By Shari Abbott, Reasons for Hope* Jesus
I spent three days this week at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s Training Center, The Cove, in beautiful Asheville, NC. My friend and colleague, Alex McFarland taught a seminar on evangelism in the 21st Century.
This week our focus at Reasons for Hope has been the importance of evangelism. On Tuesday we answered “Why Should I Witness?” in our Got Questions? column. On Thursday we shared a short video, Bold Evangelism in our Two Minute Teaching, and today we’ll “get down to the brass tacks” of evangelism with some thoughts and reasoning for more effective evangelism.
The “Brass Tacks” of Evangelism…and Michael Jordan
“Getting down to brass tacks” means getting serious about something. We all need to get serious about sharing our faith. We begin by remembering that we have been commissioned to do this by Jesus.
Mat 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
We love Jesus and, when we think about all He has done for us and given us, there is nothing He can’t ask of us. He asks us to “preach the gospel.” In fact, He commands us to do so. The question is whether or not we will respond. (Let’s talk briefly about witnessing and then I’ll get to how it relates to Michael Jordan)
It’s well known that the reason many Christians don’t witness is fear, and yet throughout the Bible we are commanded to “fear not.” Overcoming the fear of sharing our faith begins by trusting Jesus and knowing that He has equipped us with two kinds of power for witnessing—the power of authority and the power of ability.
The Power of Authority
Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, All power [exousia: authority power] is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
The Great Commission follows verse 18 and therefore our commission to witness is based upon, and backed by, the authority of the risen and exalted Lord Jesus Christ.
The Power of Ability
Acts 1:8 …you shall receive power [dynamos: ability power] when the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
This verse speaks of our duty to witness about Jesus, and it also assures us of our ability to do so by the power of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The conference also focused on understanding the people to whom we witness. Listening for how they respond to us will help in understanding how we should respond to their doubts.
If someone says, “I was not aware of that,” they need more information. “I doubt that,” indicates skepticism and that the person needs facts and proof. When someone says, “I’m not comfortable with that,” it’s an emotion, often fear, that is the obstacle; and a response of “I will not accept that,” indicates rejection and an unwillingness to listen to reason or answers.
Alex also discussed various world-views and that a person’s worldview will affect how they perceive what we say. We were also reminded that most people are willing to talk about spiritual things, but we must be willing to open conversations of spiritual importance.
Will Graham, who had just returned from a crusade in China, spoke about the importance of proclaiming the gospel and reminded us that we are all called to engage in proclamation evangelism—declaring God’s saving grace with our words. All it takes is confidence that we are equipped with everything we need to share what we believe. We build our confidence by remembering that we have the God-given power of both authority and ability (Mat 28:18 and Acts 1:8) and by studying God’s Word for better understanding and answers of His truth.
As the conference ended, Alex shared a most interesting and thought provoking quote by the well-known sports-superstar, Michael Jordan.
As a youth, Michael Jordan was known to practice for long periods of time, often alone, and even after dark or in the rain. When asked what pushed him to be so diligent in practice, Jordan replied that he had made the decision that he could either choose to experience the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.
That’s my “brass tacks” (getting serious) analogy. Jordan’s “brass tacks” of basketball was seriously committing to practice to achieve excellence in his game, rather than experiencing regret of not practicing enough and not reaching his full potential. We have the same choice. We can choose to be seriously committed to improving our evangelism skills and then using them, or we can experience regret of lost opportunities to effectively witness for Jesus.
We meet people every day who do not know Jesus—those who do not have his saving grace. Are we willing to be disciplined to prepare ourselves to go out onto the “court” (“into all the world” Mark 16:15) and get in the “game” (“preach the gospel” Mark 16:15)?
Jordan prepared himself and became a superstar in his game. Jordan won championships for the Chicago Bulls. If we prepare ourselves and “get in the game,” we can win souls for Jesus. One soul won for Jesus is more valuable than any NBA playoff championship (and they only get rings…believers will receive crowns).
While this is a nice analogy, let me explain where it falls apart. Michael Jordan was disciplining his body and practicing his basketball skills so he would excel. It was all up to him. There’s a lot of pain-for-gain in that.
When we discipline ourselves to study God’s Word, we have a Helper, the Holy Spirit, who teaches us and strengthens us. There’s a lot of rest, no pain, in that. Remember, the Bible is the only book that, when we read it, the Author is present and ready to explain what we are reading. Plus, when we “get in the game” of speaking boldly and witnessing for Jesus, it’s not by our strength that we excel, it is by His strength.
Zechariah 4:6 Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.
Effective Evangelism Begins with Equipping
Begin today by reading and studying God’s Word and reminding yourself of the power you have from Jesus, the power of both authority (Mat 28:18 ) and ability (Acts 1:8). Choose the discipline of preparation so you won’t experience the pain of regret that comes from lost opportunities.
The day will come when our gospel-proclaiming mouths will be shut, and our words of gospel proclamation will be silenced. When we leave this earth, we will never have another opportunity to effect the eternal destiny of family, friends or acquaintances.
Do you know someone who won’t be in heaven, if they die today?
Prepare yourself to share your faith and, with trust in the Holy Spirit to empower you, boldly proclaim the only way they can be certain of their eternal destiny (John 14:6).
Be bold and ask people about their doubts. If you have answers, speak confidently. If you don’t have answers, be honest and say so. Tell them you can get answers and then search the Scriptures. The Bible has all the answers, it just take patience and diligence to find them.
Just like Michael Jordan was a game-winner for the Bulls because of his discipline to practice, we can be soul-winners for Jesus when we are disciplined to prepare and to share.
“…as my Father hath sent me,
even so send I you.” — Jesus