I had the great privilege of hanging with a group from Harvest in London a couple of years ago. It began with Thursday and Friday evangelism training sessions followed by some on the street witnessing in Victoria Park, downtown London. The newbies were paired up with the vets with tracks in hand and we were fired up to share the gospel. A few listened, a few shrugged, and a few walked away. But then came the grand finale of the night. A soap box was brought out and some were wired up to a microphone if they were young and shy and couldn’t project their voice. And I watched for a while and the trainers asked me if I wanted to give it a go. I never dreamed of doing such a thing but that particular night I did. I explained the gospel in about two minutes and then got down off the soap box.
We are in our 9 mark series of growing a church toward health and number five is a biblical understanding of evangelism. Do I believe that the soap box method is a legit form of evangelism? Absolutely. Do I believe it’s the only form of evangelism? Absolutely not. It can be over coffee with a friend….over the fence with a neighbour…beside a stranger on a plane. There are many different settings and many different ways. We looked at God, Man, Christ, Response a couple of posts ago so what I want to do today is briefly mention six biblical guidelines that I have adapted from Nine Marks of a Healthy Church and key in on two of them.
1. Call people to repent and believe but don’t water it down. Peter got really gut level honest about sin with his hearers in the early chapters of Acts.
2. It’s an urgent call. (Hebrews 4:7, Ephesians 5:15,16)
3. Tell them with joy that if they repent and believe they will be saved. And however difficult life gets, it’ll be worth it.
4. Use the Bible.
5. Realize that the lives of individual believers and of the church as a whole are central to evangelism.
Now let’s shine the spotlight on four and five.
Individuals and the body are so central to evangelism.  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 ESV)
A personal testimony is strong evidence but a corporate testimony is stronger still. In imperfect churches who are seeking to love one another, when an unbeliever gets dropped into that setting, they’ll see something that they will have likely never experienced. Their unbelieving family, the workplace, a group of students from school will not match a God-generated kind of love in the family of God…in the body. It’s a love that crosses ethnic lines, age groups, and financial incomes. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19 ESV) There is a growing purity to genuine Spirit-empowered love. And please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about being nice. That’s what the world does and we are to be kind but true love both encourages and confronts because we have the well-being of the person and God’s glory in mind. If churches knew the positive impact that they could have on unbelievers when they seek to love well by God’s grace. Believers, myself included, need to get body and that’s another post for another time.
We also need to use the Word in evangelism. That’s what Philip did in Acts 8.  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17 ESV) I had been reading a book on discipleship but it also talked about using the Bible with unbelievers for the purpose of evangelism. Right around that time I had a guy parachute into my office. He was new to our church and wasn’t a believer and we started studying the Bible together. As he poured out his life to me and as we poured over the Word together, he came to realize that he wasn’t a believer. So right there in my study, the Spirit had been working on him. The Spirit had been working on him as he heard the Word preached in our church every Sunday and he saw the love, imperfect as it was, between believers. So one day we were studying and he was convicted that he wasn’t saved, and he repented and believed. He continues to this day in his walk with Christ and continues to get together with someone who is discipling him and he is growing in his faith, step by step. Faith does come through hearing, amen?
Too many times we put our trust in the big show when it comes to evangelism. The lights, the smoke, the drama, specific words, special techniques, altar calls. What we really need to do is put our trust in the real Big Show…God Himself. We need to trust in His Word and attempt to live by the biblical guidelines that He’s given us about evangelism.