You are an evangelist because God made you one. Everyone born of the Spirit is equipped already to evangelize. Don’t be scared. God has all the hard work, not you. You have no agenda! Let the Holy Spirit shoulder the responsibility.
And by the way, you can’t say anything that He can’t fix. If you are devoted to Him, He will smooth over every interaction. When you are out with the sole purpose of loving people with the Gospel, it can feel like a posse of angels is surrounding you.
Your first step is easy, let them talk. If you can have a pleasant conversation in which you are interested in them, you will love being an evangelist. If you get one thing accomplished, leave them with the impression that you aren’t the kind of Christian they don’t like: let them talk.
Everyone wants to be heard. A mentor of mine, Daniel Kikawa, puts it this way, “Be a good date.” Good dates ask questions and let the other talk about themselves. Good dates only talk about themselves to keep the conversation going, not to boast, convince, or direct. Good dates are engaged with what the other has to say; they find and explore common ground and learn from each other.
While you are asking questions, you will find out:
Theology. What they think about God. Who, how, when, where they worship. Find common ground if you can. For example, do they worship a God, even if by another name, who is good, an uncreated creator, who is loving and involved?
Real-life. Please find out about their lives, as it exists for them. What are their joy points, and what are their pain points?
In preparation to lead them through page one, please study Acts 17:16-34. The book of Acts illustrates situations from soft ground (the Eunuch who was already thirsty for the truth) to hard ground. The best illustration of hard ground is Paul’s experience in Athens. Please study it and let the Holy Spirit convict and teach you while you read and reread it. Jesus said the Holy Spirit came to teach us all things, but we need to be available with an attentive mind to learn from Him. Please read and reread the passage.
Keep in mind as you read this chapter in Acts that Paul was the Apostle to the gentiles. We have a lot to learn from him. Paul said he tried to be all things to all people, “that by all means, I might save some.” He followed Jewish customs when with the Jews and local traditions with the locals. Jesus said that the outside of the cup (eating, physical actions) didn’t defile a person; it was inside the cup (the weightier matters of the law, “justice and mercy and faithfulness”) that could defile or make clean. Therefore, Paul knew that the physical things he did to blend in culturally was an easy sacrifice to reach a man’s heart and soul.
Our current western society is a close relative of Greece’s culture in the first century. Lifestyles, attitudes, integrity, and etiquette were mostly beyond shame and guilt. The Athens of that day is not much different from the western society of today.
Here are a few highlights I get from Paul in Athens:
• When he first preached in Athens, he got the feedback that he was preaching about “foreign divinities.” This is not a good start in any culture, and even in a culture such as Athens, where they were eager to hear new philosophies, Paul knew he needed to bridge the gap theologically and culturally.
• So, he intentionally looked for cultural and theological common ground, open doors into which he could connect with them. He found the idol of the unknown god. Paul found out who had introduced Athens to this unknown god, Epimenides.
• Then, he researched enough to find an Epimenides quote he could publicly pronounce so the people would accept his forthcoming application. Paul even found a second quote from a famous local poet, Aratus.
• Furthermore, he quoted the Bible to show that God had already predicted that the Athenians would have clearly perceived Him and had felt their way toward Him.
• He then said their Unknown God was the same God the Jews knew as Yahweh. Same God, different name.
• He never mentioned their filthy lifestyles even though Greece was known for impure living.
• He never mentioned hell.
If this story was not in the Bible and I did this in your town, most of you would excommunicate me. Quoting a local philosopher like it is scripture and suggesting that the God of a foreign culture was the same as God the Father would seem sacrilegious and irresponsible.
Please let this sink in.
What is your answer to the person who tells you their god is in nature because nature is good, non-judgmental, beautiful, and peaceful?
What is your answer to the person who tells you their God is The Great Spirit, or “everything” or…?
If their god is benevolent, the uncreated creator of all things, loving and good, you can agree with them and help them see that the God of the Bible agrees with them, too. Your job is not to give a thesis on all the nuances taught in the Bible—it is to encourage them to read it for themselves so that God can teach them.