Last Sunday at enCompass Church in Winnipeg, I preached on evangelism in terms of witnessing (seeing and hearing) what God was doing in a person’s life or situation, and then speaking about that (or witnessing to that) to them, like a detective discovers evidence and presents it to their clients.
While many Scripture passages talk about evangelism this way, Peter and Paul’s response to the Pharisees trying to get them to stop preaching impacted me a lot: “As for us, we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
Along with a detective, I used the image of a sniper, waiting patiently to speak to those God directs us to in the ways He shows us, instead of using a ‘shotgun’ approach like random evangelism with abstract (yet true) facts about our separation from God and need for a saviour. And I used the image of a tour guide – we don’t just tell people where to go or see, but we join them (or have them join us) on the journey closer and closer to Jesus.
There will always be a need to explicitly speak the Gospel to people (Rom. 10:13-15), but a more effective way of initially bringing people to Jesus in our current culture is to show them (witness to) what Christ is already doing in and around their lives, and to tell of our own experiences of answered prayer and His activity in our lives.
Philip and his encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) was a perfect example of these three illustrations: he listened to the orders of the Holy Spirit, he observed that the Ethiopian was reading from the prophet Isaiah and responded by acting on that, and then journeyed with him and explained the Gospel to him using Isaiah as his starting point.
For those interested, I would like to suggest four books that I found helpful for my sermon, or that I’ve found helpful in the past regarding evangelism:
- Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism, by Carl Medearis
- Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier, by David E. Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw
- Reimagining Evangelism: Inviting Friends on a Spiritual Journey, by Rick Richardson
- Transforming Conversion: Rethinking the Language and Contours of Christian Initiation, by Gordon T. Smith
What books or other resources have you found helpful as you think and practice witnessing Jesus and witnessing to Him?
*cross-posted from here.