When it comes to talking about Christ, not everyone has
the same style. Some of us are bold, gregarious and comfortable being the
center of attention. We seem never to meet a stranger. Others may see us as
confident, orif theyre not thinking of us too kindlyas pushy.
On the other hand, some of us are shy, quiet and prefer to be out of the
limelight. We seem to hold back. Others may see us as sincere and genuine orif
theyre not being as generous with their opinionas ineffective, content to be a
The truth is that both approaches to relating, building friendships and
eventually sharing Christ can be effective. How we relate to the people God
puts in our pathour social graces, if you willis an individual matter. Our
commitment as on mission Christianspeople who deliberately and intentially find
ways to talk about Christis to accept the personality God gave us and use it to
In our home, weve discovered we have drastically different ways of sharing
our faith. Even our worst case scenarios are different!
Mark: We were all part of an evangelistic beach project in
Wildwood, New Jersey. Boardwalk Chapel stood right on the south end of the
boardwalk, a lone bastion of Christianity in a world gone crazy with games of
chance, pizza parlors and fun rides. I and my team were learning to approach
people and share the gospel. Not every venture was successful.
One night, someone ran into the chapel, calling my name, Mark! Mark! Yeah? I
answered, walking out of the back apartments.
Theres this guy, a real atheist. I think hes a guy you can crack open.
Evangelism 101 teaches effective relationship graces
By Dianne E. Butts
James always believed evangelism was a good ideaas long as someone else was
doing it. He considered himself too shy to talk about such personal matters. He
didnt think he had the conversational skills to segue from a friendly
discussion to one that he perceived to be confrontational.
But, after only a one-hour Sunday school class, James felt more confident
and ready to try relationship evangelism. He learned specific tools he could
use. And he found that he had to adjust only slightly his style of relating to
others to be effective and successful. His newfound confidence brought him out
of his shell.
Karen had an enthusiasm for evangelismfor life in generalthat was bold,
almost in-your-face. A naturally upbeat person, she was fun-loving and rowdy,
almost to the point of being rude at times. As a result, some people perceived
her as pushy, which resulted in rejection, the very response an outgoing person
She learned in Evangelism 101 how to moderate her approach to people so that
she wasnt so intimidating. She learned to listen more, to focus the attention
on her listener and to use a clear set of relationship tools. She found she
could more effectively share Christ with others. Not only Karenbut her
friendsfound the adjustment in her style of relating to be a welcome
By investing themselves in only one Sunday school class, participants of
Evangelism 101 at Riverside Baptist Church in Denver, Colorado, significantly
improved their witnessing skills and learned how to effectively share their
faith with non-Christians. Evangelism will not happen by accident. It must be
purposed, says Drew Stephens, minister of media at the church who helped
develop the course.
The class begins by exploring the question What is evangelism? Answer:
the joyful and intentional sharing of the good news about Jesus
Christ. The class then discusses five elements of evangelism:
the Purpose: not to save people from hell, but to glorify God. We tell of
God to glorify Him, the course states. Salvation is a by-product.
the Person: Jesus Christ. We are not selling a product. We are inviting
others to share in a relationship with Jesus Christ for all eternity.
the Promise: for Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved
(Romans 10:13). We are called to tell. We are the tools He has chosen to bear
the glad tiding of the good newsthat Jesus is our salvation.
the Power: of evangelism is the Holy Spirit. Can I lead someone to faith in
Christ? The answer is noonly God can save; we are called to share. However we
can be the tools He uses to bring someone to salvation. We can take great
comfort in the fact that God is responsible for salvation.
the Plan: instead of memorizing words that sound like a foreign language to
the unchurched, the class urges participants to find a more contextualized and
relational way to share the good news.
How does a student do that? In encounters with nonbelievers, Evangelism 101
students are taught to start by asking the question, Who has had the greatest
impact on your life?
The answer invariably focuses on a relationship, setting the stage for
introducing non-Christians to how much God wants to have a relationship with
them as well, according to the course curriculum. A follow-up question, Has God
had an impact on your life? can transition conversations to spiritual matters
and help class participants discover the listeners spiritual background. The
questions and conversation are to help students progress to the point of being
able to comfortably and effectively share their own stories of how Jesus
impacted their own life and continues to do so on a daily basis.
Because the on mission Christians personal storyor testimonyis a
powerful evangelism tool, Riverside Baptist provides a workbook to help
students work out their stories. Questions prompt participants to consider
three areas of their lives:
1 My life before receiving Jesus
Were you born into a Christian or a non-Christian home?
Were you experiencing crisis?
Was everything going well, but something was missing?
2 How I came to know the Lord
Did someone speak to you privately?
Were you reading the Bible, watching TV or listening to the radio?
Was it the result of a series of events?
3 How Jesus impacts my life now
What has He given you? (Peace? Help?)
What has He removed? (Fear of death? Anger? Hurts?)
