Starting the Conversation

The truth is most of us need encouragement to share the gospel with others. Some need a push to engage at all. Others need encouragement to keep it a priority.

It can be hard for church leaders to know how to point their congregation in this direction. But when you look at actions related to evangelism and outreach, opportunities start to jump out.

Evangelism Explosion recently partnered with Lifeway Research to conduct a survey of professing Christians in the U.S. By looking at current evangelism actions and attitudes, we begin to see practical areas where leaders can provide encouragement.

The following are five important evangelistic actions for Christians to take.

  1. Presenting the Gospel

Six in 10 Americans say many of their friends who claim to be Christians rarely talk about their faith. When we asked Christians about their activities, we found something similar. Thirty-eight percent of professing Christians have verbally shared how to become a Christian with a friend or family member in the last six months, and 30% shared with a stranger.

Of all the evangelistic activities, this is the one that requires the most formal training. Many tools are available to help believers feel comfortable presenting the gospel, yet two-thirds of Christians are not familiar with any of those tools, much less have had training or practice using them.

While we are not sharing the good news if we never get to the news that there is hope of salvation through Jesus Christ, there are other evangelistic activities that are helpful and needed among people far from God. It might take multiple conversations and interactions with a nonbeliever before you have the opportunity to share the complete gospel message.

  1. Conversations About Faith

In the last six months, 53% of Christians have had a conversation about faith with friends or family members who are not Christians, and 40% have had such a conversation with a stranger.

A two-way conversation is essential to an effective presentation of the gospel. Listening to someone else’s views about God and religion is the only way to know where they stand spiritually. Listening is also a tangible communication of respect for the other person. Those listening to you are not only evaluating whatever you present, they are also evaluating your heart. If you don’t genuinely care for them, then they won’t be listening to you.

  1. Examples of God’s Activity

In the last six months, 52% of Christians have shared a story about what God has done in their life with non-Christian friends or family members; 39% have had such a conversation with a stranger.

Though not a prerequisite for sharing the gospel, relationships do make it easier. Each of the statistics on evangelistic activities of Christians is more common among friends and family. Stories are instinctively relational. So, even when talking with a stranger, telling a story is natural and inviting. When believers share examples of God’s activity in their life, it reveals to nonbelievers that God is relevant today.

  1. Bible Stories

In the last six months, 46% of Christians have shared a Bible verse or story with friends or family members who are not Christians, and 36% have shared with a stranger. Many Christians know Bible stories and probably will hear another this week in church. But, seeking to share those stories with others reflects a belief that the truths these stories reveal are life changing.

Today, many missionaries use “storying” to share the gospel. They are teaching Bible stories with the expectation the hearer will tell those stories to others. Stories are selected that directly relate to common needs in people’s lives. In an increasingly non-Christian culture in North America, we must shift our own expectations when teaching Bible stories at church. They are not just nice to know, they are to be shared to demonstrate the value of a relationship with Christ. The Bible’s grand story is an effective way to communicate the gospel.

  1. Invitations to Church

Over the last couple of years, most churches stopped talking about inviting people to attend for obvious reasons. By 2022, however, most pandemic challenges were disappearing. In the spring, 43% of Christians had invited an unchurched friend or family member to attend their church in the last six months, and 34% had invited an unchurched stranger.

Invitations to church, sharing Bible stories and truths, sharing God’s activity or presenting how to become a Christian are important elements of outreach. As you share examples and celebrate stories of this occurring in your church, you can encourage more evangelistic activity.

In addition to the five important evangelistic actions Christians should take, here are two right attitudes toward evangelism Christians should have.

  1. More Proactive Than Reactive

More than 4 in 10 Christians take a proactive approach to evangelism. This includes 14% who try to bring up faith in conversations with everyone and 28% who look for natural opportunities to bring up faith. Those with the most proactive posture correspond to the same people who are engaging in the evangelistic conversations, invitations, truth sharing and storytelling.

Almost a third of Christians (32%) take a more reactive posture to evangelism by answering faith questions if asked or only commenting when others bring up faith. One in five Christians are inactive in evangelism. Twenty-one percent of Christians won’t talk about faith with most people.

Evangelism is a direction. Either you are heading toward sharing the gospel or you are not. Evangelism also is a decision. Will you try to point the next person you meet to Christ or not? Finally, evangelism is a desire. Either you want to be part of God’s redemptive activity, or you don’t.

  1. Unashamed Boldness

You know God is transforming your life when you truly desire for the Holy Spirit to work in someone else’s life to bring them to repentance. Encouraging this desire for salvation to spread may be the most important thing church leaders can do.

This desire manifests itself most in prayer. Almost two-thirds of professing Christians have prayed for the salvation of a friend or family member in the past month (64%). There is a certain audacity to stepping into God’s presence knowing we can only be there because he has shown an immense amount of favor we didn’t deserve, and then, once in his presence to ask him to extend that grace again to someone else.

Jesus described how staggering this is by comparing this conversation to two friends. One friend (the Christian) gets unexpected guests without having any food for them. He goes to his friend (God) at midnight to ask for loaves of bread.

Jesus emphasizes the audacity of this request by saying the second friend (God) would answer, “Don’t bother me.” There is nothing about our relationship with God that means we deserve his favor. But Jesus continues by saying, “I tell you, even though he won’t get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his friend’s shameless boldness, he will get up and give him as much as he needs” (Luke 11:8, emphasis added).

After two more illustrations, Luke ends the section with Jesus by asking, “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Luke 11:13). God is willing to give us the good gift of his Spirit working in people’s lives. May our church be unashamed and so bold to ask him for the salvation of others.

Scott McConnell
Scott McConnell

Scott McConnell, an Outreach magazine contributing editor, is executive director of Lifeway Research.