Lifestyle evangelism calls Christians to live an attractive, winsome, holy life that captures the attention of neighbors and coworkers to earn a chance to share the gospel. Lifestyle Evangelism, a book by Joe Aldrich, defines this style.
Lifestyle evangelism combines proclaiming Jesus (Romans 1:16) with living a life that shows others the difference Jesus makes. Paul told the Ephesians, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1–3). Clearly there is a particular “lifestyle” that Christians are meant to live. 1Peter 3:15 says, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” This implies that our lives should be lived in such a way that others are curious about our faith and that we need to be able and willing to share our faith with others.
Some say lifestyle evangelism falls short or allows Christians to avoid sharing the gospel verbally, but true lifestyle evangelism requires telling the Good News in the context of personal relationship. Other strategies, such as tracts and media, are more direct but less personal.
Peter proclaimed the gospel verbally in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost and 3,000 were baptized into Christ (Acts 2:41 ). He, and others, also showed compassion by meeting the needs of widows (Acts 6:1–7). He both shared the gospel as well as lived it out.
The beginning of the church, as told in Acts, also shows us that Christians were known in their communities for their kindness (Acts 5:13) and shows us they told their neighbors about new life in Christ (Acts 5:20–21). Again, we see both the lifestyle and the verbal sharing about Jesus.
Paul instructed Timothy about his behavior and speaking the message of salvation in 1Timothy 4:16 : “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
Christians should not focus solely on showing God’s goodness nor solely on sharing the gospel verbally. Both are required and work best together.
An effective witness for Christ could be defined as a person whose life bears fruit for the gospel. Ultimately, when a person is saved, it is by God’s power (1 Peter 1:3-5 ), not ours, and as we speak the truth to unbelievers, it is important to remember that their salvation does not hinge on our speaking abilities or the strength of our faith, or how well we know how to explain things. Even in cases where we speak the truth very clearly and with conviction, it may not result in the salvation of the hearer. In the end, each person bears the responsibility for his own choices (Galatians 6:4-5 ). This should not be a deterrent, however. We are called to do everything in our power to witness to the lost, and to aim for effectiveness. Here are a few basic guidelines to being an effective witness for Christ.
An effective witness is humble. We cannot judge who will or will not accept the message of the cross, so we should be impartial and unprejudiced about whom we approach with the good news, remembering that our own need for salvation is just as great as the need of every person yet to be saved (Romans 3:19-20 ). An effective witness will approach unbelievers with kindness and patience, rather than an arrogant, quarrelsome attitude (2 Timothy 2:23-26 ).
An effective witness represents the Scripture. God has chosen to reveal Himself to the world through a book, the Bible. Regardless of whether this makes perfect sense to us, it is the way He chose to do things. We are called to be ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20 ). An ambassador for a nation speaks only what he hears his king or President speak—no more, no less. When we invent new gospels, or bend the truth in an effort to make God’s message more palatable or easier to accept, we are being unfaithful, and if people are converted, they are converting to a false gospel. The truth will always be fragrant to the one who desires salvation, and powerful to effect that salvation (2 Corinthians 2:14-17 ). We should not be ashamed of it (Romans 1:16 ).
An effective witness represents the Savior. Just as we are faithful to accurately speak His Word, we should be faithful to accurately portray His character. The world has an image of Jesus that is often incorrect, and we should strive to make His true nature known to them. Jesus Christ was not always nice. He rejected the hypocritical religious leaders of His day, pronouncing woes on them (Matthew 23:1-36 ). He spoke the truth with conviction (John 3:1-15 ). He confirmed the existence of eternal separation from God (Matthew 7:21-23 ). At the same time, He accepted the outcasts of society and forgave them freely (Luke 19:1-10 ). Nobody who wanted to be with Him was rejected. His focus was to save them, rather than to judge their sin (John 3:16-18 ). An effective witness for Christ will be intimately acquainted with Christ’s character and attempt to emulate Him.
An effective witness is honest. Not every mystery in the Bible can be explained or understood, even by the wisest theologian or the most studied scholar. If an unbeliever asks a question we cannot answer, we should not be afraid to say “I don’t know.” Honesty, and acceptance of our inability to fathom God, is not a sign of weakness, but rather a trust in God that is unfathomable (Hebrews 11:1-3 ). How can we hope to fully understand a God whose mind is so far above ours? But we are not called to fully understand, but simply to trust (Proverbs 3:5-6).
“And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.”
Mark 1:17 KJV
It is another Monday in the life of the world, and God is still in His business of faithfulness. For this reason, and many more, we say Thank you Father! By His faithfulness He sent His Son to the earth to seek us out. What a loving Father He is!
We are going to examine Christ’s mentoring pattern in the life of few ordinary local fishermen He turned to God’s generals. This can be classified into 3 parts: The Pattern, The Power, and The Prize.
1) THE PATTERN
After inviting His disciples into the ministry, Jesus Christ mentored them, and taught them the pattern of soul fishing. Now, looking at Mark 1:15, we will notice that Jesus’ original preaching had three emphases: the Kingdom, Repentance, and Belief.
