'll start looking for another
tract out there that just might fit the bill!
There was one sister who always had several tracts in her purse.
She was not the confrontational type, but she wasn't afraid to
distribute tracts—the waitress or busboy would find one on the table
where she had eaten, the pharmacist might find on his counter after her
purchase, the garbage man might find one on top the trash can lid, etc.
You get the idea, so try it if you like it!
The apostles and other early defenders of the faith were fond of
using letters to instruct both believers and non-believers.
Besides the Gospel and Acts, all the other books in the NT are
letters or have references to letters in them!
Remember the old proverb: the pen is mightier than the sword!
We too can use letters and Bible Correspondence Courses to teach
others. There is still an
excitement about getting a hand-written personalized letter!
Putting your thoughts on paper does take some time, but it's a
great way to reach out to another!
Bro. John Reese is going to be with us next week to tell us about
the World Bible School Correspondence program.
Right now, there are about 2 million people reading WBS
materials. Of that number,
about 26,000 will complete the course and request baptism each year!
They also have their courses online for those who might like to
teach using the computer.
It's a great program, and I'm glad that Bro. Reese will be challenging
us to be a part of it! To
be a teacher will require about an hour to two hours of your time
weekly. Yes, I know that
adds up, but what better investment of your time could you make than
leading another to become a disciple of Jesus and a member of His
church? And like the DVDs
on Sunday evening have shown, who knows how it might multiply from there
as those converts seek to reach others?
One final way the early Christians taught others was through the
Peter, Paul, and Stephen often used the scriptures in the Old Testament
to point to Jesus, as their preaching in the book of Acts shows us.
Yes, the Word of God is still that living and active sword that
cuts people to the heart, like that Muslim observed (Hebrews 4:12)!
I heard about one missionary who worked among a very warlike
people. They had no written
language. So he learned
their language and then invented an alphabet for it.
Then he translated the Bible into their language, which is no
small task (usually such a process takes about 10 years of steady work).
He translated the entire Bible except of the books of Kings; he
thought they were warlike enough already and didn't want to give them
any more ideas! Just
sharing a Bible or even portions of the scriptures with other people is
still a powerful way to evangelize!
Let's continue to practice literary evangelism!
We live in a day and age where we almost experience information
overload—television, radio, billboards, newspapers, magazines, videos,
CDs, DVDs, Internet, I-pods, Blackberries, and more.
But the early Christians still made an impact on their world by
using the basics—public evangelism, household evangelism, personal
evangelism, and literary evangelism.
Let's follow in their steps!
As we also think about our upcoming brainstorming session, let's
continue to suggest ways that we can reach out to others.
You know, research shows that it takes about ten contacts (I mean
intentional and personal efforts) to persuade an American to visit a
church! That's why using
all these methods are so important.
Usually, using just one method alone won't cut it, but if people
see a variety of appeals, through tracts, through phone calls, through
door knocking, through articles in the newspaper, through small group
home Bible studies, etc., then the odds are much higher that they will
visit us and potentially be led to our Lord!
There was a man named Bruce who once called to a minister and
asked him to pray for him since he would soon be going to have surgery
done for an aneurysm in his brain and then he added, “Could I talk with
someone from your church about getting my life in order?”
The minister responded, “Sure!” and took down his address.
This church had a visitation program, and soon someone visited
the man and his 11 year-old-son.
shared their faith and the Gospel with them during their visit.
The surgery took place, and Bruce had complications.
The surgery led to heart problems, and that led to stroke,
leaving half of Bruce's body paralyzed.
Bruce spent several weeks in rehabilitation.
Then one Sunday came, Bruce and his son slipped into a worship
service. When the
invitation was sung, he shuffled down the aisle with his cane and with
his son, and both made the good confession and were baptized!
What a joyful ending to that story!
But here's another question to ponder: What would have happened to Bruce
and his son if that church had not have had an active visitation
Are you ready this year to start fishing, for people that is?
Will you think seriously about how you can touch the lives of
others? Will you start an
unfair contest? Will you
tell others that Jesus can give them a new life?
Will you share your faith on the job or at school?
Will you try to reach another family or to bless your own
children? Will you knock on
someone's door or invite them to your home?
Will you write a letter, or grade correspondence courses, or pass
a tract or a Bible along to someone else?
The fields are still white unto harvest!
If you want prayers to be a better reaper this year or to be more
effective in reaching others, won't you come as we stand and sing