Our small group is just getting started on a witnessing workshop designed to help us develop a lifestyle of personal evangelism. This is really important since so many of us—especially me—kind of stink at this.
One of the things many of us fear is getting the gospel wrong: saying the wrong thing that will somehow condemn a person to hell who otherwise would have believed. What our fears often reveal is a belief that the gospel’s effectiveness relies on us.
But, Mark Dever explains in The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, the idea that what we do makes or breaks the gospel may be what does the most damage to our evangelistic efforts:
…if you don’t believe that the gospel is the good news of God’s action – the Father electing, the Son dying, the Spirit drawing – that conversion is only our response to God’s giving us the grace-gifts of repentance and faith, and that evangelism is our simple, faithful, prayerful telling of this good news, then you will actually damage the evangelistic mission of the church by making false converts. If you think that the gospel is all about what we can do, that the practice of it is optional, and that conversion is simply something that anyone can choose at any time, then I’m concerned that you’ll think of evangelism as nothing more than a sales job where the prospect is to be won over to sign on the dotted line by praying a prayer, followed by an assurance that he is the proud owner of salvation. (111)
Evangelism is not a sales pitch, any more than we are responsible for the outcome of our message. The Triune God is responsible for the outcome—and we are called to simply, faithfully, prayerfully share the news.