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Friday, September 10, 2010

Evangelism: Practical Dos and Don'ts

These are suggestions based on the doctrinal truths explained in the previous post (“Evangelism: Back to Itch”). I say “do” and “don’t” for economy of words and direct application; I am not intending to say these are legalistic rules that everyone must keep in order to please God or be effective in evangelism. They are suggestions, but I do think they are wise and consistent with the biblical “doctrines of grace” I discussed previously. (Note: The original version of this article was written about the evangelism of children, and it has undergone only slight modifications, so you will find it very applicable to them as well as to adults.)

1. Tell the gospel to those you want to reach, and teach the Scriptures to them, especially the doctrines of salvation—and then tell and teach them some more! You don’t need to have a bunch of “decisions” to know that your work is producing results: God says that His Word will never return void, it will always accomplish its purpose, and its purpose is often to save many of the hearers (Rom. 1:16; Heb. 4:12).
2. Tell them that God commands them to repent from their sins and believe in Jesus Christ (and don’t forget to explain what the words repentance and faith mean!). Make it clear to them that unless they repent and believe, they will not be in heaven.
3. Make sure they understand that repentance and faith are matters of the heart, and not some outward action they can perform.
4. Ask them if they have repented from their sins (e.g. “Do you want to obey the Lord in your life?”) and if they believe in Jesus Christ (e.g. “Do you understand who He is and what He did, and are you trusting in Him to save you, and nothing else?”).
5. Always continue explaining and instructing in whatever matters they do not understand and cannot articulate themselves, especially those that pertain to salvation.
6. When they say things like “I believe in Jesus” or “I love Jesus,” encourage them by telling them what blessings God has given them, if what they say is true. Tell them, “That’s great you are saying that you believe. Remember, Jesus said that if you continue in His Word, then you are truly His disciple.”
7. Pray a “sinner’s prayer” with them—but not just one time, giving them the impression that God saves them because of some words they say. No, pray a “sinner’s prayer” over and over again, because a good “sinner’s prayer” is an expression of the continuing faith of a true believer. For example: “Dear Lord, I am a sinner unworthy to enter your presence or expect any goodness from you. Please cleanse me of my sin through Jesus’ blood. I know you will because you promised to do that when we come to you in faith. Please help me to turn from my sins, to trust in you more and more, and to obey and serve you with all my heart. Thank you for your grace to me, that has brought me into a relationship with you forever. Thank you for Jesus, who died and rose again for me. Amen.” Or just use the Lord’s prayer—the Author of it has much more wisdom than this writer!
8. Explain to them that assurance of salvation is not based on something they have “done” at some time in the past, but that it is based on the objective truths about the cross of Christ and the subjective experience of fruit in their lives.
9. Teach them the Scriptures some more! And live the Scriptures in front of them.

1. Don’t neglect or avoid any doctrine of Scripture because you think it might scare them, bore them, or “turn them off.” If God thought doctrines like original sin or predestination were dangerous to anyone, He would not have put them in the Bible. On the contrary, He obviously wants people to know all that He has said. But be careful that other doctrines, even important ones, are never allowed to eclipse the gospel itself in your focus and emphasis (see 1 Cor. 15:3).
2. Don’t have them “pray to receive Christ.” We do not receive Christ through prayer—we receive Christ through faith. If they say that they have repented and are believing in Christ, as you have been teaching them the meaning of those words, then encourage them to express their faith (and gratefulness, repentance from their sins, commitment, etc.) in prayer to God.
3. When speaking to a group, don’t ask “How many of you want to receive Christ?” (or believe, or accept, or whatever) as if that is an action they are going to perform. A better question, if you want some response in a group, is “How many of you want to talk with someone about what it means to be saved?” or even “How many of you want to be baptized, or come to the Lord’s Supper?” (because in the New Testament those are the outward signs of belonging to Christ).
4. Don’t use the following terminology (or at least try to use it as little as possible), because is not found in the Scriptures and can be misleading: “Accept Jesus into your heart”; “Open the door of your heart”; “Make a decision for Christ”; “Invite Jesus into your life.” Any terminology found in Scripture is obviously acceptable—but remember that it is always important to explain the meaning of the terms you are using.
5. Don’t state or imply that someone is saved because he prayed a prayer or “made a decision.” Because many people are impressionable and easily influenced to a confession (especially children), it is important when working with them to say things like, “If you really believe in Christ, then all your sins are forgiven...” Again, don’t give them the impression that God saves them because of something they do. Salvation is something that God does. Tell them they must believe, plead with them to repent and trust Christ—but let God do that work in their hearts according to His timing; don’t try to speed up the process by giving them some easy way to “believe” (like a prayer). Instead, teach them enough about the nature of repentance and faith that they will be able to recognize when they have been born again by the Spirit of God. Then they will have the true assurance that comes from the witness of the Spirit, rather than the witness of men.
6. Don’t ever stop teaching them the Word! Take every opportunity that presents itself, and then teach them some more (Matt. 28:20)…“For the Word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12).


  1. Dave!

    Some of us are patiently waiting for your next blog entry, sir. Don't keep us waiting!! :)

    Donald Borsch Jr.
    Bethel, CT
    brother of Wayne Haines

  2. Thanks for the great insight. I am following your blog now, how I found it was through looking at those that liked Alfred Bester's Demolished Man. I guess good books choose good readers.

  3. Good stuff! It is sobering how many people do hat you warned against. A woman was rejoicing because her husband raised his hand to receive Christ - but she was troubled there was no change. I asked her to ask him what happened - he had no idea. He was just trying to let the preacher know he liked what he heard. Our nation is filled with people who "made a decision" but they live like "Christian Atheists" (thanks Craig Groeschel!).

    Evangelist John Teets
    Horsham, PA