A great need exists for churches to develop a culture of intentional evangelism. This was the subject of Tuesday’s module by Pat Nemmers (lead pastor of Saylorville Church, Des Moines, Iowa) and Chuck De Cleene (pastor of evangelism and outreach, New City Church, Ankeny, Iowa).
In theory, evangelism is simple. Nemmers explains, “When we evangelize we are telling someone else the good news that they can receive forgiveness of their sins and hope of eternal life through faith in the person of Jesus Christ, having believed in His death and resurrection for them personally.”
Most Christians know what evangelism is, and they know they should be evangelizing others. Yet precious little evangelism actually takes place. So what causes the disconnect, and what can be done to alleviate it?
Nemmers and De Cleene identified three major inhibitors to evangelism—fear, Satan, and disobedience—and suggested practical steps Christians can take to overcome these inhibitors. Fear as an inhibitor to evangelism can take many forms, including fear of failure, fear of being stumped, and fear of alienation. Many believers allow these fears to paralyze them and dissuade them from even attempting to share their faith with others. The root of the problem, according to Nemmers and De Cleene, is that we do not fear God as much as we should, and therefore we allow ourselves to be overcome by our fear of other factors. “Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others,” Paul writes (2 Cor. 5:11, ESV).
Satan can also inhibit evangelistic efforts, so Nemmers and De Cleene argue that Christians must understand evangelism in the context of spiritual warfare. “This is warfare,” Nemmers explains. “This isn’t a playground; it’s a battleground.” And the key to winning this war is “prayer, fasting, and the armor of God.”
Finally, perhaps the greatest inhibitor of evangelism is disobedience. “We’re very good at coming up with excuses for why we don’t regularly share the gospel,” Nemmers explains. “But ultimately it comes down to this: we’re disobedient.”
“A lot of times, people say they don’t have time to evangelize,” De Cleene says. “But we do the things that are most comfortable to us. We do the things we like to do.” The solution, then, is to make evangelism a priority. “We need to view evangelism as a mark of obedience,” Nemmers remarks.
Pivoting to the issue of evangelistic approaches, Nemmers and De Cleene are quick to highlight conversational evangelism as an extremely effective methodology. “There’s a place for all evangelistic approaches, but our focus is on starting gospel conversations that produce fruit over time,” they say. “It takes nine months for a baby to come into the world; doesn’t it stand to reason that it might take weeks or months for someone to come to Jesus?”
Drawing on Colossians 4:2–6, Nemmers identifies seven helpful keys for effective conversational evangelism:
- Pray for open doors
- Learn to speak with clarity
- Know your audience
- Seize the moment
- Have a plan
- Speak graciously
- Answer their questions
Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Col. 4:2–6)