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Wisdom and grace
Effectively sharing Christ involves more than just saying the right things. When Peter and Paul urged believers to be ready to respond to nonbelievers, both emphasized the way in which we should communicate.

In Paul’s epistle to the Colossians, he said: “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”12 Paul stresses two essentials for effective witness — wisdom and grace.

We need wisdom to recognize when someone is ready to make a life decision to receive and follow Christ. Just as we should be prepared to lead people in prayer to receive Christ at any time, we should be sensitive not to rush them to a premature decision. No one can be forced to receive Christ. It is not enough for a person to comprehend and confess that Jesus is the risen Son of God. Faith must be activated in the heart.13

Viewing The Passion can make a powerful impact on a nonbeliever, and effective personal interaction will lead them even further. But bringing people to a decision to commit their lives to Christ is a work of the Holy Spirit. When we understand that the Holy Spirit is working in people’s minds and hearts, it enables us to be bold — depending on His persuasive work. We can also be patient — trusting His timing rather than trying to push people to a decision. Trusting the Holy Spirit can enable us to be neither hesitant nor hasty with people. We are to lead people to Christ — not push them!

Speaking “with grace” includes having both a message of God’s grace as well as a manner that is gracious. In his first epistle, Peter wrote that when we give people the reason for the hope that is within us we should do it with “gentleness and respect.”14 It is possible to share the right words but with a wrong attitude, such as a judgmental or condemning spirit. A contradiction between what we say and how we say it sends mixed signals that hinder the message.

The goal

This article can be viewed along with other evangelism helps online at Full-color booklets of this article can be ordered from Gospel Publishing House (1-800-641-4310). Ask for product #749145.

The decision to receive and follow Christ is the most important of a person’s life. We must ensure people have an adequate witness to make that decision and understand the cost of becoming a committed follower of Jesus. Our Lord’s command to us is not simply to lead people to decisions but that we “make disciples.”15

The apostle Paul clearly expressed that our ultimate goal in evangelism is to proclaim Jesus, “admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.”16

Our nation is filled with multitudes of people who at some time in their lives made decisions for Christ but are not following Him. Our objective is not merely to lead a person in a sinner’s prayer — but into a personal encounter with the risen Christ that results in becoming His committed follower.

Even if the essence of the gospel message has been clearly communicated, someone still may not be ready to receive Christ immediately. Encourage that person to read His life in the Gospels, beginning with the Gospel of Mark. Mark, the first Gospel written, is the simplest, shortest and most direct presentation of our Lord’s life. As people read God’s inspired Word, the Holy Spirit will enlighten their understanding of the truth. The Gospel of Mark is especially helpful because it is constructed in a way that answers the questions “Who was Jesus?” and “Why did He give His life?” and can be discussed with a person after reading the book.

The heart and power of the gospel is the story of Jesus. But also tell your story — of the change Jesus has made in your life and what He means to you. Sharing your faith and experience with sincerity and conviction can be compelling. When they sense the peace, hope and joy that are within you, it can produce the same result as the testimonies of Peter and John, whom nonbelievers recognized as having “been with Jesus.”17

A plan of action
Most of us know nonbelievers who will attend The Passion of the Christ. The visual depiction of what the Gospels record about the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord will make an unprecedented impact on many lives. While people’s attention is focused on the person of Jesus Christ, we must be ready to respond to their interest and questions. Following is a simple plan of action:

1. Pray for specific people who will attend the film, believing that the Holy Spirit will bear witness in their hearts to the truth and move them to a desire and decision to follow Christ.

2. Bring the film into conversation, asking, “What did you think?” and “How did you feel?”

3. Be prepared to talk about “who Jesus was” and “why He gave His life.”

4. Be patient, speak with gentleness and respect, pray for wisdom and grace in your relationship, and trust the Holy Spirit to work in the person’s life.

Randy Hurst is commissioner of evangelism for the Assemblies of God.

(1) 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV); (2) Colossians 4:5,6; (3) Acts 2:22-36; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 10:34-43; (4) Acts 17:2,3; (5) 1 Corinthians 2:2; (6) 1 Timothy 2:5 (NIV); (7) John 10:17,18 (NFT); (8) John 1:29; (9) Romans 6:23; (10) Mark 9:47,48; (11) Mark 8:31; 9:31; 14:27,28; (12) Colossians 4:5,6; (13) Romans 10:9,10; (14) 1 Peter 3:15; (15) Matthew 28:19; (16) Colossians 1:28; (17) Acts 4:13. All Scripture references from the NASB unless otherwise noted.

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