Sharing the Gospel1
There are a number of models available today for sharing the gospel. A good model is one which addresses two essential components: “matter” and “manner.” The “matter” component of effective evangelism is Scripture. The Holy Spirit uses scriptural truth—the gospel—to convert souls. It is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). The “manner” component has two elements: attitude and method.
Proud attitudes of both the redeemed and unredeemed are displeasing to God. Possessing an attitude wherein you hold the other person as more important than yourself will be most effective in your personal evangelistic endeavors.2 The most effective method is one which is non-argumentative. Dr. D. James Kennedy emphasizes this point in Evangelism Explosion:
When you present the gospel, the arch foe will have workmen doing their best to block your presentation. Fears and doubts will arise in your own heart and your prospect will raise objections . . . Our natural tendency is to meet an objection head-on and beat it down. This must be overcome for the sake of your prospect’s eternal welfare. Negatively we say: never argue . . . Often it has been said that the only way to win an argument is to avoid it, and the best way to avoid it is to preclude it . . . Any skillful debater can easily win a point in an argument, but by doing so you can arouse hostilities in the prospect that will cause you to lose your “fish.”3
Having discussed the essential components of a good model, let us move forward to discuss the phases of the model we will be introducing in this work. They are the evaluation, presentation/subject response, and follow-up phases, respectively.
Phase 1: The Evaluation Phase
The objective of this phase is to get an idea of the spiritual state of the target person’s soul (hereinafter called the subject) and understanding of several key truths of Scripture. Implementing this phase involves asking the subject five questions that will give you insight into his or her spiritual condition. The questions are as presented in the box on the next page and come directly from William Fay’s model of evangelism.4
• Do you have any kind of spiritual beliefs?
• Who is Jesus to you?
• Do you think there are such places as heaven and hell?
• If you were to die right now, where would you go?
• If what you just shared (about heaven/hell) was not true, would you want to know it?
Asking questions allows people to express their viewpoints— something that most people enjoy doing when given the opportunity. The key thing to remember when asking these questions during this phase is to not respond to the questions you are asking with your own answers. Remember, you are asking the questions to evaluate their spiritual condition, not yours. Let’s spend a little time looking at each of these questions more closely.
Do you have any kind of spiritual beliefs?
Notice that the question that is being asked is not, “Do you believe in God?”5 Such is the case for a couple of reasons. First, there are many different conceptions of God in the world today. Second, the common response to such a question, whether or not it is verbalized, is, “It’s none of your business.” But if you ask people if they have any spiritual beliefs, they will usually talk to you. As you listen, remember not to respond to this question with your answer. Let them do the talking, because when they are done, they will have little to argue with you about. If they answer yes to the question without explaining, go on to the next question.
Who is Jesus to you?
When you ask a person what he or she thinks of Jesus, he or she will usually respond with an answer such as, “He was a well-known teacher or prophet,” “He is the Son of God,” or “He is the man who died on the cross.” Listen carefully to the person’s response to this question, bearing in mind how you would respond to such a question if it were posed to you in this context. Most Christians would not give a theological discourse at a time such as this. They would, instead, say things reflective of their personal relationship with Jesus, such as “He is my Lord and Savior.”6
Do you think there are such places as heaven and hell?
Most people are caught up in the here and now, giving little consideration to the future. This question will often get them to think about what is to come after their life on earth ends. The next question personalizes this one.
If you were to die right now, where would you go?
If their response is “heaven,” ask them, “Why?” The answer they provide will give you insights into some of their foundational beliefs and the manner in which they deal with reality.7 When you start talking about the personal aspects of a person’s life, he or she will usually become serious.
If what you just shared (about heaven/hell) was not true, would you want to know it?
