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Some Dos and Don'ts of Evangelism



Some "Dos and Don’ts" of Evangelism

Taken from lectures on evangelism, "Telling People the Truth in Love," now posted on the Riddleblog (click here)


1. Be clear about what you believe and why you believe it. Know the Scriptures and know the confessions and catechisms. The more you know about your faith, the easier it is to talk with non-Christians.

2. The essence of evangelism is communicating the correct information about sin and grace, simply and clearly. Talk about the law and the gospel, not about infralapsarianism and divine simplicity. That comes later!

3. Avoid the use of Christian jargon. Speak about real sin, real guilt, real shed blood!

4. Use tact and be charitable! Don’t talk about reprobation with someone who has just lost an unbelieving family member. Be kind and courteous! Many non-Christians act and speak out of ignorance, not malice.

5. Be sensitive to someone’s past—if they’ve had a bad experience in church, struggle with a particular sin etc., be understanding and compassionate! Non-Christians hate self-righteousness, and they have a right to do so. Do not soft-peddle the law and the guilt of sin, but make sure they understand that you are a justified sinner, not a self-righteous "know it all," who is here to correct them!

6. Stick with the subject—don’t get side-tracked. When the conversation wanders, pull it back to center stage—the law and the gospel.

7. Evangelism is not about winning an argument, but leading people to Christ. Discussions may get heated and intense at times—that’s okay. But the purpose of evangelism is not to show why you are right and they are wrong. It is to communicate the truth of the gospel. The message is to be the offence. Not you!

8. When people are apathetic about sin—use the law. When people have doubts or are skeptical—use basic apologetic arguments. When people express guilt for sin—present the gospel.

9. Evangelism is about leading non-Christians to Christ. Convincing evangelicals that Reformed theology is true, falls under the heading of polemics. Don’t confuse the two.

10. Stick with what all Christians hold in common wherever possible. Leave the internecine fighting among Christians aside when talking to non-Christians. A non-Christian will not care much about why the Lutheran view of the Lord’s Supper is in error, or why Baptists are wrong about infant baptism. That will come during catechesis.

11. Wherever possible, speak about Christianity as factually true— "Jesus did this," "Jesus said this," "people heard and saw him," etc. Keep away from the subjective line of approach— "it works for me."

12. Pray for wisdom.

13. Trust in the power of God the Holy Spirit working through the word! Cite texts directly from the Scriptures with attribution. Jesus says, Paul says....Not, "I think," or "it seems to me."

14. Don’t rush things. Just because someone is not ready to trust in Christ after one encounter does not mean that effective evangelism has not taken place. Pre-evangelism is equally vital. You may plant, but someone else may have to water.

15. Treat people as objects of concern, not notches in your belt. Establish relationships and friendships whenever possible.

16. Don’t forget that a prophet is without honor in his own home. The chances of you leading your own unbelieving family members [or someone close to you] to Christ are remote. Pray for someone else to come and evangelize your family!

17. Don’t force things. If people balk, ridicule and otherwise are not interested, back off. Find another time and place. If after repeated attempts to communicate the gospel, and someone still shows an unwillingness to hear what you have to say, "shake the dust off your feet and move on to a new town!"

18. Be willing to get people the resources they need: be willing to provide them with a Bible, the right book to read, and certainly an invitation to attend your church or Bible study, etc.

19. Pray for opportunities to evangelize. Pray for your church—that God would bless the preaching of his word, that he would bring non-Christians into our midst, and that he would bless the church with growth.

20. You don’t have to become a practical Arminian to be a faithful evangelist! A Reformed approach to evangelism simply means telling people the truth in love.

Reader Comments (13)

After reading this, I can see I've made numerous blunders trying to evangelize in the past. This is a great post!
June 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterwalt
Wait a minute! I thought the Reformed didn't believe in evangelism...

What an amazing resource! Thank you!
June 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterre4mdmom
i agree--good stuff here.

point number 9 (Evangelism is about leading non-Christians to Christ. Convincing evangelicals that Reformed theology is true, falls under the heading of polemics. Don’t confuse the two) brings up a question i have had.

when the subject of Reformed theology, more specifically calvinism, comes up it's almost sure that the subject of arminianism will come up--especially if the context is "convincing evangelicals."

when this happens one often hears things like, "remember to carry out your conversations in brotherly love and that you are just trying to help your brethren in Christ understand their faith better." who can begrudge this sentiment? my question is why this sort of courtesy is not afforded Roman Catholics. usually that context is, "speak with Roman Catholics in a spirit of love and kindness." the notion that Catholics might also be our brethren seems always...dropped.

