The guy on the street corner wears a sign reading “REPENT OR PERISH!” while screaming at cars driving by. This, he thinks, is evangelism. He believes he is saving a lost world from hellfire. While making unbelievers hate religion, such fiery individuals cause believers to shrink back from all types of soul-winning for fear of being seen as a nemesis, too.
Goal: win believers
While I am committed to reaching the lost, I have learned that if I focus on their lostness I become dogmatic and condemning. I like to see people as potential believers until I see them respond or reject the Lord. If you live with a mind to win believers, you will find creative ways to spark faith.
Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). So share a verse with someone. Instead of saying, “God’s going to give you a pounding,” perhaps sharing hope would do more for them. Use II Corinthians 5:21 to tell them that God sees them as righteous.
Study II Corinthians 5:18-21 for a while until it sinks in—Jesus came and set the world right with Himself. Everyone is right with God, but they do not experience the joy and fulfillment of that until they believe. Perhaps your family member or co-worker does not believe because you have not told her this truth.
Find ways to build faith
Speaking an encouraging word to someone who is struggling or going through a crisis is a way to build faith and hope. Tell a non-believer what God has done for you—let the word of your testimony spark faith in their souls. Even though a person may not tell you the impact you have had on them, every good seed you plant will grow.
You could simply share a scripture that spoke to you and tell the person why it is special to you. Play music that lifts up the Lord when around your friend—even if they do not sing along, it could be stirring their hunger for more of Jesus.
One of the most effective evangelism tools is not a tool at all but a lifestyle: love. When you become the image of Christ by truly caring for others and putting them first, they cannot help but covet your faith. Do not just love in word, however, but in action, complements, and listening. Give to those in need. Many people want nothing to do with the Lord because some Christians have made a name for themselves of being stingy. Jesus was not.
Experience the joy of your walk with God. If you are always grumpy and argumentative, you might as well wear a sign that says, “You are going to hell!” Learn the art of kindness and appreciation. Live something others will want. Do not put on an act—they see enough of that on TV. Let the light of His presence flood your soul until the joy shines through.
Dump your clinical Christianity
Recent evangelical movements taught Christianity that believing is a ritual. After telling a person about the Lord, you then are supposed to ask them, “Would you like to believe on the Lord?” or “…trust in Jesus?” or something similar. However, no one in the Bible did this. Faith is not something you do while you repeat a prayer from someone else’s heart. Belief happens in your heart before you even realize what is going on.
You hear the word of God and your heart leaps like John in the womb when you still do not understand what is going on. After your heart has opened to the things of God (which is an ongoing, daily process), then you make choices in keeping with such new awareness.
After Peter preached his first sermon about Jesus as Lord and the promise of the Spirit, people came to him asking what to do. He did not say, “Well, first you must believe.” That is too clinical and unnatural. He knew they had already believed or they would not have come forward and responded to the message about the Lord. He told them what to do because of their faith: renounce their sinful ways, take on the name of Jesus in baptism, and they, too, would receive the promise of the Spirit within.
Although Paul told the jailer to believe, he did not leave it at that nor did he lead him in a prayer to believe on Jesus. The apostle simply spoke the word of the Lord and we know that the sinner believed because he immediately wanted to be baptized (Acts 16:31-33).
So who needs to hear about hell?
We should not reject the doctrine of eternal punishment in a literal lake of fire. However, this message is for those who reject God. You do not inspire children to learn math by telling them if the do not learn their multiplication tables they will have to live under a bridge and eat out of trash cans. If the child refuses to study, however, showing them the darker side of their decisions can be quite useful and serve as an auxiliary motivation.
So why talk about hell at all? Who should the message of fire and brimstone motivate? Find out here.