In Acts 8, Luke follows the adventures of Philip, one of the Christians who fled Jerusalem during Saul’s persecution. Chapter 8 becomes for us a tutorial on how to witness for our faith, the first lesson being found right away in verse 4 which tells us that Philip and all the others who scattered “went about preaching the word.” There’s an important evangelism principle in their example: To be an effective witness for Christ, look for open ears. In other words, look for opportunities to share your faith wherever you go, with whomever you meet.
As Philip and the rest went through the struggle of relocating, they talked about Jesus – presumably to their version of the real estate broker, or the parent at the playground, or the guy at the gas station. It’s the Great Commission in action – Go and make disciples of all nations – though usually our English Bibles get the grammar slightly wrong. The Greek word usually translated “go” is not in the imperative mood. The one command of this verse is to “make disciples”. Grammatically, the word “go” is a participle – it should be translated “going”, or more properly, “as you are going”.
Do you see the difference? If “Go” is a command, then Jesus is saying, “Okay, drop everything, get out there, knock on doors, talk to strangers on the streets.” If “Go” is a participle, then Jesus is saying, “Go on with your life, and as you live it, look for opportunities to talk to people about me.”
Somehow over the years, the idea of telling others about the Lord we love became thought of as an unnatural thing, and I wonder if this is one of the reasons. Not everybody has the ability, or the gift-mix, or the personality to “go”. For some, that would be unnatural. But everybody can plant seeds for the gospel as they’re going about their daily lives, by influencing the people in their relational orbits for Jesus. Why wouldn’t you talk about someone you love so deeply, who has changed your life so profoundly for the better? That’s natural.
One of the practical lessons to be drawn from thinking of evangelism in this way is to learn how to share in authentic spiritual conversations with others. My best suggestion for developing this skill is to start thinking through in advance things that I might say. I’ll actually write out sound-bite responses to hypothetical questions people might ask, then practice them. We should actually let our ears hear our lips saying things like, “I follow Jesus.” Or “There’s never been anyone like Jesus Christ.” Or “I read the Bible everyday. There’s such power in it.”
Then there’s a second part to our preparation. Start to think through, write down, then master short 30-60 second stories to back up each of those claims you are making. If someone were to ask you, “What do you mean, there’s no one like Jesus?” or “What do you mean, Jesus has changed your life for the better?” what would you say next?
Don’t forget, Philip and the others had been trained up by the apostles themselves how to do this. They’d been sitting in on all-day teaching sessions right there in the temple, hearing and memorizing the gospel stories, learning the Scriptures, and mastering the doctrines (Acts 2:42,46). Even though they were each filled with the Holy Spirit, they still received instruction. Our knowledge is the cannonball and the Holy Spirit is the cannon. You need both. This is why Peter tells us, “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you,” (1 Peter 3:15).
So when’s the last time you read a book or listened to a podcast about evangelism or witnessing or apologetics? When’s the last time you wrote out a 60-second story? Figure that out. Write it out. Speak it out. Then when we come across open ears, you just might see some special things start to happen.
Write out a question that you could see someone asking in a spiritual conversation. Then write out a 30-second response to the question, and learn it well enough to share it.
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