An Encouragement For Personal Evangelism: How to, Handling Failure
Updated: Mar 16, 2021
Grace and Peace to you all.
This week we will be thinking and discussing the subject of Evangelism and how to handle its\’s failure. As I consider our topic I realized this wasn\’t so much a theological topic as it was a pastoral one. Thus, I wanted this to be more of an encouragement rather than a complete systemic on Evangelism. As usual, we will first define Evangelism, then briefly discuss its motives/how to then how to handle its failure.
Evangelism comes from the Greek word \”Evangelion\” which means Gospel. Simply put, evangelism is the proclamation, or delivery, of the Gospel. Technically speaking this does include Sunday preaching to believers and non-believers alike; however, the intent of the post is to deal with matters relating to personal evangelism to non-believers, and thus we will not deal with Sunday\’s pulpit preaching but rather personal, or direct, believer to non-believer evangelism. Thus, the work of evangelism for our purposes is to personally proclaim the Gospel to unbelievers so that they would become believers in Christ and be saved from the wrath of God (Romans 5:8-10).
How is this to be done?
There are hundreds of different methods and strategies on the market today that will tell you how to do evangelism-some are good some are not so good. I\’m not going to tell you how you should proclaim the Gospel in your family, your workplace, etc, mainly because I don\’t know how you should. I do know what the content of your evangelism should be and the motive for how it should be presented. In presenting the Gospel to someone you should:
1) Actually tell them the good news of Christ\’s death on behalf of sinners
2) Be sincere, loving, and truthful in its presentation
3) Be yourself.
IE don\’t try to do your best imitation of _(insert name of hot and trendy pastor/teacher/evangelist here)._ The world has already seen them. God made you and the way you are so that your voice would sing His praise and proclaim the Gospel to the nations. Thus, ignoring the issue of strategy lets us consider the heart of the matter-our motive for evangelism.
God\’s Purpose in Evangelism: Praising His Glorious Grace
Consider Paul\’s words in Ephesians 1:5-6, \”…he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.\”
God, out of His love for you, willed for you to be saved so that you would praise (overflow with gladness in song) His glorious grace. God wants you to know, experience, feel, how great He is towards you. I recognize that it does not always feel as if God is being great towards us. I\’m sure Job or Joesph of Genesis didn\’t always feel that God was being great toward them in their suffering. But yet, He was.
Our suffering is designed so that it would bring us closer to God and in that we would know, and feel, how great He really is. This is God\’s mission in you, and the world, today: To govern over all things so that everyone would know how great He is and how praise-worthy/awesome His grace is.
In evangelism, God is drawing forth sinners to Him by showing them their sin in its\’ power, effects, and condemnation. Then He shows them the way of redemption in its\’ person-Jesus Christ, means-belief in Christ, and effect-forgiveness and eternal life through His rich, glorious grace. God\’s purpose in evangelism is to show/reveal to sinners how great, rich, and glorious He is in grace. Let us now consider our own motive for evangelism.
Our Purpose in Evangelism: Desiring to See the Nations Praise His Glorious Grace
Consider Ephesians 2:10, \”For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.\”
You were created by God to do good works for God (not to earn salvation, but to express your love for Him). One of those good works is evangelism. But why evangelize at all? Because we have seen that God is gracious, powerful and justice and therefore we want others to experience that as well. We want other people to know the love, joy, and awesomeness of God.
Psalm 67:4 says, \”Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.\” We want others to share in the joy and praising of God\’s great grace that He has freely given us. We evangelism so that we might hear more praising of God\’s great, rich, glorious grace.
Before we move on to consider how to handle the failure of our evangelism I believe it would be prudent to briefly consider two cures for the fear of evangelism.
The First Cure: Faithful Fear
We are not perfect; our hearts are not as obedient as we wish they were. Often we are more prone to fear man than God; to deny God rather than ourselves; to listen to our own wisdom rather than God\’s. Yet, we are still called to be faithful to God and His commands; chiefly \”Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…\” (Matthew 28:19-20).
We don\’t always feel like obeying God; we don\’t always love Him as we should and we don\’t always overcome our fear of man in the middle of our lunchbreak chatting with a co-worker. Consider Paul\’s words to the Romans in considering the supremacy of God\’s love over man\’s approval when he says, \”What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God\’s elect? It is God who justifies.\” All this to say, be faithful to God in the midst of your fears of men, failure, and rejection because He loves you now and forevermore.
