August 22, 2017

The Training Wheels of Evangelism

by Jim Oesterwind

This is part 1 of a multi-part article. Part 2 is here. See also Pastor Oesterwind’s address at the Northern California FBF Fellowship meeting.

Do you remember learning how to ride a bike? Many of us gained confidence riding our bikes through the use of training wheels. They are designed to give stability and security. As pastors, we are fairly comfortable when it comes to witnessing to people. Some pastors tool around town on their spiritual bikes with no hands! That’s a whole different analogy to explore along with 1 Corinthians 10:12 (Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall). People in our churches fail to evangelize for a host of reasons. Among them are a lack of knowledge, a fear of failure and rejection, wrong prioritizing of time, and unconfessed sin.

The ‘canned’ approach

Many believers do not like a using a ‘canned’ approach to evangelism, but I view such training as a set of training wheels. Learning a gospel presentation helps to allay excuses for not fulfilling the Great Commission. We don’t want to sound like we are giving a ‘canned’ appeal, but learning a gospel presentation helps to give people the ability to relate with others naturally and confidently. Evangelism becomes a way of life not a program on Thursday evening.

Gospel presentations help develop alertness for opportunities that springboard into the Gospel. While the particular program we use might not be for every believer, evangelism must be. We develop relationships with unbelievers and live godly lives among them. But that is not enough. We must verbally and meaningfully articulate the Gospel when God opens the door.

The place of prayer

Prayer is the key. Jesus taught, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37–38). Luke observes that when the early disciples of Jesus prayed, “the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).

Evangelism becomes a part of our lives only when we live life in prayer and preparedness. We must ask God to do what we cannot do for ourselves. We pray for alertness and boldness when it comes to sharing the Gospel. We pray for God to prepare people to hear the Gospel. Finally, we expect God to give us encounters with people. This is why we carry tracts and why we’ve memorized the Word – we expect God to give opportunities.

Giving testimonies: a Biblical example

One way that we can help people evangelize is to show them the power of their own testimony. Paul gives to us three essential elements to a good testimony in Acts 22:

  • He tells people what his life was like before he came to Jesus: “I persecuted this way [referring to early Christians] to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women” (22.3).
  • He relates how he received the gift of eternal life: “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest” (22.8).
  • He relates how eternal life has changed his temporal life: He was now chosen to “witness unto all men” what he had seen and heard (22.15).
Giving testimonies: a practical exhortation

Personal testimony’s have tremendous power. Some may try to argue the existence of God by philosophical means or else with apologetic arguments from design, but the testimony of a changed life is much more effective. A new believer may not know all the arduous apologetic approaches to evangelism, but he does know one thing: “I was blind but now I see!”

There are two main testimonials that we can use with people: the church testimony and the personal testimony. A personal testimony is like a faceted jewel. We are complicated people. Certain elements of our testimony of receiving the Lord Jesus are more effective than other elements with the particular people we meet.

A church testimony is relatively straightforward. Someone attending a local church is a good testimony in his workplace. At lunch one day a co-workers asks, “What’s your church like?” What an opportunity for this man. Since he has given this great thought and prayer he responds:

You know, I go to a church that teaches why Jesus came into the world. He came in order that people might have life and that they might have that life forever. And yet we have found that there are millions of people in this country, people who attend church regularly, try to live a good life, and follow the teaching of Christ, and yet somehow the church has failed to communicate to them how they can know for sure that they have eternal life and are going to go to Heaven. How about you? Have you come to the place in your life where you know for certain that you have eternal life or is that something you would say you’re still working on?

Personal testimonies are even more powerful. Our next article will explore how we may use our personal testimonies as facets on a gem in order to connect with the people around us. Let us pray that God would give us churches willing to fulfill the Great Commission and keep the Great Commandments of our Lord Jesus!


Jim Oesterwind is the pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Antioch, CA. He blogs at http://www.pastoralpondering.blogspot.ca/.


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