Effective personal evangelism: experience

As we move toward the end of this series, the marks of effective personal evangelism we have surveyed so far are love, tenacity, boldness, consistency, understanding, prayer and faith.

The eighth mark of the effective personal evangelist is experience. If we engage in this kind of gospel work, over time we should become more adept at it, humanly speaking. We ought to become more effective. Many of those engaged in such work on the streets, for example, find that, if for some reason there is an extended period in which they are not involved, the first time we go back again we get tongue-tied pretty quickly. I find that, if I let some sphere of this work go cold, I almost feel as if I am starting all over again when I take it up once more. If we become accustomed to these things, our understanding will increase. I am not speaking of some pat routine, as if you can thoughtlessly roll off certain phrases. You begin to gauge how certain people are likely to respond, to recall that there are certain ways to answer certain questions (that you have learned from others or developed yourself) which will enable you to make certain points or bring certain Scriptures to bear. Perhaps you have had an opportunity to go away and study some topic or read up on some issue, and you are better equipped to expose error and promote truth. You learn to spot the red herrings that swim through so many conversations with unbelieving people, you begin to anticipate the evasions that some will introduce when the gospel paints them into a corner, you learn how to prevent that conversation wandering away from what the sinner really needs to hear and the questions the sinner really needs to face. When people are trying to throw up all kinds of smokescreens, we will learn to press the question: "Will you please tell me how you intend to deal with your sin in anticipation of coming before God the righteous Judge?" There is a delightful and encouraging phrase in Acts 9, speaking of the early experience of Saul of Tarsus:
Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. Then all who heard were amazed, and said, "Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?" But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 9.20-22)
Paul got better! The apostle began as a recently converted Jew, a Pharisee of the Pharisees, his brain stocked to the brim with all the wealth of the Old Testament. Very quickly Paul began to understand how these things fitted together, as the Holy Spirit gave him increasing light and understanding. Paul began to explain what he was learning, and his erstwhile co-belligerents began to argue back, and Paul perhaps went away, and opened his scrolls once more, and read through them, and learned more and better of how Christ was revealed in the Old Testament, and how Jesus was the fulfilment of all those promises. Jesus is the Christ, and all these Scriptures speak of him, and there are answers to the denials and diversions of the unbelieving heart, answers that will - by the Spirit's gracious working - bring a repenting faith to birth. Paul, perhaps, would leave the synagogue one day with his head buzzing, and return the next to pick things up where he left off. Paul got better at proving that Jesus is the Christ. You may think that are not a very competent personal evangelist. You may be right. But, honestly, if you start, you will get better, God helping you. Engaging in the work will enhance your capacity for the work, if you go about it with a diligent and dependent spirit.