Upon completion of this chapter you will be able to:
. . .These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also. (Acts 17:6)
This lesson begins the first of several that focus on evangelism methods. A method is an organized way of doing something. If you are to be successful in the task of evangelism, you must use Scriptural methods. Practical methods that have been proven by experience are also helpful.
This lesson focuses on New Testament methods of evangelism. Chapter Eight concerns additional principles revealed in parables about evangelism recorded in the New Testament. Chapter Nine explains how to do personal evangelism and Chapter Ten deals with difficulties encountered in the process. Saturation evangelism is discussed in Chapter Eleven and mass evangelism in Chapter Twelve.
As you begin this study on methods of evangelism, it is important to remember that while there are certain proven approaches that have been effective in evangelism, God may have a different method for you to follow in each situation. In doing the work of an evangelist, always ask the Holy Spirit to give you His anointed touch. He knows the heart of the person you are dealing with. It is the role of the Holy Spirit to guide and anoint you, to give you understanding and compassion, and to convict the unsaved of sin and draw them to respond the Gospel.
When a movement grows from a dozen peasants in an unimportant corner of the world to be the official religion of the civilized world within 300 years, it is wise to examine it and learn from its approaches.
That movement is Christianity, and its methods are recorded in God’s Word, the Holy Bible. Review of the Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles reveal several basic methods of evangelism. In New Testament times evangelism was:
Prayer is one of the most important Scriptural methods of evangelism. As Jesus viewed the natural harvest fields which represented the spiritual harvest fields of a world lost in sin, the first thing He commanded was to pray. Jesus did not say:
-“The fields are ready for harvest, go.”
-“The fields are ready for harvest, organize.”
-“The fields are ready, so make plans.”
-“The fields are ready, so raise funds for evangelism.”
-“The fields are ready, so educate people.”
-“The fields are ready, so appoint a committee to study them.” He said: “The fields are ripe unto harvest, PRAY YE . . .”
In the New Testament we learn that the early church was constantly in prayer (Acts 1:14). The first missionary journey developed from prayer (Acts 13:3). Paul insisted that the churches pray for him as he evangelized (2 Thessalonians 3:1).
We need to stop depending on all we know about missions, unreached people, and ways to communicate the Gospel. These are important, but we need to concentrate more attention on the first command: “PRAY YE.”
Evangelism was not just one of many activities of the early Church, it was the main priority. Today, evangelism and missions comes far down on the list of priorities of many individuals and churches.
In New Testament times, evangelism was a natural, spontaneous sharing of the good news. It was engaged in continuously by all believers. The practice was to go where people were and disciple them. Today, we invite people to church and hope they will come. In modern times the church invites, while the first church invaded.
Everyone did the work of evangelism (Acts 1:8). Each believer took the Great Commission as a personal command to evangelize. They did it everywhere, not just in the church building (Mark 16:20). They did it every day (Acts 5:42), not just periodically during an evangelistic campaign. Every church reproduced, every member reproduced, and every home was a center of evangelism.
When necessary, believers even worked to support themselves in order to spread the Gospel. The Apostle Paul did this. It may seem foolish that a man of Paul’s ability, education, and spiritual gifts should do manual labor to support himself. He had the right to claim full support
from the churches (1 Corinthians 9:7-15; 1 Timothy 5:17-18; Galatians 6:6), but at the same time he was prepared, if necessary, to support himself in order to spread the Gospel. He did this on several occasions. (1 Corinthians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8).
In many nations today the custom is that pastors and evangelists are fully paid for their efforts. This has blocked the spread of the Gospel and the planting of new churches. Believers also tend to leave the task of evangelism to the full-time ministers because they are “getting paid for it.” There are also many churches without pastors because they are not able to support a full-time pastor and the possibility of working has not been considered.
If we are to impact the nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we must return to evangelism as our first priority. We must do it everywhere, every day, and if necessary, get a job and work in order to get the message out.
