Jesus’ public ministry modelled the ways of God in evangelism. In the three years of public ministry, the disciples of Jesus watched Jesus model the evangelistic ministry for them. The key lessons from this time of Jesus’ public ministry are all recorded for us in the four gospels. These lessons are relevant to all who would follow Jesus today. According to the words of Jesus, those who believe in Him are supposed to do the same works He dids (John 14:12; Mark 16:15-20). Man’s unfaithfulness does not abrogate the word of God.
Some churches focus so exclusively on the pastoral epistles and the epistles of Paul that the exhortations contained therein are treated as if they were the only important instructions for New Testament Christians. It would be better to view these letters as God inspired teaching to supplement the teaching of Jesus as given in word and by example, in the gospel.
The lessons implicit in the gospels by the example of Jesus have not been abrogated by the epistles of Paul – nor does any church have the right to abrogate them (i.e. declare them null and void).
Jesus said, "As the Father sent me, so I send you" (John 20:21). Jesus said, "Teach them – the new disciples – all that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:20). So everything that applied to the apostles applies to disciples today. A disciple of Jesus is someone who learns from Jesus. It isn’t enough to be a "Christian" in the modern sense of the word. Lots of people say they are Christian, but they are not even aiming to be like Christ. We are supposed to go as Jesus went.
Paul said, "Imitate me, as I imitate Christ". I think we can see that this matter of imitation therefore is for all Christians. Does this imitating of Christ apply only to godly character and devotional life, or also to evangelistic strategy and methodology? If it does not apply to evangelistic strategy and methodology, the gospels spend too much time presenting things about Jesus that are not relevant to us. We can look for abstract principles in Jesus’ ministry of healing and deliverance, and excuse ourselves from the basic challenge of doing as the Master did in these matters. If we leave people who come to us in their sick and demonised condition, it won’t do to claim that we have all the power of God there is to have. It would be better to humble ourselves so that we might learn once again from Jesus, and follow His example, as recorded in the gospels.
Everything Jesus did was for the purpose of reconciling God and people. We are not called to die on the cross for the salvation of others as Jesus did. However, our suffering for the Lord can also be the key factor by which people will actually believe our testimony and come to know God (Revelation 12:11). We should be as compelled by the love of God to effectively bring the full gospel to others as Jesus Himself was in providing a gospel for us.
Willingly suffering for others demonstrate true love. This is a missing key which separates us from the experience of the early church. Many are not so willing to voluntarily suffer for the salvation of others. Our unwillingness to undergo lengthy fasts is a case in point. They cause us mental, emotional or perhaps physical suffering – but they are a proven way to release the glory of God on the earth! To the extent that we avoid this kind of voluntary suffering for others we cut ourselves off from true intimacy with the heart of Jesus Christ. "Remember those in prison as if chained with them". (Hebrews 13:3). Do we take this seriously?
In order to be effective, we as Christians must embrace the suffering of the cross personally. As Paul explained in 2 Corinthians 4:11,12, death must work in the messenger of God so that life can work in the hearers. Resurrection life comes out of the painful deaths that we are called to embrace. Nor is it by financial or political power, but by the Spirit of God that the work of God is done (Zechariah 4:6). We cannot avoid this call to suffer with Jesus by simply using our financial and political influence for the Lord’s purposes.
Give Grace to People First
Apart from embracing suffering so that others can be saved (for example in fasting), there is the order in which Jesus did things in reaching out to people. Again we are often guilty of adopting a methodology which serves our own convenience more than the purposes of God. For example, in evangelism, we might begin with giving people a message, inviting them to repent and believe. We then may pray for their healing or other needs. After that, if we are spiritual we may take them out for lunch – finally, we might even bless them in some way! Jesus instructed his 70 disciples in Luke 10 to do things in exactly the reverse order to what we normally do them! Here are those things:
1. Whatever house you enter, bless it with peace.
2. Eat such things are put before you (fellowship)
3. Heal the sick that are there (meet needs, demonstrate the power)
4. Say the Kingdom of Heaven has come near you.
Once people understand the message of the Kingdom of Heaven, which by the way is much broader in scope than the message of how to receive personal forgiveness from God, they are well prepared to repent and begin a life of discipleship for the Lord. However, it may take some time to get to this point with some people. However, if we follow the method of the Lord, it will often produce results far more quickly than the method of delivering a confrontational message and calling for a response.
Unbelievers generally know that if they come to church they will be challenged to make a commitment. However, its often true that people fall away after the initial commitment. Perhaps part of the reason is that they have not known the unconditional love and grace from Christians before they were invited to consider their relationship to the Kingdom of God. Therefore, when they are sorely tempted, and fail, they can easily feel like a lost cause, and for reasons of shame avoid the very people who will be encouraging them to take steps forward for Christ. If people have experienced grace and blessing from us while they were unrepentant, and have entered into fellowship with us first, they will be less likely to fall away.
During this initial steps we must avoid the temptation to call for conversion too quickly. I do believe that God could use us to bring prepared people to the Lord very quickly indeed, but these situations are not the rule. Instead of rushing to a place of challenging the person to repent, we should build a rapport with the person, bless them spiritually, come in a spirit of peace, and build a relationship with them where they begin to trust us enough to share their needs with us. This will give us an opportunity to bring God into it. This process could take anything from 5 minutes to several years.
Demonstrate God’s Kingdom and Kingly Power
God loves to show his love and power to lost people. He is so willing to heal them if we lay hands of them as Spirit-filled believers and expect healing power to work in them as we command mountains of sickness and disease to go. It is much easier to get a non-believer to receive healing than it is to get a Christian to experience the same. Of course, we must be spiritually disciplined in prayer, fasting and the word to get maximum results. Our preparation time before entering into active mission, and our times of prayer are absolutely vital. It is important to have people backing up soulwinners with intecessory prayer.
After people experience God’s miracles, evangelism is simple. The message of the Kingdom, and of the cross and resurrection can be shared, and a call for commitment to Christ made. People can be encouraged to make peace with God, to receive God’s gift, to let God work in their life.
If possible, pastor people before you evangelise them
If we have truly shared the spirit of love, grace and mercy of the Lord with the unsaved people we are attempting to reach, if we have taken time to be with them, share food with them and listen to them until they are ready to open their hearts to us, then this process of relationship will continue after we bring the gospel to them also. Discipleship will therefore occur naturally as the people feel safe with us. They know we are there to bless them, and build them up, not to judge them. It is true that the Word of God will bring judgment on various issues as time goes on, but it must always happen in a spirit of grace. Jesus was patient with his disciples when they failed also!