BY JESSE MORRELL
I. WHAT IS EVANGELISM & APOLOGETICS?
- Evangelism Defined: Evangelism is the effort of believers to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, as commanded in Mark 16:15. The Greek word for “preach” as commanded in the Great Commission is “kerusso” and it means to herald as a public crier, to proclaim, and to publish (Strong). It also means to proclaim openly or a public proclamation of the gospel and of matters pertaining to it (Thayer).
- Apologetics Defined: Christian apologetics is the defense of the faith, as commanded in 1 Peter 3:15. Christian apologetics comes from the Greek New Testament word “apologia” which means a plea, answer, clearing, and defense (Strong).
- Evangelism and apologetics are two sides of the same coin. To engage in evangelism requires a certain amount of apologetics, as unbelievers will undoubtedly ask for reasons to believe the gospel that is presented to them. Apologetics is, therefore, the aid and help of evangelism.
II. HOW IMPORTANT IS EVANGELISM & APOLOGETICS?
- The last instructions that Jesus Christ gave to the Church in person before ascending to the right hand of the Father was the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).
- Evangelism and apologetics are of upmost importance and are absolutely essential as the public proclamation of the truth is the means through which God brings sinners to repentance (Jer. 36:3; Matt. 12:41; Rom. 10:14-17; 1 Cor. 1:21).
- The salvation of souls is so important to God that Jesus Christ gave His life for it (Matt. 26:28). There can be no example greater for us to follow than that of Jesus.
- Evangelism and apologetics are commanded of us as believers (Mark 16:15; 1 Peter 3:15). Since we are morally obligated to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:39), we ought to will the salvation of all and put forth any necessary efforts to secure that end.
a. The sole and supreme mission of the Church is to seek to save souls for the glory of God. This is what we ought to be preoccupied with. The study of the art of soul winning is something which every believer ought to engage in. Next to the study of the nature and character of God, the study of soul winning is one of the greatest contemplations that could occupy our minds while here on earth.
b. Since evangelism and apologetics are commanded of the Christian (Mark 16:15; 1 Peter 3:15), they ought to be a regular part of the Christian life. Witnessing should be just as much of a regular practice in the life of the believer as prayer, worship, and Bible study are.
III. THE OBJECTIVE OF APOLOGETICS AND EVANGELISM
- The objective of apologetics and evangelism is to glorify God through the salvation of souls. This is accomplished by presenting to the human mind reasons to believe the gospel and to present such truths and considerations to their minds as are calculated to influence the will of man to submit and surrender to God.
- We are instructed by the scriptures to present reasons for our faith (1 Pet. 3:15).
- God is an infinitely reasonable God and He invites men to come and reason with Him (Isaiah 1:18).
- Man has been made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-17; James 3:9). Consequently, man has been given the gift of reason. Reason is one of the key characteristics of man that distinguishes him from the animal kingdom.
- Sin is unreasonable and unintelligent (Ecc. 9:3; Matt. 7:26; Rom. 2:14-15). True conversion is antecedent to an awakening of the mind (Eze. 18:28; Lk. 15:17).
- Man’s constitution is composed of intelligence, emotions, and will. The will operates and chooses in light of motive presented to the mind.
- When conversing with unbelievers, Christians are to present reasons to the mind of sinners for them to believe the claims of the gospel and to present motives to the minds of sinners to induce their choice to repent (Lk. 13:3; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 9:29; 17:2; 17:17; 17:30-31;18:4; 18:19; 24:25). It is to the mind of unbelievers or to the reason God has given them that Christians are to make their appeals to, as opposed to appealing to their mere emotions or flesh.
