Answering the Call to Evangelism
By Peter Amsterdam
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During the days between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, Luke tells us that He appeared to His disciples during a 40-day period and spoke to them about the kingdom of God. He also ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait until they received the promise of the Father, which was the infilling of the Holy Spirit.1 Jesus said that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them, “and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”2
His last instruction to those who believed in Him was to share the gospel, the good news, everywhere to everyone; to teach them everything He had taught them. He told them, “As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you,”3 and in instructing those who believed in Him in that day, He is also speaking to us today.
All Christians are expected to share the gospel, to present others with the opportunity to receive Jesus as their Savior and help them learn how to develop a personal relationship with God. We are commissioned by Jesus Himself to be communicators of God’s great plan of salvation to others. People do not usually come to faith unless we, as Christians, share the gospel with them. “How can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them?”4
People generally hear about God’s plan for salvation because someone communicates the gospel to them, and the “someone” meant to be doing this is all of us who already know Jesus. If we are going to be true to the commission the Lord has given, we must make a regular conscious effort to do so.
We know that God wants us to share the message of the gospel with others, but often our days are so full of responsibilities that taking time to witness to someone can seem challenging at times. We need to choose to make this a priority in our lives. We need to make the effort to find or create opportunities to share the gospel.
In many cases, the furthest you will get in your witness will be to “till the ground” rather than actually “planting the seed.” This initial period is sometimes called “pre-evangelism.” This quote from Norman Geisler explains it well.
If evangelism is planting seeds of the Gospel, then pre-evangelism is tilling the soil of people’s minds and hearts to help them be more willing to listen to the truth.5 … In the world we live in today, we may have to plant many spiritual seeds for a period of time before someone will seriously consider the person of Christ. We may have to till the ground before we have the opportunity to plant a seed. We are not called to bring all persons to Christ but simply to bring Christ to all persons.6
Much of our initial contact with people will fall under pre-evangelism, when we get to know them and have conversations on a variety of subjects. As friendship grows and trust builds, people are more inclined to be open to hearing what you have to say in regard to Jesus and salvation.
Sometimes spontaneous opportunities to witness arise, and we should be open to those, but it’s often the case that to have a chance to share the gospel with someone, you need to be intentional about it. Plan to meet at a place or time when you can have a deeper conversation, creating a situation in which they feel comfortable and are apt to be open to speak about deeper topics. This could open the door for you to talk about spiritual matters and to bring the conversation around to salvation.
Of course, there’s no single setting or way of sharing the message, as the world is made up of billions of individuals of different nationalities, worldviews, interests, likes, dislikes, and personalities; and while the gospel is meant for each of them, the manner in which it can be effectively delivered to them and to which they will best respond will vary. So while we are all commissioned to share the gospel and are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do so, we aren’t all expected to use the same methods.
We are each in different circumstances, so who we reach and how we reach them will be different depending on the situation and how God leads you. But we know that God, who loves humanity and “doesn’t wish that any should perish, but rather that all should reach repentance,”7 will use you to reach others in whatever circumstance you are in—if you will let Him.
Evangelism starts with the commitment to letting God use you to be His messenger to others. It can be a sacrifice to intentionally devote time to witnessing in order to obey Jesus’ call to preach the gospel, but the eternal results of witnessing are more than worth it. Inviting others for dinner, meeting a colleague for coffee, building a relationship with non-Christian friends, visiting your neighbors, giving someone a tract or another piece of literature—these things only happen if you plan for them, if you intentionally seek opportunities for sharing the gospel.
Since we are called to share the gospel, no matter what our circumstances, God’s Spirit can lead us to a means of doing so that will work within our circumstances. You may not always be able to have long conversations with others, but you can still plant seeds. You can give someone a piece of literature. You can ask them if there is something you can pray for. You can show them kindness and tell them Jesus loves them. You may not be in a position to do much in-depth witnessing, but you can prepare the ground of people’s hearts through showing God’s love and concern for them. If you are praying for the Lord to help you witness and to show you what method will work in your circumstances, He can give you ideas and opportunities.
While it is the message of the gospel—God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice—which will ultimately bring someone to salvation, their willingness to listen to that message often has to do with you. As Dwight L. Moody said, “Every Bible should be bound in shoe-leather.” You are the gospel in shoe leather; you are the living contact point of the Holy Spirit, the human agent of divine power.8 The love, the kindness and gentleness, the care and concern which people feel from you help them to be willing to listen to what you have to say. As we let the light and warmth of God’s Spirit emanate from us, people feel God’s love.
Through us, Jesus “spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved.”9 In order for others to come in contact with that fragrance, they need to come in contact with you. Once they do, when they see and feel your love, when they feel they can speak with you, ask their questions, and share their hearts, you will be able to till the ground by answering their questions with the hope that you can plant the seed of God’s love and truth in their hearts.
Often people are drawn to you because, unbeknownst to them, you are filled with God’s Spirit, light, and love. However, unless at some point we put into words what it is that makes us different, they may never know and could miss the opportunity to hear about the gift of salvation and the transformed life that is there for them to accept. As Christians, we are called to make space in our lives, our hearts, and our time to share His Word and truth with others.
Sharing the gospel with others is the call of Christ to every Christian. All around us are people who have yet to hear the great news that God loves them, that He sent His Son so that all who believe in Him will be reborn, saved, and will enter into relationship with Him. They need someone to explain how to receive God’s free gift of salvation and truth, to teach them how to be spiritually transformed, and to guide them in their spiritual growth.
We all have busy lives, but the overarching context of Christianity is to share the gospel with those who don’t yet possess this great gift. As the Father sent Jesus, so Jesus sends us. We are called, sent, and commissioned to preach the gospel. Ask Him to show you how, where, when, and with whom you can share your faith. Remind yourself that no matter what your circumstances, you are a disciple sent into the world—your city, your neighborhood, your workplace, your family—with the commission to share Jesus with those He brings across your path.
Originally published June 2014. Adapted and republished November 2021.
Read by Gabriel Garcia Valdivieso.
1 Acts 1:4.
2 Acts 1:8.
3 John 20:21.
4 Romans 10:14 NLT.
5 1 Corinthians 3:6.
6 Norman and David Geisler, Conversational Evangelism (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2009), 22–23.
7 2 Peter 3:9.
8 K. Hemphill, “Preaching and Evangelism,” M. Duduit, ed., Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992), 525.
9 2 Corinthians 2:14–15.