SARASOTA–When someone says the word “evangelism,” many Christians become uncomfortable.
Some may fear possible rejection or being unable to answer a biblical question, and those fears often lead to reluctance to share the gospel.
For the past 19 months, John Cross, lead pastor at First Sarasota, has created a culture of evangelism in his church that is making a kingdom-impact in southwest Florida. With upcoming Easter services, Cross shares a few suggestions for helping jumpstart personal or church evangelistic efforts.
“We have overcomplicated a relatively simple gospel presentation,” Cross said. “The heart of the gospel is simply sharing the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Prayer, he said, is the secret to seeing non-believers and being heartbroken over their spiritual separation from Christ.
“We must pray to have the eyes, ears and heart of Jesus,” he said. “We have to ask ourselves, ‘Are we broken over the lostness in our city?’”
Referencing the triumphant entry of Jesus, Cross shared how believers must have a brokenness over the lostness in their communities because sharing the gospel is the primary mission of believers and churches.
Everyday evangelism begins with everyday faithfulness, Cross believes. Christians, he said, must be willing to proclaim, “Come and see!” in everyday conversations with friends, neighbors, co-workers, teammates or classmates.
“Talking with people, everyday appointments … just listening and engaging with those around us in everyday conversations” is vital in evangelistic effectiveness, Cross encouraged. “Evangelism takes being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.”
Cross believes that local churches have an opportunity this Easter Sunday to extend an invitation to “come and see” and then disciple the next generation of believers.
“Easter services give our churches an opportunity to extend an invitation–to share what Christ has done and how He can change lives. Every service should be sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and giving an opportunity to respond,” he said.
“People are going to emulate what pastors illustrate,” Cross said, explaining that evangelistic fervor within a church begins in the pulpit. Then evangelistic fervor will ripple from the pulpit to the people. Believers today, he said, can “seize the opportunity” to share the gospel with people who are searching.
Quoting Johnny Hunt, senior vice president, evangelism and leadership at the North American Mission Board, Cross states that a growing number of lost people “are more anxious to hear the gospel than we are to share it.”
A recent Lifeway Research survey supports Hunt’s perspective. The study revealed that Americans are curious about the religious devotion of others and are willing to discuss the topic, but most say they rarely have conversations about faith with their Christian friends.
“This study reveals that most Americans are open to talking about faith,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “It really isn’t about religious liberty, people not wanting to hear, or religion being off-limits. The reason conversations are not happening about the Christian faith is that Christians are not bringing it up.”
Now is the time for Christians to share their faith, Cross believes.
“We must see the urgency of the hour and all that we are experiencing in this dark world,” he said. “We don’t know when the time (of Jesus’ return) is coming, so we better get to work!”