“And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” Mark 1:15 KJV
How about if we back up through that verse to emphasize the three elements of Christ’s preaching.
First, Jesus’ preaching called men and women to “believe in the gospel.” This was the good news, that God’s Kingdom was about to happen. They were to believe that Messiah who was promised had come. After the Cross, the essential message would be, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). But we see that Jesus’ original preaching contained the essence of what we call today gospel preaching. From God’s Word we see that this is the way salvation is to be preached. We must be committed with all our hearts to preaching justification by faith alone.
Second, Jesus preached repentance. The Bible portrays a saving faith that is life changing faith, otherwise it is dead or non-saving faith. This element of the gospel has fallen on hard times.
The result is that in world today, there are multitudes of unregenerate “believers” who are comfortably situated in their churches and no one questions the authenticity of their faith. Belief is all that is necessary to become a Christian, but it must be a belief that changes the life. If you say that you believe, but there are no substantial changes in your life, you had better consider carefully whether you truly believe.
That is why in Jesus’ preaching and indeed in the preaching of the Apostles, repentance and belief are so closely bound together. Repentance plays like a musical refrain through the Book of Acts, where Paul sums up his teaching to the Ephesian elders by saying, “You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:20, 21).
Gospel preaching involves preaching repentance! Sadly, repentance has been reduced to little more than a whisper in much of today’s preaching.
David McKenna, who served with such distinction as president of Seattle Pacific University, once saw a prominent preacher walk out of a sermon in which a colleague insisted that the gospel included repentance from sin. Explaining his one-man protest march, the man said that “contemporary man needs a message of hope, not fear.” That preacher spoke only half the truth. Man today needs hope, but he also needs to recognize that he is a sinner in need of forgiveness and repentance. Unless sin is acknowledged and confessed, there is no hope.
Given our contemporary materialism and sensuality, we can be sure that if Jesus began his public ministry among us today He would begin by calling us to repentance. If He walked the streets of our town, He would call us to belief, but He would also call us to cease our adulteries, repent from our materialism, renounce our gossip and our jealousies, repent from our lying. Moreover, He would do it with urgency, just as He did then, calling out, “The kingdom of God is near. The time has come.” Our text literally says that Jesus heralded this truth, calling it out loudly.
Both in Jesus’ teaching and in His example we can see a pattern in principles that every soul-winner must emulate.
AVAILABILITY: Perhaps the most astounding truth of the New Testament is that God has time for sinners. The Gospels over and over again show that Jesus was available. Incredible as it sounds, with so little time to teach and train the slow-learning disciples, Jesus was always open to those who came to Him for comfort or healing. The Gospels never record Jesus turning down a request for help. Jesus always had time to invest in others. Even while on His way to heal Jairus’ daughter, Jesus took time to heal the woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years (Mark 5:21-34).
IMPARTIALITY: One clear truth about Jesus was that He showed no favoritism. Anyone – whether poor, sick, defiled, demonized, or outcast could approach Him. And the underdogs got to Him as easily as the wealthy and powerful. You can see no difference between His reception of well known Jairus or the powerful Roman centurion versus the Samaritan woman of Sychar or the woman taken in adultery. His impartiality was a declaration of love and tenderness to those He sought to win. The woman at Sychar gives a beautiful example. She not only was a religious outcast in the eyes of Jews but was an adulteress. She had had five husbands and was then living with a man to whom she was not married. Yet Jesus firmly but gently led her to the place of faith. Through her, many other Samaritans were led to salvation (John 4:7-42).
EMPATHY: Jesus expressed one emotion more than any other, compassion. Jesus was totally sensitive to the needs of those around Him. Jesus always recognized an open heart, a repentant sinner. Jesus never was out of touch, when the crowd pressed around Him, He felt the faith of the woman who touched the hem of His garment. “Jesus turning and seeing her said, ‘Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.’ And at once the woman was made well” (Matt. 9:20-22) Christ’s Spirit filling us gives us Christlike empathy to make us sensitive to others, and to lead us to them or them to us.
2) THE POWER
Jesus said, “I will make you”. It is not a trial run, a test drive. It is not based on mental calculations or human scheming as many indulges today. It is not by your incessant organizing church programs to collect offerings in disguise. No, it was a divinely energized mission. When we fall into line in obedience behind Him, we shall experience the undiluted Power of the Holy Spirit to do His bidding, He seeketh such as allies and delegates to do His work. And Jesus chose four and possibly seven men in the band of disciples who were professional fishermen John 21:1–3. He wanted to take their strengths and weaknesses and teach them how to be His servants working in His power.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus called so many fishermen to His side? Perhaps there are many reasons. Jesus wanted to supernaturally empower some of the character qualities of a good fisherman, which are:
DILIGENCE : Fishermen were hard working people; usually professional fishermen did not sit around doing nothing. They either sorted their catch, prepared for a catch, or mended their equipment. The Lord needs hard working people who are not afraid to work.
PATIENCE : A fisherman needs to be patient, because he knows that it often takes time to find a school of fish. Fishermen learn to wait. It certainly takes patience to win others to Christ.
