Paul wrote: “I make myself a slave to everyone to win as many people as possible” (1 Cor. 9:19). Paul’s evangelistic method was simple. He served the needs of others. He evangelized by involving himself. God’s communicative strategy is to be a living epistle, read by all men (2 Cor. 3:2-3).
The redemptive person is winsome. He does not beat people into submission by arguments. He is like a fragrant and attractive aroma. When the Bride is beautiful, people’s heads are turned. Beauty attracts them to the Gospel.
The effective evangelist is like a farmer. Reaping involves months of cultivation. The soil must be nurtured, and then comes the harvest. Logos, ethos, and pathos must all be present. Logos is the message that must be verbalized. But words are not enough. Ethos speaks of our character, pathos of our compassion. Effective evangelism combines truth with integrity and love. In other words: no serving, no winning.
I have to admit that when it comes to serving my faith gets thin. I am not a servant by nature. I am a getter, not a giver. I suspect Paul knew the same struggle. “Don’t we have the right…?” he asked (1 Cor. 9:4-18). My old man agrees. “The way up is up,” it says. But with God the way up is always down. “But we did not take advantage of these rights!” exclaimed Paul. Like his Master, Paul was powerful because he chose to be a towel wearer and a basin bearer. It’s an interesting paradox: Christianity’s greatest leaders have always been people of great humility.
I am learning to live my life with a giving spirit. I am learning that love and service in the name of Jesus is what it’s all about. I am learning to jettison anything that might detract from the mission, good as those things may be. People are vulnerable to love, not academic titles.
The Bible’s evangelistic strategy is clear. Depend on and trust in God. Willingly submit to His agenda each day. Establish redemptive relationships with people. Then love them to the point of the cross.
October 14, 2006
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.