This last question is a tough one. Even though it is difficult, we must ask it. The two possible answers to this question are yes or no. If it is yes, continue on. If the answer is no, stop the conversation and say, “Thank you for your time.” In most cases the person will say something like, “Aren’t you going to tell me?” It is a rare occurrence to get a no that sticks.8 If you do get a no response, however, remember that this whole matter is in God’s hands. If the Holy Spirit has not prepared people to listen to the Word of God that you are prepared to share with them in the next phase, there is nothing that you can do about it. Be content to leave the matter with God.
Phase 2: The Gospel Presentation/Subject Response Phase
God uses Scripture to change people’s lives. A sound presentation of the gospel involves imparting God’s life-changing Word to our subjects. It also includes utilizing a Scripture-based methodology. The impartation of God’s Word is based on Romans 10:17: “Faith comes from hearing.” Hearing the Word of God is the primary element the Holy Spirit utilizes in the conversion process. The method of presentation (or methodology) in this model is based on Luke 10:25–27. In the context of Jesus being tested by an expert in the law with the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds, “What is written in the law?” He goes on to say to this person, “How do you read it?” In this example, Jesus gives his subject the opportunity to interpret what he believes is written in the law. After giving him the opportunity to render his interpretation, Jesus then responds to his subject’s rendering. In this case he responds, “You have answered correctly” (Luke 10:28).9 You will be sharing the five following portions of Scripture10 with your subject.
1. Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
2. Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
3. John 3:3 “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
4. John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’”
5. Romans 10:9 “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Preparing Your Bible
It may be helpful to obtain and designate a Bible to use for evangelism. When thinking about the Bible to use for this work, three factors should be taken into consideration: language, size, and medium. Although many within Reformed circles rightly have a great appreciation for the King James Version of the Bible, it is important to realize that the old English in which it is written may add a level of confusion for the unchurched. The passages printed above are taken from the English Standard Version; this translation or other easy-to-understand yet faithful translations may be helpful.11 As for size, a large, full-sized copy may be intimidating to your subject, so you may wish to purchase a pocket-sized Testament for this work.12
Finally, in relation to medium, there is value in setting before your subject a book (as opposed to a cell phone, iPad, etc.), so they can visually see that there is a broader context in which the verses you share with them fit. Also note that you should be ready and willing to give your subject the Bible after your conversation, should he or she want or accept it.
Follow the following steps in preparing your evangelism Testament.
Step 1: Use a highlighter for the purpose of highlighting the portions of Scripture listed above.
Step 2: Open your Bible to Romans 3:23. Highlight the verse and turn your Bible upside down to simulate the position of the Bible as it will be read by your subject. (Each of the passages is going to be read and interpreted by the other person)
Step 3: While your Bible is turned upside down, write “Romans 6:23” in the margin closest to you. This will provide an instant reference for the next verse to which you will need to turn.
Step 4: Repeat this procedure for all of the verses listed above. Marking your Bible in this manner will alleviate a great deal of anxiety during your presentation.
Step 5: Paste Reminder 1: Don’t Argue! The Opening Questions and The Scripture Passages insert on the inside of the front cover of your Bible. (See Appendix O, 277.)
Step 6: Paste The Closing Questions and Reminder 2: Don’t Forget to Follow Up! insert on the inside of the back cover of your Bible. (See Appendix O, 277.)
So far you have been equipped with questions designed to get your subject thinking about several key passages that can be utilized by the Holy Spirit for convicting and convincing your subject. You are now ready to begin sharing the passages from the Word of God. As you do so, remember that there are two things that must happen in order that a person be saved. He must first express a genuine sorrow for his sins (repentance), along with a desire to turn from them. Second, he must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (or embrace Christ by faith). Both the teachings of Jesus and the apostles emphasize this fact. Let’s look at an example from each. In Mark 1:14–15, after John was put in prison, we read that “Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ He said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent [repentance] and believe [faith] the good news!’”
