Timeless Tips on Evangelism from the Apostle Paul

You’ve met the type. You may BE the type. Gung-ho for missions! Ready to take the world for Christ! Willing to go “way over there” to the “ends of the earth” to proclaim the Good News! Excellent! I’ve met many who fit this bill. Unfortunately, many of them have neither the ability nor the desire to communicate the Gospel “right here,” in their own country with their own people using their own language. How then, will they effectively communicate Christ cross-culturally? Perhaps some timeless tips from the Apostle Paul are in order.

You’ve met the type. You may BE the type. Gung-ho for missions! Ready to take the world for Christ!

Throughout the second half of the book of Acts Paul sets forth his case for Christianity over and against any other religion or philosophy. He does so employing trans- or supra-cultural principles that work in any culture, with any people, in any language. Acts 17:16-34 provides a particularly enlightening account of Paul's evangelistic approach. What can we learn from Paul?

1) Sensitivity. The first aspect we notice about Paul's manner (and his lifestyle) is that he was sensitive to the needs of those around him. Here he was just "hanging out" waiting for his friends (v.16), but he saw the needs of a city full of idols and of people without Jesus Christ. He was keenly aware of their need for Christ. Are you tuned in to the needs of your friends at school or at work? What, which or who are their idols that need dethroning?

2) Responsiveness. The second trait that we discover is that Paul didn't simply perceive the people's need; he responded with compassion by offering the solution (v.17). He acted as Jesus himself who "saw the crowds and had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Mt. 9:36) When confronted with a city full of idols, Paul's response was to discuss the solution with whomever would listen. Beyond merely seeing the needs of your friends, are you ready to respond to them?

3) Readiness. Next we notice that Paul was ready to defend the gospel. He believed, as Peter, that it was important to "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have" (1 Pet. 3:15). Paul was not ignorant of the Scriptures. He knew that there are many skeptics who need to have some questions answered before they can trust in Jesus. You may not have "seminary" training like Paul did, but do you study Scripture regularly? Someone's eternal destiny may be forever changed because of your knowledge of the Word.

4) Creativity. Paul was not a dull academic type! He also had a creative side. Just look at vv. 22-23 and see how he made a bridge between the "reality" of the people of Athens and "real reality." Without this creative handle he may never have kept the ears of the people. Do you look for contextual bridges in order to explain that Jesus is the Bridge to God?

5) Boldness. Upon seeing needs, Paul didn't hesitate to take action. He immediately went to the synagogue, the marketplace, and the Areopagus, where he knew he could gain a hearing (v.17). Rather than dealing with these people in small groups, which certainly would have been "safer," Paul stood and addressed large groups, including the entire Areopagus, a council of men consisting of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. Paul was not afraid of entering into debate with these men, even though they probably were trained intellectuals. He knew that God would speak through him. Are you willing to take a stand at work or at school, regardless of the risk, and let God speak through you?

6) Openness. Once Paul had an audience, he didn't proceed to force his beliefs on them. Instead he "reasoned" with the people (v.17). The word reasoned here comes from the Greek dialegomai, from which we get the word dialogue, meaning discussion. Paul knew that the most effective way to deal with these people was not to preach to them, but to dialogue with them, and to interact with them. He was open to hearing what they had to say, and then he ably defended Christianity. Are you open to the differing beliefs and attitudes of your friends and others you meet, and willing to express love and tact rather than judgment?

7) Soundness. Whenever Paul debated, He argued his case "from the Scriptures" (17:2). He never compromised in order to "win" a debate. He did not syncretize Christianity with other religions. He argued with sound doctrine for God as Creator, Sustainer, and Judge (vv.24-31). He knew his argument well and did not waver from the truth. Also, he did not stop with merely explaining his case. Paul was intent on "explaining and proving his case" (17:3). More than gaining devotional insight from your study of the Bible, do you understand doctrine? Can you clearly state to your non-Christian friends what you believe and why you believe it?

8) Faithfulness. Paul was faithful to present the gospel message when he debated. This is clearly seen in verse eighteen and in verses two through four of chapter seventeen, which state that Paul "reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead." Paul didn't get caught up in the heady intellectualism that pervaded Athens in that day. He remained faithful to the simple, central truth of the Gospel - a resurrected Christ. Do you always focus attention on the work of the Messiah rather than the material in your mind?

 I was determined to convince him that Christianity was the better way...

It was one of the most frustrating evangelistic encounters I have ever experienced. I was seated in a small shop in northern Nigeria, across from a Muslim imam. I was determined to convince him that Christianity was the better way and he, likewise, was determined to prove the merits of Islam. Neither of us was making headway and we were both becoming impatient as the debate heated up. Finally we said goodbye with a handshake and half-hearted smiles.

I’ll always wonder how much more effective I could have been in that encounter if I’d modeled Paul’s principles of evangelism. YOU won’t ever have to wonder. Whether “here” or “there,” whether with a Muslim in Nigeria, a Moonie in New York, a Mormon in Nevada or the mailman in your neighborhood, you can rest assured that God will use you if you employ Paul’s principles of evangelism.


I'm João, but you can call me John. Since meeting Christ at age 16, my driving passion has been to glorify Him! I’m a “Great Commission Entrepreneur”, passionate about starting and leading anything — mission agencies, churches, businesses — that helps fulfill the Great Commission. I also love to speak, teach, preach and write about God's glory in all areas of life and among all peoples of the world. You can contact me at joao.mordomo@gmail.com; find out more at www.johnmordomo.com; link directly to this blog at www.llvd.net; and follow me on:

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