In part one of the Evangelism series we shed some light on the concept of "decision." In part two we talked about that when engaging in what we call Evangelism we are not salesmen, but rather news announcers or proclaimers of the Gospel. In part three we are going to discuss what I consider a very important part of Evangelism. Counseling.
You've seen it on TV, at your county fair, the local park and even a friend's (though hopefully not your own) church. The "revival" service. But to clarify, only God can bring revival, so this is actually an evangelistic meeting where, hopefully, the attenders are presented with the sternness of the Law that they might receive the sweetness of the Gospel.
Towards the end of this "service" the "altar call" is given. In many cases the "evangelist" has people show him by raising their hands that they know that they need to "get right with God/make a decision for God/get their life back on track/etc." (Now, the hand raising isn't necessarily a bad thing, if used properly.) Those people who raised their hands are then instructed to come forward or go to some predesignated spot where many times they pray a sinners prayer. (Once again, this separation and time of prayer isn't necessarily a bad thing, if used properly.) They are then told that they are all saved and now their lives should be different and that people should see a change. (We'll expand on the "people should see a change" concept in a later posting.) But what happened here? What do these people who came forward believe? Did coming forward save them? Did saying this prayer save them? What do they believe about sin? What do they believe about the person and work of Christ? Do they have any questions, anything they need explained? This is why within this type of setting, as well as others, we need to have counseling. Here's a way, not necessarily THE way, but a way that this can be done.
If you are one of the counselors you can start off asking a question like "Why did you come to talk to me?" or "Why do you need the Lord Jesus Christ?" The question you ask will depend on the setting. (Outreach event, personal evangelism, etc.) This first question sets the pace of things and lets you know what's going on with this person. In many cases with children their response to "Why did you come to talk to me?" is "Because you told me to."
The second set of questions is going to be about sin, and provided the "evangelist" has done his job, the person being counselled should have a good idea of what the answers are. Here are four questions about sin that the person should really have the answers to:
1. What is sin? (anything we think, say or do that breaks God's Laws and makes Him angry with us.)
2. Who has sinned? (Everyone. Romans 3:23. We were sinful at conception.)
3. What is God's punishment for sin? (Hell. Eternal separation from God's Love where we will only receive God's wrath, His anger times a million infinity squared)
4. Have you sinned? (Yes. Romans 3:23)
5. Is there anything that you can do to get rid of your sin? (No.)
If a person can't explain the gist of these questions, then they don't really understand the fallenness of man. And if they don't get question 4 right, we've got a major problem. A person without sin doesn't need a saviour, but we are all sinners and all need a saviour.
The third set of questions is about the person and work of Christ. Here are three questions about the person and work of Christ that the person should really have the answers to:
1. What did Christ do for you? (He willingly took my punishment for sin, shedding his blood on the cross for the forgiveness of my sin.)
2. Why is Christ the only one who could die for your sins? (Christ is the perfect, one and only son of God. He knew no sin. Everyone else is sinful. If someone else would have tried saving us by dieing on the cross, they would have only been getting what they deserved. Christ was blameless and didn't deserve this death. That's why it had to by Christ.)
3. What happened after Christ died? (He didn't stay dead. He rose again 3 days later. I Corinthians 15:3-4)
If a person can't explain the gist of these questions, then they don't really understand the work of Christ. If they don't get question 2, we've got a problem, because that would mean there are other ways that we can have our sins forgiven, and that's a serious biblical issue Skippy....)
The fourth set of questions is about salvation. We're going to use a verse that some call a "condition/promise" verse to explain about salvation. Some verses you could use would be John 1:12 (be sure to check out verse 13 ahead of time as well though) John 3:16 or Acts 16:31. I personally like using John 1:12 when working with Children. For this example I'll use Acts 16:31 due to how concise it is. Using a "condition/promise" verse that we will explain to the person, we will ask the following questions:
1. What does God promise He will do? (If I believe, He will save me. Acts 16:31)
2. When does that happen? (The moment I believe He saves me)
3. Do you believe that Jesus died, taking the punishment for your sins so that you don't have to be separated from God? (If the answer is "yes" because they were given faith by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17) then Christ has saved them.)
4. Would you like to pray to thank Christ for what he's done for you? (Now it's very important that they understand that this prayer does not save them. This is a prayer of thanksgiving BECAUSE OF WHAT CHRIST HAS DONE. Remind them that Christ saved them the very second that they believe, which was a gift from God.)
If the person has no idea how to pray, here's a prayer of thankgiving that can be used to thank Christ for what He has done for this person:
Dear Lord Jesus, Thank you for saving me. Thank you for dying on the cross for me, taking the punishment for my sin, for forgiving me of sins, so that I wouldn't have to be separated from you. Please lead me in all things. Amen.
Note: is is VERY important that they understand that praying did not save them. Only Christ can do that.
There are three final things that we want to share with this person.
1. Christ will never leave them (Hebrews 13:5b)
2. Christ will help them do what's right. (Hebrews 13:6b) We can not live a pleasing life to God by pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps and trying really really hard on our own. If we rely on ourselves, we will fail. The ability to live a pleasing life to God comes not from ourselves, but only from Christ. When we try on our own, we will always fail. A "victorious life" is only from Christ.
3. Christ continues to forgive us when we confess our sin to Him. (1 John 1:9) But what if I'm a really bad person? God's promise is that when we confess our sins, He forgives it. Does this mean we can do whatever we want? By no means.
Final thoughts on Evangelism...
In "evangelism" counseling is vital. If we have a Finney approach to it where we are concerned only about "doing great things for God" where the measure of "our success" of "winning souls" is based upon numbers, then by all means, please contribute to the ever increasing numbers of false converts. Statistics show that many people who have experienced Finney's Evangelism, prayed a mass prayer, never really were saved. But man those numbers of people that "we saved" sure looks good. We can really pat ourselves on the back for the great things "we're doing for God."
Or maybe, we should look at the "great commission", if that's what we want to call it, and actually read what it says. Matthew 28:19-20. Teach. Yes, it says go, but it says to go and teach and baptize. Notice that "teach" is stated twice. So you see, this isn't a numbers game. It isn't about us devising plans to "win" as many souls as we can for Christ. We can't save people. Only Christ can. It's about properly using Law and Gospel, teaching them what the Word says that they might have faith and believe. (Romans 10:17) Look at the questions listed above. These aren't the only questions and I know that there are other valid ones as well. Can those people we are sharing the Word of God with answer those questions? Do they understand? Did we teach them what the Word says? Counseling helps show us if they know what they need to know and lets us know what else they need to know. Can we get them to believe and have faith? No. Only the Word can do that. (Romans 10:17)
Remember, "evangelism" isn't about numbers. It's about teaching what the Word of God says that they might believe. (Romans 10:17) I know, I've used that verse a lot now, but I want you to understand that the pressure is not on us, it's on the Word. And the Word of God is powerful. It gives us faith. Thanks be to God!
Soli Deo Gloria