In every evangelistic advance recorded in Acts, the Holy Spirit is the motivator and energizer. In the modern church, especially in western nations, managerial skills and committee meetings often replace dependence on the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the director of evangelism. There are many passages in Acts that illustrate the Holy Spirit at work, but the following are central in terms of evangelism.
-Acts 1:8: The Holy Spirit is to empower the witness of believers.
-Acts 2: The gift of the Holy Spirit was given and promised to all believers.
-Acts 4: Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, testified regarding the miracle experienced by the lame man in Acts 3.
-Acts 4:31: They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God with boldness.
-Acts 5:52: Peter declared that we are witnesses along with the Holy Spirit.
-Acts 7:51: Stephen charged Jewish leaders that did not accept the Gospel with resisting the Holy Spirit.
-Acts 9:17: Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit after his conversion.
-Acts 10: The Holy Spirit fell upon the house of Cornelius, bringing them to conversion.
-Acts 11:12: Peter explained that he went to Caesarea because of the Holy Spirit’s instructions to him.
-Acts 13:2: The Holy Spirit called Paul and Barnabas into evangelistic work.
-Acts 16:6: The Holy Spirit forbid Paul to minister in Asia.
The Holy Spirit directs evangelism through the Word of God, by supernatural guidance, by calling and enabling workers, and by correcting our plans to bring them into harmony with God’s purpose.
When Jesus first began His ministry, He announced a six point plan:
Jesus followed this plan throughout His earthly ministry, and the first church continued with this pattern.
Jesus later gave a plan for the extension of the Gospel to the nations of the world (Acts 1:8). The disciples were to first evangelize Jerusalem, then go on to Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world. This is still the Lord’s plan for evangelism. You are to start right where you are and continue in ever-expanding circles until you are touching the nations of the world.
Your “Jerusalem” is the community in which you live. There are thousands of Christians who give to and pray for missions, but have never walked across the street to tell a neighbor about Jesus. Some churches have tremendous missions programs overseas, but are doing nothing to evangelize their own city, except for those who happen to come into their church building.
Satanic opposition was actually used by God in New Testament times to further the cause of evangelism. Study the following passages:
-Acts 12:1-24: Herod killed James, then imprisoned Peter. This was political opposition.
-Acts 16:16-40 and 19:23-41: Evangelism conflicted with business interests in the cities of Ephesus and Philippi. Persecution arose from the economic world.
-Acts 4-7: In these chapters there is a record of persecution from the religious leaders of the time.
-Acts 11: This passage records opposition from within the church itself because of the tradition of the Jews. This is internal opposition.
-Acts 8, 13, and 16: These chapters record direct Satanic opposition through Simon, Elymas, and a demon possessed girl.
When you are invading Satan’s kingdom with the good news of the Gospel, you must expect opposition from the political, economic, and religious worlds. You must also expect internal attacks from within the church and direct attacks from Satan. Rather than permitting these attacks to stop you, use them as opportunities to further the Gospel as they did in New Testament times.
All New Testament evangelistic methods can be considered under either personal or group evangelism. The ministry of Jesus, the disciples, Paul the Apostle, and others demonstrate the importance of both formal and informal approaches.
Jesus ministered to many large groups while He was on earth. These occasions stand out in our minds because of the excitement that marked these events. But from the beginning to the end of His ministry Jesus also invested His life in winning men and women one by one through personal evangelism. In the parable about the lost sheep in Luke 15:3-7, Jesus was clearly describing His own method of evangelism, for He called Himself the Good Shepherd.
Peter preached to crowds in Jerusalem at Pentecost (Acts 2). This was group evangelism. He also shared the Gospel personally with Cornelius (Acts 10). This was personal evangelism.
Philip preached to great crowds in Samaria (Acts 8:5-6) and personally to the Ethiopian man in the dessert (Acts 8:27-35). Paul had crowds so great in some of his meetings that they ended in riots! But he never stopped dealing with individuals.
