The process of communicating the message of salvation to unbelievers.
“But sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord: being ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear” — 1 Peter 3:15
While in college I believed that the proper way to reach people with the Good News was to “fear” them into the Kingdom. I was a legalistic bible-bashing evangelist. Upon maturing in my faith and discovering God’s grace, I became a person who desires to wait upon the Lord and provide the Christ-like modeling of His truths that transforms a life. I learned that it’s not God’s club but God’s love that brings a person to a saving knowledge of His Son.
Throughout the year I’m privileged to share God’s Word with thousands through our conferences, retreats, men’s ministry programs, game dinners, family camps, etc. I regularly remind people that while some are called to be “evangelists” we are all called to do the work of “evangelism” – Matt. 28. Scripture tells us that we should always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks and to give the reason for the hope that we have. Following Christ’s approach we need to do this with gentleness and respect. It was the theologian Elton Trueblood who said, “Evangelism is not a professional job for a few trained men, but is instead the unrelenting responsibility of every person who belongs, even in the most modest way, to the company of Jesus.”
In his early years, the apostle Peter was an aggressive evangelist. His unbridled zeal for the Savior set him up for embarrassment and even shame before the Cross, yet the same man gave us one of the most succinct statements on the topic of evangelism to be found anywhere in the Scriptures.
I’m sure Peter struggled as we all do with the question of what is our part and what is God’s part in evangelism. His tendency, and previously mine, at times was to assume both parts! In time, Peter learned that the key is balance. Let’s take a closer look at this wonderful verse.
He says to “set apart Christ as Lord.” This is a reminder that Christ is your life. He is in control. He is your consuming passion. Since He is in control, you can trust Him to show you how, when, and where to share the gospel. Real evangelism, then, begins with surrender to the Lordship of Christ. When Christ is set apart as Lord, He will make your life so appealing to unbelievers that they will ask you about the peace and contentment they observe.
This brings us to the main point of Peter’s exhortation: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
Preparation takes time. The more prepared we are to present the evidence of God’s truth, the better God is able to convict and change lives. Again, this requires some effort on our part. But after all, evangelism is one of the primary reasons God left us here.
In the last part of the verse Peter instructs us to maintain an attitude of gentleness and respect when sharing with others. In other words, “be polite.” Communicating the good news of Jesus Christ with a sensitive and tactful spirit keeps us from offending others. The Cross is offensive enough (Gal. 5:11) to the unbeliever without a self-righteous attitude or condemning spirit getting in the way. Attitude and the spirit in which we communicate are as important as the words we say.
Most believers have a desire to share their faith with others. The problem comes in knowing how.
When Scripture speaks about “it’s up to God to give the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6) what does that mean? How are you faithfully sowing His Word and looking for those opportunities to share your story with others?