“How to Engage and Win Your City Through Prayer” by John Smed
In order to engage the lost with the saving grace and gospel of Jesus, we must engage with evangelism. But what must this look like if we hope to be effective in our cities and communities? What do we need to know before we begin?
First, evangelism is a matter of chemistry between the workings of the Holy Spirit and prayer. It is a natural and impassioned response when Christ’s promise to be with us (Matthew 28:16-20) is united with the prayers of his saints. Prayer ignites the good news of Christ’s victory over death, and through it, we experience the full ascension reality of Christ in our hearts. “You have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority” (Colossians 1:10).
I would like to encourage you in the calling to reach our cities and provide a framework of practical ways to help you pray for the community where you live.
WHO WE REACH
“Every creature under heaven”
While Paul went to the leading cities of the Roman Empire, preaching in private homes, on the streets, and in the public square, his ultimate goal was to preach the gospel to the entirety of an unsaved world—to “every creature under heaven” (Colossians 1:23). The coming of the kingdom through Christ had been hidden from the world for ages and needed to be revealed, not just to some, but to everyone.
The implication for us today is that evangelism is never a private matter. Announcing the good news is public. Cosmic, even. Whether we share the gospel at a coffee shop, proclaim Christ at a wedding or funeral, or head out to the highways and byways to share the good news, we play an essential role in fulfilling Christ’s grand plan for all to hear the story and glory of his conquering sin, death, and the devil.
“The whole city”
We see from Paul the importance of reaching cities with the gospel in the way he describes the response of the people there. Bold, public evangelism brought many to the Lord in powerful and emotional ways:
Samaria: “When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said…So there was great joy in that city.” (Acts 8:6, 8)
Pisidian Antioch: “On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.” (Acts 13:44)
Iconium: “At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed.” (Acts 14:1-2)
Lystra and Iconium: “So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.” (Acts 16:5)
Ephesus: “[Paul] took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” (Acts 19:9-10)
In many other examples, the response of the religious and city officials is not as positive but is usually just as passionate. One thing is clear, because of the great impact we see in these chapters and through the example of the saints before us, we need to have a city-wide strategy for evangelism.
HOW WE REACH THEM
Prayer as Global Mission
Knowing and engaging our cities is primarily and continually a matter of intercessory prayer. When we pray, we do not just prepare for mission; prayer is mission.
When you pray for your city, you have already begun to reach it. Furthermore, prayer is not “individual” in the way we might think. Every true prayer (prayer offered by faith, in the name and mediation of Christ, in the intercession of the Holy Spirit, in concert and compliance with the will of the Father and for his glory) allows us to participate in the work of Christ and bless the entire body of believers. We see this clearly in the recorded prayers in Acts. Throughout the narrative, the whole church unites in prayer, each contributing to the defense of the church and the advance of the gospel.
Prayer as Intercession
We may wonder why there is so much corruption, violence, and desolation in our cities today, but we need look no further than here: the church is failing to guard and keep watch over the city through intercessory prayer. The enemy has steadily crept in, and now occupies the seats of power and propaganda. Every believer today is called and privileged to intercede for the city they live in. In every period of history, God has appointed prayer warriors to guard the city. They man the ramparts. They walk the walls. They are ever-vigilant and intent on a single purpose: to pray without ceasing for God to guard the city from enemies without and enemies within.
EVERY BELIEVER TODAY IS CALLED AND PRIVILEGED TO INTERCEDE FOR THE CITY THEY LIVE IN.
Even during their heartbreaking time of exile in Babylon, God gave Israel a prayer directive. He called his people to pray for the city of their captors: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7).
We too are exiles in the world (1 Peter 1:1). Apart from prayer, we may even grow weary or fearful of the surrounding culture, spending our prayers and energies on self-preservation. The words of Jeremiah, however, direct us to a higher calling to bless our fellow citizens and seek their well being, not only because God requires it, but also because serving and praying for a healthy city serves the good of God’s people and the advancement of the gospel.
PRACTICAL WAYS TO PRAY FOR YOUR CITY
Below are various practical and strategic ways to pray for your city—to get to know its character and personality, as well to discern what God is doing there.
