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When we begin to think about evangelism, there are several things that we must believe if we are to be successful. First, we must have a belief in the supernatural. We live in the presence of an unseen world. Christianity is a supernatural religion. The work of winning souls is a supernatural work. Soul winning is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. In soul winning, God uses individuals as instruments, but it remains the work of God from beginning to end. Because it is God’s work, we can have confidence that as we labor in the task of evangelism, God will bring others to a saving knowledge of Christ.
Second, we must believe in the power of God. Often as we speak to others, we realize how lost men and women really are. We call this truth “total depravity,” meaning that sin has affected every aspect of people’s lives. They are really “dead in their trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1–3). Only by the power of God Almighty can such people be brought to life. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (vv. 4–5). With us this is impossible, but with God it is possible.
Third, we must believe the gospel. The world is a wretched place. Only the good news of Jesus Christ will change it. The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). As Christians, we have the answer to the plight of men and nations in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Fourth, we must have a passion for God’s glory and the salvation of men. Paul reminds the Colossian Christians that God has made known to them “the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Paul was willing to become all things to all people that by all means he might win some (1 Cor. 9:22).
Realizing that the gospel we proclaim is scandalous to the Jews and folly to the gentiles, we must be wise in our endeavor to persuade people (Prov. 11:30). We challenge the unbeliever intellectually, since knowledge without Christ is vanity. Religiously, their worship is idolatry, and socially, Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth” (Matt. 10:34). The cost of following Jesus is total life surrender.
As Proverbs 11:30 says, those who would be soul winners must be wise. Two mistakes to be avoided are placing too much emphasis on intellectual acumen, saying that only professionally trained individuals can do evangelism, and saying that no thought is needed because the work of evangelism is God’s work. Paul reminds Timothy “to present [himself] to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). To the Colossians Paul writes: “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col. 1:28–29).
To be wise in evangelism, we must focus our attention on two areas: ourselves and our message. Peter tells the churches of Asia Minor that since they would be witnesses to the hope of the gospel, they were to honor or sanctify Christ in their hearts, and then they would be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in them (1 Peter 3:15)—the hope that comes when one believes the good news of Jesus Christ.
In honoring Christ in our hearts, we must first be a person of faith. Paul writes to the Corinthians that he as an Apostle has “the same spirit of faith” to believe the gospel and that in believing he speaks “so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 4:15). To effectively communicate the good news, gospel realities must be seen in us—not only faith in the gospel itself but also faith working in us as the instrument God uses.
Second, we must be humble. Again, Paul reminds Timothy of the grace given to him as the chief of sinners: “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16).
Third, we must be bold. Paul asks the Ephesians to pray that God would give him boldness that he might proclaim the truth as he ought to speak. His aim was that from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith the gospel message would be effectual in those who heard him (1 Tim. 1:5).
Fourth, we must have joyful patience. Twice in 2 Corinthians 4 Paul tells us, “We do not lose heart” (vv. 1, 16). Evangelism takes skill and patience, but we do it with the joyful expectation that God will bring His elect out of darkness into His marvelous light.
The message we proclaim is God’s message. We are to have “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). Our understanding of the message comes with diligent care as we study the Scriptures, asking God to give us wisdom (James 1:5). But our need of wisdom entails more. We need wisdom to explain the gospel to those who are hostile or are at enmity against God. Our gospel presentation must communicate accurately and clearly the truth as it is in Christ. Paul proclaimed the good news of “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2)—that is, the person and work of Jesus Christ. As we do our evangelism, let our message be this, and God will give us the heavenly wisdom needed to be winners of souls.