Person to Person: A Practical Approach to Effective Evangelism

Part 1: The True “No Limit” Message

“The Christian message is no opiate to send people to sleep, it is no comfortable assurance that everything will be all right. It is rather the blinding light which shows people themselves as they are and God as he is.

William Barclay

A few years ago I received an almost irresistible offer. I opened my mailbox one morning to find an attractively designed folder with this enticing offer: “How to be a no limit person.” Of course, I opened the packet eagerly. The colorful brochure went on: “Yours for thirty days risk free . . . the blockbuster audio program from today’s number one success-builder and best-selling author.” 

Here was a six-cassette lecture series which promised to help me develop a “fresh, dynamic, you-oriented approach to career and personal life.” Now I could “break the barriers to success,” and “achieve super emotional and physical health,” all for a mere pittance, $10 for 30 days with “no obligation.” My every problem, frustration, delay, and failure, could be turned to my advantage. I could learn to live according to my maximum potential. This sounded like good news, indeed.

In fact, the author of this series was offering a glorious plan for personal success. Developed through his own life experience and research, he passionately wanted to pass on to others the best thing he had. He was inspired with “a purpose that shaped his own life – a mission to help people succeed.” He was motivated by a consuming zeal to give others the best thing he had.

The best “no limit” gift possible

What is the best thing you have? Are you driven to share it with others? As Christians we should realize that we are the real “no limit” people. God has given us eternal life in Jesus Christ. We have received an entirely new nature through baptism in water and the Spirit. By God’s power we have been transferred from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of light, and we look forward to a heavenly banquet with God in our eternal home. We have received the magnificent power of God in our mortal bodies, far outstripping the human power and techniques flaunted in the brochure. Ours are new lives, characterized by power, joy, and the wisdom of our Creator. If the “no limit” author is consumed by a passion to “change the lives of millions of people,” how much more should we, who have come to know the living God, desire to do whatever we can to change the world.

We can change the world, if we ourselves are living a full Christian life and are motivated to influence others toward a fuller relationship with Jesus. But why should a Christian be involved in evangelism?

I can think of at least five good reasons. First, Jesus commands us to spread the gospel. Second, evangelism results in a deeper union with Christ. Third, the world needs desperately to hear about Jesus. Fourth, telling others about Jesus is an exciting challenge that produces joy. Fifth, helping others choose for Jesus saves lives – eternally.

Jesus commands us

Consider, first of all, that Jesus commands us to spread the good news. Jesus’ words at the end of Matthew’s Gospel have been aptly described as the Great Commission. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19-20). These were his last words to his disciples on earth. Jesus was not merely suggesting or encouraging them to spread the good news (the great suggestion); he was authoritatively directing them, and us, to “Go therefore.” The true test of our love for God is our obedience to his will (Jn 14:21). Like it or not, if we are to love the Lord we must be personally committed to evangelism. 

Deeper union with Christ

Spreading the gospel also draws us into a deeper union with Christ. Just as we should integrate prayer, fellowship with other Christians, and the study of God’s word into our lives, so too, should we be witnesses to others about Jesus. Most certainly, personal evangelism deepens our relationship with the Lord; it is a crucial life giving ingredient in the spiritual life. Through it we learn how to draw closer to God, rely on his help, and be led by his Spirit. As we take concern for others, our hearts are transformed into the heart of Christ who came to seek out and save the lost. 

The world needs the Good News

Consider also how desperately the world needs to hear about Jesus. War, pollution, crime, divorce, loneliness, murder, deprivation, and poverty constantly afflict the human species. Human solutions inevitably fall short. God’s answer is life through God’s only Son. No human being or society can be truly healthy apart from God. We who have been given new life in Jesus Christ are the only ones who can offer hope to a dying world. The need of the world cries out to each of us – in our neighborhoods, families, schools, cities, and workplaces. We have only to open our eyes to see the desperate needs of those around us. Once we know their plight, how can we withhold from anyone, the only thing that will satisfy or free them? 

Excitement, challenge, and joy

It is also true that the Christian life is the most thrilling, taxing, and fulfilling of all lifestyles. One could reasonably argue that the Christian faith is the only way to true self-fulfillment. A life lost for Christ is the only means to gain life.

When we evangelize others, we reach out to people we may otherwise ignore. We get involved with people’s problems and concerns. We deal with the profound issues of life. We fight in prayer for others; we persevere in meeting challenges; and we rejoice to see others experience more of God’s love. 

An eternal choice

We should always remember that men and women have a choice to make – between life and death. We can easily forget that spiritual reality.

Michael Green said it this way:

According to Ephesians 2:1 men and women without Christ are dead. Their sin has cut them off from the life of God as effectively as death cuts a man off from the life of his friends. Though mentally, physically, and emotionally alive, people are spiritually dead until the life-giving elixir of the gospel begins to circulate through their veins. Society has lost its way. Jesus Christ came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). It is when we realize that our friends – our nice, decent friends – are lost without Christ that we long to help them and bring the good news to them.

“Why Bother With Evangelism?” New Covenant, vol. 11, no. 4 

He went on to say that there is simply no middle ground. Either we stand for Christ for against Christ. We either live under Satan’s dominion or under the reign of God.

No matter how much we would like to think that the road to eternal life is wide and easily followed, the New Testament tells us otherwise. Jesus will have none of our compromising. We are being saved or lost, perishing or being born again. There is no middle ground.

An understanding of this reality can act as a tremendous motivation to evangelism. C.S. Lewis puts it frightfully well.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in nightmare.

The Weight of Glory (New York: Macmillan, 1962)

All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. 

As sharers in God’s nature and participants in this cosmic spiritual struggle, we hold a treasure in earthen vessels. Scripture likens us to the fragrance or aroma of Christ among those who are perishing. The question that confronts each of us is how we can personally contribute to this great process of salvation. Are there more than a chosen and gifted few who can effectively proclaim the gospel? What is the full message of the gospel? What are the attitudes and methods essential for effective witnessing? How can we overcome fear, embarrassment and the feeling of ineptitude we often experience in regard to sharing our faith?

Let’s begin by considering what is involved in what I call everyday evangelism.

This article is adapted from the book, Person to Person: How to be effective in evangelism, © 1984 by Jim Berlucchi, and published by Servants Books, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.

Person to Person: A practical approach to effective evangelism

A Nine Part Series by Jim Berlucchi

Top image credit: People conversing in café, photo from, © by fizkes, stock photo ID: 224937967. Used with permission.

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