HOW TO SHARE THE GOSPEL WITH THE LOST
Note: This file will need to be adapted for Apostolic church use.
In a consistent program of evangelistic visitation there is frequent opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Some
people have their own way of presenting the gospel, weaving their own story with the hearer’s story and with God’s story. However, most people who have learned to do this will have started with a structured presentation. Only after they are comfortable with their ability to present the good news clearly do they develop their own unique presentation. Even pastors and seminary graduates appreciate knowing a structured gospel presentation.
Callers should always present the gospel in the context of an established relationship. If you have been to a home several times, you have already established a relationship that may be used as a bridge for the gospel. On the first visit, you might make a
gospel presentation if the person asks questions that can be answered only by means of gospel presentation.
The Coral Ridge Method of Gospel presentation was developed by D. James Kennedy, pastor of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida and president of Evangelism Explosion International. (Many denominations have adapted this presentation for their own use. You can obtain one such manual from Church Development Resources.)
The Coral Ridge method suggests the following procedure: begin by conversing about everyday concerns; try to discern the
person’s needs and interests through your conversation. Then inquire about church background and offer some information on your own church.
At this point you might consider making the conversation more personal by sharing some of the highlights of your spiritual journey. Conclude the bridge-building with two diagnostic questions: First, have you come to the place in your life where you know for sure that if you were to die today, you would go to heaven? Second, suppose you were to die today and stand before God and he said to you, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” What would you say? The answers to these questions will indicate whether you need to explain the gospel to the people you are visiting.
Another effective form of bridge building is called Paul Little’s Conversation, named after the late director of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and described in his book How to Give Away Your Faith (published by InterVarsity Press).
The conversation suggested by Little takes place at a point in the visit when you feel it is appropriate to ask, “Have you ever wondered what a real Christian is?” In nearly every case the person you are talking with will respond in terms of what a Christian does: attend church, try to live a good life, and so on. Your response: “That’s all very true, but I am interested in your idea of what a real Christian is.” Then briefly explain the believer’s standing before God: such a person is born again, has new life, is a person whose sins are forgiven and who has a right standing before God. Believers are sons and daughters of the heavenly Father, people whom Jesus died for and in whom he lives. Conclude by asking, “Have you ever thought about becoming such a person, or are you still on the way!” Usually the person will respond, “I’m still on the way.” This is an opportunity to explain that Jesus Christ is the
only way to new life and to reconciliation with God.
Presenting the Gospel
The Coral Ridge Method. This method suggests perhaps the most complete of the gospel presentations. There are five parts:
1. Grace: Eternal life is a free gift.
-It is not earned or deserved.
2. Human Nature: We are sinners.
-We cannot save ourselves.
3. God: God is loving and merciful.
-God is also just.
4. Jesus Christ: He is man and God.
-He is our substitute.
5. Faith: Faith is knowing God.
-Faith is trusting in Jesus Christ alone for eternal life.
Each of the sections is completed with appropriate Scripture texts and illustrations. A more detailed outline, complete with
transitional sentences, may be found at the end of this chapter.
Bridge to New Life
One popular tool for gospel presentation is “The Bridge to New Life,” a small, attractive booklet that can be left with the host at the conclusion of the visit. (A simple guide entitled “How to Use the Bridge” is also available.) Following is an outline of “The Bridge to New Life”:
* Today many people are troubled by the world in which they live. However, there is good news from God. You can know God’s love and discover purpose in your Life. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (God’s love). Jesus said. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (God’s purpose). Why don’t most people experience. God’s love and purpose for their lives?
* People’s own choice has resulted in separation from God. People have chosen to go their own way rather than to obey God’s laws. As a result, a great gap separates sinful people from a holy God. Though they try to live without God, sooner or later they realize their lives lack meaning and purpose. They try to bridge the gulf and reach God through their own efforts, but even their best efforts fall far short of God’s perfect standards. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Sin results in frustration, worry, emptiness, guilt, and separation from God. There is only one answer to this problem.
* Jesus Christ is the bridge between people and God. Jesus said, “I am the way (bridge) and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” It is not enough just to know who Jesus is. Even the devil knows, and trembles. You must
experience this truth for yourself and act on it.
* You can cross the bridge by personally receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Only then will you experience God’s love and
purpose for your life. Christ must be in control of your life. Guilt will be gone because you are right with God; there will be love,
peace, and purpose in your life.