In Acts 26 we see the same emphasis. In the context of Paul speaking to King Agrippa, in accordance with the vision that he received from heaven to preach in Damascus, Jerusalem, all Judea, and to the Gentiles, he says in verse 20b: “I preached that they should repent [repentance] and turn to God [faith] and prove their repentance by their deeds.” As you can see, both faith and repentance are necessary for salvation. Faith without repentance leads to self-deception, easy-believism, and cheap grace. Repentance without faith leads to legalism, penance, and moralism.13 Unfortunately, an increasing number of evangelism and church growth models today do not have the essential components the Holy Spirit ordinarily uses to convert and save lost sinners; the results are devastating: no real repentance, no real faith, spiritual-based depression in the temporal realm, and condemnation in the eternal realm.
Let us now enter into a discussion surrounding the Bible verses you will be sharing with your subject.
1. Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Open your Bible to Romans 3:23 and place it in front of the other person. Point to the highlighted passage and ask him or her to read it out loud. Next, ask him or her to tell you what he or she thinks the passage says. (When you employ this method, your subject cannot say, “That’s just your interpretation,” for you have given him or her a chance to give his or hers first.)14
After the person reads the verse and gives his or her interpretation, determine if his or her interpretation is correct. Correct and clarify as needed. If he or she has not grasped or has minimized the aspect of sin in the passage, you might wish to say, “Have you ever lied? If so, you have broken a command of God and have sinned (ninth commandment). Have you ever misused God’s name? If so, you have broken the third commandment and sinned against God.” If the person asks if you have ever broken any of God’s commands, be honest and answer, “Yes.” The Lord will guide your discussion in such a way as to help your subject understand that by God’s standards, he or she is a guilty sinner.
Next, open the Bible to Romans 6:23. Ask him or her to read the verse out loud.
2. Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Again, ask him or her to tell you what he or she thinks the verse says. Point out that if a person has sinned once, he or she is guilty before God and will face eternal condemnation (hell) unless he or she is granted the gift of God which is eternal life in Jesus Christ. Time spent discussing this verse will be used to show your subject that there is no hope outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ.15
Next, open the Bible to John 3:3. Ask him or her to read the verse out loud.
3. John 3:3: “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Unlike the first two questions, don’t ask the person what he or she thinks this passage means. He or she probably won’t know. You might like to say something like the following: “You’re probably wondering what Jesus was talking about when he said this to Nicodemus, who was one of Israel’s leading teachers. Nicodemus thought that Jesus meant he had to somehow go back inside his mother. Jesus, instead, was speaking about the need of a spiritual birth. This need is there because each of us is born spiritually dead as a result of the Fall. Jesus Christ hung on the cross to die for sinners, in order that the wages of sin, which is death (Rom. 6:23) might be averted for those who believe in him by faith.”
As you discuss this matter with your subject, remember that in Scripture, true faith is not characterized as just a mental assent to some facts. There are false kinds of faith and there is true, saving faith. True, saving faith is experienced only when one is born again. After the Heidelberg Catechism discusses the fact that each of us is born with corrupt human nature as a result of the Fall (Lord’s Day 3), it asks (Question 8), “But are we so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined toward all evil?” The answer given is, “Yes, indeed, unless we are born again (or regenerated), by the Spirit of God.” One must be born again to see the kingdom of God!
Next, open the Bible to John 14:6. Ask him or her to read the verse out loud.
4. John 14:6: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’”
Allow the person to tell you what he or she thinks it says. You may want to ask your subject if he or she sees in this passage any other way to the Father in heaven except through Jesus Christ. He or she may well give you a look of aggravation because of the clarity of this verse on the matter. Do not be alarmed by aggravation, for it may be the Holy Spirit working in your subject’s mind, assisting him or her to recognize the fact that there is only one way to the Father.
Finally, open the Bible to Romans 10:9 and ask him or her to read the verses out loud.
5. Romans 10:9–11: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
This passage is fairly straightforward, but your subject may wrestle with the idea of being forgiven from the many sins he or she has committed. It’s true that none of us are worthy of the forgiveness and salvation found in Christ; yet, he loved us when we were dead in sin and has promised never to turn away those who have been moved to confess their sins and believe in him.
