How many of us who follow Christ have ever struggled with the idea of sharing our faith with others? Of all the parts of our faith that make many the most queasy, evangelism ranks right up there with footwashing and martyrdom.
Surprisingly, in our walk through the book of Acts — whose main theme is arguably being Christ’s witnesses (see Acts 1:8) — we’ve done very little evangelism training so far. But that changes as we come to the halfway point in Acts where we find the apostle Paul beginning his life’s greatest work of bringing the gospel to the Gentiles.
Paul’s first missions trip (the first of three Luke will write about) is described in chapters 13 and 14, and serves as a veritable evangelism workshop, filled with tips to help anyone who wants to grow more competent and confident in evangelism.
Just a few verses into the story we find our first tip: Before you ever talk to lost people about Jesus, talk to Jesus about lost people. At the beginning of the story we find Paul and his ministry partner Barnabas worshipping the Lord and fasting along with other leaders from their church. It’s while they’re on their faces seeking God that the Holy Spirit clearly speaks to them, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul [Paul’s Jewish name] for the work to which I have called them.”
Luke doesn’t tell us that evangelism was what they were praying and fasting about, but the fact that once the Holy Spirit spoke they were immediately ready to respond, tells me that this was the theme pressing on their heart. And you and I should never doubt that this is almost always the theme pressing heaviest on God’s heart — the thought of bringing more of his lost children home.
If Jesus had a mission statement in the gospels, Luke 19:10 would be a good candidate, “The Son of Man came to seek and the save the lost.” The only reason that Jesus hasn’t returned yet according to 2 Peter 3:9–10 is because there are more disciples to be welcomed in.
It prompts me to ask myself how often is this the subject that I talk to God about in prayer when I pray? A couple years ago I sat down and wrote out all the “evangelism” Bible verses I could find and was stunned by what I discovered. It’s not just a New Testament concern either. The Old Testament is filled with images of God filling the earth with his glory, and bringing the nations back to him.
Here’s an updated version of that list. I would encourage you to put this in your Bible, and if you could summon the discipline, to read through it daily, then take a few minutes to talk to the Lord about what you’re just read. I find it highly comforting that Jesus instructed us to ask him, the Lord of the Harvest, to send out workers into his harvest (Matthew 9:38). In other words, he knows that this work will be hard, and that in our own strength, most of us will falter.
“Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” The Holy Spirit is saying to us that reaching the lost isn’t our work to do. It’s his work. On my own, I don’t have enough vision, or compassion, or power, or patience to be Christ’s witness to a lost and broken world. So where to begin such a daunting assignment? Before I ever even talk to the lost about my Lord, he summons me to talk to him about the lost. And that I can do.
Bear Clifton is a pastor, writer and screenwriter. His blogs and devotionals can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is also the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, and “A Sparrow Could Fall”, all available through Amazon.