Effective personal evangelism: love

In the introductory article to this brief series, we marked out the limits of our study, namely that we are considering how individual believers, in their various spheres, might faithfully communicate the saving truth to those around them still lost in darkness, and what are the features of attitude and action that mark out those who do this well.

I suggest that the first requirement for the effective personal evangelist is love. This love must stretch in two directions: up to God and out to men. His love to God is the love that desires God's glory at any cost to himself, and is provoked when the Lord is dishonoured (Acts 17.16), grieved by affronts to his name. If the glory of God is the supreme object at which the evangelist aims, this will do much to direct and sustain him. But out of a love for the God of love that derives from having been loved comes a love for other people. This is a Godlike, Christlike love, the love of John 3.16 and Romans 5.6-8. Our love for the lost is confident of and reflective of God's love to sinners. It looks like Christ weeping over Jerusalem (Lk 19.41); it feels like Paul being willing to be accursed from Christ for his brothers, his countrymen according to the flesh (Rom 9.3); it sounds like Paul warning the people of Ephesus (Acts 20.31). The true-hearted evangelist knows what is at stake and responds to the desperate condition of the lost. He desires to see sinners new-born of the Spirit and growing in grace (1Cor 4.14-15), and - like his Saviour - dismisses none, but receives and sits down with those whom others would despise (Lk 15) if - by any means - he might win some. This is simply the echo of God's divine love and a response to it. I have known men who love God so much that they cannot bear to see his person unknown, his glory despised, his name dishonoured, his truth rejected, and his gospel unheard. Because of this, they love people enough to take that good news to all men. Our love for God carries us from God to men with a real interest in their well-being. I think of one brother who spent several months witnessing to Christ in a small village. By the end of that time I have some confidence that, without notes, he could have walked down any street in the village and told you the names and circumstances of pretty much every person to whom he spoke. Whatever that says of his mental powers, I believe that they were enhanced by genuine love and exercised by specific prayers. Do we love our children? If we do, are we speaking to them earnestly of Christ? Do we love the children we teach in Sunday School classes? Do we love our neighbours? What are their names? What are their circumstances? Are your colleagues mere faces, perhaps with names, or real people who need a real Saviour? The reason why we are often so slow to go to the lost is because we lack love for God and men. Love will overcome many obstacles in order to secure a blessing.