After discussing the passage, ask the subject if he or she believes that Christ died for sinners, and close by asking the five following questions.
1. Are you a sinner?
This question points back to Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned.” Earlier he or she saw that the “all” includes him or her.
2. Do you want forgiveness of sins?
Romans 6:23 says that forgiveness is a gift provided by Jesus Christ. To obtain God’s free gift one must accept it for himself or herself.
3. Do you believe Jesus died on the cross for you and rose again?
4. Are you ready to place your trust in Jesus Christ and embrace him as your own personal Savior?
If the subject responds with an affirmative answer, go on the next question.
5. Are you committed from this time on to live your life for him who suffered and died on the cross for you?
Phase 3: The Follow-Up Phase
Reformed believers have always correctly placed a great deal of emphasis on grounding those with whom they share the gospel with the core truths of the Bible. After your basic presentation of the gospel is made, your subject should be immediately presented with reading material that introduces him or her to some of the rudiments of the Christian faith. It goes without saying that the subject needs to be invited to attend church with you, but if this is not possible, he or she needs to be encouraged to begin attending a solid Reformed or Presbyterian church near his or her residence.
Possible Reading Material for New Converts
Welcome to a Reformed Church: A Guide for Pilgrims by Daniel R. Hyde
The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction by Sinclair B. Ferguson
Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
Jesus on Every Page by David Murray
Ultimate Questions by John Blanchard
Knowing God by J. I. Packer
Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne A. Grudem
1. The majority of this article comes from Share Faith Without Fear by William Fay and Covenant Evangelism by Jeff Doll. Bill Fay speaks nationally on the topic of evangelism. The director of IRBC was invited to attend one of his seminars a number of years ago and was impressed with his emphasis on the sovereignty of God as it applies to one’s presentation of the gospel. He also appreciated the simplicity and practical methodology of his approach. Although he disagreed with some of his ideas, he felt that the majority of his presentation offered some valuable ideas toward making a good presentation of the gospel. You are encouraged to obtain a copy of Fay’s book (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 1999).
2. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3, New American Standard Bible).
3. D. James Kennedy, Evangelism Explosion, 4th ed. (1970; Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1996), page.
4. Discussion about this particular question is similar to Fay, Share Faith Without Fear, 34.
5. Discussion about this particular question is similar to Fay, Share Faith Without Fear, 34.
6. Discussion about this question is similar to Fay’s discussion in Share Faith Without Fear, 34–35.
7. God is an eternal being. Because mankind was created in his image people have been hardwired to have a concept of eternity; “He [God] has put eternity into man’s heart” (Eccl. 3:11).Because eternity is a reality for every person, observing how they interact with it will provide insight into how they deal with reality.
8. Discussion about this question is similar to Fay’s discussion in Share Faith Without Fear, 36–37.
9. Discussion about the scriptural principles behind the evangelism model is adapted from Fay, Share Faith Without Fear, 41–42.
10. These verses are taken from Fay’s s recommended verses, Share Faith Without Fear, 44.
11. Please note that this section is not saying that the King James Version is a poor translation; it is a faithful translation still used by many Reformed congregations. This section is merely saying that the language may prove to be confusing for those who have not grown up in the church.
12. Fay makes the same point by distinguishing between the “Big Boomer” Bible and the pocket-sized “Derringer” Bible (Share Faith Without Fear, 42–43).
13. The majority of this paragraph was adapted from Messiah’s Reformed Fellowship: News and Articles on Reformed Evangelism, written by Pastor Paul T. Murphy. Messiah’s Reformed Fellowship is a Reformed congregation that meets for worship in New York City.
14. Discussion related to this verse is similar to Fay, Share Faith Without Fear, 45.
15. Discussion related to this verse is similar to Fay, Share Faith Without Fear, 46–47.