What is the purpose of evangelism? According to Donald Grey Barnhouse in his book "The Invisible War," the answer is "to proclaim the Gospel that we become a savor of life unto life in them that believe and a savor of death in this who reject the truth." This definition resonates with me, as the first time I heard the gospel, it sounded like the truest thing I had ever heard and offered me great hope in a season of life when I felt incredibly lost, lonely, and depressed.
What is the gospel? The gospel is good news, and my favorite approach to sharing it is the four spiritual laws originally authored by Bill Bright.
God loves you and created you to know Him personally.
Man is sinful and separated from God, so we cannot know Him personally or experience His love.
Jesus Christ is God's only provision for man's sin. Through Him alone we can know God personally and experience God's love.
We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know God personally and experience His love.
I have been the victim of a handful of misguided evangelism attempts, as well as one successful evangelism relationship.
One, I was in the park taking photographs and enjoying God's creation, and some young ladies had set up a table and attempted to engage me in conversation when I wasn't in the mood to talk. They persisted in calling out to me, ignoring the signals that said, "leave me alone."
Two, some young men came to our door and had name tags on that indicated they were of Mormon denomination. It was a weekday and I was working on a project, and I said, "You're here to talk about Jesus. I've already given my life to Him." They said, "No, we are here to talk about genealogy." My dog was trying to escape and I wasn't interested in a theological debate about Jesus versus genealogy, so I politely declined the conversation.
Three, at the dog park, there are periodically stuffy, overdressed individuals with card tables and tracts standing around. I have not engaged in conversation but have seen their media from a distance, enough to know their agenda. I think to myself that they would be far more effective if they put on some gym shorts and a t-shirt, got a dog, and entered the dog park, conversing with the other pet owners about life, the universe, and everything.
At my home church, the approach is, "You matter to me, you matter to God, God matters to you." I appreciate this simple approach and completely agree that a person needs to feel valued as a person long before one starts preaching or proselytizing.
The successful evangelism approach in my own life was a classmate on graduate school who befriended me. I'm not sure if he had any intention of evangelism. We had been talking after class for a number of weeks, and one day I asked what he did for a living. He said he was a pastor, so I asked him about that, and he invited me to attend church. He answered many questions I had, such as "Why do bad things happen to good people?" and he had a very humble approach, admitting that he did not know all the answers. Through that friendship, I entered the Christian life and gave my life to the Lord Jesus Christ.
What is your approach to evangelism? How did you come to faith in Christ?