1. Evangelism is not about winning an argument, it’s about preaching the gospel.
The word evangelism literally means to bring the good message. Paul made it clear in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 that preaching the gospel is not about intellectual superiority, it’s about Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Despite the fact that he was an extremely learned man, Paul’s method of evangelism was weakness, fear and much trembling, not persuasive words; every act of evangelism is meant to be a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, not our own eloquence.
2. The Holy Spirit knows the hearts of men better than we do, so we should trust His leading more than our own.
Evangelism cannot simply happen on our own terms; we must be willing to be led by the Spirit in both word and circumstance. Consider Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40: an unlikely location (the desert) for evangelism, but Philip saw it as a divine appointment.
Jon Piper helps illustrate this with a sailboat analogy:
Consider the analogy of a manual on how to use a sailboat. It says on the front of the manual: “All you need to know for successful sailing.” So the manual claims to be a sufficient guide for sailing. You read in the manual on page 6, “Before hoisting the sail, be sure that you know the way the wind is blowing so as to put the rigging in proper position to avoid capsizing or injury.” So you go out on the lake with the boat and before you hoist the sail, you hold a little cloth in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.
Suppose somebody said, “Hey, why are you lifting that cloth in the air to find out which way the wind is blowing? The manual says that it contains everything you need to know for successful sailing. Shouldn’t you just look in the manual to learn which way the wind is blowing?”
That’s the kind of mistake people make, I think, when they say that we should not be like Philip today and listen for the special direction of the Spirit in personal evangelism. The Bible doesn’t rule out that special guidance and the Bible doesn’t take its place.
3. The most passionate and effective evangelism comes from those who have experienced the gospel.
Experience does not equal truth, but it does help fortify personal conviction and open doors of opportunity for those to whom talk is cheap. This is especially important in today’s society where information abounds often but is often disconnected from reality.
4. Godly evangelism frequently involves making ourselves (and others) uncomfortable.
If we are going to effectively share the gospel with the world, we need to be free from the bondage of pride and apathy towards people who are often seen as detestable. This prejudice is nothing new; Jesus dealt with it in Luke 15:1-7when people were appalled that He ate with sinners. The important mindset to have here is that of a pilgrim: because this world is not our final home, comfort should not govern our actions.
5. The gospel is a message of hope.
Peter tells us that we need to always be ready to give a defense—not for our religious liturgy or our denomination, but for our hope. Many people promise hope, but they often mean change. (Part of the reason I believe Washington said in his Farewell Address, “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”) Only Christ can offer real, lasting hope because only Christ can change a person’s heart.