i have always liked the Reformed approach that makes it clear that "wolf can be within and sheep can be without." it is like a balm that helps us stay away from trying to discern the wheatt from the chaff, usually and conveniently enough, by means of in-house and man-made rules. this means that institutionally we may make conclusions about just where the true church is and fully affirm that where she isn't individual sheep may be, and where she is individual wolves may lurk (guards against naive ideas that all is always fine).

why are Catholics and arminian evangelicals treated, seemingly, differently when their essential theology of the Gospel is pretty much the same? why are the latter "brothers and sisters in Christ" and the former seemingly always just "Roman Catholics"?

i wonder if it has to do with an underlying impulse that could be characterized as low church versus high church perspectives. RC's aren't considered "brethern" because they are formal, liturgical, etc., or just plain "not us," while arminian evangelicals share the low church perspective with so many prebyterian and reformed...thus, the difference in regard has more to do with secondary issues rather than primary. Rome has formalized its doctrine (i.e. Trent) so we know where she stands and how we regard her institutionally; evangelicals, being deeply suspicious of anything formal, perhaps get around that barrier by sharing low church perspectives and the primary issues get obscured. isn't it possible that plenty of sheep reside with Rome, while plenty of wolves reside within evangelicalism? if so, shouldn't the same courtesy be given RC's as are given arminians? or maybe this courtesy should be withheld from both?

maybe no one has sensed this differentiation as i have. but it sure seems to me like it's there...
June 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterzrim
Great and concise way to witness to your collegues or friends who do not know Christ.
But of course you must be joking about us Reformed Baptist concerning baptism but we will overlook that small error in a other wise brilliant article. I'm sure Pastor Ken Jones will set you clear one day Rod ...but heh we can't all be perfect like us Reformed Baptist ....just kidding . Excellent ....I say ..bravo....
June 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterReg Schofield
You forgot one. Don't try to confirm the word through signs and wonders, and don't drink poison to prove your point! Thanks!
June 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony

Romanists should be considered idolaters. The Westminster Confession of Faith says, " is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord. And therefore such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, papists, or other idolaters..."

Likewise, arminianism is heretical according to the Synod of Dort. Perhaps the reason that the reformed tend to have a different attitude towards those in arminian churches is because they are more inconsistent in what they believe.
June 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterScott Roper
Great article - only problem is my computer won't let me download so I can print it up for future reference. Any other format possible??? Not only a great help for me, but I know of others I would like to have read it.
June 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Lund

as an aside, while i have no prblem obviously with westminster (pca), i do not consider it as binding on me (crc) . however, i do subscribe to the spirit of that element you cite. i would have to search our 3 forms of unity to find this element, but personally i believe i understand and affirm it.

more to the point, i guess you are saying that my so-called "courtesy" should NOT be extended either to the RC or the arminian. at the very least that sounds more consistent.

good point about inconsistency. i am a former evangelical arminian (although was never entirely sold and "knew" something was askew). but anymore, i am never quite sure just where contemporary reformed are whether in doctrine, worship or piety. whenever i visit a reformed or presbyterian church, if i don't know any better, i would swear i was back in my old evangelical stomping grounds.

also, while i am firm in my orthodoxy, i do wonder about the language we use to discern truth from falsehood in our contemporary day. on the one hand i lament contemporary wishy-washiness and avoidance of strong language (this part of me is happy to see arminianism called a heresy, as you do, since i think it is part of the bane of the contemporary scene, along with moralism and spiritualism); i think hard langauge is needed in our day of pared down edges and dim understanding. but i also think in keeping with the original thread's point, we should be extremely careful about flippantly accusing others of "idolatry, heresy or being infidels."
June 20, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterzrim
zrim, We have to agree with you on the being careful about who you point the finger at. We believe that there are alot of our arminian brothers and sisters, who unfortunatly lack the education, and believe that they are being taught right, who are real believers and love the Lord.
June 20, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterplw
Dr. Riddlebarger,
Permission to have this printed in our Church's Bulletin please. You would get a proper byline of course.
June 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRick B.
Dr. Riddlebarger -

I got that whole article off of the Christ Reformed website a few years ago and have passed it around to a number of people. Very well done and I get to finally say "thank you" for that wonderful article.

June 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMark Vander Pol
Pt. 10...I think you meant to say Presbyterians instead of Baptists.

September 28, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNikolas H.
I'm not so sure about Point 16. It is more difficult and emotionally involved to lead a close friend or family member to Christ, but not beyond the bounds of possibility. That's not what Jesus meant when he said a prophet is without honour in his own town, and it's certainly not a legitimate inference to jump from that to a position where we give up on telling our loved ones about Jesus ourselves.
January 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPhil W.

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