IV. WHAT SHOULD BE TALKED ABOUT WHEN WITNESSING?
- First and foremost, it should be known that there are no absolute set criteria or particular mold that every believer needs to fit into when witnessing. There is no script that everyone must follow. Each believer must be lead of the Holy Spirit and allow room for various and different personalities to shine for Christ.
a. There are set and established principles and methods for soul winning, but there is not set pattern or mold. For example, one on one conversation is a set method for soul winning shown to us in the Bible. However, specifically what ought to be said word for word is not laid out in the Scriptures. Every witnessing encounter or gospel sermon preached in the Bible is different in some way or another.
b. There are certain evangelism groups and evangelism training that teaches everyone to say the exact identical thing, or to repeat the same script, or to share the same Bible verses, etc. However, no two witnessing encounters in the Bible were identical. Each instance of the gospel being preached in the Scriptures has variations, not in the meaning or point of the message, but in its wording and deliverance.
- It is the hope of this class to instruct you on principles of soul winning and essential elements that should be preached in the gospel, to instruct you on how souls are converted to Christ, rather than to give you a script or a pattern that you must follow.
a. Evangelism and apologetics are a definite science. The word science simply means knowledge and in this sense can be applied to any field of study. In any science, the student can be taught the bare facts, or they can be taught the formulas and principles which enable them to discover the facts themselves.
b. In history, you can be taught historical facts, but your study in this field will then be limited to the student/teacher relation. However, if you are taught how to conduct historical research and the criteria by which an historical fact is discovered and recognized, then your learning can carry on far past the student/teacher relation.
c. In mathematics, a student can be given the answers to a particular problem and can be taught to memorize such answers, or they can be taught the formula by which they discover the answer themselves.
d. In evangelism and apologetics, you can be taught word for word what you ought to say and what you ought to do. But your efforts are then greatly limited and dependent. However, if you are taught the principles of evangelism and soul winning, then you can discover on your own what to say or do in any particular situation.
- Believers are to testify of what they have “seen” and “heard” (Acts 4:20; 22:15; 1 Jn. 1:1-3). Even Jesus testified of what He had seen and heard (Jn. 3:32).
a. The words “witness” and “testimony” are legal words used in a court room. A witness is someone who publicly testifies to what they had seen and heard. As witnesses for Christ, we are to testify to all of what Jesus Christ has done.
b. Never underestimate the power of a testimony. Satan himself is overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word our testimony (Rev. 12:11).
c. The Apostle Paul’s own defense of his faith before the nation of Israel in Acts 22 was his personal testimony of Jesus Christ.
d. The Apostles testified that they had seen Jesus Christ risen from the dead, and we too can testify that Jesus Christ is alive and well today because of the great work that He has done in our own lives. Share your personal testimony with unbelievers, explaining what Jesus Christ has done for you, telling them how you came to know the Lord and the reasons that you believe in Him.
- Throughout the Scriptures we see that witnesses for Christ, and Christ himself, would show people their sins and point them to the Savior. Those two issues, sin and the Savior, are essential when witnessing and sharing the faith.
a. Jesus said he came to call sinners to repentance (Matt. 9:13; Mk. 2:17; Lk. 5:32).
b. The disciples that Jesus sent out to preach went out and preached that men should repent of their sins (Mk. 6:12).
c. John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, etc, all warned unbelievers about the judgment and wrath of God for sin (Matt. 3:7; Matt. 23:33; Acts 24:25).
d. As sin is the reason that men are in need of a Savior, it stands to reason that men must be convinced that they are sinners in trouble with God in order to realize their need of salvation. Mercy only needs to be extended to those who deserve wrath.
e. The three thousand souls that were converted on the day of Pentecost were first pricked in their hearts by the preaching of Peter about them crucifying Christ. Peter pointed out their sins and called them to repentance (Acts 2:36-41) and the mass conversion was a consequence of that.
f. It should be stated that God will only turn from His wrath if sinners turn from their sins, as there is no forgiveness without repentance (Jonah 3:10; Jer. 18:8; 26:13; Joel 2:13-14; Lk. 13:3; Acts 8:22). A sinner cannot reasonably hope for pardon for his crimes if he is intent on continuing on in them.
g. God commands all men to repent of their sins (Acts 17:30-31), which implies that it is their choice to make. In our witness, therefore, we ought to preach such truths as are calculated to influence this decision of the will. Choices of the will are made in light of motives presented to the mind.
