Evangelism has become a virtual four-letter word in some circles. Sharing one’s faith can be intimidating; and Christians through the ages have disagreed on what evangelism means. But at its most basic level, it’s simply sharing the good news that the Son of God became human and died for the sins of humanity. Join popular speaker Curtis Zackery as he uses Scripture to explore the questions of evangelism. Sharing the Gospel will help you discover how to share your faith in a way that works for you.
Converge Bible Studies is a series of topical Bible studies based on the Common English Bible. Each title in the series consists of four studies on a common topic or theme. Converge can be used by small groups, classes, or individuals. Primary Scripture passages are included for ease of study, as are questions designed to encourage both personal reflection and group conversation. The topics and Scriptures in Converge come together to transform readers’ relationships with others, themselves, and God.
About the Author
Curtis Zackery combines a passion for communication with a desire to see lives changed for Jesus Christ. His energetic stage presence, charismatic persona, and ability to connect with people of all ages, races, and backgrounds make him a sought-after event and conference speaker. He and his wife, Monique, are serving a church plant in Richmond, California.
Read an Excerpt
Converge Bible Studies Sharing the Gospel
By Curtis Zackery
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2013 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
WHAT IS EVANGELISM?
SHARING THE MESSAGE OF CHRIST
5 Moses writes about the righteousness that comes from the Law: The person who does these things will live by them. 6 But the righteousness that comes from faith talks like this: Don't say in your heart, "Who will go up into heaven?" (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 or "Who will go down into the region below?" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the message of faith that we preach). 9 Because if you confess with your mouth "Jesus is Lord" and in your heart you have faith that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 Trusting with the heart leads to righteousness, and confessing with the mouth leads to salvation. 11 The scripture says, All who have faith in him won't be put to shame. 12 There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord is Lord of all, who gives richly to all who call on him. 13 All who call on the Lord's name will be saved.
14 So how can they call on someone they don't have faith in? And how can they have faith in someone they haven't heard of? And how can they hear without a preacher?15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the good news.
16 But everyone hasn't obeyed the good news. As Isaiah says, Lord, who has had faith in our message? 17 So, faith comes from listening, but it's listening by means of Christ's message. 18 But I ask you, didn't they hear it? Definitely! Their voice has gone out into the entire earth, and their message has gone out to the corners of the inhabited world. 19 But I ask you again, didn't Israel understand? First, Moses says, I will make you jealous of those who aren't a people, of a people without understanding. 20 And Isaiah even dares to say, I was found by those who didn't look for me; I revealed myself to those who didn't ask for me. 21 But he says about Israel, All day long I stretched out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.
INSIGHT AND IDEAS
A few years back, before the iPhone hit the scene, I was looking for the most efficient way to text, e-mail, and surf the Web while I was traveling. I discovered the T-Mobile Sidekick. (That may reveal how far "back" those few years were.) The Sidekick offered a great user experience, and the company offered an amazing deal for unlimited use; so I knew that my budget-conscious friends would be very interested in what the phone had to offer. I began telling everyone I knew about how great the Sidekick was and all of the benefits of purchasing one. Most of the people I talked to had no idea that this phone even existed before I told them about it; but once they realized all that it had to offer, it sold itself. The carrier offered a $50 credit for every referral to purchase one, so referring 8 people kept me from having to pay my bill for a while.
WHAT IS AN EVANGELIST?
Whether I realized it or not, I had become an "evangelist" for T-Mobile. I was sharing a message that was bringing an awareness of something that many people didn't know about and vouching for the benefits of connecting with it. This story illustrates an important truth: We regularly become evangelists for what we believe in strongly.
The Bible says a lot about the idea of becoming an evangelist as it relates to our faith. But what does this look like? When it comes to a term like evangelism, it may be helpful to establish a common definition before we journey too far into this study.
A common definition of evangelism is "the spreading of the Christian gospel by preaching or personal witness." To become an evangelist, we have to be moved by an idea to such a degree that we feel we must tell others. For followers of Jesus, this idea is clearly identified as the gospel message. The important question we need to answer before we move forward is simple–what is the gospel?
WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?
Dictionary.com defines gospel as "the teachings of Jesus and the apostles; the Christian revelation." In the Christian church at large, we understand the word to simply mean "good news." But why is the gospel message, as it pertains to the Christian faith, good news?
Scripture tells us that everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23) and that "the wages that sin pays are death"(Romans 6:23). When humans sin, they turn away from the God who created them. The God of the universe took on flesh and lived among us in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:14). He was crucified and died a real death for crimes he didn't commit. He was buried in and rose from a real tomb. He defeated death and is alive. As a result, we can be reconciled to this perfect and holy God (2 Corinthians 5:21).The "good news" is that salvation, restoration, and new life are available to us, not because of our ability to be good people, but because of God's grace and love and God's desire to be in relationship with us. The most important aspect of the gospel is that God is the one who loves us, who saves us, who restores us, and who gives us life through Jesus Christ.
