Battle Plan: Evangelism
Scripture: Colossians 4:5-6 Princeton Christian Church 28 May 2021
In Colossians 4, Paul provides a three-step strategy for sharing our faith in Christ effectively.
Last Sunday we looked at our best battle weapon, which we learned is Prayer. We will continue today on that same theme. But this time we will look at a battle plan for Evangelism. In any area of our lives, we will be more successful if we first have a plan. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “When you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
That is as true in our spiritual lives as it is in any other area of life - in the classroom or the workplace, or in the home. As you may remember last Lord's Day we learned that Paul, in Colossians, chapter 4, provided us with a clear, concise strategy for developing our prayer life. He tells us to be persistent in prayer, perceptive in prayer, and praiseful in prayer. But, although prayer is a major part of the Christian life it is only a part of the battle.
After giving the Colossian Christians that three-point plan for prayer, he asks them to pray specifically for him, saying, “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” (Colossians 4:3-4 NIV).
Paul’s entire focus is always on sharing the gospel, and the work of Christ, with the world. That is his passion and continues to let the Christians at Colossae know that sharing Christ is the responsibility of every one of them. He writes: “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” (Colossians 4:5-6 NLT).
Paul outlines a three-point battle plan for sharing our faith and spreading the Gospel of Jesus. How amazing is it to realize that God calls us - each of us who are ordinary Christians—to be contagious with our faith—spreading it to as many others as possible. He wants to use every one of us to lead others into a relationship with Jesus Christ that will last throughout their lives and into eternity.
There are sometimes barriers that prevent some from carrying out that responsibility. For instance, when some people hear the word evangelism or evangelist they experience an immediate negative reaction. That may be because we see some TV evangelists who seem to be more a pushy, annoying salesman-type, using pressure rather than the truth of the Gospel. Some Christians may be intimidated by other Christians who seem to have a greater gift to share the Gospel than they do.
You can breathe a sigh of relief when you learn that to be any of those things to share your faith in Jesus in a positive, effective manner. We actually should, and can be ourselves. God knew what he was doing when he made you and me. He made each of us unique beings. And if we put His plan into practice, then God can use us to spiritually impact our friends, relatives, co-workers, and neighbors for his glory.
So, you are maybe asking what is His plan?
First, Paul instructs us to be wise about witnessing.
• BE WISE
Paul starts off his battle plan for evangelism by saying, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders (those who are not believers). (Colossians 4:5 NIV). There is something very important here, and it may be a bit intimidating too. That is that living wisely among unbelievers simply means that we need to remember that those who don't know Christ yet are watching us to see how we live.
This reminds me of a woman who was in a real rush to get to an important meeting. Speeding through town, she got stuck behind a slow-moving truck. When the truck driver stopped at a red light, she pounded on her horn and leaned out the window, screaming at him for not going through the light. Still, in mid-rant, she heard footsteps and looked up to see a very serious-looking police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up, took her to the police station where she was searched, fingerprinted, and put in a jail cell. After a few hours, she was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer apologized to her. He said, “I’m so sorry for the mistake. You see, I pulled up behind you and saw you honking and swearing at the man in front of you. And then I saw your What Would Jesus Do? license plate holder and your I Love My Church bumper sticker. Naturally, I assumed you stole the car.”
According to a study conducted by LifeWay Research, 72% of people surveyed agreed with the statement “the church is full of hypocrites.” You may have heard that statement from people who are without Christ. To be sure, those without Christ are watching us whose Savior is Jesus Christ. So, you can see how important it is that we need to live wisely among unbelievers because people are making decisions about Christianity based upon how they see the way we live.
Now, being wise doesn’t mean we have to be perfect. But we must always be about genuinely seeking to follow and honor God in our daily lives. Jesus said, “Let your light before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (NIV). Joe Aldrich, in his book Lifestyle Evangelism, put it this way: “Christians are to BE good news before they share the good news.”
There’s an old story from the life of Francis of Assisi. “Brother,” Francis said one day to one of the new monks at the Portiuncula, “Let’s go down to the town to preach!” The young novice delighted at the invitation. Together they passed through the main streets, turned down many of the by-ways and alleys, and eventually made their way out to the suburbs. Along the way, Francis extended warm greetings to passersby and purchased some fresh fruits and vegetables from street merchants. Then the pair returned to the monastery. As they approached the gate, the younger monk said, “Father, have you forgotten that we went down to the town to preach?” Francis replied, “My son, we have preached. We preached while we walked. We have been seen by many and our behavior has been closely watched; it was thus that we preached our morning sermon. It of no use, my son, to walk anywhere to preach unless we preach everywhere we walk.”
