Habits of Evangelism
It’s been a little over two weeks since we concluded our Loving the Lost sermon series. Where are you at with evangelism? Is it still on your radar, or is it “out of sight, out of mind?”
Our goal all along has been sustained growth in loving the lost. We want every believer to make evangelism part of their daily life. Short-term enthusiasm is great; long-term habits are better.
But, like many good things, evangelism has a way of fading into the background over time. The way many of us practice evangelism follows a familiar pattern:
- We get energized about sharing our faith by a sermon, an evangelistic event, or a conversation with a non-believer.
- We take a stab at evangelizing, perhaps by trying to strike up a spiritual conversation with a friend or co-worker (or at least thinking about it!).
- We realize that evangelism is difficult and that we have a lot of other things on our plate.
- Evangelism returns to the category of “things we want to do someday soon.”
Sound familiar? Evangelism is one of those things that doesn’t happen by accident. Life doesn’t naturally leave us the needed time and energy for it. With the exception of a few gifted people for whom evangelism is like breathing, we seldom stumble our way into it apart from intentional effort. To echo Pastor Josh’s illustration from a recent sermon, the “gravitational pull” of the world draws us away from evangelism, not toward it.
So how do you avoid putting evangelism up on the dusty shelf along with your someday-soon diet, your gym membership, the stack of books you hope to read, and that blog you’ve always wanted to start? That’s the question I want to address in the wake of our sermon series. Where do we go from here? I’ll offer a few suggestions focused on establishing habits of evangelism. Habits are formed by taking one small step and then doing it again. And again. And again.
1) Keep Thinking
If we want to keep growing in evangelism, we need to be thinking about it. I know that sounds obvious, but examine yourself for a minute: Over the past week, what did you spend the most time thinking about? Did evangelism break your top 10? Distraction is one of evangelism’s greatest enemies. The same forces that keep non-Christians asleep to spiritual realities keep Christians asleep to their task of sharing the gospel.
- Sanctify your media feed: Is there one show or podcast you can cut out and replace with something that edifies you and keeps your evangelistic passion high? (e.g. The Gospel Coalition Podcast – Recent episode: “How to Witness at Work”)
- Grow in your “gospel fluency” by making a practice of relating the movies you watch to the gospel. What themes in this movie point to our human condition and God’s plan of redemption? What aspect of the gospel would be especially good news to one of the characters?
2) Keep Praying
God is the one who causes people to be born again, and he delights to do it in response to our prayers. If you only do one thing from this list, do this.
- Keep a list in your Bible of a few friends, family members, and acquaintances who don’t know Christ. Pray for at least one person on your list every day. Pray for progress as well as conversion: “Father, give my friend a new interest in spiritual things.”
- Pray short prayers throughout the day asking for awareness of what God is doing and how you might be involved: “Father, give me eyes to see opportunities to share Christ today. How would you re-direct my plans for today? Who would you have me talk to?”
3) Keep Asking Questions and Listening
Conversation is a powerful tool for evangelism, but not all conversations are equal. Small talk won’t move anyone closer to Christ, but that’s where most conversations stay unless we intentionally take things deeper. We can do that by asking thought-provoking questions and taking genuine interest in people’s responses.
- Practice having substantive conversations with other believers in your life. Make the dinner table or the drive home a time set aside for conversation. Practice relating each topic to your faith. A list of conversation starters can help: Find a free list online, use a book, or use a product like Table Topics.
- Have lunch with a co-worker once a week and try to get to know them better. Ask about their childhood, their passions/goals, and their spiritual beliefs.
4) Keep Inviting
We’ve talked about how relationships create a context for witnessing to Christ. But many of us are isolated from non-believers. We can take intentional steps to welcome others into our lives and create opportunities to share the gospel (while hopefully making a friend as well).
- Going to the park or the zoo with your kids? Why not invite the family next door to join you? If you’re having a social event with your community group, invite a friend. Go to the gym or walk the dog with a friend. Make a habit of including non-believers in the rhythms of your life.
- Decide on a hospitality schedule. Could you have someone over for dinner or dessert once per month? Once every 2 weeks? Put it on the calendar and invite someone.
I hope these ideas have sparked your imagination and excitement for what you could do this very week to grow in evangelism and be part of what God is doing to reconcile people to himself. These small steps may seem insignificant, but we have a great God—one who uses small things and weak people to do the unthinkable. Let us keep our eyes on him and on the next step in front of us.