Praying on bench

We cannot share in the Great Commission that Jesus assigned every Christian without effectively communicating with others. (Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20; Acts 1:8) If an intimate family of husband and wife, father and children, mother and children, struggle to communicate with each other, how are we to be expected to communicate well with strangers?

We must empathize with the people whom we are trying to evangelize. Individuals live busy lives, and then they face people trying to sell them things, people trying to get their vote, people trying to debate and argue ideologies, people trying to do them harm, and the list continues. This can force most people to shut out the noise by not talking with strangers. The good thing is we as Christians can communicate a message to strangers even before we say one word. How? We send a nonverbal sign to others just by being different in our appearance, conduct, or behavior. If we were to go to a very big mall [1] and sit watching people for a few hours, would we be able to pick out the Christians in the crowd? Therefore, before we say one word, we communicate by displaying a humble, unassuming personal appearance.

THE CHRISTIAN APOLOGISTIn addition, to communicate effectively, we must not be anxious or appear worried. If we are anxious, then the stranger we approach will be apprehensive. If we display a sense of calm and ease, he will more likely listen to us. What makes us less anxious? The Apostle Peter said that we must “always to be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope.” (1 Pet. 3:15) Certainly, a well-prepared person is going to be less nervous than someone not prepared. We will draw people to the Good News when they sense this peace of mind that dwells in us.

Communication is a two-way street. If someone tends to dominate a conversation, others will not want to listen to us and may leave. Christ followers need to learn how to be better listeners. If we ask a question, the other person must have their opportunity to speak, not be overcome by one’s zeal of sharing our message.[2] Moreover, we must demonstrate evidence that we are listening by looking the other person in the eyes and nodding your head in agreement. You can also ask to clarify questions that dig deeper based on what the person said. Obviously, we go out to talk to others, and we have planned the things that we want to discuss. However, those whom we speak with may have things they want to talk about, so we must be flexible.

One of the most difficult adjustments that must be made is one’s attitude. If one views himself as superior in any way, the other person will notice it. Christianity is the truth and the way, but one cannot be dogmatic in his or her expressions. Moreover, one will talk to liberal Christians,[3] who must be witnessed to just as any unbeliever because they must be led back to the flock. Therefore, suppose one witnesses to a liberal Christian, who is repeatedly making comments that are unbiblical. Correct his unbiblical view, but one ought to not go on a rampage of one correction after another. If this is the first time one speaks to him, overlook correcting him now. Build a rapport and establish a comfort level by finding common ground if possible. Yes, this may require a measure of self-control, as well as skillful tact. When you meet a second time, choose a topic that you know he raised the first time, and see if you can get him to reason on that one matter. If the other person jumps from subject to subject, it would be best to confine it to one area, but do that with discernment and sensitivity.

Reason With Them from the Scriptures

Again, do not sound dogmatic in communicating, but instead, reason with them from the Scriptures, just as Paul did on many occasions. In fact, it says, “As was his custom,” meaning that Paul regularly went to the “synagogue of the Jews,” to reason with them from the Scriptures, trying to convert them to Christianity. (Acts 17:2, 17; 18:19) To do this, one must be well prepared, which is exactly what any believer must do when one faces liberal or progressive Christians or others who have fallen away because of doubt. (Jude 1:3, 22-23) As one sees much wickedness in the world today, the pain, the suffering, and death have caused many to doubt the very existence of God.[4]

THE EVANGELISM HANDBOOKGod has tolerated evil, sickness, pain, suffering, and death until today to resolve the issues Satan raises. People become self-centered in thinking that this has only pained us. Imagine that one holds a rope on a sinking ship that 20 other men, women, and children are clinging to when your child loses her grip and falls into the ocean. Either hold the rope, saving 20 people, or let go of the rope and attempt to rescue your child. God has been watching the suffering of billions from the day of Adam’s and Eve’s sin. Moreover, it has been his great love for us, which causes him to cling to the rope that saves us from a future of the same issues.

Nevertheless, he will not allow this evil to remain forever. He has set a fixed time when he will end this wicked system of Satan’s rule. (Eccles. 3:1-8) Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman.” However, this was over 4,000 years after he had made the promise to do just that. (Gen. 3:15) Similarly, it has been 2,000 years since God’s Word has made the promise to end pain, suffering, and death. When the fullness of time comes, he will do that. One can take the person back to the beginning, and establish that it was man, who willfully entered human beings into this world of imperfection, and the issues raised, offering illustrations why those must be settled first, reasoning from the Scriptures.

