Fundamentals of Personal Evangelism

Jesus Army Evangelism - photo by Jesus Army (Creative Commons; Wikimedia Commons)

Jesus Army Evangelism – photo by Jesus Army (Creative Commons; Wikimedia Commons)

Recently, I led a workshop at an evangelism conference. And in the workshop, I shared my list of fundamentals of personal evangelism. This is a list of principles that I practice in my conversations and engagements with non-Christians who are exploring the Christian faith. Hopefully, this list might be helpful to you too.

But, first of all, a few preliminary remarks before I jump to the list. Evangelism can be misconstrued and also poorly executed. It is often misunderstood as marketing, “selling the gospel” or recruiting new converts. For me, it is simply sharing one’s faith or beliefs, bearing witness to what you believe and/or to what God has done in your life. It also involves, if you have the privilege, to walk with someone in their spiritual journeys. In an older post, Bad Evangelism, I have talked about bad evangelism, and poor executions or reductionist methods of evangelism.

Secondly, although this list is about personal evangelism, I want to emphasize that evangelism is not simply an individualistic effort. I believe you ultimately need a community to witness and disciple people. Evangelism is, therefore, a communal effort. But this often gets lost in all the literature and talk about evangelism. It obviously involves a personal one on one relationship or engagement, but it is more than that. I try to hint at it with my second to last principle listed below.

Fundamental Principles of Personal Evangelism:

  • Get to know and respect people – LOVE them!
  • Actions speak louder than words.
  • Have integrity – people can smell hypocrisy.
  • Be humble to learn from non-Christians and to admit “I don’t know”.
  • Be willing to listen more than you speak.
  • Speak, not to convince, but to witness – “this is what I believe”.
  • Give personal stories of why you believe, not lectures on why others are wrong.
  • You do NOT have to tell the entire gospel in one sitting!
  • Think long term multiple dialogues, not one-time winner-takes-all debate.
  • Remember that God has other witnessing agents in a person’s life besides you.
  • Most importantly, PRAY since it is the Holy Spirit, not you, who save souls.

In one sense, all of these principles boil down to these two things: Loving your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:39) and doing to others as you would have them do to you (the so-called “golden rule” in Matt. 7:12).

So, what do you think? Do you agree with my list? Is there anything to add? Or subtract?

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About Shiao Chong

Editor in Chief of The Banner, official magazine of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC). Formerly CRC Campus Minister serving at York University in Toronto, Canada. (All postings here are my personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of the CRC or of The Banner.)
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3 Responses to Fundamentals of Personal Evangelism

  1. Zack Melvin says:

    I think this list is great, for the most part (and I have to practice it more myself!).

    But I don’t think that there should be much of a distinction between “witnessing” and “convincing” – that is, we *should* be actively trying to convince those whom we are talking to of our witness to the gospel. This is what the Scriptures seem to say:
    “When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he [Paul] expounded to them, testifying [or, witnessing] to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.” (Acts 28:23)

    Great blog by the way! Very Christ-centered.

    Like

    • Shiao Chong says:

      Thanks Zack for the compliments and for your comment! Sorry for a delayed reply.

      Firstly, let me suggest that from my experience, if you “witness” well enough about what you believe, people almost always follow up with the question “why do you believe that?” And that is an invitation to then convince or give reasons for your belief, which is an indirect way of persuading – but with the difference that it was invited.

      On the other hand, if I start off trying to persuade and convince – which usually comes across as “I am right and you are wrong” – then it almost always shut the conversation down. People tend to get defensive when I start off with persuasion/convincing. But the “this is what I believe” approach is more welcoming and people don’t feel they have to defend their position or beliefs, and hence, are more likely to listen to me more intently – listening to understand, rather than listening to rebut/argue. Does that make sense?

      Secondly, to your Acts 28 example, Paul was actually asked by the Jewish leaders (see the preceding verses 17 to 22) to tell them about the faith as they have heard negative reports about it. So, it is partly evangelism but also partly apologetic, a defense of the faith, hence needing to convince them that the faith is true. But this is also by invitation – he got permission to be persuasive, so to speak.

      Thanks.

      Like

      • Zack Melvin says:

        Shiao,
        Thanks for your reply – really insightful! And it actually fits 1 Peter, where it says that we are to give a reason for the hope that is in us with gentleness and respect.

        I’ll have to meditate on this more. I pray you are an effective witness to the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

        Grace and Peace
        Zack

        Liked by 1 person

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