Effective evangelism is the product of a heart burning for the cause of the unreached, the defenseless and voiceless. There is a compassion and desire for disseminating the hope of salvation and relationship with Christ which drives the evangelist. Its effectiveness is most obvious when the evangelist lives a specifically identifiable lifestyle, pointing to the likeness of Christ.
Kenneth Boa’s Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation, describes various approaches and examples of evangelism in the New Testament. “Scripture illustrates different methods of evangelism, and three of these are proclamational, confrontational, and relational. The apostle Peter used a proclamational approach in his sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). About three thousand souls were added to the family of God that day (v. 41). Philip the deacon illustrates a confrontational approach in his one-time encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39). All of us are called to represent Christ, but a few believers are given a particular gift of personal evangelism that enables them to be effective in sharing the gospel without first developing a relational history with outsiders. The relational approach is portrayed in the apostle Paul’s description of his intimate personal engagement with people in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:1-12).”
Barriers to evangelism stem from misconceptions of the task, held by both Christians and unbelievers. Many Christians are reluctant to present the gospel intuitively sensing it may result in rejection. Unbelievers who have had sour experiences with forceful, insensitive ‘would-be’ evangelists will view all contact with Christians through giant eyes of skepticism. And the truth is that they are right to feel this way. Charlatans and some who were not even born-again have taken it upon themselves to force condemning interpretations of doctrine down people’s throats. Unfortunately, this has pre-polluted the atmosphere needed for successful evangelism and gospel presentation. The next and possibly most important barrier to evangelism is learning how to let one’s life to speak. It will always be tempting to shout out what we know in a way that makes us feel powerful and noticed. The trick, however, is to let personal character and lifestyle, do all the talking.
In general, the power of God is desperately needed in the church today. Doctrine borne out of cessationism has threatened to squelch the Holy Spirit altogether in some churches. Young people in particular, unless drawn to religion for performance-reward reasons, are not likely to be impressed with a stale, powerless, philosophical sermon series in a church. The power of God, demonstrated in myriad ways, with theologically sound underpinnings, will draw young people in droves. For example, Hillsong church in Sydney, Australia has a worship ministry which powerfully draws in the lost and ministers life in an undeniable, free-flowing Spirit way. It is truly exciting and attractive, not dull and repetitive, or worship track monotony as some churches specialize in.
A great way to make the gospel relevant is to bring it to the community by meeting their needs. This is highly effective outreach and doesn’t require others to join a church. Rather, unbelievers and strangers alike can freely become the recipients of outreach and blessing. One strategy as practiced by a local church in the Vienna, VA area, is to offer free ice water to thirsty cyclists along the 45 mile W&OD (Washington and Old Dominion) Trail. Most leave refreshed and merely say “thanks,” while some start up a conversation that may lead to sharing Christ. Overall, their kind and generous actions speak much louder than words.