We have discussed the gospel plan of salvation, the definition of evangelism, the importance of righteous living, the extent to which we should scatter seed and thereby identify prospects, and God’s responses to common excuses we might make to avoid teaching others. Now that we have some of these things set in our minds, let us look at what to do when we find that good and honest heart that is searching for the truth.
There are numerous systems of teaching within the brotherhood. Ivan Stewart’s “Open Bible Study,” which became popular in the 1970s, is still a good tool that Christians can use in teaching their neighbors. There are a handful of lessons with mostly “yes” or “no” questions. Brother Stewart published a book entitled Go Ye Means Go Me that is very useful in helping one with the “Open Bible Study” system.
A newer workbook was designed by Stephen Rogers of Evansville, Indiana. The student workbook is called The Gospel Made Simple, and the teacher’s textbook is Evangelism Made Simple. His materials are mostly fill-in-the-blank and the topics are thoroughly discussed.
Another tool that many have used successfully is Muscle and a Shovel by Michael Shank. This is a recounting of brother Shank’s conversion in 1988; he was led to the truth by conversations with a co-worker in Nashville. It is not only a tool for converts, but also for evangelists. The attitude of the teacher in the book, Randall, is one that should be emulated by those hoping to reach and teach others.
These are only a few of the tools that can be used by Christians in the work of evangelism today. But here’s the thing—they are only tools. The authority for all things comes from Jesus Christ and the revelation of the Holy Spirit in the written Word. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). When we talk to our friends about spiritual matters, if we have nothing but the Bible at our disposal, we have all we truly need. All the programs mentioned above—as good as they may be—are merely tools used to learn what the Bible teaches.
Inviting friends to worship with us is good, but it is usually not enough. We must be willing to talk to them about the Lord, and to do that we should have a basic understanding of the authority of Scriptures, the power of God, the deity of Christ, the gospel plan of salvation. We need to use this understanding to engage with the good soil in spiritual discussions. Those who have been receptive to the seed, keep watering.
Consider the example of the apostle Paul. He did not travel around the known world inviting folks to worship services. He went to where they were and started conversations with them based on their knowledge and understanding. In Acts 16, Luke writes about the conversion of Lydia, a woman who “worshiped God.” (Acts 16:14) Notice how Paul and his traveling companions came into contact with her: “And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there” (Acts 16:13). They went to where spiritually-minded people were gathered!
Even in Athens, a city overrun with pagan idolatry, Paul started with the same approach. “Now while he waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there” (Acts 17:16-17). Nearly everywhere Paul went, he started with the people at the synagogue, or where worshipers were gathered. When the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers heard his preaching about Jesus, they decided to take him to the Areopagus, “(f)or all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21).
Paul used his surroundings to build a lesson, pointing to one of the altars there. “Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNONWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you’” (Acts 17:22-23).
These people were not Christians, but they were religious. They were interested. And Paul used that interest to teach about Jesus. What was the result? “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, ‘We will hear you again on this matter.’ So Paul departed from among them. However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them” (Acts 17:32-34). Despite their pagan background, they had good and honest hearts and believed the truth when it was taught. We never know how someone might respond until they are given the chance to hear and believe.
Will talking about Christ cause awkwardness at times? How did Felix feel when Paul talked to him? “But when Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he adjourned the proceedings and said, ‘When Lysias the commander comes down, I will make a decision on your case.’ So he commanded the centurion to keep Paul and let him have liberty, and told him not to forbid any of his friends to provide for or visit him. And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, ‘Go away now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.’” (Acts 24:22-25).
When Paul spoke before Festus and Agrippa, how did they respond? “Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!’ But he said, ‘I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason. For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.’ Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian’” (Acts 26:24-28).
Their response was not what Paul wanted, but he had no way of knowing how they would react without first presenting the truth. Notice, however, that he did not anger them with his teaching. In fact, they lamented that he was a prisoner, as he had done “nothing deserving of death or chains” (Acts 26:31).
When we teach others about Christ, let us strive to do so gently. Pray that you can lead someone to understand and obey, but even if their response is not immediately favorable, let us not burn bridges and prevent further influence and teaching.
Discussion and Action
1. We often invite friends to worship services instead of trying to set up a private study. Essentially, while Christ tells us to “go,” we tell our friends to “come.” Do we have it backwards?
2. Are you familiar with any formal Bible study tools other than those mentioned in this lesson?
3. How might you interest a friend in a private study in your home?
4. Recite the six steps of the gospel plan of salvation and where you can find Scriptures for each step.
5. Memorize the text of another verse in the gospel plan of salvation.
6. You have identified five people over whom you have some influence that need the gospel. Over the past month and a half, how have you engaged them in spiritual discussion? Has there been any positive response?