Without our understanding and acceptance of the gospel message, we cannot truly give ourselves over to Christ. When we meet Christ as Lord, we're fully aware of the impact of the gospel message in our lives. Meeting Jesus doesn't automatically make us a master theologian or a Bible scholar, but we're fully cognizant of the truth that we have been saved by grace. If we know Jesus, we have a message to share. The message of the gospel is the linchpin to evangelism. Our hope is to grow in our passion and ability to share this "good news."
IS EVANGELISM OPTIONAL?
For a long time, I was under the impression that sharing this message was only for certain Christians. I thought that specific individuals were gifted with the ability to communicate with words and that the rest of us were simply obligated to pray and hope for the best. I've even heard some believers talk about how they've invested in others so that those Christians could share the gospel and they wouldn't have to share it themselves. For most of my early church experience, evangelism was treated as an extra-credit-type of activity for followers of Jesus. Participating in evangelism reflected an attitude of going above and beyond in our pursuit of him. Sadly, I think that many of us share this same experience in our Christian lives.
Is evangelism optional for the follower of Jesus Christ? Considering the weight of the message of the gospel, it's vital that we have an understanding of what the Bible says about the subject. Let's take a look at a few Scriptures and make our determination.
In Mark 16:15, Jesus commands his disciples to "go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to every creature." This is the final command that Jesus makes to his followers before he ascends into heaven. This fact alone makes it seem like it must be pretty important.
In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus tells his followers, "I've received all authority in heaven and on earth." Directly after this reminder of his power to make any command, he displays that authority to them by instructing them to "go and make disciples of all nations." Through this, he's instructing them to call individuals to commit to following Jesus.
The most vivid example of the necessity of our participation in evangelism on earth comes from Romans 10:14-15, which reads, "How can they call on someone they don't have faith in? And how can they have faith in someone they haven't heard of? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the good news." Although it is clear throughout Scripture that the Lord has the power to draw people and still deems it necessary that we are proactive in the process of evangelism. We have to go forth. In verse 15, we see a clear encouragement for those who preach the gospel. Sharing the gospel is not only commanded, it's celebrated.
WE CAN'T FORGET THE GOSPEL
Have you ever had a set of keys, and on that key ring there's one key that you're not quite sure what it goes to? You know that it must unlock something important, but you're not quite sure what it is. You look at the key and think to yourself that it was important enough to hang on to, so it must have been significant at some point in time.
For many of us, this is how we view the gospel. We believe that it was a key that unlocked the gateway to eternal life and a connection to salvation through Jesus Christ. We even share this key with others—at first—often near the time when we initially use it ourselves. But over time, the gospel is shared less, to the point that it becomes that key that we know is important to the Christian life but can't remember what it goes to. What we must realize is that we need the gospel every day, even as followers of Jesus.
As we share the good news with others, we also preach the gospel to ourselves. We understand that the message of the gospel introduces lost and hopeless people to the hope of life through Jesus. But disciples of Jesus need to be continually reminded of the gospel message too. As we remember the despair that we were delivered from because of the person and work of Jesus, we experience heartfelt joy and a sense of motivation to share the hope of rescue with others.
If the whole point of church is Jesus, then there has to be an aim in our hearts to have gospel conversations. We need to know that we are in these conversations every day. Each interaction with someone else is an opportunity for us to center our focus on the good news. Whether at school, at work, online, or on vacation, our focus should be on the promotion and exaltation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we begin to have this wide view of what it means to be in gospel conversations, it becomes a continual reminder of our purpose here on earth: to bring God glory and to communicate Christ's love through our actions and attitudes.
THE DRIVE IS ALREADY THERE
When we meet Jesus and truly understand that the gospel message is the most important idea that can be communicated by anyone, we shouldn't have to be motivated to go. But the reality of our situation is this: even though we are followers of Jesus, our flesh and the Spirit are at war (Galatians 5:16-17). We can actually suppress the truth and grieve the Holy Spirit. But after true introspection and prayerful consideration, we should eventually come to the understanding that no earthly pursuit or person's opinion of us can supersede the importance of the message of the gospel.
The only way that we will be outwardly focused is if we're motivated to see change happen. This motivation comes when we understand that we're the ones responsible for delivering the message that there is hope for us, despite the fact that sin separates us from God. This excites us about sharing.
Why is it important for us to know why we should share the gospel? Why is it important for us to study Scripture and seek to effectively communicate God's truth to others? Because we need to feel the weight of the implications of the message that we're communicating to others. We have to come to terms with the fact that when we're in a gospel conversation with someone else, we're setting the table for a life-changing event. There will come a point in the conversation when the next thing that we say to this individual can affect his or her view of God forever.
That's pretty heavy stuff.
