- Sharing the gospel begins with a conversation. The conversation does not have to immediately center on Jesus or the Bible, but there needs to be a conversation. In fact, Jesus did not ask to do something for the woman, he asked the woman to do something for him. Jesus put himself in the position of the one who was in need so that he could supply the woman with a much greater need. Start a conversation. “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14)?
- Cultural barriers need to be ignored. No other Jew would have spoken to this woman much less have been willing to drink from her “unclean” container. Christians have too often limited their “contact” list to those who are like them. The result is local churches becoming a homogenous group of people that have excluded major portions of the community. This does not only have to do with racial boundaries. Churches that set standards of formal attire in worship will place artificial barriers to those who are poor or culturally different. Paul commanded moderate dress and warned against an emphasis on dress (1 Tim. 2:9-10). The same is true with churches that set a standard of sloppiness. Extremes push people away.
- Jesus was content to teach one person. Too often evangelism is about doing something big. “Let’s go door to door.” “Let’s hand out tracts.” “Let’s have an advertising campaign.” “Let’s start a radio program.” “Let’s have an ‘invite-your-neighbor’ Sunday.” While some of these things can have limited success, for the most part these are labor-intensive methods that tend to be impersonal. How did first century Christians spread the gospel to the world in 30 years? They had conversations with friends and people they met. Nothing is more effective than one-on-one conversations that lead to Bible studies about the Lord.
- Teaching one person can open many doors. Just one conversation and the whole city of Sychar heard the gospel. The people with whom we connect and share Christ open doors to a whole new circle of friends and opportunities. This is exactly how evangelism spread in the first century and how it spreads today. In contrast, Jesus’ disciples went into the town and bought food, but never taught one person. Jesus never entered the town, taught one person and converted the whole town.
- Sin and obtaining ‘life’ is the key to a good conversation. The woman was obviously somewhat content living with a man who was not her husband, until Jesus pointed out that “living water” was not accessible while one continues in sin. Just as with the woman, most today “bury” their sin and live as if God does not see or care. The gospel is for sinners and until a person is convicted of sin the living water will not be attractive.
- Sharing the gospel includes both sowing and reaping. As Jesus said, “One sows and another reaps” (37). The process of saving souls does not happen all at once. We must not expect instantaneous conversions, and in doing so, become pushy or overload a person with too much information. Jesus was direct, but he did not push. He allowed the woman to walk away and then come back for more. After Jesus did the sowing, the apostles entered into the harvest. Don’t do more harm than good by destroying an opportunity that another Christian at another time can use in the harvest.
- Open your eyes to opportunities around you. Jesus challenged the disciples to “lift up your eyes.” The fact that they entered the city and had to interact with a number of people in order to buy food shows how they were thinking only of themselves and not of the spiritual needs of those around them. We are no different. We easily move through our day without even a thought or prayer for those with whom we are in contact. Our conversations are typically too shallow to be meaningful and our lives too self-centered to be effective.
- Sharing the gospel is urgent. “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? … See that the fields are white for harvest.” Opportunities slide by quickly. To wait or put them off for a “better day” is to invite eternal ruin for those who do not know Christ. I have had people I knew die without the gospel because I was waiting for a “convenient” time to talk to them. “Now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).
- Sharing the gospel requires being inconvenienced. Jesus and the apostles were simply passing through Samaria. They had places to go and things planned. But when the opportunity arose, Jesus delayed his trip and stayed two days teaching the Samaritans. We have too often so filled our schedules with our own plans and with Christian friends that we do not have time to become a friend of sinners (Luke 7:34). Nothing in this world is a valuable as a soul and we best not put temporal things before that value.
- Nothing will fill us like the enlightened eyes of a lost soul. Jesus said, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” When Jesus described the disciples of his kingdom, he said, “You are the light of the world.” As humans, we tend to grasp at earthly pleasures seeking something to fill the void within. But saving lost souls gives us eternal purpose and makes an eternal difference. That is true food!