There’s a man who understood what Paul meant to walk wisely among unbelievers. When our walk with God is real and evident, it just naturally overflows into the lives of others. So, we must first be wise in our efforts to share the Gospel effectively.
Secondly, Paul urges us to be watchful in our witnessing.
• BE WATCHFUL
In the second half of this verse, Paul says, “Make the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 4:5 NIV). That statement may seem strange, but it is very well said when you know what it actually means. Get this: it is actually a commercial term and means to “buy up.” The phrase was often used to describe someone finding a really good bargain on sale and buying all they can afford because the price is so good. Have you ever done that? That is - making the most of their opportunity. Of course, Paul didn’t have shopping in mind when he wrote this, but he does want us to get the message to make the most of the opportunities to interact and share the Gospel with unbelievers.
Paul's emphasis here is that we need to be watchful and ready to share Jesus anytime the opportunity s arises.
One way to start spiritual conversations is what Bill Hybels, in his book Becoming a Contagious Christian, calls bridging. Bridging turns the conversation by using the topic at hand as a bridge to a related spiritual topic. And, this isn't Bill Hybels' discovery. Jesus, in His encounter with the woman at the well, is a Biblical example of "bridging." Remember how Jesus asked the woman for water? Then he told her that if she knew who he was, she would be asking him for living water. Jesus moved the conversation from something ordinary to something spiritual.
We can do the same thing. It starts with everyday subjects like hobbies, music, sports, kids’ activities, or even ordinary struggles, and then introduces a spiritual element to the discussion. For example, if your friend or co-worker is going through a difficult time—such as an illness or a financial challenge—you can mention how something you learned from the Bible, through a sermon, or guidance from a Christian friend helped you through a similar experience.
You may have a new neighbor - new to the city - and you are informing them of where to find the best restaurants, stores, bank, etc. That would be an opportunity to "bridge" to a spiritual matter by saying something like: “I also know where there’s a great church. It is a great way to make new friends in your new home.”
These conversations, at that time, don't need to be deep spiritually. At that time you are planting seeds, not harvesting the crop. But, the groundwork for deeper spiritual conversations is being laid.
Charles Spurgeon advised his congregation, “Try to turn the conversation to profitable use... Be ready to seize opportunities skillfully, and lead on unnoticeably in the desired track. If your heart is in it and your wits are awake, it will be easy enough, especially if you breathe a prayer for guidance.” That’s good advice.
So step one in Paul's battle plan for Evangelism is to be wise, and secondly to be watchful. Thirdly, Paul says to be winsome in our witnessing for Christ.
Finally, Paul instructs us to be winsome in witnessing!
• BE WINSOME
What do I mean by 'winsome"? The word carries the meaning of being appealing or engaging. Paul says, “When you talk, you should always be kind and pleasant so you will be able to answer everyone in the way you should,” The older translations say, “Let your speech always be…seasoned with salt” (KJV).
Salt enhances flavor and makes food appetizing. “Salty speech” in Paul’s day referred to the winsome discussion. It was the opposite of being boring. And that is often how unbelievers see Christianity - as boring, or lifeless, and too constricting. The point is—if you want to share your faith in Jesus with someone, or if you want to invite someone to your church, it needs to be done in a positive, pleasant way. No matter how much sense the message of Christ makes, we lose our effectiveness if we’re not courteous and kind.
Many times Christians are quick to condemn and criticize people who are living in sin. Or we rant about some moral issue in our culture, forgetting that there may be someone listening who is caught in that particular sin. When we’re filled with self-righteousness or criticism people feel judgment, not hope.
We need to be more like Jesus, who was the perfect embodiment of both truth and grace. Even when He dealt with sin, He spoke words of grace. The Bible says, after listening to Jesus teach, “All spoke well of him and were amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips” (Luke 4:22 NIV).
One day a lady criticized D. L. Moody for his methods of evangelism in attempting to win people to the Lord. Moody replied, "I agree with you. I don't like the way I do it either. Tell me, how do you do it?" The lady answered, "Well… I don't do it." Moody retorted, "Then I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it."
No matter how you go about sharing your faith, you’ll be much more effective if you follow the Bible’s Battle Plan as outlined here in Paul's message to the churches.
• Be wise: make sure your character matches your speech and behavior.
• Be watchful: take advantage of opportunities to start spiritual conversations.
• Be winsome: be pleasant and polite. Share your faith with a smile.
Someone once said, “Prayer is simply talking to God about people. Evangelism is simply talking to people about God."