Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist pastor at London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle (in the mid-1800’s), was known for his bold evangelistic style of preaching. In fact, he is credited (along with George Whitfield, Charles Finney, and others) with the “altar call” or “invitation” moment that became popular in many Baptist churches (and other protestant churches) in the 1900s. On one occasion a woman challenged him, saying she didn’t like his way of evangelism. As he talked to her, he asked how she shared with Christ others and over the course of the conversation she had to admit that she really didn’t. To that, Spurgeon answered, “Well, I like my way better than yours.”
What is your way of telling others about Jesus? If you are a follower of Jesus, you are the light of the world. Jesus says that you are not to hide out, but you are to let your light shine before others. So how are you intentionally doing this?
I thought about entitling this post, “Being Yourself” or “You’ve Got Style”. There are actually as many “styles” of evangelism as there are people, because it takes all kinds of believers to reach all kinds of unbelievers. Do this exercise: Read through each one thoughtfully and decide which one best describes you (most of us will lean toward more than one but you’ll discover yourself in one style primarily). Determine which one you are and then hone that “style” and the skills/gifts that God brings with that particular style. The six styles below are adapted from “Becoming a Contagious Christian”, by Bill Hybels. A wonderful, practical guide to personal evangelism.
1. Direct Style
Biblical Example: Peter- Acts 2
Characteristics: confident, assertive
Theme Verse: “Preach the word; be prepared in season & out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction.” 2 Tim. 4:2
Examples: Billy Graham, Greg Laurie, Tim Tebow
Cautions: Be sure to use tact when confronting people w/truth – Don’t offend!
2. Intellectual Style
Biblical Example: Paul- Acts 17 (while in Athens- his challenge regarding the “unknown god”). Paul is regarded as one of the greatest intellectuals ever known.
Characteristics: inquisitive, analytical, logical
Theme Verse: “But in your hearts revere 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.” 1 Peter 3:15
Examples: Josh McDowell, N.T. Wright, Tim Keller
Cautions: Don’t substitute giving answers for sharing the Gospel Message. Don’t become argumentative and learn to be a good listener.
3. Testimonial Style
Biblical Example: Blind man- John 9 He’s healed by Jesus and they ask him, “Was this man a prophet?” He responds by telling his story. “I don’t know. All I know is I was blind and now I see!” No one can deny your personal story.
Theme verse: “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:3
Examples: Corrie Ten Boom, Lee Strobel, Joni Erikson Tada, “I am Second” website. Caution: Talk about Jesus and what He’s done- not simply about yourself. Bring glory to Him.
4. Interpersonal Style
Biblical Example: Matthew- Luke 5:29 He invited all his tax-colleting buddies over to his house for a party in order to meet Jesus.
Characteristics: Generally a warm personality, conversational, friendship-oriented
Theme Verse: “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22
Examples: Much has been written about “Lifestyle Evangelism” and how to open your life to those around you. I love a book called, “Questioning Evangelism” by Randy Newman (he proposes that asking questions is the primary means to share the Gospel- not unlike Jesus’ “rabbinic method”).
The caution: Do not value friendships over truth-telling.
5. Invitational Style
Biblical example: Woman at the Well- John 4
Characteristics: hospitable, relational, persuasive
Theme verse: “Then the master told His servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.” Luke 14:23
We see another example of this in John 1. Here we see a sequence of events, one person inviting another person to meet Jesus. In John 1:40 it says the first thing that Andrew did was tell his brother Peter. Then the next day Philip invited Nathanial to come and see Jesus. Nathanael asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said: “Come and see.” Sometimes we just need to say, “Come and see!” Just come. Imagine this: If you know anything about Peter’s role in the early church- What if Andrew had never invited Peter to meet Jesus? A single invitation can change a life, or many lives.
6. Serving Style
Biblical Example: Dorcas- Acts 9:36 (a.k.a. Tabitha) “She was always doing good and helping the poor.”
Characteristics: Others-centered, humble, patient, caring.
Theme verse: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
Examples: We see this approach to evangelism in ministries like Buckner International, World Vision. So many examples within our church family.
The caution: Actions are no substitute for words (Rom. 10:14). Nowhere in the Bible does anyone come to faith without words- even the Ethiopian Eunuch (who was reading the Scriptures) needed Philip to explain it to him and share the Gospel.
So, what’s your style? Put it to practice.. today.