What does it mean to evangelize? I hear a lot of people talk about planting seeds in the hearts of non-believers. We do this in a lot of ways: the ministry of living a Christian life out loud, the ministry of service, the ministry of hospitality. These things can go a long way in providing testimony of a changed life through Christ, and they can certainly plant seeds in the hearts of those who don’t yet know the love of Christ, making them curious about what a life following Jesus really means.
But at what point do those people turn curiosity into commitment?
In John 4:34-38, Jesus says, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
This mini-lesson in evangelism doesn’t just come out of the blue. Jesus had been speaking to the woman at the well, and he planted seeds in her heart to change her attitude toward him right away:
1. He spoke to her, even though she was a Samaritan, which was practically unheard of for a Jewish person to do.
“The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)” John 4:9
2. He offered a testimony of the fullness of a Christian life.
“‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?’ Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'”
3. He lovingly, but clearly, addressed the ways her life and her sins were failing to give her an abundant life.
“The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.’ He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’ ‘I have no husband,’ she replied. Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.'”
I actually think most Christians can do one — or even all– of these things really well. But what we miss is what comes next in this exchange: we actually have to say out loud that you must believe in Jesus to have eternal life.
“‘Woman,’ Jesus replied, ‘believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.’ The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’ Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you—I am he.'”
Jesus boldly declares that he is the Messiah. He is the one sent from God. And better yet, she believes him and goes and tells other people what she discovered through Jesus Christ! She wouldn’t have done that had she not been told directly that Jesus was, in fact, the answer.
So how does that translate into your daily life as someone who wants to reach others for Christ? I have some practical tips for your consideration.
1. Don’t count on others to be the ones reaping the harvest. I know a lot of people who will depend on “seed planting” because the don’t fancy themselves an evangelist. But we are all called to make disciples, not just our pastors or bolder Christians. The reality is that you have access to many non-believers in your circle, ones that your pastors will never meet, which means that God has brought them into your life to give them an opportunity not just to see Christ through you, but to know him and meet him through you.
2. Stop being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I think a lot of us are hesitant to take that last step of evangelism and actually lead someone to the Lord because they are embarrassed that they will be seen as a “bible beater” or “Jesus freak.” I get it. It can be tough and feel a little silly at first. But the reality is that if we want to see those people in heaven one day, the gospel must be shared with them, and if we are too embarrassed to share the good news with them, we are accountable for their salvation (or lack thereof).
3. Know what the Bible says about salvation through Christ. There is so much to say about what the Bible says about Jesus’ death and resurrection as an eternal atonement for our sins (literally a whole book’s worth!), and if you are going to lead people to this realization, you need to know what Jesus’ sacrifice means. The way to learn is to read your Bible, study what it says, and understand what its promises entail. If you don’t know where to start, ask your pastor or another mature Christian to help you. Allow yourself to be discipled. This will not only help you understand what Jesus did for us, but it will equip you to one day disciple other believers. Nobody should stay a baby Christian for long, so don’t excuse away your spiritual immaturity by neglecting God’s word.
4. Pray for the Holy Spirit to give you courage. A lot of people wonder about the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives (which is another blog in and of itself), but we can pray for God to send his spirit to give us the strength and the words to communicate the message of Christ to others. Let’s not just pray for so-and-so to come to know Christ; rather, let’s pray that we would have the courage, opportunity, and right words to tell those we love that they need the saving grace of Jesus.
We are praying for you to start seeing yourself as an evangelist and seizing new opportunities to not only plant seeds, but to reap the harvest.