One way to “embody prayer” is by prayer walking. Walk the streets of your neighborhood or city; learn its personality and character. Stop to pray before the law courts, universities and colleges, boards of education, halls of government, centers of art and culture, places of worship and gathering, media outlets, public market places, pedestrian and traffic intersections. Learn the needs and opportunities of the community. This allows you to see, hear, smell, and feel your city—you may even begin to see her and her inhabitants from Jesus’ perspective. Time and again, I have heard individuals who have gotten to know their city in this way say, “I never saw my city, or really cared for it, until I began to walk the streets in prayer.”
After prayer walking various locations in your city, draw a map of the neighbourhood or area of the city where you live (or where your church is located). Notice the ethnic makeup, economic divisions, unemployment sectors, school districts, and available amenities of the area—this will help you identify the socioeconomic heartbeat of where you live and identify specific prayer needs. Even a small section of a larger city can contain a microcosmic version of the larger whole.
Praying for Your City as a Person
If you find it difficult to know how to pray for the city, practice praying in the same way you would pray for a person. Ask yourself what you love about your community. What pervasive sins and idols do you lament as captors and influences in your city? Maybe it would be helpful to even write down these loves and laments to pray over them specifically. This can be done individually or as a group and can be applied to a neighborhood, a city, a people group, or a nation.
Remember as You Pray
Every believer and every church has the opportunity to be a part of making Christ’s name known across the globe. In the meantime, remember that God’s promises cannot fail. The cross of Christ has conquered, Jesus has ascended to the place of absolute authority and incontestable power, and heaven is still pouring out the power and presence of the Spirit of Christ for boldness and success.
1 Note, the populations of these cities were much smaller than today. While Rome may have had up to a million people, Antioch perhaps 500,000, and Ephesus around 250,000, the other cities were perhaps 10,000-25,000. This helps explain, for example, how a whole city could gather to hear the gospel (Acts 13:44).
Christian courage is the willingness to say and do the right thing regardless of the earthly cost, because God promises to help you and save you on account of Christ. An act takes courage if it will likely be painful. The pain may be physical, as in war and rescue operations. Or the pain may be mental as in confrontation and controversy.
Courage is indispensable for both spreading and preserving the truth of Christ. Jesus promised that spreading the gospel would meet resistance: “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name” (Matthew 24:9).
And Paul warned that, even in the church, faithfulness to the truth would be embattled: “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30; see also 2 Timothy 4:3-4).
Therefore, true evangelism and true teaching will take courage. Running from resistance in evangelism or teaching dishonors Christ. There is a kind of cowardice that tells only the truths that are safe to tell. Martin Luther put it like this:
If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point. (Quoted in Parker T. Williamson, Standing Firm: Reclaiming Christian Faith in Times of Controversy [Springfield, PA: PLC Publications, 1996], p. 5)
Where then shall we get this courage? Consider these pointers.
FROM BEING FORGIVEN AND BEING RIGHTEOUS – “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1). “Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, ‘Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven'” (Matthew 9:2).
FROM TRUSTING GOD AND HOPING IN HIM – “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD” (Psalm 31:24; see also 2 Corinthians 3:12).
FROM BEING FILLED WITH SPIRIT – “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).
FROM GOD’S PROMISE TO BE WITH YOU – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
FROM KNOWING THAT THE ONE WITH YOU IS GREATER THAN THE ADVERSARY: -“Be strong and courageous . . . for the one with us is greater than the one with him. With him is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles” (2 Chronicles 32:7–8).
FROM BEING SURE THAT GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER THE BATTLES – “Be strong, and let us show ourselves courageous for the sake of our people and for the cities of our God; and may the LORD do what is good in His sight” (2 Samuel 10:12).
THROUGH PRAYER – “On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul” (Psalm 138:3; see also Ephesians 6:19-20).
FROM THE EXAMPLE OF OTHERS – “Most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear” (Philippians 1:14).
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Evangelism is simply sharing good news. And what better news is there to take others than the message that God has made a way for us to be reconciled to him?
While some are called to the full-time ministry of evangelism, we are all called to share the gospel. Here are 40 verses that give insight into this privilege/responsibility. Some of these verses are instruction, and others can be memorized in order to inspire you to speak boldly of what God has accomplished in Christ for each of us.
1. Evangelism is about increasing God’s renown.
Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done (Psalm 105:1, New International Version).
Throughout the Old Testament, God sets Himself above all other gods. He creates a nation with the intent that its people will make His name known among the nations and share the great works He has done.
