5 Necessary Elements for an Evangelism Ethos in Your Church

I have read a lot of books on evangelism, and my two favorite are Bill Hybels’ Just Walk Across the Room and Mark Dever’s The Gospel and Personal Evangelism. Yes, I see the irony in that. They are very different books—but I like them for different reasons.

As I recently read through Hybels’ book, I identified 5 helpful features that I think are necessary for an evangelistic ethos, either in an individual Christian or in an entire church.

1. Intentionality & Sensitivity to the Spirit (35–54)

Hybels writes, “I’m more convinced than ever the absolute highest value in personal evangelism is staying in tune and cooperating with the Holy Spirit” (35). We don’t hear this nearly as much as we should. We don’t build the kingdom for God; we let God build it through us. That’s why the first command given to the apostles in Acts is to wait. Until the Spirit arrived, they could do nothing.

This is the only way to keep from being overwhelmed by the massive task of evangelism. God does not expect us to convert people; he invites us to walk with him and be his instrument as he builds the church. That is something we should do every day.

Sometimes there is a wide open door, other times not. But that should not stop us from instigating the conversation. Honestly, only about 1 in every 5 of my attempts to have a spiritual conversation turn out well. Just because it turns out poorly does not mean that God is not in it. Stephen witnessed to Paul and was stoned, but that was definitely Spirit-filled evangelism!

I have heard that the average person has to hear the gospel 12 times before they believe. We may get the joy of being that 12th person, or we may be one link in the chain. But the Spirit has a role for us.

You perceive when a door is being opened through prayer. Therefore, pray continually and listen as you pray.

2. Practical ways to get into the conversation (158–160)

Throughout the book Hybels gives you numerous “conversation openers,” and I found particularly helpful his question suggestions on pp. 158-160. These were conversation starters you could actually use, as opposed to cheesy, awkward, forced questions I’ve often been taught. “If you died tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity?” (Side note: Why is everyone always dying at night?), or ”What opinions about God do you have that I could correct?” Not that those are wrong (or at least the first one is not), but Hybels gives you a few more questions for your arsenal.

3. Models

The best way to learn to share Christ is by watching someone else. That’s how I learned! I watched my dad and other believers share the gospel. A book cannot in itself be a “model,” but Hybels both offers stories to encourage us and pushes us to learn from other Christians.

4. An Ability to Share Your Story Concisely (115–131)

Entrepreneurs have what they call an “elevator speech” for their product: even though they could talk for hours and hours about it, they force themselves to condense things down to a 45-second summary. We should have an “elevator speech” for our story too: 100 words or less that explain how Christ met our “felt” needs, which sets us up for a sharing of the actual gospel. (NOTE: your story of how Christ met your felt needs is NOT the actual gospel, just an intro to it).

5. An Ability to Share the “Actual” Gospel Concisely (133–140)

Just as we need to have a polished “elevator speech” of our story, we should be able to express the gospel in 100 words or less too. Far from making our presentation insincere, this helps us to appreciate the gospel in fresh ways. Hybels mentions some classic presentations that I’ve seen and used: the bridge illustration (Jesus bridges the gap between us and God) and the do/done dichotomy (Religions are all about doing; the gospel is all about what Christ has done.).

Hybels does not do, IMO, a great job of helping you understand gospel doctrine in this book. He is superb at equipping you for evangelism that engages hearers on the plain of their felt-needs, but less-helpful at equipping you to share as a “gospel-prophet” commissioned to warn others of impending judgment and preaching salvation in Christ. Both are necessary dimensions to being an effective evangelist, which is why I’d encourage you to read Dever’s The Gospel and Personal Evangelism along with this one.

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5 Gospel Truths from Jesus’ Geneaology

1. The gospel is not good advice, it is good news.[1]

Fairy tales and fantasy stories start out with phrases like “once upon a time,” or “somewhere, in a galaxy far, far away.” But Matthew begins with a genealogy, which is a way of saying, “What I’m about to tell you actually happened.”

