Last evening, my pastor began an evangelism training class. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of members who were there and grateful for their interest and enthusiasm for the subject. Of course, having been born again for over forty years and having served as a pastor for over ten of those years, I have encountered a variety of evangelism training courses. Some of them have been very good and quite rewarding. Others, though, have left much to be desired.
Through experience, I have learned evangelism is best learned by just doing it! Find an opportunity (and they are abundant) to present the gospel to a lost individual and do so. Each situation is different, demanding its own unique approach. There are, however, certain facets of evangelism which never change. The principal one of these is the message you share.
In our opening session, the pastor asked the key question: "What is the Gospel?" No one can properly share the gospel if they don't know what it is! The class discussion was very interesting. It was clear those present have a good grasp of the key facts which comprise the gospel. Now, how to present them is sometimes the challenge.
Having taught Old and New Testament History at the local Baptist university many, many times, presenting the gospel has been, for me, a requirement. Usually, when I ask my students the same question we were asked last evening, the answer I most often receive is "Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John"! While they are correct in one sense, they have missed the true question. Often, their incorrect answer is due to their spiritual condition. They do not KNOW the Lord.
Each student of mine will hear me share the gospel with them more than once. I begin the Old Testament History course with a discussion of the creation and the covenant made by God with Adam (and mankind). Everything is perfect there in the Garden of Eden.
Then, we encounter Genesis chapter 3 and our world is turned upside down! We read of temptation, disobedience, rebellion, sin, guilt, condemnation, and judgment. We learn the very, very BAD NEWS. Each of us is born a sinner before God. Our nature is spiritually corrupt and chooses to sin against the Most High. The punishment for our sin is death, physical and spiritual. And, if we die physically while we are spiritually dead, we suffer the third death: eternal death. For my math-minded students, I codify this equation as:
SD + PD = ED (spiritual death plus physical death equals eternal death)
What a horrible, miserable equation! I am SD at birth. Because of my sin, PD will follow! What hope is there for me to avoid ED? None, at least, not in myself.
I explain to my students that, even in Genesis 3, we see the grace and mercy of our great God. Beginning with verse fifteen of that third chapter through the entire book or Revelation, God reveals to us His Good News, His Gospel. Yes, that's what the word "gospel" means: "good news". And what is that good news?
God the Son, the second person of the eternal triune God, took upon himself flesh, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life in full obedience to His heavenly Father, suffered and died on a cross as a substitutionary, propitiatory sacrifice, an atonement for His people, was buried, resurrected, ascended, and is coming again! And, if we, sinners by nature and by deed, will turn from our sins and put our trust (believe) in the Lord Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven. We experience a spiritual birth and the "SD" in our equation is replaced by "SL" giving us a new equation.
SL = EL
Physical death is no longer part of our equation. Oh, we might die physically, but, if we already possess spiritual life, we also possess eternal life! Praise God, this is GOOD NEWS! This is the Gospel!
Yes, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the Gospels. They received that classification because they tell the story of the One who made THE GOSPEL (the message) a reality: Jesus Christ.
So, what is the Gospel? Personally, I like the way Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 15.
"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you THE GOSPEL which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand: By which also ye are SAVED, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS according to the Scriptures; And that HE WAS BURIED, and that HE AROSE AGAIN the third day according to the scriptures: And that HE WAS SEEN ...".
The Gospel is the Good News that Jesus Christ saves sinners!