These great works culminate in the reconciliation of the Cross and in His defeat of death in the Resurrection. I can imagine no greater motivation to make His name known.
2. Evangelism is wise work.
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life and the one who is wise saves lives (Proverbs 11:30, NIV).
When this Proverb was written, the idea of “saving lives” had more to do with delivering them from evil paths which lead to death. In light of the gospel story, it takes on a whole new significance. When considered within the context of Christ’s work, the fruit of the righteous is quite literally a tree of life and the work of saving lives!
3. Evangelism is about our willingness to go.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8, NIV)
God never coerces us to serve Him, but He continually offers us a choice. The sixth chapter of Isaiah tells of the prophet having a vision of the Lord in His throne room. This sobering vision helped propel him to volunteer to share the Lord’s message.
We, too, are motivated in direct proportion to our experience with God. If we struggle to find the inspiration to share the good news, perhaps it’s time to pray for a deeper revelation of God’s glory and holiness.
4. Evangelism is simply telling what God has done.
In that day you will say: “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done, and proclaim that His name is exalted” (Isaiah 12:4, NIV).
Much of the Book of Isaiah operates as a twofold prophecy. It has immediate import as a prophecy about Judah, but also points at the coming Messiah who will deliver Israel—and subsequently all humanity.
Here Isaiah speaks of an evangelism that works in both timelines. Judah will be able to proclaim what the Lord has done to deliver the nation from its sin, and God’s future people will be able to exalt God’s name for what he’s done for mankind.
5. Evangelism points to our only source of salvation.
“Turn to Me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22, NIV).
In the 45th chapter of Isaiah, God turns His focus on Israel’s surrounding nations who fashion idols to worship. Instead of worshipping idols they can carry with their hands, God encourages these nations to turn to Him, a God who can carry them in His hands.
This is an appropriate reminder to all of us who follow the Lord. There is still only one God and one salvation. There is no other. As awkward as it feels to speak this truth in a pluralistic and tolerant world, it’s no less true.
6. Evangelism is a divine responsibility.
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself” (Ezekiel 3:17–19, NIV).
In this passage, God gives the prophet Ezekiel the task of being a “watchman” for Judah. The main point of this commission is that Ezekiel would deliver God’s message and warnings faithfully. A sobering element of this calling is the knowledge that when Ezekiel neglects to share the Lord’s warning for Judah’s wickedness, he will share in the responsibility.
This passage should shake us, Christ’s followers, out of our slumber. We, too, are watchmen of sorts. We have a message of salvation to deliver, and some responsibility lies on the messenger who neglects to give the message.
7. The evangelist makes God’s greatness known.
“And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 38:23, NIV).
God reiterates to Ezekiel the Old Testament theme that He desires for Israel and the prophets to be the vessel that communicates God’s awesomeness. It’s always been God’s desire that He would have a people through whom the rest of the world would be blessed as they made His virtues known.
8. We share God’s goodness with all of creation.
“My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord Almighty (Malachi 1:11, NIV).
The Old Testament closes with Malachi reiterating God’s desire for fame among the nations. The picture of God’s goodness being known everywhere the sun touches is poignant and important. We, too, bear a responsibility to share God’s goodness to every tribe, tongue and nation—everywhere the sun touches.
9. Our goodness is a form of evangelism.
“Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:15–16, NIV).
Why don’t people light a lamp and put it under a bowl? Because it’s wasted effort. If you light a lamp, you’re bringing light to your home. Here Jesus reminds us that He doesn’t want to waste His efforts either. Our lamps have been lit with the intention that we would give light to others as well.
It’s important to note that, in this instance, our good deeds are the light He is talking about. When we do good works, we give credence to the gospel. It’s not just the evil that we do that works against the gospel, but also our unwillingness to do good.
10. Prayer is an important part of evangelism.
Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37–38, NIV).
In a world full of hungry people, is there a more heartbreaking picture than ripe fruit rotting on the vine because there just aren’t enough harvesters to bring it in? The same is true in a world full of pain and heartbreak. The gospel desperately needs harvesters to share the message with those whose hearts are ripe to receive the good news.
The Lord has given us the responsibility to make evangelism a priority in the church. This is more than rushing around telling people about Jesus. It’s also about praying that the Spirit will move in others to feel the importance of joining the work of evangelism.
