One of the most important things we have to remember when evangelizing is that our goal is not to tell other people about God. Our purpose is to introduce them to Him. Any time that someone wants to know God, His Word has to be involved.
Getting the other person to recite a prayer is not the objective. You want them to leave the conversation with a desire to grow closer to Jesus through the Scriptures. You’re just making the introduction. Your mission is simply to place their hand in God’s and allow the Holy Spirit to do the rest.
This is the wrap-up page. Your objective is to help them realize how simple their decision is. It’s a private decision to draw close to Him. And even the drawing close is intimate, reading the Bible.
Hopefully, as you read the last surprising fact, they will become confident that you are not inviting them to join an organization or be associated with the people they don’t like. This isn’t an invitation to a loud, “fraudulent Christian” club. It’s a private thing, leading to a joyful relationship with the God they already know.
I recommend starting with Matthew for a couple of reasons.
1. It is the most practical, straightforward, and thorough book of Jesus’ teaching.
2. It makes it easy to continue through the remainder of the Gospels and the entire New Testament by just continuing forward from there.
3. It teaches what we are invited into, the Kingdom of Heaven. Today.
Many people recommend starting with John, and I like that recommendation, too. With many of Jesus’s “I am” statements, John is a required course in who Jesus is— the most crucial topic. John is slightly more nuanced, though, deeper in its symbols and meaning.
Therefore, you should feel free to scratch out Matthew and write in your recommendation. I started in Genesis and read straight through; I was saved in Leviticus. That is unusual, but it makes the point that it truly doesn’t matter where you start. Jesus is the Word, all of it. He will supernaturally build a saving faith in everyone who diligently and heartfully seeks Him through the Word.
In bringing your conversation to a close, some people will want to walk away without further commitment. They want to think about it privately. We pray they will take God’s advice and draw close to Him by reading a Bible, and then maybe reach out when they have questions.
For others, solo pursuits don’t fit with their personality.
Running, for example, is generally considered a solitary sport; yet, some runners rarely run alone. They want a running companion. For this kind of person, a follow-up appointment may be perfect.
Be comfortable with either response. In both cases, you did your job already. Don’t pressure them to make an appointment. Make an offer but let them go graciously. Your contact information (or someone else’s) should be on the track.
What about a sinner’s prayer?
Sometimes lead them in the sinner’s prayer, though not often. If I feel the Holy Spirit is leading me to, I do. Otherwise not. The sinner’s prayer is not magic and not in the Bible. I am not opposed to the sinner’s prayer; there is nothing wrong with it—a prayer to God is always good.
To be sure, many people are saved in that moment of the sinner’s prayer; I know many who were.
However, if you lead them in the sinner's prayer, please do not give the impression that they are saved simply because they said a prayer. That is not accurate, Biblically. They are saved by faith, genuine faith, not just a moment of emotion.
Let the Holy Spirit lead. Help them pray if it seems fitting to do so. But if we give them the impression they are saved through a one-time repetition of some words, we may lead them away from saving faith! Faith comes through hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. It is a sustained love relationship we want to lead them to, not a momentary emotion.
I can sum it up this way. There are times when the Holy Spirit is leading them to commit right then. If so, help them do so. Billy Graham often preached that God moves a person to confess their faith, and if they don’t do it right away, their heart could grow colder than it was before. That is, we should commit to Him when He gives us the opportunity. If we wait, our hearts can harden. I believe Billy Graham is right, and I have witnessed that happen for some. If you sense He wants you to help them commit, pray with them.
How? There is no magic in a sinner’s prayer and no successful formula to the prayer. It is a heart thing, not a word thing. If you believe that their heart is ripe for committing to a new relationship with God, you could ask them if they want to pray with you. Then either have them pray for themselves or lead them in prayer. It can be as simple as, “God, I want to draw close to you. I want to know you better. I want to start a new relationship with you. Help me, God, to read the Bible and understand it.”
For the new evangelist, do not pressure yourself to have them say the sinner’s prayer. You didn’t fall short if you didn’t get a “confession of faith.” That was not your objective.
Please see your work as God does. If you walked around with the sole purpose of being available to God and prayed for people you saw, you did your job. If you smiled at someone and were able to hand them the track, you did your job. If you were blessed with an opportunity to open to page one and develop a connection with them by hearing their views on God, you did your job. If you were blessed with more time to read through the track with them, you did your job. And if you were blessed with another opportunity to see them another day, you did your job.
If you did any of these, you are an evangelist. And blessed are you, the peacemaker, who helped them on their journey to find peace with God, for you are called a child of God.