h. The truth about our sin and the judgment of God, when presented to our minds, are influences upon our will to repent of our sins and to turn to God in submission and surrender (Prov. 16:6).
i. The truth about sin and judgment pave the way for a sinner to see his great need of the atonement. It is the preaching of the cross specifically that God uses to save souls (1 Cor. 1:21). The atonement so represents the goodness and kindness of God, as it reveals His love for a sinful world, that when we see this and believe it, it inspires us to forsake our sins and to love God back in return (1 Jn. 4:19).
j. It is absolutely essential to point sinners to the cross of Christ, as His atonement is the only means through which they can have their deserved penalty remitted by God’s grace and mercy (Heb. 9:22).
V. HOW TO GET STARTED IN WITNESSING
- It is always important to have spent some time with the Lord in prayer and in Bible study before going out to witness.
a. The disciples spent time with Jesus before He commissioned them to go out and to preach.
b. Jesus told His followers to tarry in the upper room in Jerusalem and be filled with the Spirit and receive power from on high (Lk. 24:49).
- We ought to devote time and effort to prepare for the task.
a. When conversing with unbelievers, you ought to be familiar with the gospels and the Bible.
b. Unbelievers will ask you questions challenging the Christian faith, demanding evidence and proof. You ought to devote time to study in preparation.
i. We are commanded to love God with our entire mind (Matt. 22:37). We were made to think. Our mind is like a muscle that ought to be exercised. God gave us a mind with the intention that we would use it! And that we would use it for His glory!
ii. We are commanded as believers to devote ourselves to study (2 Tim. 2:15). Our studying will do ourselves and the world much good.
iii. Christianity is the renewing of our minds, not the removal of our minds (Rom. 12:2). There are solid reasons to be a Christian and an abundance of evidences and proofs for Christianity. We ought to familiarize ourselves with them.
iv. Research is easier than ever in our day with access to public and online libraries and countless materials made available through the internet. You can even do research on your phone now with an internet signal. We of all people have no excuse for not studying and having answers for the unbelieving world.
- Witnessing for Christ must be made a conscious decision and effort.
a. A person may have a strong desire for the salvation of souls and may even pray for this end, but unless a conscious decision is made and effort is put forth to actually do the work, they will not accomplish their purpose. You must determine in your heart to be a witness for Christ that will testify for Him.
- Look for opportunities and make opportunities.
a. Opportunities to testify for Jesus will come to you throughout your life. Encounters with family, friends, and even strangers as you go about your normal routine provide these opportunities. Jesus had an opportunity to minister to a woman when he went to a well for water (Jn. 4:6).
b. Opportunities to witness for Christ can also be made by going out to public places where lost people are. Such places can include parks, street corners, malls, bus stops, downtown, train stations, club districts, etc. The Apostle Paul would intentionally go to the synagogues and market places to reason about Christ (Acts 17:17).
i. Pick a specific time and a specific location to go and witness for the Lord.
ii. Your life itself should be a witness for the Lord and we have no right to preach the gospel if we are not living it, nevertheless we are commanded to actually “go” and preach the gospel and not wait until people come to us.
VI. WHAT IF WE DO NOT SEE IMMEDIATE CONVERSIONS?
- Winning souls takes time.
a. Soul winning is comparable to farming. Fields need to be plowed (Hosea 10:12). Seeds need to be planted and watered (1 Cor. 3:6). In time, there is a harvest. It doesn’t happen all at once. There is a process to soul winning. We cannot expect everyone to get saved then and there on the spot. Love is patient (1 Cor. 13:4).
b. Sometimes those that you witness to end up coming to Christ afterwards without you even knowing about it.
