Sharing our faith in Jesus with others is hard. It’s awkward and cumbersome to explain to a friend who may have no spiritual background that we somehow have a relationship with a Jewish guy who died 2,000 years ago. However, we can find hope in the fact that Jesus didn’t have an easy time sharing his message either. He was not the Messiah that the Jews expected, and he was regularly judged by others for who he spent time with and the claims he made about forgiveness of sin and the kingdom of God. Through observing Jesus’ ministry in the gospels (particularly Luke 2-12), we can observe some principles for effective and kingdom-oriented evangelism that we can apply today.
Jesus Asked Questions
Before Jesus began any of his ministry (around 30 years of age), he was a normal Jewish person, the son of a carpenter, considered young by his culture. The only picture we have of Jesus in his youth is when his parents lose him at the temple and find him sitting at the feet of the teachers, learning about their religion and asking them questions. After this moment, Jesus continued to grow in wisdom and favor with man.
Before we can effectively communicate our faith to those who don’t believe, we must first learn what other believe. Just as Jesus had to have a deep understanding of Second Temple Judaism before he could effectively communicate the message of the kingdom of God, we must also understand what our friends and coworkers believe about the mysteries of the universe. We must be willing to ask questions about other faiths, with a vested interest in why other people believe what they believe.
Jesus Taught from the Scriptures
When Jesus was at his hometown of Nazareth, reading from the scroll of Isaiah, he announced himself as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the “anointed one” who would be filled with the Spirit of God and proclaim good news to those who need it. In communicating his claim, he supported his announcement with the word of God. Similarly, when we communicate the message of hope through Jesus, we should not present it simply as human philosophy but as the revealed message of God to humanity through the Bible.
Jesus Brought both Spiritual and Physical Healing
Jesus is commonly known not only for his esoteric message of the kingdom of God, but also his extensive healing ministry. When Jesus is approached by a paralytic who wants healing, he first forgives the man’s sins, shocking the crowd around him. Then, so that “you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” Jesus tells the man to rise up and walk, healing him of his debilitating condition. In a similar way, we must couple the spiritual message of the gospel with physical healing. This may take the form of feeding the homeless, helping single moms get back on their feet, providing friendship to internationals, giving aid to underdeveloped countries, or participating in social justice movements for those who are voiceless. Jesus accompanied his spiritual message with physical manifestations of the kingdom of God.
Jesus Called Everyone
Jesus didn’t communicate his message of freedom and grace to only a select few; rather, he broke down cultural barriers of race, socioeconomic status, gender, and political party in order to live out the unifying nature of the kingdom of God.
He recruited a tax collector, who was loyal to the oppressive Roman government and known for skimming money off the top for himself. Conversely, he also recruited a Zealot, who hated the Roman government and wanted freedom for Israel, potentially using violent means. Jesus was amazed at the faith of a Roman centurion, who was considered by the Jews as unworthy of fellowship with God because of his Gentile nature. He forgave the sins of a woman who was most likely a prostitute, who was considered by the Pharisees as unclean because of her sinful occupation. Jesus associated with anyone and everyone who would hear his message, and the ones who accepted it were not the ones favored by the religious community. Similarly, part of evangelism is reaching out to and spending time with those who may be considered “unsaveable” by the Church, such as bar-hoppers, those who are militantly opposed to Christianity, or people from another political party or country.
Jesus Told Stories
Jesus frequently used parables, or stories, for one of two reasons. At face value, parables were effective ways to illustrate principles of the kingdom of God to make them easier understand. Alternatively, Jesus also used parables to filter out those who were truly seeking the kingdom from the masses. The parable of the sower is an example of a story that fulfills both purposes, effectively simplifying responses to the word of God to four types of people, while also giving the disciples a chance to learn more about the kingdom than the average listener of Jesus. Similarly, we can use stories from the Bible, books, or our personal lives to illustrate the kingdom, and to engage our hearers to learn more about Jesus.
Jesus Trained Others
Jesus did not fly solo in his mission; rather, he commissioned a ragtag group of fishermen, a tax collector, a Zealot, a doubter, and a traitor to proclaim the kingdom of God. While he could have done it all on his own (and probably more effectively), he chose to spread the kingdom of God through the words and actions of humans, and we are to follow in his examples and pass on the skills and vision of sharing the gospel to others also.
Jesus Condemned False Gospels
Jesus did his ministry in the midst of Second Temple Judaism, where a group called the Pharisees strove to define Judaism as rigorous adherence to the Mosaic law. However, when Jesus dialogued with the Pharisees, he condemned them for their rejection of the true core of the law: loving God and loving others. Similarly, there are many false gospels of prosperity and works that challenge the core message of the gospel: salvation by grace, from sin, and to fellowship with God, and we can follow in Christ’s footsteps in condemning these messages.