June 14, 1980 will always be a special day for me. It was the day I married Donna Dodds. Donna and I met in college, dated for a year and a half, and then we married. Frankly, I would have married her after our first date! She loved the Lord, she was beautiful, and she felt called to serve in full-time Christian ministry. After we prayed on that first date, I knew it was the beginning of something that would last for a lifetime.
After our wedding ceremony, we drove to the hotel. En route, we both became thirsty and stopped at a Dairy Queen to buy soft drinks. I walked into that tiny fast-food restaurant in Jackson, Tennessee, and something came over me. Before I knew it, I shouted out to everyone present, “I just got married!” The place immediately erupted with cheers and applause. We celebrated together, I purchased our soft drinks, and then went back to the car and told Donna what I had done. We laughed and drove away. I had shared some really good news that I just could not keep to myself!
Have you ever been so excited about something that you had to share it with others? That’s the way it should be with every Christian. We should be so enthusiastic about the fact that Jesus is our Lord and Savior that we cannot contain the good news.
I remember the first person I ever led to Christ. He was a cafeteria worker at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ camp in North Carolina. I was an eighteen-year-old college student, alone with this stranger, doing the best I could to share Jesus with him. Then came that moment when I asked if he would like to follow Jesus. My heart was beating rapidly when he answered, “Yes, I would.” I then helped him call on the name of the Lord for salvation by leading him in a “sinner’s prayer” through which he repented of his sin, believed that Jesus died for his sins and rose from the dead, and received Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Afterwards, I gave him a Bible and encouraged him to read a chapter a day in the Gospel of John. We prayed together, shook hands, and parted ways.
I was on cloud nine! I’ll never forget what it felt like to lead someone to faith in Jesus. It changed his life and mine. Nothing is more thrilling and fulfilling for a Christian than to lead a lost person to Jesus. That night, I asked the Lord to help me become a soul-winner.
Admittedly, since then, I’ve been slack at times in my efforts to share Jesus. Yet the Lord has helped me to discipline myself to witness and share the Gospel one-on-one with many lost people.
As a senior pastor since 1983, I have seen many people give their hearts to Christ after I have preached Gospel sermons in public settings. Yet I can honestly say that I still get more excited when God uses me to lead one lost person to Him through personal evangelism than I do when people get saved after I preach. Again, nothing is as thrilling as leading someone to faith in Jesus Christ. Absolutely nothing!
We live in a day when personal evangelism is in a state of decline among evangelical Christians, even among my own faith family, the Southern Baptist Convention. At the time of this writing, our seminary enrollments may be up a little. However, our baptismal numbers for new converts are down—way down. Many leaders in our day emphasize “making disciples,” and rightfully so (cf. Matt. 28:18-20). But too often, “making disciples” has degenerated into simply gathering together people who are already Christians to engage in Bible study, prayer, Scripture memory, and so forth. They might occasionally go on a mission trip or enjoy fellowship at someone’s home. But rarely, if ever, do they verbally share the Gospel with lost people.
Is that what Jesus had in mind when He commanded His followers in the first century to “make disciples of all the nations”? Absolutely not! To make a disciple obviously includes first sharing Jesus and winning a lost person to faith in Christ.
Jesus commands His followers in Matthew 28:18-20 to (1) make disciples, (2) baptize disciples, and (3) teach disciples. Again, the phrase, make disciples includes sharing Jesus with lost people. It involves leading them from a state of being lost and en route to Hell to a state of being born again, regenerated by the Spirit of God, and on their way to Heaven. If not, then there is no evangelism in the text above that we refer to as the Great Commission. The earliest Christians were evangelistic soul-winners that verbally shared Jesus with lost people!
At Bellevue Baptist Church, our mission statement is: “Love God, Love People, Share Jesus, and Make Disciples.” That third part of our Mission Statement—Share Jesus—is crucial. At Bellevue, we have four questions that we ask ourselves constantly to measure whether we are accomplishing our mission to “Share Jesus.” Those questions are:
- Am I prepared to share the Gospel?
- Am I proactively developing relationships with lost people?
- Am I engaged in local witnessing opportunities?
- Am I taking the Gospel to the nations?
These four measures help us focus on engaging in biblical, intentional, verbal evangelism. Because of these measures, we are more likely to share Jesus with lost people and win them to Him in salvation.
I wrote a book on prayer entitled Pray Like It Matters. The title came from my conviction that when we pray, God does things that He would not have done had we not prayed. Our prayers really do matter in what happens on earth. When we touch God in Heaven with our prayers, God touches earth with His answers. Our lives are literally the culmination and result of both the prayers we have prayed and the prayers we have not prayed. Undeniably, our prayers matter. Prayer “changes things.”
In the same regard, when we share the Gospel with lost people, God saves people that He would not have saved had we not shared Jesus. Our sharing Jesus/witnessing/evangelism/soul-winning does matter! When we share Jesus, people will enjoy a higher quality of life during their time on earth than they would have apart from Christ. They will also go to Heaven when they die instead of going to Hell.
As I mentioned earlier, sharing Jesus/witnessing/evangelism/soul-winning has fallen on hard times. The very term, soul-winning, is often labeled as archaic or antiquated among modern evangelical Christians.
Nevertheless, soul-winning is a biblical concept! The Apostle Paul said,
What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win (1 Cor. 9:18-24).
Paul uses the word win six times in this text to refer to leading people to faith in Jesus. Paul was a soul-winner! Likewise, God wants you to run the Christian race “in such a way that you may win” lost people to Jesus!
I have written Share Jesus Like It Matters for two reasons. First, I want to show you why you should share Jesus with lost people. Second, I want to show you how you can share Jesus with lost people. In the following pages you will learn how to identify, pray for, and share Jesus with non-Christians.
I encourage you to commit to memory the Scripture verses listed in these chapters as well as the Gospel outline. You will learn how to intentionally, proactively, scripturally, politely, and verbally engage people with the Gospel. When that happens, you will see results. Some will reject Jesus; others will accept Him. Regardless, your job is to give them the Gospel. Your witnessing will honor Christ, bless you, and change the lives and eternities of those with whom you share!
Christian, it’s time for you to win precious souls to Christ. It’s time for you to Share Jesus Like It Matters!
Steve Gaines, PhD
Bellevue Baptist Church
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