Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Meaning of Evangelism and Five Principles to Help Us Do A Better Job at It

When it comes to sharing my faith in Jesus with others, my favorite passage in the Bible to use as an example is Acts 8:26-40. In this passage, Philip the Evangelist witnesses to the Ethiopian eunuch. His art of sharing the Good News fits well with Dr. Bill Bright’s concept of evangelism. The late Dr. Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ (aka Cru), defined evangelism as the “sharing [of] the Good News in the Power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results with God.” Philip’s way of witnessing, marked by divine appointment and a dynamic approach, teaches us the following five principles for effective evangelism:
Principle # 1: Obedience to God’s Call (vv. 26-27). Philip left what he was doing and went down to the road that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza. He eventually met the Ethiopian eunuch and witnessed to him. This could not have happened had he not been obedient to God. Philip could have carried on with the revival meetings that were going on in Samaria, but he chose instead to obey God. Practically he obeyed God and did what God told him, unlike King Saul whom the prophet Samuel rebuked saying: “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22).
Principle # 2: Sensitivity to the Spirit’s Leading (vv. 29 & 39). In his approach to the Ethiopian eunuch, Philip relied upon the power of the Holy Spirit and responded to His prompting. The Spirit was, therefore, actively directing Philip from the beginning to the end of this personal evangelism. The outcome of Philip’s witness made Acts 1:8 a reality—the Good News that had moved from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria was now headed to the ends of the earth through Philip's Spirit-led witness to the Ethiopian eunuch.
Principle # 3: Scripture Knowledge and Application (vv. 30-35). In Acts 8:26 and following, Philip, well-versed with the scriptures, wisely shared the Gospel with the Ethiopian eunuch. When he heard the Ethiopian eunuch reading the scroll, he knew the man was reading Isaiah 53 and the only way he did was because he knew the Scriptures by heart. Gene Warr, who worked closely with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and co-authored, “Four Steps to Peace with God,” recommended the knowledge of Scriptures as one of the essentials in the life that counts. In sharing the Gospel with others, we must bear in mind that “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).
Principle # 4: Readiness and Strategy (vv. 30-31). Philip not only relied upon the power of the Holy Spirit but also used a question and answer strategy as he shared the Good News with the Ethiopian official. He fulfilled what the apostle Peter reminded the early believers: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NIV). As a pilot who flies an airplane, we should know the skills of takeoff and landing as far as evangelism is concerned.
Principle # 5: Clarification and Commitment (vv. 36-37). In the Gospel presentation section of the Evangelism Explosion (EE) training course developed by Dr. D. James Kennedy, there is an emphasis of this principle. EE starts with evangelism, which leads to discipleship and church growth. Before leading souls to praying a prayer of commitment, it is important to clarify what they are committing themselves to. After Philip shared the Good News with the Ethiopian eunuch, they came across some water, and it is at this point of the journey that the man’s request for baptism is presented in question form, “...Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” The subsequent statement that Philip makes is a clarifying one as far as the commitment of the Ethiopian national is concerned: “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The man answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” In this practical example, belief precedes baptism, and that is the way it should be.
Even after taking into account the five principles above, as well as other means of sharing the Gospel, those with whom we share the Gospel may not believe. It is at such a time that we must take Dr. Bright’s advice to leave the results with God, who draws men and women, boys and girls to Himself. Our job is to sow the seed; others might be the ones to water and harvest, but it is God who makes the seed grow. Let us faithfully share the Good News with those in our sphere of influence.

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