I want to refer you to an excellent article on Dwight Whitsett’s site about why we are not fulfilling the Great Commission. You can read it here.
I also want to make a few observations about how we can start fulfilling the Great Commission now. Before I do, I think some explanation is necessary. It may be that when you read these suggestions you might think that they are too simplistic. You might argue that the problem is more complicated than I am giving it credit for. You might focus on the fact that God expects us to go into all the world, and think that the suggestions I give can only scratch the surface of the problem. And, you might be right. But that is no reason for us to sit back and wait for the perfect plan to come along, all the while failing to do the simple things that make an eternal impact.
The point is, you don’t have to be an expert to evangelize. You don’t have to have the “gift of evangelism” to evangelize. There might be wonderful programs just waiting to be discovered, but there are also things you can do right now, every day, to help fulfill the Great Commission. There might be complicated strategies that address all the needs of all of the people while giving them every spiritual answer they want, but you have talents and abilities to address some of the needs of some of the people while giving them some of the spiritual answers they want…and all of the spiritual answers that they need.
I am simply encouraging you to simply evangelize in the simple activities of everyday life. Here’s what you can do:
PRAY– We cannot evangelize the world without God’s help, and we are seriously hindered in our contact with God’s power when we do not pray. I am not suggesting that God’s people do not pray…but only that we do not pray about evangelism all that much. Sure, we pray, “And, please save all of the lost people in the world.” But, often we do not pray for specific people by name. And, we do not expect to follow up our prayers with action, so we do not pray for ourselves, for courage, wisdom, and opportunities to evangelize. You can start doing this today. Pray everyday for five people that you know personally who are lost. Pray everyday that you will have opportunities to share the gospel with them.
STUDY– One of the biggest complaints from Christians regarding evangelism is that they do not have all the answers. There is certainly one way to solve that problem: study your Bible. Learn the questions that might be asked, and learn the scriptures to answer them. The types of questions that come up in Bible studies are fairly predictable. Just ask anyone who has done any personal evangelism for any significant length of time. It’s also important to keep in mind, though, that you don’t have to have all of the answers…at least not immediately. Actually it is a very effective method for you to respond to a question with, “Can we get together next week to talk about that?” It gives you time to find the answers, and it gives you more contact with the asker.
PRACTICE– You don’t have to worry about sounding like in idiot sharing the gospel with lost people because you have plenty of Christian friends that you can practice with. Find a Bible study that you like and are comfortable with…something that covers the basics of the gospel and salvation…and practice teaching it to a Christian friend. There are many well-put-together studies to choose from. You don’t have to do all the work of organizing lessons. Ask your preacher for recommendations, or order Jerry Tallman’s book here. I really like his approach and lessons…but I don’t use them word-for-word. I make them my own so I am comfortable sharing them.
BUILD RELATIONSHIPS– Nearly every Christian has a good relationship with at least one lost person. If you don’t, you urgently need to start now pursuing relationships. But, for the rest of us, our circle of lost friends, family, and acquaintances represents a goldmine of evangelistic potential. One of the best things you can do is build your relationships with these people. Have them over for dinner. Go fishing or golfing together. Just spend time together, and help them build trust in you. You will be much more effective in sharing the gospel when the time comes if they trust you. And, as a bonus, the more time you spend with them, the more likely it is that they will ask spiritual questions, want to know about your relationship with God, or will approach you in some other way that makes evangelism as easy as it gets.
ASK FOR BIBLE STUDIES– This is where we fail the most. This is the missing domino that keeps the chain falling. We have to put this back into our evangelism (or put it in for the first time for many Christians). People are saved only as a result of hearing the gospel. People only hear the gospel when Christians take time to share it. Christians usually only have opportunities to share when they ask for Bible studies. It is very rare for a lost person to ask a Christian for a study. It happens, but we can’t let thousands slip by us while we wait for the one who asks us. If you care for the lost, you need to approach them. There are great ways to go about this, and one of the most effective is this: if a spiritual topic comes up in everyday conversation, rather than throwing out scriptures and answers as we often do, a brief answer followed by an invitation to see what God says about the issue can do wonders for evangelism. Make sure that if they accept your invitation you set up a specific time and place to study…do not walk away with at least getting an idea of some possibile times and places, and do not let more than a week go by without contacting them again to set up the time. This approach does two things for you: it gives you a potential opportunity to share the gospel, and it gives you an idea about how interested they are in spiritual matters. If they accept your invitation, they are probably good soil for teaching. If they don’t accept, they may not be ready yet…but don’t give up on them. Wait for another opportunity and ask again. Many people do not accept invitations to study the first time around, but do later. Keep asking. Love lost souls enough to keep asking.
CLEAN UP YOUR LIFE– Is there sin in your life that needs to be addressed? Address it. Lost people do not respond well to what they perceive as hypocrites. You can’t convince a person to change their life and follow Christ if you are not willing and trying to do the same.
GO ALONG WITH AN EVANGELIST– Find out who in your congregation is active in evangelism (or someone from a nearby congregation if you can’t find anyone in your church), and ask to join them as they evangelize. The quickest way to learn is through experience, but if you are still afraid or unsure, then the next best thing is watching someone else. Offer to be a “silent partner,” and sit in, listen, take notes, and nod to show your affirmation of what the evangelist says. This not only helps you, but will help the evangelist with his confidence, and will help the potential convert see that more than one person agrees with what is said, making the decisions that must be made easier to make.
There are many more suggestions that could be made. There are many simple things you can do. Please just do them. Simply evangelize. You can take the gospel to the whole world starting in your own neighborhood.