Many religions are built on teachings and principles that would be true whether their religious founder ever lived or not. The religious founder was just the mouthpiece. It wouldn’t really matter to Buddhists, for instance, if Buddha were a real person or not.

But this is not true for Christianity. Christianity depends on a set of events that actually took place in history, because the core of Christianity is not what Jesus taught us to do, but what he would do for us.

2. Jesus is the center of history.

Matthew takes what the world considered an insignificant family line and organizes all of human history around it. It certainly didn’t seem like Jesus was the focal point of history at the time. Israel was an insignificant Roman province, and nobody in Rome was paying attention to this family tree. But God had made a promise to Abraham to bring salvation to the world. And he did it in the face of the powerful nations that thought they were truly in control.

I find this so encouraging, because it often doesn’t look like Jesus is the center of history today. CNN doesn’t look to Christianity to figure out where the world is headed. They look to the markets, to the White House, to world politics. But from God’s perspective these things are an insignificant drop in the bucket compared to what he is doing through Jesus’ kingdom.

3. God is working in all things, good and bad, for his purposes.

Matthew concludes his genealogy (1:17) by commenting that the progression from Abraham to Jesus came in 3 sets of 14. This seems almost random, especially when you realize that Matthew intentionally skipped some generations to get these numbers. Now, skipping certain generations was common practice for genealogies. But why did Matthew want to have these 14s?

Well, fourteen is (of course) two sevens, and seven is the biblical number of perfection.[2] Matthew organizes the genealogy into 14s to show that God has superimposed his seal of perfection on history.

When you consider the messy stuff in this genealogy, that’s an astounding claim. Think of the story of Tamar (1:3), the woman who tricked her father-in-law to impregnate her by dressing like a prostitute. Or of David (1:6), who slept with his friend’s wife and had him killed to cover it up. God looks at this mess and without condoning their actions, stamps his perfect “14” on it.

Some of you have messy dysfunction in your life, and I’m not saying God is pleased with your pain. It breaks his heart. But He has an over-riding purpose in your life, to accomplish Jesus’ purposes in and through you. And he’s working in the darkest parts of your personal genealogy to bring that to pass.

4. The gospel is for the outsider.

In Jesus’ day, a genealogy was like a résumé, how a person showed the world their worth. And so back then—like today—résumés were fudged to include the best parts and to omit the nasty details. They were crafted to make everyone think, “Wow, this guy just has awesome in his blood!”

Yet look who Jesus includes in his genealogy: Tamar and David (see point 3); Ruth, a Moabite, not even Jewish; Rahab, not only a foreigner, but a prostitute; Manasseh, one of the most wicked and godless kings in Israel’s history. Jesus’ line is filled with outsiders of every kind—moral, ethnic, gender.

This all tells us that Jesus came for the outcast, and that includes us. Or, as David Platt says, these names are included in the line that leads to Christ so that we can know our names are included in the line that leads from Christ.

5. Jesus is the ultimate rest.[3]

There is another detail about the sets of 14 that Matthew mentions. Three sets of 14 makes six sets of seven. This makes Jesus the seventh seven.

Remember, seven is a really significant number in the Bible. It points to perfection, but it also point to rest. God rested on the seventh day. Israel was supposed to let their land “rest” every seven years. And every seventh seven year was the Year of Jubilee, in which all debts were forgiven and all slaves were freed.

Matthew shows us that Jesus is the seventh seven; Jesus is the Year of Jubilee. In him all debts are truly forgiven; in him all slaves are finally freed. Jesus is ultimate rest. Isn’t this what he promised? “Come unto me, Jesus says, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” You don’t have to strive to earn God’s love. You don’t have to prove yourself. In Christ you have the absolute approval of the highest being in the universe.

[1] From Tim Keller’s message on Matthew 1:1–17, “The History of Grace.”

[2] William Hendriksen, Vol. 9Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew, Baker New Testament Commentary, 110.

[3] I am indebted to Tim Keller for pointing this out.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

JD Greear

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.