What It Takes for Effective Communication

Matthew 11:28-30 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Jesus’ Yoke Is Refreshing

28 “Come to me, all you who are laboring and loaded down, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy,[5] and my burden is light.”

Yes, if we are going to be an effective communicator, we must learn from Jesus. What do we learn from Jesus? First, Jesus is “gentle,” which is the English for the Greek word praus that is found “three times in Matthew and once in 1 Peter … means ‘gentle, humble, considerate, meek in the older favorable sense’ (BAGD).”[6] In what sense was Jesus, “lowly in heart”?[7] With his knowledge and understanding, as the Son of God, he could have taught in Jewish schools, having some of the greatest Jewish minds as students. He could have taught the Jewish teachers themselves if he so desired.

However, Jesus chose to teach the lowliest of the Jewish world, from the seaside, fishermen. He lived and taught among the poor and the low in social position. It is a privilege to pattern ourselves after such a teacher as he was. This humility and lowliness of heart qualified him as the greatest teacher ever so it will qualify us, as we are taught by him, to be teachers of others. When we are lowly in heart, following in the footsteps of Jesus, we too will refresh others. A teacher who is gentle, humble, considerate, meek, will appeal to both the low and high in social standing. As those with a receptive heart found Jesus refreshing, this will be the case with us as well.

In Acts 20:19, it says that the Apostle Paul served the Lord “with all humility,” with “humble-mindedness” or “humility of mind.” The Greek (tapeinophrosune) literally reads “lowliness of mind.”[8] It is derived from the words tapeinos, which means to “make low,” “lowly, “humble” and phren, “the mind.” Paul told the Philippians that they were to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility [“lowliness of mind”] count others more significant than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:3-4) Paul also told the Corinthians, “Let no one seek his own good but the good of the other.” (1 Cor. 10:24) This quality of “lowliness of mind” will stop us from assuming a superior attitude or tone when we speak to others about God’s Word.

Additionally, if you want to be effective in your communication, one must follow Paul’s counsel found at Colossians 4:6,

Colossians 4:6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

CONVERSATION EVANGELISMYes, this is the reason that anyone has purchased The Evangelism Handbook, to “study how best to talk with each person you meet.” Certainly, patience and tact, which is skillfully expressing oneself when another person’s feelings are involved, are two qualities that establish effective communication. When one communicates with others, one’s words must be in good taste. Good speech will keep lines of communication open, but unwise, foolish, and careless comments will close those lines of communication.

A prepared person will not be anxious but will be relaxed, which will have a calming effect on their listener, too. But allow the listener to do most of the talking, to get at the heart of their thinking. One can never adjust another’s thinking because one does not know what is going through their mind. For example, someone could make a comment, and one could choose a phrase and give several minutes of feedback, which proves to be irrelevant to what the person meant. It would have been better to ask, “What do you mean by …?” Once the person explains themselves, then we can offer our thoughts.

Loving Communication

The characteristics of being gentle, humble, considerate, meek, modest, lowliness of mind, tactfulness and patience make the qualities of a good communicator. When a person also has selfless love, he or she becomes a great communicator.

Matthew 9:36 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and scattered, like sheep without a shepherd.

Mark 6:34 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.

“Harassed is from a verb meaning to trouble, distress. Scattered is from a verb meaning to throw down. The past tense used here implies the thoroughness of their oppression and its persistent effect on the people. These people were completely and perpetually discouraged.”[9] The Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day did next to nothing in offering enough to make common people feel pleased or content in their spiritual hunger. Rather, they made their lives even more burdensome with all of their rules and regulations that they tacked on to the Mosaic Law. (Matt. 12:1, 2; 15:1-9; 23:4, 23) The religious leaders revealed their true heart condition when they said about those listening to Jesus, “this crowd who does not know the law is accursed!” (John 7:49) Jesus’ selfless love moved him to “find rest for their souls,” getting on the road to life. Today, we have a message that is filled with love as well, and believers must offer love to people in a selfless way, too.

1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

But we became gentle[10] in the midst of you, as a nursing mother tenderly care for[11] her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own souls,[12] because you became beloved to us.

2:7. Instead, Paul and Silas chose to be gentle. There is no tenderness quite like a mother’s, and Paul dared to identify with maternal love and care. Greek writers used the term gentleness to describe those who dealt patiently and with a mild manner toward those who were difficult—obstinate children, unmanageable students, those who had not reached maturity and were experiencing the inconsistencies and struggles of development. Whatever difficulties the Thessalonians may have presented, Paul and Silas recognized that these new Christians were not yet “grown up.” So rather than dealing with these people in an authoritarian manner, they chose to be patient—like a mother.

