From August 3-5 I get to lead a group of young people through the topic of being a friend of sinners, like Jesus was (Mt. 11). In our six-part study, we have already seen that we need a theology of lostness (we come into this world as enemies of God and under His wrath), we need a theology of friendship (we need to learn to listen to our unsaved friends without resorting to conditional friendships), and we need a theology of worldliness (being a “friend of sinners” [which is required] is not the same as being a “friend of the world” [which is forbidden]).
Let’s notice a fourth aspect of being a friend of sinners and it is that we need —
Session #4- A Theology of EVANGELISM!
“Evangelism” — a word that strikes fear in the hearts of Christians! But “evangelism” simply means sharing the Good News about Jesus. And when that is done in the context of a serious friendship, it is a whole lot different than much of the “witnessing” we Christians panic over. What if your unsaved friends asked you about your Christian faith, about why you are kinder and more considerate, about your calmness in the midst of trial? Wouldn’t it be easier to share Jesus with them if you were responding to questions?
A theology of evangelism flows out of a conviction that the Great Commission (“19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”) in Matthew 28 is not an option for the believer. It is his or her marching orders! And we make disciples as we share the gospel with others, some of whom will repent and believe, and then begin that discipleship journey! Evangelism means I am looking for opportunities to speak of Jesus’ saving me, rescuing me from my sin, giving me forgiveness and freedom and eternal life and . . .
There are some simple ways to share one’s faith that may be useful. For example, if someone (hopefully a friend) says to you, “I see that you are very religious,” you might say, “Well, I spell ‘religion’ D-O.” “D-O?,” your friends asks. “Yes,” you say, “religion is about what you DO. The problem is you never know if you’ve done enough to earn God’s favor. I’m really into Christianity which is spelled D-O-N-E.” “D-O-N-E?”, your friend asks. “Yes, Jesus did for me what I cannot do for myself . . .”
Another simple approach might help if you are talking with someone who says they already are a Christian. You might ask, “Would you say you are a cultural Christian or a biblical Christian?” “What’s the difference?”, they might ask. You would explain that a cultural Christian is someone who attends church once in a while, is a good neighbor, and doesn’t beat their dog. “Then what’s a biblical Christian?”, they might ask. “Ahhh, you say. A biblical Christian . . .” (I’d recommend putting John chapter three in your own words at this point).
I have found the following books helpful in developing my ability to share my faith with others: Greg Koukl’s Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, Rebecca Pippert’s Out of the Saltshaker and Into the World: Evangelism as a Way of Life, and Paul Little’s How to Give Away Your Faith. (to be continued)