11. Evangelism promises immediate results.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NIV).
The gospel isn’t something that only pays dividends in the sweet by-and-by. If we simply share the benefits of the gospel as something that saves people after they die, we’re doing it a disservice. The gospel has immediate benefits to those who are weary and broken, and we need to make sure that we are communicating the supernatural strength available to those who submit to the Lord.
12. Evangelism has a gold standard.
“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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20, NIV).
When we read this passage, we need to read it as Jesus’ marching orders. There isn’t a person who has made the decision to follow Jesus who is exempt from this commission. This is about more than just getting someone to pray the “sinner’s prayer.” It’s about equipping them to grow in grace and truth—and be people who take up this mission themselves.
13. Evangelism is important.
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16, NIV).
Until we begin to really internalize what’s at stake in evangelism, we will struggle to rightly prioritize it.
14. Evangelism is for Christ’s pleasure.
“I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8, NIV).
Imagine Christ publicly acknowledging you among the heavenly host for your willingness to identify yourself with Him. I don’t think Jesus will neglect to share His pleasure for every time we’ve communicated the good news of the gospel to another.
15. Evangelism isn’t about having all the right arguments.
“When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say” (Luke 12:11-12, NIV).
Jesus is telling the disciples that a time is coming when the cost of sharing the gospel will be high. He encourages them not to be concerned about what they will say when they’re dragged before those in authority; the Holy Spirit will move on their behalf.
Sometimes we’re so worried about having the right answer to every question that we neglect to open our mouths. It’s helpful to remember that the Holy Spirit is there helping us to communicate and also working in the hearts of those with whom we’re sharing.
16. Evangelism is good news.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him (John 3:16-17).
We’re often so focused on what happens to those who deny Christ, that we forget that the gospel is good news. We’re not sharing a message of condemnation, but one of a God who loves humanity so much that He’d be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice so that they could be reconciled to Him.
17. Our behavior is a form of evangelism.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35, NIV).
There are a lot of philosophies and religions vying for attention. In the end, there has to be something that sets one apart and confirms its truth and value.
We’d like to think that the gospel is confirmed by our lofty arguments. The truth is that it’s the gospel’s fruit that proves the gospel’s message—and there is no greater fruit than the love God’s people have for each other.
It’s so important that we realize that the opposite is also true. Our inability to love and affirm one another undermines the gospel’s message of reconciliation.
18. Jesus is the doorway to God.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NIV).
Why is evangelism so important? Because there is no other way to be reconciled to God but through Jesus Christ. Period.
19. Disciples bear fruit.
“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8, NIV).
In keeping with John 13:35 (#17), it’s imperative that we accept that our behavior and our fruit is a form of proof that reinforces our evangelism. The word “holiness” literally means “set apart.” We are set apart for God’s work, and this will set us apart in our culture.
People will judge our words by our works. We need to have fruit that communicates the truth of the gospel we preach.
20. Our evangelism is empowered.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NIV).
Jesus speaks in future tense of the empowerment that will come through the Holy Spirit. This power will give potency to the disciple’s message as they take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
This power that was to be given via the Holy Spirit came soon afterward, and is available to all of us who seek to be obedient to our commission. We have the power we need to fulfill our high calling!
21. The church is the light of the world.
For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47, NIV).
To the first-century Jew, the idea that God’s salvation would extend beyond Israel was completely foreign—despite the fact that God had always told Israel that through them all the nations would be blessed.
All of us who follow Christ are part of His goal of redeeming the whole world to Himself. We are the light of the world. There is no plan B.
22. We must finish our task of evangelism.
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace (Acts 20:24, NIV).
If you’re looking for inspiration, tape up this verse all around your home. Paul’s single-minded focus to fulfill his responsibility of sharing the gospel as widely as possible should energize us all.
23. We share God’s power through evangelism.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile (Romans 1:16, NIV).
Our willingness to share the gospel puts us at the mercy of those who may scoff at our devotion. It only takes a couple times of being laughed at, ridiculed, or treated roughly for sharing the gospel before you’re tempted to downplay your faith.
Don’t be afraid or ashamed. The gospel is the power of God!
24. Evangelism helps God share His gift of life.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23, NIV).
Apart from the gospel, we would all receive our wages as workers of inequity. Christ’s gospel has the power to swap out those wages for a free gift of eternal life!