The pamphlet concludes with the two necessary steps: repentance and faith. It suggests a prayer to take these two steps and includes a page with follow-up hints. The pamphlet and its explanatory guide are available from Church Development Resources. (Similar material is published by the Navigators and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.)
The Roman Road
The Roman Road gospel summary is a popular presentation based on the book of Romans. It focuses on five verses that show
the progression from human sin to God’s offer of salvation. Those who use this method should memorize the verses and be
thoroughly familiar with their context. It might be helpful to underline the verses in the Bible or write the references in the flyleaf. The Roman Road presentation is an excellent tool in door-to-door visitation; in fact, part of training for evangelistic visitation might well include a thorough study of Romans with special emphasis on these verses.
The five verses in the Roman Road presentation are as follows:
1. Our sinfulness: “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
2. Sin’s penalty: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:23).
3. God’s provision: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8).
4. The required response: “If you confess with your mouth, `Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (10:9).
5. The new Life: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will” (12:1-2).
Evangelist Leighton Ford writes, “My only reservation in using the Roman Road is that I would prefer to start with God’s creative love and purpose before moving to man’s sin.” One way to do this is to introduce the presentation with a personal testimony.
The A B C of the Gospel
A version of this simple gospel presentation is taught in the visitation program “Night of Caring,” developed by Paul A. Cedar and published by Dynacom Communications, Inc. Dr. Cedar’s version is based on Mark 8:34: “Then [Jesus] called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’ ”
The three steps in the presentation are
1 . Acknowledge sin-deny yourself.
2. Believe in Christ-take up your cross.
3. Commit your life to Christ-follow him. Appropriate Scripture verses or examples may be added to each point.
A variation of the A B C presentation is suggested by David Watson, an Anglican minister whose literature on evangelism and disciplining is always worth reading. The following presentation is taken from his book Called & Committed: World-Changing Discipleship (Harold Shaw Publishers, 1982, pp. 154-155):
1. Something to Admit. You must admit your need of God. Suppose both of us would try to get to Japan by swimming the Pacific Ocean from California. You might get ten miles toward Japan, and I might get no further than two miles. But both of us would fail to make it. As far as our goodness is concerned, neither one of us can meet the goal. That is why the Bible says, “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
2. Something to Believe. Believe that Christ died to pay the wages of your sin. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). One of Jesus’ disciples could not understand why Jesus had to die. Later, however, he understood and wrote these words to the church: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Without faith in Christ, without total trust in him, we cannot be right with God. That is why Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus is the bridge across the ocean that separates God and us.
3. Something to Consider. Jesus is not only Savior, but also Lord. He must come first in your life. Jesus once called his followers around him and said to them, “If anyone would come after, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). Jesus rose from the dead not only to demonstrate his victory over sin and death, but also to be Lord of our lives. When he has become our Lord, we can say no to sin and selfishness and can re-order our lives to please him. That’s the abundant life he offers us.
4. Something to Do. Watson puts it this way: “Give your life to Jesus. As you do that, he will give his life to you, by his Spirit coming to live within you. When I said `I will’ at my wedding, it was only the beginning of a new relationship with my wife. We had to work hard at it, and it hasn’t always been easy. When you say `I will’ to Jesus, it is only the beginning of a new relationship,
and there may be moments of doubt, disobedience, rebellion, and so on. But working through the difficulties matures and develops any relationship.”
Inviting to Commitment
Gospel explanations frequently conclude with an invitation of some kind. By its very nature, the gospel is invitational. It is, in fact, a royal invitation because it comes from Jesus Christ, the King. And a royal invitation is a command. Paul told the people of Athens that now God “commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed” (Acts 17:30-31). Jesus told his disciples to disciple the nations by baptizing them “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
This commandment comes by way of urgent invitation: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making
his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). The royal invitation is
a gracious and compassionate invitation, extended with loving concern. Jesus phrased it this way: “Come to me, all you who are
weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and
you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
The Bible is clear that no one can genuinely respond to the gospel invitation unless the Holy Spirit has begun his irresistible work in the heart of that person. The Spirit can instantly prepare the heart of a person, but experience tells us that this usually takes place over a period of time. Callers who prayerfully rely on God in their conversations and who are loving and sensitive to others are soon able to discern where God is already at work. They know that the Spirit uses them and the gospel presentation/invitation as only one way to work his grace, so they are not put off when a person is not ready to respond the world’s greatest invitation, nor do they pressure and cajole. Nevertheless, they gently and urgently invite the sinner to come to Jesus.
