I believe that deep down most Christians have a genuine concern for those who are lost. However, many of us tend to ignore our concerns because of our busy lives and the perceived challenges. We have brief conversations with our neighbors and regular interaction with those at work, but how to take the next step is overwhelming. How do I broach the subject? Where do I get the time to follow up? How could I possibly teach them? I wouldn’t know where to start. Besides, they probably wouldn’t be interested anyway.
First, it is important that we remember this warning from Jesus in his explanation of the Parable of the Sower: “Others are sown among the thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Mark 4:18-19). It is certainly understandable to not know how to introduce a friend to the gospel, but we walk on dangerous ground when we have allowed our lives to become so full of “thorns” that a friend isn’t even given a chance for heaven.
That said, let’s look at seven simple steps that start the process of saving a soul.
- Pray. In Ezekiel 36:37-38, God urged us to “ask him” and he would increase our people like flocks at the time of the appointed feasts. Never think you must rely on your own abilities, whether those abilities are weak or strong. Our human efforts are not what matters. If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, God will do great things. King Jesus is restoring his kingdom, and he will do his work through us.
- You need a church. You are not going to do this on your own. Paul states in Ephesians 4:16 that growth is caused when “every part does its share.” Therefore, the beginning point is to find a few Christians who would be willing to join you in a Bible study in your home, a nearby home, or even at a coffee shop or restaurant (Panera is great!). You will also want to enlist a good teacher, who is compassionate, gentle, and patient with outsiders (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
- Pick something fun to study – something you could complete in 8-10 weeks, or at least complete a “part one” of a book. Don’t start with a big book like Acts; use something more foundational that doesn’t immediately get into controversy. In other words, begin in the beginning. Ecclesiastes is an excellent starting point. Mark is good or one of the shorter epistles like 1 & 2 Peter, James, or 1, 2, 3 John. Just use the Bible, no question sheets or homework.
- Meet with your group before starting the study. Discuss the purpose and direction of the study. Our goal is to do what we do best and love most: study together, learn, and talk about the wonderful truths we discover in God’s word. Excited Christians sharing their findings in Bible study is infectious. This group study is not for the purpose of “preaching at our neighbors.” We want them to see and enjoy the Lord so that they are drawn do him (John 6:44-45). You might even do a couple practice sessions together prior to beginning the actual study.
- Plan the study two to three months in advance of the start date. During the time leading up to the study, members of the class can work on bringing a person they know from an “outer circle” friendship to an “inner circle” friendship. In other words, eat dinner together a few times. If you have children, invite families with children to your home for dinner, games, or just enjoying the company. Don’t worry about trying to bring up spiritual things unless it naturally fits into the conversation. If asked about your interests in life, be open about your love of Bible study and learning about God. That openness alone can often lead to an opportunity.
- Give the invitation. Two weeks before the start, let your friend know about the upcoming study. An easy invitation is: “A number of my friends and I have been discussing how we would like to find a time we could read the Bible together and I thought of you. If you are interested, I’d love for you to join us. Is there a good time, day or evening, that is best for you?” Of course, whatever time is best for them, is the preferred time to pick. We should also note that invitations can be given outside of our friends. Some Christians I work with have had great success by putting out an invitation on their neighborhood email loop. In one of our Spring studies this year, we had five visitors from the neighborhood that none of us had ever met.
- Be persistent. Don’t give up. Just like fishing, and just like farming, the most effective evangelism takes patience and will render its best results after two to three years. After the first series of classes, take a break and restart another study on a different Bible book and with new invitations. Restarting a class always carries with it excitement and renewed interest. Some who didn’t come at your previous invitation will become more curious and come to the new class. Please remember, it is God’s mission for us to get the gospel message out so that the “earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:9). Whether or not we have success in terms of conversions is not the way we are to evaluate the work. God gives the increase.
Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matt. 11:11). John was the greatest prophet up to the time of Christ in terms of his mission of preparing the way for the Savior of the world. However, our mission is greater; our work in the kingdom supersedes even John. We are God’s messengers to bring the kingdom of heaven to the ends of the earth. What an honor and great work God has given us. Let’s not fail him!