to Person: A practical approach to effective evangelism
1: The True “No Limit” Message
by Jim Berlucchi
Christian message is no opiate to send
A few years ago I received an almost irresistible
offer. I opened my mailbox one morning to find an attractively designed
folder with this enticing offer: “How to be a no limit person.” Of course,
I opened the packet eagerly. The colorful brochure went on: “Yours for
thirty days risk free . . . the blockbuster audio program from today’s
number one success-builder and best-selling author.” Here was a six-cassette
lecture series which promised to help me develop a “fresh, dynamic, you-oriented
approach to career and personal life.” Now I could “break the barriers
to success,” and “achieve super emotional and physical health,” all for
a mere pittance, $10 for 30 days with “no obligation.” My every problem,
frustration, delay, and failure, could be turned to my advantage. I could
learn to live according to my maximum potential. This sounded like good
to sleep, it is no comfortable assurance
will be all right. It is rather
light which shows people themselves
are and God as he is.
In fact, the author of this series was offering
a glorious plan for personal success. Developed through his own life experience
and research, he passionately wanted to pass on to others the best thing
he had. He was inspired with “a purpose that shaped his own life – a mission
to help people succeed.” He was motivated by a consuming zeal to give others
the best thing he had.
What is the best thing you have? Are you driven
to share it with others? As Christians we should realize that we are the
real “no limit” people. God has given us eternal life in Jesus Christ.
We have received an entirely new nature through baptism in water and the
Spirit. By God’s power we have been transferred from the dominion of darkness
into the kingdom of light, and we look forward to a heavenly banquet with
God in our eternal home. We have received the magnificent power of God
in our mortal bodies, far outstripping the human power and techniques flaunted
in the brochure. Ours are new lives, characterized by power, joy, and the
wisdom of our Creator. If the “no limit” author is consumed by a passion
to “change the lives of millions of people,” how much more should we, who
have come to know the living God, desire to do whatever we can to change
We can change the world, if we ourselves are living
a full Christian life and are motivated to influence others toward a fuller
relationship with Jesus. But why should a Christian be involved in evangelism?
I can think of at least five good reasons. First,
Jesus commands us to spread the gospel. Second, evangelism results in a
deeper union with Christ. Third, the world needs desperately to hear about
Jesus. Fourth, telling others about Jesus is an exciting challenge that
produces joy. Fifth, helping others choose for Jesus saves lives – eternally.
Consider, first of all, that Jesus commands us
to spread the good news. Jesus’ words at the end of Matthew’s Gospel have
been aptly described as the Great Commission. “Go therefore and make disciples
of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded
you” (Mt. 28:19-20). These were his last words to his disciples on earth.
Jesus was not merely suggesting or encouraging them to spread the good
news (the great suggestion); he was authoritatively directing them, and
us, to “Go therefore.” The true test of our love for God is our obedience
to his will (Jn 14:21). Like it or not, if we are to love the Lord we must
be personally committed to evangelism.
Deeper union with
Spreading the gospel also draws us into a deeper
union with Christ. Just as we should integrate prayer, fellowship with
other Christians, and the study of God’s word into our lives, so too, should
we be witnesses to others about Jesus. Most certainly, personal evangelism
deepens our relationship with the Lord; it is a crucial life giving ingredient
in the spiritual life. Through it we learn how to draw closer to God, rely
on his help, and be led by his Spirit. As we take concern for others, our
hearts are transformed into the heart of Christ who came to seek out and
save the lost.
The world needs
the Good News
Consider also how desperately the world needs
to hear about Jesus. War, pollution, crime, divorce, loneliness, murder,
deprivation, and poverty constantly afflict the human species. Human solutions
inevitably fall short. God’s answer is life through God’s only Son. No
human being or society can be truly healthy apart from God. We who have
been given new life in Jesus Christ are the only ones who can offer hope
to a dying world. The need of the world cries out to each of us – in our
neighborhoods, families, schools, cities, and workplaces. We have only
to open our eyes to see the desperate needs of those around us. Once we
know their plight, how can we withhold from anyone, the only thing that
will satisfy or free them?
It is also true that the Christian life is the
most thrilling, taxing, and fulfilling of all lifestyles. One could reasonably
argue that the Christian faith is the only way to true self-fulfillment.
A life lost for Christ is the only means to gain life.
When we evangelize others, we reach out to people
we may otherwise ignore. We get involved with people’s problems and concerns.
We deal with the profound issues of life. We fight in prayer for others;
we persevere in meeting challenges; and we rejoice to see others experience
more of God’s love.
An eternal choice
We should always remember that men and women
have a choice to make – between life and death. We can easily forget that
Michael Green said it this way:
According to Ephesians 2:1 men and women
without Christ are dead. Their sin has cut them off from the life of God
as effectively as death cuts a man off from the life of his friends. Though
mentally, physically, and emotionally alive, people are spiritually dead
until the life-giving elixir of the gospel begins to circulate through
their veins. Society has lost its way. Jesus Christ came to seek and save
the lost (Luke 19:10). It is when we realize that our friends – our nice,
decent friends – are lost without Christ that we long to help them and
bring the good news to them.
He went on to say that there is simply no middle
ground. Either we stand for Christ for against Christ. We either live under
Satan’s dominion or under the reign of God.
“Why Bother With Evangelism?”
New Covenant, vol. 11, no. 4
No matter how much we would like to think that
the road to eternal life is wide and easily followed, the New Testament
tells us otherwise. Jesus will have none of our compromising. We are being
saved or lost, perishing or being born again. There is no middle ground.
An understanding of this reality can act as a
tremendous motivation to evangelism. C.S. Lewis puts it frightfully well.
It is a serious thing to live in a society
of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting
person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now,
you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption
such as you now meet, if at all, only in nightmare.
All day long we are, in some degree, helping each
other to one or the other of these destinations.
The Weight of Glory (New York:
It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities,
it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should
conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves,
all play, all politics.
As sharers in God’s nature and participants in
this cosmic spiritual struggle, we hold a treasure in earthen vessels.
Scripture likens us to the fragrance or aroma of Christ among those who
are perishing. The question that confronts each of us is how we can personally
contribute to this great process of salvation. Are there more than a chosen
and gifted few who can effectively proclaim the gospel? What is the full
message of the gospel? What are the attitudes and methods essential for
effective witnessing? How can we overcome fear, embarrassment and the feeling
of ineptitude we often experience in regard to sharing our faith?
Let’s begin by considering what is involved in
what I call everyday evangelism.
article is adapted from the book, Person to Person: How to be effective
in evangelism, © 1984 by Jim Berlucchi, and published by Servants
Books, Ann Arbor.]
to > Part
2: Everyday Evangelism
||Jim Berlucchi is the Executive
Director at Spitzer Center for
Ethical Leadership. He formerly served as the Executive Director of
Legatus, an international association of Catholic CEOs. He is the work/life
columnist for Faith
Magazine, and a published composer and recording artist. Sample audio
clips of his music are available online.
He served for many years as a community leader in The Word of God and The
Sword of the Spirit.He and his wife Judy reside in Dexter, Michigan, USA.
They are the grateful parents of eight children and enjoy a steadily increasing
number of grandchildren.