Can you accurately explain the Gospel? Do we as Christians remind ourselves enough about the Salvation message? Is sharing your testimony evangelism? Did Jesus or the Apostles leave us an example for sharing our faith? If so, what is it?
On February 6th, the Missions Department of Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES), Truth Evangelism & Apologetics Mission (T.E.A.M.), addressed these questions and others for the community of Charlotte, NC. The event was titled Cross Training: Tactical Evangelism and was a free event that provided lay Christians, Sunday School teachers, pastors, and others with answers to their questions about evangelism and its difficulties.
The goal of the event was to equip local area churches and their congregations to serve Christ through evangelism. It was emphasized that proper evangelism must honor “Christ as Lord.” Second, evangelism is a call to all believers (Matt. 28:16-20). Christians must be able to explain and provide reasons for the hope that we have in Christ (1 Pet. 3:13-15).
The morning began with a presentation from former Army Ranger, Greg Walker. Greg reminded us that the Gospel is a simple message with hope for all who believe. Greg’s first presentation reviewed the Gospel message and its meaning. Greg summarized the Gospel, showing that had Christ not accomplished all five points, then we would not have the free gift of eternal life. Thus the Gospel can be summarized in five basic points:
- Jesus lived.
- Jesus died.
- Jesus was buried.
- Jesus rose from the dead.
- Jesus was witnessed by the Apostles.
These principles are also outlined in 1 Corinthians 15:1-6 and Acts 10:34-43. But, is the Gospel something that we just memorize and regurgitate to random people passing us on the street? No. But, if rote memorization is not how Christians should evangelize, then are there any examples in the Bible that Christians can follow? Yes, and they are found in John 4:1-42 (Jesus and the Samaritan woman), Acts 2:1-42 (Peter at Pentecost), and Acts 17:16-34 (Paul at the Areopagus). In all of these situations, there seems to be a common theme.
- They find common ground with their audience and begin discussing their common experience.
- They give reasons to their audience to validate their message.
- They ask for a faith commitment.
Why Sharing your Testimony is NOT Evangelism
When people think of evangelism, they are often told that the easiest way to evangelize is to share your testimony. Sharing your testimony is not evangelism. Sharing your testimony is merely telling someone how you found out about Christ. Evangelism is telling someone what the Gospel is and answering their objections that may be inhibiting them from accepting the truth of its message.
Adam Tucker, Director of TEAM, showed the audience the danger of relying too much on our testimony when we are sharing the Gospel. He showed the following video and then asked the question “Who is ready to be a Mormon?”[wpvideo wefsJHiJ]
Testimonies can help others recognize the significance of your conversion and may even help you start a conversation about whether or not the Gospel is true! But, if you don’t know how to respond to objections to the Christian faith, then those you are trying to evangelize will quickly reveal that your testimony is inadequate to remove their objections.
For example, think of the child who is struggling to understand the truth that 2+2=4 and suppose you were to tell him about your testimony of coming to the belief that 2+2 = 4. You begin to recall the wonderful math teacher you had and how he came alongside you and saved you from a life of mathematical depravity. You constantly refer to the kindness of the math teacher as justification for your belief in the claim that 2+2=4. Even if your child accepts that truth on the basis of your testimony about the math teacher, you have not actually taught him anything about math. Your testimony does nothing for an understanding of mathematics, and you haven’t even started talking about division yet!
Instead, if you were to show him the principle of addition and the many problems it solves, you will not only have gained his trust, but you will have also given him the ability to solve problems independently of your watch and teaching. Thus, evangelism must be similar in its approach. Sure, we may certainly use our testimony as a way to come alongside someone, especially if we have shared experience, but at some point you are going to have to answer some tough questions like “Why should I listen to your testimony about Christ instead of the testimony of my Muslim friend about Allah?”; “Why do you believe that the Bible is true? After all it’s thousands of years old.” These are merely a sampling of the questions that a person may ask you as you are discussing the truth of the Gospel. And it is only through loving individuals enough to study and find the answers to our unsaved friend’s honest questions that we will see a genuine rejection or acceptance of the Gospel. We hope you will join us for our next TEAM Cross Training Event (tentatively in late Spring 2016).
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To request Greg Walker’s PDF Decks email [email protected]