EXPERIENCE : Fishermen must have good instinct for going to the right place and dropping the net at the right moment. Poor timing has lost many a catch, both of fish and of men. Fishermen must have skill; they must learn from others where to find the fish and how to catch them. Soul-winning demands skill too.
PERSEVERANCE : A fisherman must have perseverance. It is not simply a matter of waiting patiently in one place, hoping some fish will eventually show up. It is a matter of going from place to place, and sometimes back again, over and over-until the fish are found. These men had to work together, and the work of the Lord demands cooperation.
COURAGE : Commercial fishermen, certainly ones such as those on the Sea of Galilee, frequently face considerable danger from storms and various mishaps. It takes great courage to reach out of our comfort zone and try to touch a life in the name of Jesus.
HUMILITY : A good fisherman also keeps himself out of sight as much as possible. It is very easy for ourselves to get in the way of our witnessing, causing people to turn away. A good soul-winner keeps himself out of the picture as much as possible.
FAITH : But most of all, fishing demands faith: fishermen cannot see the fish and are not sure their nets will enclose them. Soul-winning requires faith and alertness too, or we will fail.
3) THE PRIZE
One glorious morning, the whole course of history changed as Jesus came upon some fishermen as they toiled along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Verses 16 and following describe what happened:
“As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen”.
The Greek tense explains that Simon Peter and Andrew were repeatedly casting their circular nets from the sides of their boat and retrieving them when Jesus called to them with what one commentator called a “sharp military command.”
“Come, follow me … and I will make you fishers of men” (v. 17).
When Jesus issued this challenge to the fishermen to drop their nets and follow Him we would expect a pause, some time of thinking it over, or even a hesitation. Not so, with the eye witness account of Peter through the pen of Mark we see instant obedience. Mark records Peter as saying that there was no pause, not even a second look.
“At once they left their nets and followed him” (v. 18).
What an amazing display of obedience! And to underscore it, the story continues:
“When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed Him” (vv. 19, 20).
These verse record what may be the most impact filled moments of obedience in history.
What did that choice mean to them? First their world expanded from life of the shores of an obscure inland lake to the widest global exposure there could ever be. When they followed Jesus that day their whole world changed! In place of Galilee came the world! John went to Ephesus, Peter went to Rome, and Andrew went as far as the borders of Russia! Jesus enlarged their hearts to encompass the whole world. Jesus expanded their minds to think the eternal. Jesus expanded their worlds to seek every creature of God’s image with the Gospel of Salvation. What are we waiting for? We are all called into this way, Matthew 28:19-20.
When people ask me what major lessons I learned while conducting interviews of new converts, my first thoughts go to the reality of pain, regrets and guilt among the youth. Many of them talked about struggles, hurts, and wounds. And most of those difficulties pointed to sex. This generation has a lot of sex, watches a lot of porn, experiences a horrific amount of abuse, and can’t quite figure out how to think about this ever-present-but-seldom-joyous issue of sex.
Evangelism today occurs in a world that is drowning in sexual problems, misunderstandings, and a hardening against the gospel as a result.
During the sexual revolution of the 1960s, when people rebelled against the “traditional” view of sex (i.e., it was to occur only within lifelong, heterosexual marriage), people knew they were rebelling! They thought the old ways were constrictive, repressive, and boring. They saw their experiences as liberating, avant-garde, and revolutionary. But, somehow, they still considered their practices as non-normative.
Today’s college students are so far removed from that time, they think their hooking up culture is the norm. Many had lost their innocence and life through social media outlets. They can’t imagine why or how anyone would or could wait until marriage for sex. There’s no reason they shouldn’t take birth control pills, carry condoms, and know where to get an abortion if an “accident” should occur. The ones having sex on the first, second, or third dates (certainly no later than that!) think they are the norm and would feel guilty if they weren’t in bed that early in a relationship.
And yet the painful expressions on their faces, the shameful tones in their voices, and their bewilderment at how such a “natural” act has delivered such pain haunts me even after concluding my face to face interviews.
They had sex because they felt they had to, pressurizes to, even if they didn’t always feel like they wanted to. A few men expressed profound disappointment that sex left them feeling “empty,” “lonely,” and “aching.” Women freely offered confessions of doing things they wish they hadn’t. Some said they now realize they were raped, even though they didn’t think so at the time and participated fully. And several said they “wondered what was wrong with me” if they didn’t want to join in the “hook-up-with-as-many-people-as-possible” culture.
Both men and women told me they felt relieved when they became a Christian, met a group of peers who thought sex should be postponed until marriage, and didn’t feel pressure to repeat things they now regret. In a few interviews, I said they didn’t need to tell me things they didn’t want to and, in most cases, they said they felt better after confessing out loud what had haunted them for a while. Quite a few of my interviews required tissues.
How does this impact our evangelism efforts? Here are a few reflections, but I think the church needs to do a lot of brainstorming about ways to alter our pronouncement of the good news to an audience involved in, pressured by, and damaged by sex outside of God’s parameters.
For a host of reasons, the church has sometimes thought shallowly about sex, going no further than “thou shalt not.” That hasn’t served us or the people we want to reach very well. We now need to reflect deeply about the beauty of God’s gifts and the power of cleansing offered through the gospel to those who need it so desperately.