For pre-evangelism to be fruitful, at least two things need to be done. First, we need to redefine what we mean by evangelism. Most of us have been taught that evangelism is “proclaiming the Good News and inviting others to trust Christ.” Yet, a valuable element is missing in that definition. The missing element is simply that evangelism is a process. The apostle Paul said, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6). You and I may not be able in one conversation to share the entire Gospel with our nonbelieving friends and then invite them to trust Christ. But we may be able to help them take a step closer to the cross with each encounter.
If we equate evangelism with reaping, we may get discouraged in our witness when those we speak with are not interested at first. We may feel like a failure because we are not “doing evangelism.” As a result, many of us may pull back from the task of evangelism, partly because we don’t like to feel like a failure.
Christian writer and former Cru staff member Tim Downs concurs with this misperception about evangelism. He says, “We have come to believe that there are only two kinds of Christians: the harvesters and the disobedient. We must begin to teach, with great urgency, that every laborer should learn to reap and that God will call some to exercise this role exclusively—but everyone can learn to sow right now, right where they are.”
In the world we live in today, we may have to plant many spiritual seeds for a period of time before someone will seriously consider the person of Christ. We may have to till the ground before we have the opportunity to plant a seed. We are not called to bring all persons to Christ but simply to bring Christ to all persons.
In light of these concerns, it would be better to redefine evangelism in the following way: Evangelism is every day and in every way helping your nonbelieving friends to take one step closer to Jesus Christ. It may take some time for your nonbelieving friends to seriously consider the claims of Christ and make the decision to invite Him into their lives (John 1:12) and allow Him to change them from the inside out (Philippians 2:13). This means in practice that every day we need to ask ourselves, “What do I need to do today to help my nonbelieving friends take one step closer to Jesus?”
 Norman Geisler with Geisler, Conversational Evangelism: Connecting with People to Share Jesus (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2014).