The Second Cure: Fearful Faith
Consider our second cure; fearful faith. Consider a classic verse on fear in Proverbs 1:7, \”The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.\” Pastor John MacArthur comments, \”This reverential awe and admiring, submissive fear is foundational for all spiritual knowledge and wisdom…The fear of the Lord is a state of mind in which one\’s own attitudes, will, feelings, deeds, and goals are exchanged for God\’s\” (MacArthur Study Bible).
We should not only be faithful in our fear but we should also be fearful, awfully submissive, to God. God has done much for us, He saved us, loved us, provided for us, and in response we live grateful lives towards Him-including fearing/obeying Him. When He commands us to \”love your neighbor as yourself\” we do so by loving them enough to give them the Gospel. When He commands us to do good works we do them because we love Him and not to gain any merit from it. But what do we do when we do these things and we see no fruit from them?
Handling Failure in Our Personal Evangelism
We are not as successful at soul-winning as we would like. However, I am not convinced that we are nearly as unsuccessful as we think we are. What I mean is this:
1) God is sovereign-He will save whomever He will
2) Our salvation is spontaneous-that is we don\’t plan to be converted on such and such date and time
3) Lastly, salvation is Spiritual-it is first and foremost a work of God\’s Spirit in the life of man.
We simply do not know what effects our love, prayers, evangelism, and apologetic efforts will have on eternity. The co-worker who scolded us when presented with the Gospel yesterday might convert tomorrow. Our God-hating father might be a death bed convert. My point here is we can\’t, or shouldn\’t have a \”woe is me!\” attitude when it comes to evangelism. Our chief concern in evangelism is
1) Did I love my neighbor?
2) Did I express that love in communicating the Gospel of God to them to the best of my abilities?
3) Will I trust God in His will to use my good work for His glory?
Now, we are timely creatures who cannot see into eternity. Thus, from our human perspective, we do fail in our evangelism efforts. Now let us consider how we are to handle our failure in evangelism. First, we are to be humble in our trust, and submission, to God.
\”Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you\” (James 4:10). We don\’t, fully, know God\’s plan for our lives or for what purpose all our failures are for. Because we are so small, fragile, and weak we should remind ourselves of the wisdom, power, and goodness of God in the midst of our failures lest we become bitter or angry at the Lord for our failure.
Next, we should be holy-chiefly in our conduct before men. Consider these two verses on our personal holiness, \”but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16);
\”Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14).
Put merely, non-believers will not be drawn to accept Christ if our own lived don\’t show God and His love, peace, and holiness. We should strive to be holy in every area of our lives but perhaps more so when we fail. That way we would continue to overflow in love towards man because of our love of God.
\”Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.\” (Matthew 3:8). In our failure, we should be honest with ourselves before God in considering questions like:
\”Was I truthful in my presentation of the Gospel?
\”Did they see their need of a Savior and their access to Him?\”
\”In my heart did I love my neighbor?\”
\”Did I love God in my evangelist efforts or my own glory?\” etc.
\”Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.\” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Paul perhaps faced more persecution, failure, and rejection in the work of evangelism than we probably ever will. Yet he was still hopeful because he knew that all his work for God, no matter how small or big, would count for eternity. Likewise, all of our works for God have a purpose, even if we can\’t see their fruit. We are doing God\’s work at His will and command therefore it cannot fail because our God will never fail.
1) How would you define Evangelism?
2) How do you chose to evangelize?
3) How have you handled the successes or evangelism in the past? And how have you handled its\’ failures?
4) Is the fear of man often an issue for you? If so, how have you overcome it/plan to overcome it?
5) Have you evangelized to anyone recently? If so, how did it go?
6) Is there someone in your life to who you could be evangelizing?
7) Highs and lows; and prayer requests.
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Why Is My Evangelism at Work So Lame? (Audio)
The Gospel In 6 Minutes (Video)
The Leading of the Lord in Personal Evangelism (Audio)
Not Ashamed of the Gospel (Audio)
Lord, Make Me More Bold (Article)
Five Natural Ways to Get to the Gospel (Article)
Four Ways to Witness to Atheists (Article)
How to Evangelize Professing Believers (Article)
Inspired by the Incredible Early Church (Article)
Do People Bore You? (Article)