25. Evangelism is a necessary part of the salvation process.
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ (Romans 10:10–17, NIV).
God has always wanted a people who labor beside Him. It is entirely possible that God could magically place the message of the gospel in the hearts of every person, but He doesn’t. Why? Because He wants His bride, the church, to play a part.
26. Evangelism isn’t about fancy arguments.
“And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1–2, NIV).
The New Testament is full of Paul’s intelligent defense of Christianity, so it’s heartening to hear that his method for evangelism was not based on crafting the most eloquent and air-tight arguments. On the contrary, he came with a simple message of Christ and His sacrifice.
The best evangelists aren’t the greatest orators; they’re the ones who are single-minded in their desire to share what God has done.
27. Evangelism isn’t always about securing a commitment.
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:6–9, NIV).
We share God’s message, but God causes it to take root and grow into faith. And even if we don’t always get to see the fruit, we can take solace that we are playing an important role in the harvest.
28. Empathy has an important role in evangelism.
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings (1 Corinthians 9:19–23, NIV).
God’s Word manifests itself differently in each of us. So our goal isn’t to get others to conform to our cultural standards as proof of their faith. Rather, we are sensitive to their traditions and experiences so that we don’t insult or confuse them before we’ve had a chance to introduce them to Jesus.
29. We should be open to the Spirit in evangelism.
For I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me (1 Corinthians 16:7–9, NIV).
It was Paul’s desire to invest some quality time with the church at Corinth—and with the issues going on there, it’s obvious they needed it. Yet, Paul was aware that the Spirit is making opportunities to share the gospel in Ephesus, and following the Lord’s movement is Paul’s priority.
It’s important to remember that we will be pulled in multiple directions, but we need to follow the Lord’s prompting—and not see opposition as a reason to quit.
30. God makes His appeal through evangelists.
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20, NIV).
It’s God’s desire that the world would submit to be reconciled to him, and he is making that appeal through us, the church. We are the diplomats that God has sent to represent him in this foreign territory.
31. Follow your prompting, let others follow theirs.
On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised (Galatians 2:7–9, NIV).
It’s easy to feel God is prompting you toward a specific work and think His prompting is universal. This was a problem that was brewing in the early church. Peter felt called to witness to the Jews and struggled with Paul’s contrary calling to preach to the Gentiles. In the end, don’t be dissuaded from reaching the people you feel called and empowered to reach.
32. Evangelism is always about God’s work.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8–9, NIV).
We do well to remember that salvation is not something we earned by the work we’ve done. In the same way, the successes we see in evangelism are a response to God’s grace at work in someone’s life, and not because of our works, so we still can’t boast!
33. Salvation isn’t the goal of evangelism; discipleship is.
He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me (Colossians 1:28–29, NIV).
Paul was all about sharing the gospel, but he never saw that as his only responsibility. He worked tirelessly to ensure that systems were set up so that people could grow into maturity. This is in keeping with Christ’s commission that we not only share the good news, but that we teach them to do everything that Christ commanded.
34. Use the evangelist’s rule book.
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (Colossians 4:2–6, NIV).
In these four verses, Paul hits on the six elements of responsible evangelism:
Pray regularly for opportunities to share the gospel. If you’re serious about sharing the good news, you will be asking God to give you more and more opportunities.
Be watching and thankful. Since you’re praying for opportunities, you’re going to be on the lookout for them, thankful when they occur.
Pray for opportunities for others to share the gospel clearly. You’ll also pray for others to have opportunities to share the gospel, and that they would do so with power and authority.
Be wise about how you treat outsiders. You’ll learn to think of every conversation as an important part of your evangelism. It’s not that you’re always sharing the gospel; it’s that you don’t want to do anything that undermines you before you do.
Make the most of every opportunity. Making the most of your opportunities requires a lot of vigilance and grit. You need to be on guard to recognize your opportunities, and you need to have the resolve to take advantage of those opportunities when they surface.
Ensure that your conversations are full of grace. It’s so important that we recognize that our conversations reflect the gospel—even when we’re not talking about the gospel.
1 Peter 3:15 –But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
2 Corinthians 5:20 –We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2 Timothy 2:15 –Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:5 –But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
Acts 2:38 –Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 2:10 –For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
John 14:16 –Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Mark 16:15 –He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.