What has He changed? (Priorities? Purpose for life? Your identity?)
The class allows five minutes for students to actually begin writing down
key elements of what God has done in their lives. To practice their well-honed
presentation the class then allows time for additional students to share their
story with another class participant.
The class also offers ideas for:
transitioning a conversation from the students own story to sharing with the
listener Gods plan of salvation
comfortable but provocative follow-up questions to move the conversation
along, (examples, Does what we have been talking about make sense to you? Is
there any reason why you would not be willing to receive Gods gift of eternal
life? Are you willing to turn from your sin and place your faith in Jesus right
and a sample prayer to pray with people who decide to commit their lives to
Riverside Baptist Church also offers an Evangelism 202 course to prepare
students to answer questions about evolution versus creation, Gods existence,
the deity of Jesus Christ and to learn about other religions. However, students
are reminded that they dont need to have all the answers to share Christ
effectively. God does not call us to be omniscient, but to be obedient, say
graduates who also learn that nothing will speak more strongly to a nonbeliever
than your personally sharing what God has done in your life.
Dianne Butts is a writer living in Limon, Colorado.
Right. I was known as the go-getter in our group. So I knew this was a
mission for me. We hurtled out onto the boardwalk and soon found the would-be
atheist. I stuck out my hand. Hey, Im Mark Littleton. I hear youre an
Whats it to you?
Im just interested in how a person could be an atheist in the world today
with everything God has shown us to convince us Hes real.
God hasnt shown me nothin, the guy said, his long, greasy hair in a
ponytail, his eyes dark, his arms covered with tattoos.
You want to talk? I finally said, a little frustrated. This approach had
Not if youre going to pull out your storybook Bible on me.
I grimaced. The Bible is Gods love letter to us
Whats God know about love? Have you seen anything? People killin each other,
rapes, all sorts of stuff. Just tonight something else happened! Wheres God in
Lets go sit down and talk, I said again.
I dont want to hear it, he yelled into my face, then disappeared into the
I felt for him. I wondered if there was anything I could have said to get
him to talk. I didnt know the answers, though, and that one felt like a failed
attempt of which there were many.
Jeanette: Ive had many worst case scenarios over the years,
but I think the most definitive time was the first time I failed to share my
I came to Christ as a 12-year-old. Not too long after that, I learned that
as a Christian I was supposed to be different. So I committed my life to be
different in order to show people I was a Christian. I thought this was a
The next morning, I didnt sit in my normal seat next to my good friend Tammy
on the school bus. I believed I needed to appear separate from sinners.
When I plopped in a seat next to a girl who was a Christian, I glanced at
Tammy and saw hurt and bewilderment in her eyes. Instead of feeling good about
being separate, I felt terrible.
Still, nearly 30 years later, Id give anything to have told Tammy about my
faith, rather than trying to witness to her by rejecting her, by being a
Making mistakesIts easy to make mistakes when were
young in the faith. But as we grow spiritually, we also need to develop the
manner in which we share Christ with others. Learning a good, solid and
effective method for sharing our faith is essential, but it must feel like a
good fit to us. It also must be life-changing. If we must be abrasive and
confrontational, lets allow the gospel do that and not our personal styles. If
we must be quiet, let it be because were applying our ability to listen, show
concern and tailor our gospel message.
Mark: I used to be very confrontational in my evangelistic
style, walking right up to people and immediately blurting questions, like, If
you died today, do you know where youd go? Many people, confronted like this,
just shrugged me off as strange and in need of serious counseling.
Jeanette: After the Tammy incident, I learned how to street
witness. I was scared to admit I hated it. Some of my peers were natural at it,
but I continued to feel awkward and rarely saw results. I figured the problem
was my lack of faith, not the method my introverted personality couldnt make
So I avoided witnessing and just felt guilty all the time.
Two types of witnessesUsing us as examples, you can
see two types of witnessers: the pushy peddler and the wallflower. They arent
gender specific, but well use ourselves as examples.
Both styles have their positive sides. The pushy peddler is willingeven
eagerto stick his neck out and share the gospel at all costs. Hes bold. Hes
direct. People in his life know exactly where he stands. Hes likely to strike
up a conversation with a stranger on an airplane or in line at the grocery
store. He deftly and easily moves the conversation to Christ.
The wallflower, though, is more of a listener and quietly builds
relationships that can lead to opportunities to share the gospel. She may not
bring in the harvest as soon in the relationship, but she plants plenty of
seeds through her consistency and integrity. She respects the nonbeliever and
talks about Jesus when the other seems open and honestly willing to discuss
Him. Many people today are hurting and need someone who will listen to them and
not judge. Hurting people are more likely to open up to a wallflower who will
just sit and listen. As she listens, she finds ways to weave the message of
Christ into the conversation in a subtle and comforting way.
Of course, both styles also have disadvantages. The pushy peddler can drive
people away and make it more difficult for the next Christian who witnesses to
one of his victims.