It is a great lesson for the church today, because we have not always been patient with new or young believers. Sometimes we have cut a mold and demanded that they fit it—now. Instead of this approach, we need to see each individual’s need for help and encouragement as he or she struggles to conform to the image of Christ.

2:8. Here is a classic understanding of biblical love. To Paul, love is always a verb, it is doing. Feelings may accompany love, but they do not define it. Instead, the commitment of acting in the best interest of another opens the way for feelings: We loved you so much that we were delighted to share … our lives.

It is easier to teach theology than to love, easier to share lists than time. Paul gave not only the message of the gospel, but the example of it as well. He spent time. He shared joys and headaches. Parents and teachers, coaches and mentors, pastors and leaders know what it means to give part of their heart away to others. Love is not just a job. It is a way of life.

But note that Paul did share the gospel of God. He was balanced. He gave his life and love. He gave content as well. It is not enough to visit people in the hospital or prison, or to show compassion to the poor or those new in the faith. Somewhere, carefully and candidly, they must also hear the truth of the cross and what it means to trust and follow Christ.

Arguing whether the church should meet people’s physical needs or whether it should limit itself to preaching the gospel is like debating which wing of an airplane is more important. Both are essential![13]

The Apostle Paul started numerous congregations, one right after the other, from Antioch of Syria, throughout Asia, into Macedonia, down through Greece and Achaia. What made Paul such an effective evangelist? Was it his zeal for spreading the Good News? Yes!  The above says that Paul was “affectionately desirous” of the new Thessalonian congregation. “Here is a classic understanding of biblical love. To Paul, love is always a verb, it is doing. Feelings may accompany love, but they do not define it. Instead, the commitment to acting in the best interest of another opens the way for feelings: We loved you so much that we were delighted to share … our lives.”[14] The love Paul had for God and his neighbor made him a successful evangelist.

If our message is repeatedly rejected, is this a sign of poor communication skills? It could be, but keep in mind; most are going to reject the Christian message. The majority of the world will not be converted to true Christianity by the time of Christ’s second coming. In addition, when we consider Christianity as a whole, most are false. We are only after a select few, which are actually many when we consider there are seven billion in the world. Believers must be in search for those that are open and true, modest, and seeking. Have you done your best to be an effective communicator of God’s Word, when any opportunity presents itself? If you answered yes, and people still have rejected the message, they are not rejecting you, but they are rejecting God. If you answered no, then there is work to do.

 

Review Questions

  • Why must we be emphatic to the people whom we evangelize? What does the Apostle Peter exhort us to do, which will help us overcome the anxiety of witnessing to others? How is communication a two-way street? How do you address repeated comments that are unbiblical?
  • Why is it important that we improve our reasoning skills from the Scriptures?
  • How was Jesus lowly in heart?
  • How did Paul serve the Lord? Expound on the Greek behind the English translation.
  • What does it mean to “study how best to talk with each person you meet?” How can we get a correct understanding of what the other person means?
  • How did Jesus, as a teacher, as a disciple maker differ from the religious leaders of his day?
  • What made Paul such an effective evangelist? Why may we not be at fault, if many reject our message?

[1] A mall is a large enclosed building complex containing stores, restaurants, and other businesses and facilities serving the general public.

[2] However, people can get off the subject at hand, and begin jumping from one topic to the next. If this proves the case, do not overtake the conversation; just lovingly guide them back on topic.

[3] Christian liberalism is based on a departure from the traditional tenets of biblical Christianity. Often, liberalism within Christian groups begins with a denial of the absolute reliability and historical accuracy of the Word of God. Hindson, Ed (2008-05-01). The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics (Kindle Locations 11793-11795). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[4] http://www.christianpublishers.org/suffering-evil-why-god

[5] I.e. easy to bear

[6] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992).

[7] The heart ([kardia]) is the core and center of man’s being, the mainspring of dispositions as well as of feelings and thoughts. It is the very hub of the wheel of man’s existence, the center from which all the spokes radiate (Prov. 4:23; cf. 1 Sam. 16:7). All of this also applies to Christ’s human nature.―William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, vol. 9, Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001).

[8] W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Jr., vol. 2, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 314 (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1996).

[9] Stuart K. Weber, vol. 1, Matthew, Holman New Testament Commentary, 130 (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000).

[10] Some MSS read babes

[11] Or cherishes

[12] Or lives

[13] Knute Larson, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, vol. 9, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 23–24.

[14] Knute Larson, vol. 9, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Holman New Testament Commentary, 24 (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000).