Effective personal evangelism: introduction

Over the course of the last few years I have had every good and necessary reason to consider how I and the church which I serve might more effectively communicate the gospel of God to our neighbours round about us. In recent months, as we have tried to carry out our calling in this regard, it has been my privilege to speak and work with a few men of God who have seen a measure of blessing as they have gone about this work. It is out of that environment that I want to suggest some of the qualities and characteristics of the effective personal evangelist.

When I use the language of effectiveness, I am not speaking of guaranteed or immediate results: it is God who gives the increase (1Cor 3.7). Effectiveness, in this sphere, is a matter of the faithful communication of God's saving truth to those who have not known it either entirely or accurately. Of course, our hope would be that evangelism that is effective in this way would also, ultimately, be effective in bringing God's chosen ones into his kingdom of grace.

Furthermore, it is personal evangelism. Although there will be much overlap between these qualities and characteristics and the regular or particular efforts of the pulpit, I am focusing on a more immediately intimate communication: the conversation with a friend, the interaction between a parent and a child, the pastor's engagement with a visitor, the man or woman handing out tracts and striking up a conversation, the Sunday School teacher with his or her charges, the man or woman speaking to people at the doors and on the streets of a community, the home Bible study with a group of friends. Although this is not necessarily one-on-one engagement, it presumes a slightly less formal, perhaps less ordered, situation than the preaching of God's word to a gathered congregation.

The great pre-requisite for effective personal evangelism is our own conversion, our own experience of saving grace. An unconverted man trying to make known the gospel is like a starving man recommending food. He has no true sense of what he offers and everything about him speaks of his own lack of real experience. While the Lord might at times use such a man if he speaks strict scriptural truth, it would be against all normal expectations. I should also say that, while I believe that some have a particular aptitude for this work, and that it is possible to learn to do it more effectively, no special gift or formal training is a requirement for effective personal evangelism. Any Christian with a heart for God's glory can be, in some measure, an effective personal evangelist.

With that in mind, I want - over the course of the next few days - to suggest a few features of the effective personal evangelist.