The wallflower might be shy about attributing her quiet but solid nature to
her personal relationship with Christ, and people may assume by her lifestyle
that shes just a nice person.
Making adujstmentsAdjusting the style a bit seems
necessary for both kinds of people. God has hardwired us to have certain
personalities, but we have the ability to alter them slightly to become more
effective for Christ.
Mark: Over the years I adjusted my style as I found I wasnt
very successful, especially with my family. My pushiness drove my family so far
from the Lord that its taken years for them to listen to even my gentlest
efforts. Ive learned to sit back and let the Holy Spirit lead, giving Him time
to work in the life of someone Im working on. Ive also begun to pray for God to
woo those seekers, rather than just stepping out and gospelizing them my own
Jeanette: Ive learned over the years not to panic about
witnessing. The Holy Spirit has to draw peoplemy job is to be prepared, as 2
Timothy 4:2 says. Its not all my burden. Ive also become comfortable noticing
that sometimes Im a planter, rather than a harvester. My witnessing ministry is
not the grandstand stuff, nor should it be. I tend to plant or water, while an
extrovert like Mark often brings in the harvest (1 Corinthians 3).
Occasionally, though, our roles are reversed. Some listeners respond more
favorably to my subdued style. Mark may get their attention, but I may be the
one to convince them that Christ is the answer.
Wallflowers and peddlers of the BibleJesus disciples
also displayed these different evangelistic styles. Peter jumped out of the
boat to walk on water with Jesus. He spoke up first when Jesus asked the
disciples who people thought he was. He drew the first sword to defend Jesus in
the Garden. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter proclaimed the gospel, and three
thousand people were converted.
On the other hand, consider Andrew. He brought Peter to Jesus. And he sat in
the crowd listening to Jesus, befriending a boy who had five chunks of bread
and two fisha lunch that would later feed 5,000 people. Andrew was the classic
relationship-builder. He didnt set the world on fire, but he was effective just
Both of us have altered our styles over the years to become more
Mark: Ive learned to tone down and listen, especially with
people Ive met in public places. I now can draw out the person with questions
about their work, their families, where they are going.
Impacting others with relationship evangelism Participants
in the Evangelism 101 class use the acronym IMPACT as a guide to organize and
tell their stories of how God has impacted their lives. The acronym lists the
essential elements of salvation. As class participants consider how each
element has played out in their own lives, they are better prepared to share
their story with others. Also, the list can be used to present the plan of
salvation to non-believers.
I...n the beginning...God created man in His own image
M...ans purpose is to glorify God (Isaiah 43:6-7, Ephesians
P...erfection is Gods standard, but we are imperfect (1
Peter 1:16, Romans 3:23).
A... Perfect Mediator must stand in our place (Romans
C...hrist is the only Mediator that can stand in our place
(1 Timothy 2:5-6).
T...rusting in Christ restores our relationship with God
enabling us to fulfill our purpose (2 Corinthians 5:17).
When they ask about my occupation, I tell them Im a writer. This inevitably
leads to, What do you write? I tell them I write mostly Christian books. I dont
plunge in with the gospel even then, but I let that little thought build. This
often leads to conversations about Christ, the Bible and what it means to be a
Christian. People open up on their ownpresumably under the Holy Spirits
One woman said to me, This is the most enjoyable plane trip Ive ever had. I
took that as a real vote of confidence.
Jeanette: Ive learned to watch my tendency to be a
separatist. People are not the enemy I must fear. I now can take advantage of
my strengthsuch as the comments my lifestyle brings.
For instance, when I moonlighted as a waitress for a time, the women I
worked with talked religion, but church was obviously just a social thing. Yet
they began to notice how different I was in my conversation and beliefs.
The most dramatic situation happened when they asked about my weekend,
implying that my boyfriend and I were sleeping together.
I told them no and they said, Whats wrong? You wasted a weekend?
I finally told them I was a virgineven though I was over 30. And when they
asked why, I told them about my commitment to Christ and to Gods Word.
Martha, an unwed, pregnant girl, looked at me and quietly said, You know,
that must be nice.
Later, Martha and I talked, and I was able to plant some seeds. More chances
to witness to the others occurred, too. All because I had a different
What are youpushy peddler, shy wallflower, something in-between? How do you
think you could adjust your style to be more effective? Remember that you have
a right to speak up with confidencethe gospel has power! But sometimes a quiet
approach has more appeal to your listenerit gives you a chance to slowly build
relationships and then draw on Gods strength to proclaim His truth.
Pray about it and ask God to lead you. We guarantee He will, because He did
it for us. Then youll be able to share in the joy of making a Kingdom
Mark Littleton has published more than 70 books and
1,500 articles. He speaks frequently to writers groups and also on evangelism,
prayer and the spiritual life. Jeanette has published four books (two with
Mark) and speaks to writers groups across the country. They live in Gladstone,
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC