Try this prayer walk evangelism exercise. [Read more…] about A Sample Prayer Walk for Your Community
During our summer travels, we’ve been listening to the biography of William Wilberforce: Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, by Eric Metaxas.
The story has been fantastic in unfolding the formative events in his life.
I’ve been blessed by reading about his conversion, the influence of other famous leaders from that time like John Newton (the song writer of Amazing Grace), Charles and John Wesley, and George Whitefield.
What caught my attention the other morning was a description of Wilberforce’s evangelism habits, that developed both out of his personality, but also out of his personal relationship with Christ.
I quote from the book (and reformatted for online reading and emphasis added):
William Wilberforce’s conversion to Christianity in 1785— what he called his “Great Change”— was without question for him the central and most important event of his life.
Indeed, as far as Wilberforce was concerned, faith in Jesus Christ was the central and most important thing in life itself, so it can hardly surprise us that sharing this faith with others was central and important to Wilberforce too.
And so, everywhere he went, and with everyone he met, he tried, as best he could, to bring the conversation around to the question of eternity.
Wilberforce would prepare lists of his friends’ names and next to the entries make notes on how he might best encourage them in their faith, if they had faith, and toward a faith if they still had none.
He would list subjects he could bring up with each friend that might launch them into a conversation about spiritual issues.
He even called these subjects and questions “launchers” and was always looking for opportunities to introduce them.
His efforts to draw his friends into conversation about “first things” sometimes failed, and the objects of his kindness may on occasion have felt more like his quarry.
But in many cases Wilberforce’s conversations bore great fruit, and some who hadn’t known it was possible to be sincerely Christian and yet witty and charming found in Wilberforce an inspiration.
If he, being so brilliant and sociable and wealthy— and a close friend of the prime minister’s!— could be so serious about his faith, perhaps it might be acceptable after all.
It was in his public person that Wilberforce may have done the most to “make goodness fashionable.”
An indisputably captivating figure who defied easy categorization (not that many didn’t try), Wilberforce became something akin to an icon for serious Christian faith.
But he was certainly no moralizing lummox.
His brilliance and good cheer and wealth and charm and obvious earnestness made him too slippery to grasp easily.
For a nation that knew serious Christianity principally through the black-robed figures of John Wesley, John Newton, and George Whitefield, Wilberforce was an undeniably fascinating and intriguing figure.
Source: Metaxas, Eric (2009-10-13). Amazing Grace (Kindle Locations 2881-2887). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
The Evangelism Habits of William Wilberforce
Wilberforce lived out much of what I’ve compiled in this article: 10 ways to kickstart your Personal Evangelism this Summer, but I want to highlight a few items here
1. Non-believing friends
“I have no non-Christian relationships” confessed one of my evangelism coaching clients (shared with permission).
“I was taking an inventory of my personal relationships and discovered that I had surrounded myself entirely with Christians.”
In my experience, I could easily guess that many of these, if not all, would confess the same lack of relationships with people who do not walk with the Lord.
A Christian without an unchurched friend is like a dash of salt in the ocean: it doesn’t do anyone any good and, frankly, no one even knows it’s there. — Bill Tenny-Brittian, Hitchhiker’s Guide To Evangelism
Wilberforce realized that he had influence among his non-believing friends. His awakening to faith did not destroy his prior relationships nor remove him from being an influence for Christ.
2. Prayer for his list of non believing friends
Wilberforce made a prayer list of friends whom he’d like to see following Jesus.
We might mentally agree to the the idea, but to actually make the list and use it may still be a challenge.
Here is one way to think through how to make this prayer list.
The idea is to get beyond the generic “I pray for Jose and Martha” and into more specific areas.
- Give me eyes to see their spiritual thirst.
- Give me opportunity to speak with them.
- Give them a thirst, help me to see it.
- Is God inviting me to spend a little more time with them?
- What is the next “do” with them? Call? Coffee? Cookout?
- Help them move another step closer to you.
- Reveal yourself to them in undeniable ways.
3. He looked for their spiritual thirst
Wilberforce wondered about how to have a conversation with them.
People are in different places in their spiritual journey. As Wilberforce wrote each name, he pondered what might their next step be?
If they are hostile to God, how would he pray that they may start seeking God?
If they are seeking God, how can would he pray that they would talk with him about how he found God?
If they are studying the Bible in their search, he would like to pray that God’s word would speak.
In other words, Wilberforce seemed to pray in accordance with the work that God might be doing in their spiritual life already.
4. Wilberforce listened for Guidance
He listened for God’s direction about when to speak of the church, when to speak of Christ, and even whom to add to that list of people to pray for.
He looked for those divine appointments.
Sometimes, Wilberforce took the initiative with his conversation launchers. Other times, he was sensitive to topics or conversational threads that could bridge to spiritual matters.
Enjoy reading the book.
To learn more about Wilberforce, I recommend this the biography: William Wilberforce: Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, by Eric Metaxas.
This is an affiliate link (I’ll get a few nickles) to the paperback version. I’ll still get a few nickles if you purchase any other version of the book (like Kindle or audio)
Wilberforce image: In the Public Domain, Painting by John Russell
A mainstay of my personal evangelism habits when I first came to Christ was the “big event” meeting.
Marketed as free, a performer or speaker would speak on a good topic about life, but then switch it to Jesus towards the end.
The music would start.
The altar call process would begin for those who would make a decision for Jesus.
It seemed to me to be a natural way to help my friends hear the gospel.
But here was the problem:
The invitation was focused on the theme of the speaker or event and completely hid the evangelistic aspect of the event.
I was pushing program A, and sneaking in program B.
That’s a bait and switch campaign.
The Small Group Bait and Switch
A few years ago, our church launched small groups, and each host was encouraged to invite their friends to the launch of the small group.
Invitations went forth.
- We are gathering friends to study a book together for a few weeks.
- We’re starting up a new group of friends in our house. Do you want to join us?
- We’ve having people for dessert. Want to come?
The night came, and many people had responded.
As the leader took us into Chapter 1 of the book discussion, you could sense the tension in the room go up. This was not what people signed up for.
We had a huge turn out of a lot of people that never came back for the second visit.
One man was disturbed – he actually felt the person who invited him deceived him about the purpose of the group.
It was a bait and switch.
The Christmas Party Bait and Switch
I’ve seen this one way to many times.
Gather some friends at your house for the Christmas Party, for the Super bowl or World Cup, or some other TV centered excuse for gathering people at your house.
Then, during half time, give an unannounced gospel presentation and share your testimony about how important Christ is to you.
This ruse is a great way to mess up personal evangelism and destroy your credibility with friends.
The Better Way
A church I was involved in had a golf outing to reach men.
At the end of the outing, a speaker would share some thoughts on Fatherhood, with a likely invitation to consider how to follow Jesus.
Before I invited my friends, I asked the organizers if this was the plan.
Then when I invited my friends, I said something like:
After the outing, there will be a reception. The speaker will take a few minutes to talk about fatherhood, and then make a few connections to biblical principles on parenting.
He’ll talk about spiritual things and potentially about what it means to personally grow in Christ and allow Jesus to lead you into better parenting.
I was clear about the upcoming talk.
My friends appreciated the heads up. When the talk came, there were no bait and switch surprises.
I maintained credibility with my friends, and they respected me for it.
Set the Expectation
One way to avoid this situation is to be clear in your invitations. Set an expectation ahead of time:
Mention that you’ll be sharing a little about your faith and why Christmas is important to you. Be clear that it’s a personal story and that it will be brief.
Mention that the speaker will talk on spiritual principles from the Bible as a follower of Jesus.
Mention that the presenter will help you take a look at your spiritual life in relationship to the topic.
This sets an expectation in the mind of your guest that there will be some no-pressure faith sharing happening.
Improve your personal evangelism by being more authentic in your invitations to church events.
Mousetrap Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo
Gospel scripts have their role to play in helping to explain the gospel simply and clearly.
Over the years, various scripts have been developed, such as
- Four Spiritual Laws
- The Bridge (see How to Use the Bridge Illustration)
- Evangecube (see Evangecube video)
- Way of the Master
- Romans Road
- Do vs. Done (see Do versus Done)
- the Four Rs
- Evangelism Explosion
- Wordless Book and the Bead Bracelet
- The Good Person Test (a setup for the Way of the Master)
Some of these have even launched a whole ministry surrounding it’s training, distribution, and development.
During this week, we’ll take a look at a few of them. [Read more…] about Using Gospel Scripts
Dever’s article that we reviewed (What Evangelism Isn’t) made the point that Evangelism is not only personal testimony.
Personal testimony is part of evangelism (it is one aspect of the joyfully sharing part of the evangelism definition).
I found a website that collects Bible Impact Stories. It is run maintained by the American Bible Society.
Share Your Story Now is a website that has
- text testimonials, and
- all sorts of stuff that the American Bible Society has put up.
You can view the site and find yourself encouraged.
As the scriptures say:
Watching these videos can encourage you, showing you that God is at work in the life of ordinary people.
Where can you start in your growth in personal evangelism?
In this 60 minute MP3 AUDIO recording on personal evangelism you will learn:
- How church invitations are part of evangelism
- How to discover and share your own journey to faith
- What you can say about the gospel message.
- How to personally lead someone to faith in Christ.
Each of these four sections will be developed, with suggested take away growth step:
“What can I do in the next 90 days to move to the next stage.”
Buy here: Now in the store as a digital download.