Of course, individuals will wrestle with the truth of the gospel for themselves. But that being said, if we're ill-prepared or we're sharing things that aren't biblically sound or are founded in our emotions rather than in the truth of what it means to connect to the gospel, we can lead others astray.
WE HAVE TO BE WILLING TO BE UNCOMFORTABLE
As we examine what it means for us to share the gospel of Christ, we will often struggle with the desire to fulfill our own selfish motivations (what some Bible translations call the flesh). The Bible is very clear about the fact that this will occur (Galatians 5:16-17). Our own comfort and our lack of desire to disrupt it can be barriers to effectively submitting to our responsibility to share the good news. We have to tell ourselves that it's not about us. We see throughout Scripture reminders that this life we live on earth is designed to be lived for God's glory and not our own.
What we perceive to be uncomfortable, when we're in line with the biblical mandate to share the gospel, may simply be our flesh attempting to suppress the Spirit. Evangelism is not usually the comfortable thing to do. But there are few things on earth more satisfying than leading someone else to Christ.
1. What are two kinds of righteousness, according to Paul (Romans 10:5-6)? Which one is better? Why?
2. Why is confessing Christ with our mouth so important (Romans 10:9)?
3. What is the significance of having faith in our hearts (Romans 10:9)? Is there any other kind of faith?
4. Romans 10:14 stresses the importance of preaching. Why is it important? Is it as effective now as it was in Paul's day? What are the different ways people preach now?
5. How does faith come (Romans 10:17)? Why, do you think, is this the case? Is this the only way to get faith?
6. How is God found by people who aren't looking for God today (Romans 10:20)?
7. How would you define the gospel of Christ in one or two sentences?
8. Name some things people are evangelists for today. Why is sharing the good news of Jesus Christ sometimes more difficult than sharing other kinds of "good news" to the people around us?
9. What are gospel conversations? What are some practical steps you can take that will enable you to have more of them?
10. Why does evangelism often make people so uncomfortable? What are some things that can be done to change that?CHAPTER 2
HOW DO I DO IT?
UNDERSTANDING SPIRIT-LED EVANGELISM
MATTHEW 28:16-20; COLOSSIANS 4:2-6, 1 PETER 3:8-17
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. 18 Jesus came near and spoke to them, "I've received all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything that I've commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age."
2 Keep on praying and guard your prayers with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray for us also. Pray that God would open a door for the word so we can preach the secret plan of Christ—which is why I'm in chains. 4 Pray that I might be able to make it as clear as I ought to when I preach. 5 Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. 6 Your speech should always be gracious and sprinkled with insight so that you may know how to respond to every person.
1 PETER 3:8-17
8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, sympathetic, lovers of your fellow believers, compassionate, and modest in your opinion of yourselves. 9 Don't pay back evil for evil or insult for insult. Instead, give blessing in return. You were called to do this so that you might inherit a blessing. 10 For
those who want to love life
and see good days
should keep their tongue from evil speaking
and their lips from speaking lies.
11 They should shun evil and do good;
seek peace and chase after it.
12 The Lord's eyes are on the righteous
and his ears are open to their prayers.
But the Lord cannot tolerate
those who do evil.
13 Who will harm you if you are zealous for good? 14 But happy are you, even if you suffer because of righteousness! Don't be terrified or upset by them. 15 Instead, regard Christ as holy in your hearts. Whenever anyone asks you to speak of your hope, be ready to defend it. 16 Yet do this with respectful humility, maintaining a good conscience. Act in this way so that those who malign your good lifestyle in Christ may be ashamed when they slander you. 17 It is better to suffer for doing good (if this could possibly be God's will) than for doing evil.
INSIGHT AND IDEAS
Many followers of Jesus will connect to the truth that we are called by God to share the message of the gospel with others. The reality, though, is that for most this truth is overwhelming. Many wonder, "How do I begin?" or "Can I even do this?" These are important questions whose answers will provide a point of connection to the mission God has set before us.
THE COWARDLY LION
When dealing with evangelism, we as believers can act a lot like a timeless character from American cinema: the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. He is on a quest to find the one thing that will enhance his life: courage.
Throughout the film, the Cowardly Lion is afraid of things that he has absolutely no reason to be afraid of. His fears are based on the assumptions he has had and the false ideas he has leaned on in his previous life experiences.
Ultimately, the lion comes to realize that he has had the power of courage all along. He simply had to realize it and walk in it. I think you can see the parallel I'm drawing here.
So many of our perceptions about what it takes to step out in evangelism are based upon false ideas of what it will actually be like. We're often afraid of things that haven't even shown up yet.
Excerpted from Converge Bible Studies Sharing the Gospel by Curtis Zackery. Copyright © 2013 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
About the Series 7
1 What Is Evangelism? 13
2 How Do I Do It? 27
3 Who's the Gospel for? 41
4 When, Where, and Why? 53