When a Christian hears the words “personal evangelism”, there are typically three responses: fear (which shouldn’t be the case), indifference, or excitement.
Many who respond with fear often compare themselves to gifted evangelists who have a commanding knowledge of the Scriptures and the naturally ability to enter into life-changing spiritual conversations and think, “I can’t do that!!!”
I thank God for gifted evangelists and also realize that most of us are not like that.
You might not consider yourself an evangelist. While you may not have the special gift of evangelism, all Christians are called to reach out to others with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Becoming a Contagious Christian, Bill Hybels and Mark Mittleberg share six different approaches to evangelism that will expand your view of evangelism and help you find the right style to fit your personality.
Below is a short summary of each of the six evangelism styles from the book. You may fall into more than one category–and that is great! The most helpful thing about these evangelism styles is learning more about yourself, so you know how God uniquely made you to reach out to others.
While some may be more gifted at verbally proclaiming the gospel to others, it is something we all are called to do. Romans 10:17 says, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” We all need to be verbal proclaimers in addition to reaching out in other ways like the options below.
Even if you don’t fall perfectly into one or several of these approaches, my hope is that you will see the variety of opportunities that are all around you for sharing the gospel. May God use these styles to show you how you can best reach the lost for His glory!
1. Direct Approach (Confrontational)
This is the Apostle Peter’s approach in Acts 2, boldly proclaiming the Gospel to whoever would hear. Evangelists who use the direct approach are often equipped with Gospel tracts and ask questions like, “If you were to die tonight, are you 100% sure that you would go to heaven?”
Direct evangelists get straight to the point, preach Christ, and seek a response. Chuck Colson, Billy Graham, Mark Cahill, and Ray Comfort have modeled and born much fruit with this approach.
2. Intellectual Approach
The intellectual approach to evangelism is what Paul modeled in Acts 17 when he reasoned with philosophers and the deep thinkers of Athens and is today practiced by apologists and other logical thinkers. If you are a person who likes ideas, evidence, logical thinking, and Christian Apologetics, you might be an intellectual evangelist. Josh McDowell, D. James Kennedy, William Lane Craig, and Ravi Zacharias model this approach.
3. Testimonial Approach
Personal stories of transformation carry a unique weight and often do things that facts alone cannot do. Evangelists who thrive with the testimonial approach tell powerful stories of Christ’s saving work in their lives. This is clearly seen in the blind man of John 9 who was healed by Jesus and then testified about Christ, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see!”
In John 9:3, Jesus explains that the entire reason this man was born blind was “that the works of God might be displayed in him.” That means that God custom-made this man specifically for this evangelistic approach! Examples of those who use the testimonial approach are Dave Dravecky, Joni Erickson Tada, and Lee Strobel.
4. Interpersonal Approach
Not everybody is drawn to knowing apologetics or sharing their Christian testimony. For those who have the natural ability to relate to people and love being with others, the interpersonal approach to evangelism is a natural way to share Christ. You know you can be effective with the interpersonal approach when you are able to share your faith with others out of a growing friendship. Matthew in Luke 5:27-29 serves as the perfect example:
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them.
This style of evangelism is often labeled “Friendship evangelism.”
5. Invitational Approach
The invitational approach is similar to the interpersonal approach, but as its name suggests, thrives on inviting people to events like a church service, a retreat, or a Bible study. This is one of the most natural ways newer believers are able to reach out to others even if they may not have the right words to say.
The Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well in John 4. After Jesus struck a conversation with her and revealed he was the Messiah, this woman ran back to her town and said to the people “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (John 4:29).
6. Service Approach
If you naturally notice the needs of others and enjoy serving them, you might prefer the service approach to evangelism. People who prefer this approach often enjoy sharing the love of Christ through deed over word. People with the gift of hospitality often fall into this approach.
The biblical example of this approach is Tabitha (also known as Dorcas) in Acts 9:36-42. She is described as “full of good works and acts of charity,” who used her gift of making clothing for God’s glory. In this biblical episode, Tabitha died, causing much grief among the widows who knew her. Her ministry touched many widows as we can see in verse 39, “All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them.” They called the apostle Peter to help, and help he did—Peter raised Tabitha to life.
Sharing these six approaches should not cause people to force themselves into the one approach that seems to fit them the best, but should help us realize the great diversity of ways God can use our strengths and personalities to reach others with the message of the Gospel.
I pray that it was an encouragement to you and you feel energized and ready to share the good news with others in the unique way God has gifted you!
What approach/approaches fit your personality? Share in a comment!
Recommended books on evangelism: Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer, The Way of the Master by Ray Comfort, One Thing You Can’t Do in Heaven by Mark Cahill, and The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever, Tell the Truth by Will Metzger
Thanks to Nathan Dumlao for sharing their work on Unsplash.