Even on a relatively small Christian campus in the heart of the Bible Belt, students at my school consistently find it difficult to share the gospel on campus. Whether you are at a Christian school where you assume that everyone walks with the Lord or at a state school where you are afraid of being viewed as narrow-minded or foolish, there are obstacles to overcome. Nevertheless, the call to evangelism should not be ignored.
The Call to Evangelism
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Recently, I conducted a survey of a few hundred college students to identify how often they share the gospel with unbelievers. I found that while 97% of those who identify as Christians believe that all Christians should share the gospel, only 56% had done so in the past month and 11% in the past week. In fact, 21% said that they had not done so in the past year. When asked why they had not done so, the two primary deterrents were fear of rejection and not knowing non-Christians.
These are understandable obstacles to practicing evangelism. In some cases, there is a legitimate concern that a friendship will end or become awkward if you share the gospel with them. In fact, throughout the book of Acts, the crowds often respond to the gospel with mocking laughter or angry violence. Sometimes, however, by God’s grace, they respond with immediate repentance.
The Power in Evangelism
“So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”
(1 Corinthians 3:7)
In this beautiful passage, Paul reminds us of the true power in our evangelism—the sovereignty of God. This is especially comforting for college students. If the fear of failure is keeping us from sharing the gospel, then we simply need to trust God with the results.
Since we cannot force our friends to respond in repentance, we should not be anxious about the outcome. Our Heavenly Father is completely sovereign over the situation from start to finish. God may call us to share, but ultimately he changes hearts.
The Method of Evangelism
“… The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.” (Luke 10:1)
When we see the first disciples being sent out, it often happens in pairs. In Mark 6:7, Jesus “called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.” Similarly, our evangelism today is often most effective when practiced in the context of community. Consider how we might grow in this and in other aspects of our evangelism.
Practice in Community
Like other spiritual disciplines such as Scripture reading, prayer, and fasting, evangelism is best practiced in community. This means that we keep each other accountable to regularly share the gospel and that we actually do so together. When we share the gospel in pairs, we strengthen each other.
Near the beginning of my freshman year of college, I became friends with a Hindu student at my school. At this point, I had a considerable amount of experience with sharing the gospel and felt fairly comfortable spending time with my new friend and sharing the gospel with him. Rather than meeting with him one-on-one, I asked if I could bring one of my friends along. Through this experience, my friend shared the gospel, was encouraged, and built a relationship with our new Hindu friend.
Commit to Evangelism
At Samford University, where I attend school, my friends and I lead a campus ministry full of college students that commit to four key spiritual disciplines: Scripture reading, prayer, personal holiness, and evangelism. When I share the vision of our ministry with others, they are often surprised that we consider evangelism to be a spiritual discipline or habit.
For many evangelical Christians, evangelism has become something they might do if the opportunity arises, but it is far from a practice worth committing to on a regular basis. Yet, as you can see from the alarming statistics above, only 11% of professing college-aged Christians are actually doing this on a weekly basis. The truth is that if we don’t view evangelism as a spiritual discipline, then it probably won’t happen very often.
Share Your Story
One of the scariest parts of sharing the gospel is not knowing exactly what to say. For those who grew up in the church, it can be easy to use terms without truly knowing how to define them. One of the most powerful ways to share the gospel with your friends is by weaving in your own testimony. A testimony is simply the story of how God has redeemed you from your sin. When we share about how the message of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection have intersected with our story, our friends are able to hear how transformative the gospel really is.
The Result of Evangelism
“And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
The best evangelism leads converts into community, which begins with the local church. When new believers lack this kind of biblical community, they are susceptible to theological confusion, moral failure, and loneliness. However, when we share the gospel in community, we provide a natural place for new believers to belong. Community, at its core, should be a place of vulnerability, commitment, and spiritual growth. New converts can then be encouraged to take this same gospel to others in need.