i. In my own personal testimony, one of the people that were most instrumental in awakening and convicting me in preparation to my conversion was a preacher holding a Bible study in the lobby of the Detention Center in which I was locked up in. This was in the year 2000. I was not in the meeting, but he was preaching loud enough for me to hear him from my cell. He didn’t even know that I was listening. I recall many of those who were there listening to him preaching were mocking and were not taking it serious. He may have left that day discouraged that he didn’t see anyone repent or come to Christ. But he didn’t see the work that God was doing in my heart. It was then and there though his preaching that I realized I was in trouble with God and was in need of salvation. To this day, I do not know that man’s name. He has no idea that I came to Christ shortly thereafter. But since that time, I myself have traveled and preached the gospel to tens of thousands of lost souls and have seen many conversions, which I expect he will share in the reward of in heaven.
ii. In 2003 I was preaching in a park in the city of New Haven CT and had gathered a small crowd of locals who always hung out at the park. As I was preaching, one of the women in the crowd looked at me with tears in her eyes that started rolling down her cheeks, and she said to me in a very concerned voice, “If what you are saying is true, then I am going to hell.” I looked at her and said, “Yes, but you don’t have to. Jesus Christ died for you.” I continued to minister the gospel to her. I was accustomed to seeing her on a regular basis as I went to that park almost daily to preach. But after that day, I didn’t see her hanging out at the park anymore. A while later I ran into her. She said to me, “You didn’t know this, but I was the drug dealer for this park. After I heard you preaching that day, I ended up having all my drugs stolen from me at night. I called up the guy I was working for and told him and he said he would come and drop off some more. But I didn’t want to sell drugs anymore and I took that as my opportunity to get out. I told him I didn’t want anymore and I hung up on him! I’ve turned my life around. I’m reading the bible and even started going back to church with my mom. Look, here’s my bible right here! I’ve started teaching my children about the bible and how to pray and my life has changed so much that DCF has decided to give me my children back!” I had no idea that all of this had happened! If I didn’t run into her some time later, I never would have known!
iii. For a few consecutive years I went to Daytona Spring Break to witness for Christ on the beaches and at the nightlife scene. Two years in a row I partnered with a local church. The second year I went to one of their services before we hit the streets and afterwards one of their worship band members came up to me. He said, “Where you here last year preaching down by the bars and clubs?” I said, “Yes, I’ve been doing it for a few years.” He said, “I was out partying with one of my friends last year. We were driving by on his motorcycle. He said something to mock you guys and you rebuked him for it. So he pulled over to talk with you guys. I was hanging out by the sidelines when one of the members of the church came up and started witnessing to me. I did not grow up in a Christian home or anything and really didn’t know anything about it. But that night I came to the Lord and was saved. I joined the church and have been going out every weekend to that same spot where I used to party, but now I go out there to witness! I’ve been there witnessing every weekend since you’ve been gone! I probably wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for you!” Again, I had no idea that this happened until a year later!
- Even the best preachers in the Bible did not win everyone they preached to.
a. Jeremiah preached faithfully exactly what God told him to preach and He did not see a single convert, except for maybe Baruch the scribe.
b. Ezekiel was specifically told by God to preach, whether or not the people would listen (Eze. 2:5, 7; 3:11).
c. Jesus’ audience tried to kill him many times before they finally succeeded (Jn. 8:59; 10:31).
d. Jesus said that he himself was hated by the world for testifying that their works were evil (Jn. 7:7).
e. Jesus taught us to expect the worlds hatred and rejection (Matt. 5:11; Jn. 15:20).
f. Jesus said woe unto you when all men speak well of you, for that is how the false prophets are treated (Lk. 6:26).
g. Many times throughout the book of Acts Paul was rejected by many peoples and cities for preaching the gospel (Acts 14:2-7; 14:19).
h. The world loves darkness rather than light and does not come to the light (Jn. 3:19).
i. Jesus said that many are on the broad road and few are on the narrow road (Matt. 7:13-14).
- Our target audience is those who disagree with us.
a. It is not believers that we need to talk to, but unbelievers. It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick (Mk. 2:17).
b. When someone you are talking to disagrees with what you are saying, rejoice, because you have found your target audience!
c. Sometimes those who are the most hostile and angry are the ones under the most conviction. Anger is a much better response than apathy.