Evangelism Part 1
When I was a member of the CMA Danvers, MA chapter, New Life Riders, our chaplain was a special guy. Pastor Dick May was the kind of guy you wanted to hand around if you were a Christian. He had a deep love for those who did not know Jesus, and he went out of his way to talk with them. I was truly fortunate to be involved with a few of his ministry adventures. I remember several times we went down to downtown Boston, near Park Street Church in front of the Boston Common, serving the homeless food and distributing clothes. Dick and his church did this every month during the cold New England Winter.
When I went with Dick to this ministry, I asked him what my role could be. Would I be handing out sandwiches, bowls of soup, or clothes? “No,” Dick said. “I want you to go out in front of the tables with me and find people to talk and pray with.” Wow, that was a challenge. I had never done anything like that before. But under his leadership, he demonstrated how just walking up to folks, ask them how they are doing, start a little conversation, and ask how we could pray for them is a powerful act of evangelism. Through these interactions, several people came to faith.
Although Dick has now gone home to be with Jesus (you can see his testimony here and here), his legacy is leaving behind untold numbers of people he mentored in evangelism and who came to faith because of his obedience to ministry.
We see the heart of the evangelist in the 8th chapter of Acts. Phillip had been evangelizing the Samaritans when God told him to go someplace else. Here is the story:
An angel of the Lord spoke to Philip: “Get up and go south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is the desert road.,) So he got up and went. There was an Ethiopian man, a eunuch and high official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to worship in Jerusalem and was sitting in his chariot on his way home, reading the prophet Isaiah aloud.
The Spirit told Philip, “Go and join that chariot.”
When Philip ran up to it, he heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you’re reading?”
“How can I,” he said, “unless someone guides me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the Scripture passage he was reading was this:
He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb is silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who will describe his generation?
For his life is taken from the earth.,
The eunuch said to Philip, “I ask you, who is the prophet saying this about—himself or someone else?” Philip proceeded to tell him the good news about Jesus, beginning with that Scripture.
As they were traveling down the road, they came to some water. The eunuch said, “Look, there’s water. What would keep me from being baptized?” So he ordered the chariot to stop, and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him any longer but went on his way rejoicing. Philip appeared in Azotus, and he was traveling and preaching the gospel in all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2020), Ac 8:26–40.
Let’s look at some things in this passage. First, in vs. 26, notice how an angel tells Phillip to get up and go someplace. No details are given. Phillip does not know why he is going to the desert road (probably south of the Dead Sea on the way to the Red Sea in the Negev desert), but he goes nonetheless. Next, notice whom Phillip is ministering to – a eunuch. A eunuch is someone who could not be a Jew (Deut. 23:1; Lev. 21:17-21; 22-24), but somehow this man had gotten a hold of a scroll of Isaiah. This scroll would have been awfully expensive. For that reason, along with his state of a eunuch, it can be assumed that he served some mighty and wealthy people.
Second, in vs. 29, notice how God, through the Holy Spirit, directed Phillip to get on the eunuch’s chariot. Now, did Phillip launch into an evangelistic message? Nope, he met the eunuch right where he was. He asked the eunuch if he understood what he was reading. Phillip had no presuppositions about the man and no hesitation in fellowshipping with someone considered ritually unclean. He just asked a simple question that led to an opportunity to share Jesus.
From these two observations, we can take some action points in our ministry of evangelism. First, we need to be open to hearing God speak to us. These are not audible words, but feelings and impressions that we get when we know the Holy Spirit are telling us to engage someone in conversation. Many times, these conversations will be awkward. But our obedience will be met with a blessing. I remember walking into a movie theater one time, and there was a lady with a cane, and I felt the impression to go and pray for her. All the voices in my head said that it would be embarrassing, I would be late for the movie, the lady probably didn’t want me to bother her, etc. To my shame, I listened to those voices and not the Holy Spirit. But what it taught me was that God would call me to ministry, but it is up to me to follow through. I could feel God’s disappointment in me as I watched the movie. My prayer is that I never pass up a God-ordained encounter again.
Second, like Phillip, when we engage with these encounters, we need to be inquisitive and open to where that person is. He knew he was with a gentile who did not know either the Jewish or Christian faith but was exploring belief for Phillip. Phillip did not approach the eunuch with a 10 point sermon about the plan of salvation. No, he instead just talked with the guy. The Holy Spirit guided Phillip in the conversation. He will guide us as well. We don’t need to have a master sermon or a whole process of sharing the gospel with someone. We need to have an openness to love someone, even if they appear to be unlovable. Starting a conversation with someone by inquiring what they believe, what they think about spiritual things, and offering to pray with them will often lead to an opportunity to share the gospel with them.
So as we go about our daily lives, ask God for divine appointments. Seek out where He wants you to engage. Be open to people who may not be the kind of people you usually associate with. Most of all, be obedient to that inner voice of the Holy Spirit. God will never let you down when He has called you for a task.