Intentional Evangelism: Approaches & Strategies for Sharing the Gospel
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Winter 2013 issue of Southwestern News magazine, which gives churches and individuals strategies for sharing the Gospel.
Most Christians recognize the importance of evangelism, but they are at a loss when it comes to striking up a conversation with a stranger on a plane, in a grocery line, or at the gas station. The following is an analysis of five common approaches to sharing the Gospel with some additional evangelism tips. Each approach has potential strengths and weaknesses, but not all approaches are created equal. The first two strategies are not recommended as normative approaches for evangelism. Queen recommends a blended use of the final three approaches. Each has its own advantages and usefulness in particular situations. The leading of the Holy Spirit should dictate which approach, or approaches, should be incorporated in any given evangelistic encounter.
The waiter sits back passively, waiting for an evangelistic opportunity to present itself miraculously. All nervousness must be gone before he shares because he wants to see God do the work. He does not want to force anything on anyone, and he wants to avoid any manipulation or man-centeredness in the evangelistic activities of God.
While it is commendable to avoid manipulation, we do not see this approach as a regular type of evangelistic method in the New Testament. The typical approach in the New Testament is direct in nature and intentional. Often times, a waiting approach can lead to a level of passivity that ultimately results in failure to think about evangelism at all. Good intentions usually lead to no intentions in evangelism.
The bull comes out of nowhere, rushes in on an unsuspecting stranger, and launches into an evangelistic presentation before a person can get out “Hello. My name is …” Like a bull in a china shop, he does not seek to build bridges in the conversation or to develop a relationship. He simply takes control of the conversation.
While this person can be applauded for being very direct and intentional in evangelism, this approach often forces the conversation and can lend itself to manipulation or people feeling pressured. When this happens, people will either change the subject or, worse, make a false profession of faith out of fear or ignorance just to get the bull to back off or go away. The bull also has a tendency to focus on his ability to convince the other person rather than the Holy Spirit’s work to convict.
The narrator uses his testimony to present the Gospel. I use this narrative approach when sitting next to someone on a plane. I ask him if he is coming or going, make small talk, and ask him what he does for a living. Typically, as the conversation progresses, the person will ask me about myself, so I share with them a little about my family and what I do. I then attempt to bridge the conversation into an opportunity to share my testimony.
Sharing your testimony is a strong approach because it is natural and relational. However, one weakness to this approach is that we sometimes get bogged down in sharing our story and then the conversation either gets sidetracked or never contains an explicit explanation of the Gospel.
So, I instruct believers to have a three-part mental outline ready: what life was like before Christ, how you came to Christ, and what your life has been like since coming to Christ. Be careful not to spend the majority of the time on your life before Christ or after Christ. You want to spend the most time on how you came to Christ as you mix in an explicit Gospel presentation.
The inquisitor asks questions that lead the conversation to a point where he can directly share the Gospel. Jesus best modeled this questioning approach, such as in his conversation with the woman at the well. Randy Newman’s book Questioning Evangelism is an excellent resource for those interested in learning more about this approach.
One potential weakness with this approach is that the person may feel defensive if you bombard him with too many questions. Additionally, when you ask an extrovert a series of questions, he might dominate the conversation with his answers, leaving you no time to share the Gospel.
To avoid these dangers, I encourage believers to stick to a brief set of questions that are direct and thought out. Avoid general, open-ended questions. You want to create a blueprint in order to drive the conversation straight to the cross and resurrection.
The Bridge Builder
The bridge builder utilizes his environment, circumstances, situations, and current events to lead a conversation to the Gospel. It could be talking to your doctor about the Great Physician or connecting a news story to evil or hopelessness in the world. Of course, one liability to this approach is that it may sound like a good connection in your mind but come off cheesy. Another hazard is that you could end up arguing about opposing political or economic views and never have the chance to get to the Gospel. However, the strength in this approach is that it is natural, conversational, and effective in bridging to the Gospel.
- Be intentional about starting conversations with people in public. Get in the habit of speaking to strangers and making small talk.
- If you struggle with motivation or fear, ask yourself this question: “Am I willing to take the chance that someone else either has in the past or will in the future share the Gospel with this person?” You may not know his past or future conversations, but you can be sure that he will hear it now if you speak.
- Always carry a Gospel tract. If the person seems disinterested, the conversation gets interrupted, or you share the Gospel and he does not respond, you can always leave the tract with him to read at a later time.
- Always call for a response to the Gospel. No Gospel presentation is complete without inviting the person to repent of his sin and place his faith in Christ.
- Always offer to pray for the person. Prayer often opens doors to an evangelistic conversation even with someone who might otherwise seem disinterested.