Sharing Jesus as a Stepping Stone

When I was younger, I had the privilege to get to know the great evangelist, Billy Graham. And when he asked me to help him with illustrations in his sermons, I felt like I’d been enrolled in the finest evangelistic university on Earth. No one did it better than Billy. And he didn’t just do it publicly, I saw him do it privately. 

We were at a restaurant once, just talking, and our table happened to be by a walkway. He was so gracious and took the time to meet everyone who recognized him. It was a beautiful quality to see. When you would sit down with Billy, it wouldn’t be long until he would say something like, “Well, tell me about yourself.” He didn’t like to talk about himself. I think he always had that heart. 

Being around him inspired me because he kept it simple. He once said in an interview with David Frost that he studied to be simple. 

I think one of the secrets to his success was delivering the gospel in an understandable way. It was always clear. And he preached for a decision.

Billy once said to me, “I don’t think I’m a very good preacher. But I believe God has given me the gift of giving the invitation.” It was one of the rare times I had to disagree with him. He was both a very good preacher and given that gift by God.

Every Christian Is Called to Evangelize.

There is a God-given gift of an evangelist, and Billy had it. But, though some are gifted to be an evangelist, and some may not be called to be an evangelist per se, every Christian is called to evangelize.

As Paul said to Timothy, “Do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). We’re all called to preach the gospel.

We’ve been entrusted with the Great Commission—to go into all the world, preach the gospel, and make disciples of all nations, teaching them all things that Christ has commanded us. 

By the way, evangelism and discipleship are really inseparable. Our mission from Christ is to proclaim Jesus, lead people to Him, and then get them grounded in their faith. New believers need older believers to stabilize them, but older believers need new believers to energize them, right? 

That’s why I always encourage older people to get some younger people in their lives, because younger people need older folks, older folks need younger folks.

How Not to Evangelize

Maybe there’s someone reading right now who has someone they want to share the gospel with but feels nervous or even scared to offend. Let me give you an example of what not to do.

One day, I was in a hamburger restaurant, and a lady recognized me. She said, “Are you Greg Laurie?” I said, “Yeah, I am.” She said, “Well, nice to meet you.” And then she gestures toward her husband, “This is my husband; he’s a heathen. Can you say something to him to help him believe in Jesus?” And the poor guy was just getting ready to take a bite when this happened. He just froze and looked at me like a deer caught in the headlights. I felt so bad for the guy. I said, “Hey man, enjoy your burger. Okay, God bless you.” 

So, that’s how you don’t do it. Don’t embarrass a person. Don’t create unnecessary friction. When it comes to evangelism—if you have the luxury of some time—you want to build a bridge, not burn one.

How to Evangelize Effectively

Jesus was not only the Messiah, the Savior of the world, and the Creator of the universe, but He also happened to be the greatest evangelist of all time. And look at the way He interacted with people. Look at Jesus in John 3 with Nicodemus. Look at Jesus in John 4 with the woman at the well. Nicodemus is religious and moral. The other is immoral, living with a man, married and divorced many times. Yet, Jesus built bridges with both of them. 

Stepping Stone, Not Stumbling Block

Our objective is to be a stepping stone, not a stumbling block. If you want to win some, you need to be winsome. So talk to a person. Everyone’s favorite subject is themselves. Say to someone, “Tell me about yourself. What do you think about this? What do you think about that?” 

I was in a cab once in Hawaii and the driver was named Tom. We’re driving along and I prayed, “Lord, if you want, open a door for me to share the gospel with Tom.”

We ended up coming across what’s called a ghost bike. It’s a bicycle painted white on the road with flowers in front of it. It was put there as a memorial to someone who died in a road biking accident. So they called them ghost bikes. 

I said, “Tom, what are those bikes and why are they painted white?” He said, “Those are ghost bikes.” And he explained it to me. I said, “That’s so sad. Tom, what do you think happens when you die?” It took him about five minutes to give me his philosophy. He thought you died and came back as a higher or lower life form. Basically reincarnation.

I listened to him, didn’t interrupt him, and didn’t say you’re wrong. When he was all done, he said, “Well, what do you think about the afterlife?” Then, I shared the gospel. After I was done, he said, “I like your version of the afterlife better than my version.” I said, “Well, Tom, it’s not my version. This is what Jesus said.” 

Give and Take

See, it’s give and take. When you’re a preacher, it’s a monologue. But when you’re in conversation with people, it’s a dialogue. So be a good listener. Find out about the person you’re talking to so you can then appropriately bring the message of the gospel. 

When it’s all said and done, it’s about sharing the message of the death of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. 

The Power of the Gospel

Coming back to Billy Graham. I once asked him, “If an older Billy could speak to a younger Billy, what would you say to yourself? What would you tell yourself to preach more on?” And he said, “I would say preach on the cross of Christ and the blood because that’s where the power is.”

I think what’s true of preaching is also true of one-on-one evangelism. The power of the gospel is when you get to the message of the death of Jesus for them and why they need their sin forgiven.

I’ll leave you with this last bit of encouragement. I have a friend who is a pastor and he’ll just say to someone, “Let me ask you a question. Has anyone ever told you there’s a God in heaven who loves you?” Sometimes they say no, and they move on. Other times they’ll say no, and they’ll be moved by it. I’ve seen it open the door for really interesting conversations.

You might be surprised by where a simple sentence like that gets you. The hardest part about evangelism is getting started. It’s breaking the ice. But sometimes, you just have to take that little step of awkwardness. And I tell you what, if that person responds, that will be a life-changing moment for both of you.

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This article originally appeared on Greg’s blog and is reposted here by permission.

Greg Laurie
Greg Laurie

Greg Laurie is the senior pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside and Irvine, California, and founder of Harvest Crusades, large-scale evangelistic events that are held across the world.