There are several models for helping people make a commitment. Callers should become familiar with at least one such model and practice it often so that when the time comes to use it they will be able to lead someone into this great transaction with confidence.
The Congregational Evangelism Training
This training manual from Church Development Resources (an adaptation of the Coral Ridge method) teaches a five-step
procedure for helping someone take this step of commitment:
1. When the gospel presentation is completed, ask a qualifying question: Does this make sense to you? If the answer is negative,
briefly review the presentation and ask at each point: Does that make sense? When it becomes clear that the good news does not fall into place for the hearer, it is best not to go further but to suggest a Bible study of some kind, such as “If Life Is Eternal” or “Meet Jesus Christ” (a study of the gospel of Mark). Both of these studies are published by Church Development Resources.
If the gospel explanation makes sense to the person, proceed.
2. Say something like this: “Bill, I have just told you the greatest story ever told about the greatest person who ever lived, Jesus Christ. Now I will make you the greatest offer ever given. Do you want to receive this gift of eternal life that God is offering to
you by receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord?” The person may say, “Yes, I think so, but I wouldn’t know how to receive Jesus Christ.” If so, at this point, explain how this is done. Someone else may say, “I don’t think I am ready for that.” Often this indicates some intellectual or moral hesitation. Without offensive probing, seek to find out why the person is not ready-or request permission to do a Bible study together.
If the answer is, “Yes, I would like to,” then proceed.
3. Explain what it means to make a commitment. Briefly talk about salvation, sin, and service so that the person understands
that receiving Jesus Christ means not only receiving a gift but also repenting and serving Jesus as Lord. Here is one suggested
a. “There are three things involved in making a commitment. It is important that we know what is involved before we commit
ourselves to something. That’s fair, isn’t it! The first thing you must do is transfer your trust from yourself to Jesus Christ
as your Savior. You have to depend on what he has done through his death and resurrection to take away your sin and give you a
new relationship with God. The Bible says that there is no other name given through whom people must be saved. He is the only
Savior. Bill, do you transfer your trust to Jesus Christ as your only Savior, and do you believe in your heart that he died on the cross to pay for your sin and rose from the dead to give you a new relationship with God?”
b. “The second thing you must do is repent of your sins. Repentance involves being sorry for sins you have done, wanting to turn away from them, and being willing to follow Christ as he shows you the way to live in the Bible. Bill, are you sorry for your sins, and do you want to turn away from them and follow Jesus?”
c. “The third thing you must do is surrender your life to Jesus Christ. Up to this time you have been on the throne of your life. Now Jesus must be the Lord of your life. You do this not in order to earn your way to heaven or pay for this new relationship with God, but to express thanks for what he has done for you. Bill, are you willing to surrender your life to Jesus, to have him control your life?”
4. Now follows the commitment prayer: “Bill, if this is really what you want, you must say all this to God. I can lead us in
prayer, then you can repeat a prayer after me, and I can conclude with a prayer. Is this really what you want? Then let’s pray.” At this point, lead in a brief prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to give Bill faith and a new start in life. Then lead Bill in a prayer, asking him to repeat the phrases one by one. The prayer should follow the outline of salvation/sin/service as explained above. Conclude with a prayer of joy and thanksgiving.
5. After the person has prayed, you have an opportunity to explain that Satan will inevitably try to convince new believers that what has happened is not real. Lead the new believer into an assurance of faith, knowing that your word alone is not the final authority; only the Holy Spirit’s inner witness and the convicting power of God’s Word can assure a person of salvation. Use your Bible at this point and suggest that the new Christian read a verse like John 6:47. “Bill, I’d like you to read a verse of the Bible. Here in John, chapter 6, Jesus is speaking. Read what he says in verse 47.” Bill reads, “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.” Talk for a while about what this verse means and about the trustworthiness of the Scriptures. Ask Bill if he has put his trust in Jesus Christ alone for eternal life. If he answers yes, ask what Jesus has promised to him in return. Assure him that he can trust Jesus’ promise, and welcome him into the family of God.
Bridge to New Life
The Bridge So New Life booklet presents a simpler call to commitment, one that explains the two steps necessary in letting
Christ take control of one’s life.
