Evangelism is a process, not an event!
Paradoxically, “the process” is made up of separate events which God uses in an individual’s journey to faith.
Jesus’ parable of the soils in the Gospels (Luke 8:4-15, Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20) sheds light on this reality. We’re called to sow gospel seed, which is the Word of God, and that takes time. The soil is the condition of a human heart, as Jesus explained, and is where the seed lands. As one bible commentator notes, “The soils do not represent individual moments of decision as much as a lifelong response to God’s Word.”
I was in college the first time I heard the gospel. My initial responses were outright rejection of that message. However, people kept coming and the Holy Spirit kept working on my heart. Four years passed between the time people began witnessing to me and the day I trusted in Christ.
By understanding that evangelism is a process, you will gain confidence and be able to balance the urgency of sharing Jesus while respecting people enough to give them time, space, and margins to process the truth.
I remember years ago I was at Brooklyn College talking to students about Jesus. I was sharing with an orthodox Jewish student and I asked him, “Have you ever heard this [gospel] message before?” Perplexed, he said, “Never in my life!” He certainly needed time to begin processing the gospel message, previously unknown to him.
We don’t know the condition of a human heart and we may not know a person’s previous exposure to truth or Christian witness. God does! Yet, we’re asked by God to engage and sow gospel seed.
One sows, one waters, but God gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).
This summer my family and I are gardening for the first time. Biting into our first spring onion was thrilling! We’ve been learning that the process of gardening is important. When you’re gardening, you have to plant seeds at the right time, you have to water just enough, you have to tend your garden regularly and you have to believe that your hard work will yield a harvest.
Giving too much information too soon, or sharing all your Biblical knowledge and everything you know about Jesus and the gospel is counterproductive in witnessing. It’s possible to nullify seed that’s been sown. A reasonable amount of water is necessary for growth as in a light summer shower or controlled watering. But a deluge from a big storm or a fire hydrant will wash the seed away.
We don’t have to overdo the process and upload everything we know in one sitting or event! Instead, we sow and water as the Holy Spirit leads, while leaving the results to God. Research has shown people who trust in Christ typically need several exposures to the gospel message before believing in Him.
Even Paul, though saved in a moment on the Damascus Road, heard the gospel in Acts 8 from Stephen’s testimony even as he consented to Stephen’s stoning. Paul’s persecution of the church wasn’t due to lack of gospel understanding but rather because of it! He simply rejected the truth until his conversion in Acts 9. One other note – there may have been believers who tried to share with Paul and who may have even been praying for his salvation (see Matthew 5:44).
Every person is on a journey, including you and me. And evangelism is a process. So enjoy the journey, understand the process, and trust in the Lord as you sow and water – leaving the results to Him!