Never get so involved with the masses that you forget the individual. Jesus was constantly calling individuals out of the crowd to confront them with the claims of the Gospel of the Kingdom. Both individual and group evangelism are effective Biblical methods.
New Testament evangelism was accompanied by the demonstration of God’s power. Jesus commanded His disciples, “As you go. . .heal the sick, cast out demons.”
The demonstration of God’s power takes the words you speak and makes them effective:
The demonstration of power confirms the Word with signs following:
God’s power is present to heal as you evangelize:
The power of God brings deliverance:
God’s power verifies the Gospel. To “verify” means to prove something. The power of the Holy Spirit proves the reality of God’s Word:
The demonstration of power directs people to God:
That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)
You will learn more about the demonstration of power and evangelism in Part Two of this course entitled “As You Go.”
Believers in the first church were constantly on the move for the sake of the Gospel, effectively penetrating areas that were ready to receive the Word. We call this being “strategically mobile” which means being able to move quickly to areas of receptivity.
In Acts 8:1, we find that the church was forced into strategic mobility by persecution. When believers were scattered because of persecution in Jerusalem, they “went everywhere preaching the Word.”
In Acts 8 there is an excellent example of strategic mobility. When Philip was in Samaria reaping a great spiritual harvest, the Lord called him to go to the desert. God had a mission for him with an Ethiopian man who would play a tremendous role in evangelizing Africa. Philip immediately left Samaria and went to the desert.
If we are to understand strategic mobility, we must have both a “harvest” and a “soldier” mentality. In Matthew 9:36-38, Jesus compared world evangelism to the natural harvest. If we are to reap the harvest when it is ready, we must go where the harvest is when it is ripe. We must be willing to move or stay in order to accommodate the harvest.
We must also have a soldier mentality. When we become believers, we enlist in the spiritual army of the Kingdom of God. We are called to “endure hardness as a good soldier” (2 Timothy 2:3). A soldier cannot retreat or go on leave just because things get tough. The test of a good soldier is not his appearance during a parade, but his performance on the battle field.
A soldier does not choose his assignment and he does not act today on the basis of orders received 20 years ago. They were good orders then, but have long sense become obsolete. Thus, a soldier of Jesus Christ is open to fresh assignments and revelations from the Holy Spirit.
Jesus was speaking of strategic mobility when He told His followers that they were not to continue to sow on barren ground:
Paul followed this command of “dust shaking.” In Acts 13:51-52 the ministry the Gospel was rejected in Antioch of Pisidia, so Paul left there and went to Iconium. Jesus was strategically
mobile. He went from village to village sharing the Gospel. When the disciples tried to get Him to limit His ministry to one place, He said:
ACCOMPLISHED BY NETWORKING:
Networking is another New Testament method of evangelism. Networking simply means team effort, people working together for the common cause of spreading the Gospel. In New Testament times, evangelism was done by believers networking together for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Christians were not separated by denominational lines or busy promoting their own churches or organizations. We must return to networking in order to make the best use of available resources to reap the great spiritual harvest God promised in these end times. You will learn more about networking for evangelism in Chapter Fifteen of this course.
New Testament evangelism resulted in the formation of a local fellowship of believers. This is called church planting. The work of evangelism is not complete until new believers become a functioning part of the Church. You will learn more about church planting in Part Three of this course where you will study in detail the methods used by the Apostle Paul. In New Testament times converts were turned to disciples within the context of the local church. You will learn more about this process in Chapter Thirteen, “Decisions Or Disciples?”
The results of these New Testament methods of evangelism were tremendous:
A local congregation at Ephesus took the Gospel to every person in the province of Asia within two years (Acts 19:10). A similar group at Thessalonica evangelized most of Greece (1 Thessalonians 1:8). When the disciples came to Thessalonica, the tremendous results of their evangelistic efforts were summarized by religious leaders who said:
They turned the world upside down–in a wicked and godless society, without printing presses, church buildings, seminaries, denominations, mass communication, or rapid transportation.