Guest post by Rob Tims
On a recent questionnaire I was working on, there was a simple but penetrating question: “What is one area in your Christian life in which you are certain you need to grow?”
Some might labor over a question like this, but I answered it in two words and moved on.
My answer? Personal Evangelism.
I work for 3 Christian institutions. My kids are homeschooled or attend a Christian school. We are at church 1-2 days a week, to say nothing of special events. When I look at the concentric circles of relationships in my life, nearly all of them are Christian.
So yes … personal evangelism is definitely one area of growth I need to work on.
I don’t think I’m alone in this struggle. My observations are that Christians have lives a lot like mine (covered up in Christian relationships), or that we tend to overcomplicate personal evangelism, feeling like we need special training in apologetics or ethics in order to faithfully and effectively share about Jesus.
I get that latter one, and have gained a lot by investing in the study of such things, but I also think that there’s a lot to be said for simplicity. I also think Paul—who wrote about complex things and contended for the faith at a philosophical level—saw the beauty of simplicity when it comes to sharing about Jesus.
Consider Colossians 4:2-6 (CSB). Here you will find three small steps for making big strides in sharing your faith, and they are beautifully simple.
Begin by talking to God about people. Verses 2-3 reads, “Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the word ….” As we’ll see in the rest of the passage, the context for the prayer Paul commands us to is in relationship to sharing about Jesus with those God has around us. Talking to God about the people around us has a significant impact on how we treat others and share Jesus with them.
Think about it like this: Have you ever seen someone in the grocery store or similar venue and had a much easier time beginning a conversation with them because, just recently, you had been talking about them with another friend? You probably said something like, “Oh, I was just talking about you with so-and-so!” I believe that’s what Paul has in mind here when he commands that we talk with God about people. In so doing, we are much more comfortable taking step number two.
That second step? Talk with people about God. Look at Paul’s continuing thought in verses 3-4. “At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains, so that I may make it known as I should. Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time.” Talking to God about people naturally overflows into talking with people about God. This is not to say that we can only talk with people about God if we’ve been talking with God about them. This is why Paul says that he should be making God known to those around him. But Paul asks for prayer in this matter because he knows that prayer leads to and supports sharing efforts, be they his or those praying. It’s also interesting to me that Paul refers to such sharing as an act of wisdom on our part. What makes it so wise? The fact that time is short (be that our time, the people’s time, the time we have with them, etc.). Paul views talking with others about God as an act of stewardship that naturally overflows from acts of prayer.
Finally, take one more small step: Walk with God with others. Check out verses 6. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.” If there was ever a charge against the validity of the Christian faith and sticks and stings, it’s that of hypocrisy. It might even be the thing that’s holding you back from sharing Jesus with someone. You’re afraid that the person might highlight all the ways you’ve fallen short of the very message you are sharing with them. And of course, there is no easier target than something we’ve said. For every time I’ve behaved in a sinful manner, I’ve said something sinful a thousand times or more.
No wonder that Paul calls us to live like the gospel is true. Our lives should, indeed, validate the message, and particularly our tongue. Yet this is where I find the gospel so compelling and comforting. When someone does call out my hypocrisy, I am all the more energized to share the gospel with them … that Jesus lived the perfect life on my behalf and died for my hypocrisy. As Paul might have put it in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Jesus who did not know hypocrisy to be a hypocrite for me, so that in him I might no longer be a hypocrite.” So yes, may we walk with God with others, and when we don’t, let’s proclaim His grace all the more, which is an act of walking with God!
So go ahead … take three small steps this week in your personal evangelism, and see what big strides you take as a result.
Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.