Step 1. Repentance-being sorry for sin and confessing it to God. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Step 2. Faith-putting your trust in God’s promises. “To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Explain to the person you are calling on, “You can take these two steps through prayer. Prayer is talking with God. He has promised to answer when we ask. You can know God’s love and purpose for your life by asking him to forgive your sins and by
receiving Christ in faith.”
Use this suggested prayer to help the person take the two steps of repentance and faith: “Dear Jesus, I confess my sins. Please forgive them. I ask that you be my Savior. I also ask that you become the Lord of my life. On the basis of your promises in the Bible, I thank you for this new Life. Amen.” Then ask the person, “Is this the desire of your heart? Would you like to pray it right now!”
After the prayer, explain that if the person has prayed sincerely, Christ has personally come into his or her life as he promised and has bridged the gulf between that person and God.
Other kinds of invitations are sometimes appropriate. When the people you are visiting would like to further explore the good news, ask to come back and conduct a Bible study. Materials from Church Development Resources or other publishers are available to conduct a single Bible study or short series of studies. You may want to invite them to a special event at church, to a worship service, or to a Bible study group. In any case, clearly spell out what the invitation involves. If the people are definitely interested, offer to pick them up so that you can sit together. Finally, there are occasions to simply say, “I notice you have a lot of good questions. I’d like to explore some of those with you. Would it be all right if we came back next week? We’d like to come at 7:30 Wednesday evening.”
When a person makes a commitment to Christ, begin to follow up immediately. Give new believers a booklet such as “First Steps” and ask them to read it. “First Steps” immediately reminds the new Christian of five basic ways to nurture the new life: Read the Bible regularly, establish a time of prayer, seek out the fellowship of fellow Christians (often in a small-group Bible study), attend church on Sunday, and within twenty-four hours tell someone else what has happened as a start in personal witnessing. As you or others work with the new Christian, you can discuss these steps in greater detail.
A Complete Gospel Presentation Outline
The following gospel outline is the one used in the Congregational Evangelism Training manual of Church Development Resources. Nearly the same materials may be found in D. James Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion, published by Tyndale. The
reader should remember this is only an outline. The complete training in this method of witnessing includes much more information and detail, including such things as illustrations, further Scripture verses, answers to objections, and so on.
1. Their everyday life
2. Their church life
3. Our church
4. Testimony (personal or church)
5. Diagnostic questions:
a. Have you come to the place in your life where you know for certain that if you were to die today, you would go to heaven?
b. Suppose that you were to die today and stand before God and he were to say to you, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” What would you say?
Transitional sentence: May I share with you the good news that God gives us in the Bible? The Bible says that “by grace you are saved.”
1. Grace: Grace is God’s undeserved favor to sinful people. Eternal life (heaven) is a free gift. The Bible says, “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Eternal life is not earned or deserved. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Transitional sentence: We see more clearly that salvation is a gift when we understand the Bible’s teaching about human nature.
2. Human nature: We are sinners. The Bible says: `All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
We cannot save ourselves. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.”
Transitional sentence: We aren’t able to save ourselves. That comes into clearer focus when we learn what the Bible teaches about God.
3. God: God is loving and merciful. A familiar Bible verse says,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal
life.” The greatest description of God is simply “God is love.” God’s love is real, powerful, and genuine. But it is only one side of God. God is also just. He is the righteous judge. The Bible says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath rests on him.” God cannot simply excuse our sin; it is his very nature to be just.
Transitional sentence: God solved the dilemma between his love and his justice in a most amazing way when He entered our world, in the form of Jesus Christ.
4. Jesus Christ: Jesus is man and God. He is, the Almighty God in human flesh. One of his names is Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” At the same time he is fully human, subject to every weakness, except for sin.
Christ is our substitute. He lived a perfect life in our place and he died in our place. “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Through his perfect life, death, and resurrection, Christ paid for our sins and purchased eternal life for his people.
Transitional sentence: We can receive this gift of eternal life by faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to Acts 2:38.
Faith is knowing God. But it is more than intellectually accepting the historical facts of the Bible. You can know all the facts of the Bible without really knowing God. To know God means to love God. Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
Faith is trusting in Jesus Christ for eternal life. It is transferring your trust from yourself or your good works to Jesus Christ, trusting that his death on the cross was sufficient to make you right with Him.