I have read a lot of books on evangelism, and my two favorite are Bill Hybels’ Just Walk Across the Room and Mark Dever’s The Gospel and Personal Evangelism.
Yes, I see the irony in that. They are very different books — but I like them for different reasons.
As I recently read through Hybels’ book, I identified five helpful features that I think are necessary for an evangelistic ethos, either in an individual Christian or in an entire church.
1. Intentionality and Sensitivity to the Spirit (35–54)
Hybels writes, “I’m more convinced than ever the absolute highest value in personal evangelism is staying in tune and cooperating with the Holy Spirit” (35). We don’t hear this nearly as much as we should. We don’t build the kingdom for God; we let God build it through us. That’s why the first command given to the apostles in Acts is to wait. Until the Spirit arrived, they could do nothing.
This is the only way to keep from being overwhelmed by the massive task of evangelism. God does not expect us to convert people; he invites us to walk with him and be his instrument as he builds the church. That is something we should do every day.
Sometimes there is a wide open door, other times not. But that should not stop us from instigating the conversation.
Honestly, only about one in every five of my attempts to have a spiritual conversation turns out well. Just because it turns out poorly does not mean that God is not in it. Stephen witnessed to Paul and was stoned, but that was definitely Spirit-filled evangelism!
I have heard that the average person has to hear the gospel 12 times before they believe. We may get the joy of being that twelfth person, or we may be one link in the chain. But the Spirit has a role for us.
You perceive when a door is being opened through prayer. Therefore, pray continually and listen as you pray.
2. Practical Ways to Get Into the Conversation (158–160)
Throughout the book, Hybels gives you numerous “conversation openers,” and I found particularly helpful his question suggestions on pp. 158-160.
These were conversation starters you could actually use, as opposed to the cheesy, awkward, forced questions I’ve often been taught. “If you died tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity?” (Side note: Why is everyone always dying at night?), or ”What opinions about God do you have that I could correct?”
Not that those are wrong (or at least the first one is not), but Hybels gives you a few more questions for your arsenal.