Practices for Fruitful Evangalism

Well this morning wrap-up our series Christ in the Common. You can take your Bibles and turn with me to Colossians 4. We’ve spent 8 weeks in Colossians starting with chapter 3. We have a few more topics planned to cover this summer still before returning to Mark.

Today we come to the topic of evangelism. The word evangelism is the word we use to transliterate the Greek word euongelion, which means good news. It is the word we also translate as the gospel.

So, evangelism refers to the activity of proclaiming the gospel.

As believers, we know that we are responsible to evangelize. 

Peter said that one of the purposes for which God saves us is so that we might proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). God saved you for his glory. And a very specific way God gets glory is by the people he saves, testifying about his mercy.

Very often a sense that we should be doing it. And even a desire for doing it. But that’s also combined with a struggle to do it, and even a challenge in defining what it ought to look like in our lives. Our necessary starting point then, is defining faithfulness in evangelism properly.

Sometimes believers live in a constant state of feeling as though they aren’t doing enough. But when pressed, they can’t seem to define what enough is. And so, you have a sense that you are missing the mark, but you can’t define the mark. I know I’m not doing enough, but I don’t really know what enough is.

Of course this isn’t helpful because if you are sinning you can’t repent of something as vague as not doing enough. Repentance and change can only take place when you can identify a specific command that you are neglecting or disobeying, why you are disobeying it, and correspondingly what obedience looks like. 

Today we will lay forth how God calls his people to engage personally in the work of evangelism. How do further the spread and expansion of the Gospel message? We need clarity from God on the responsibility he has given to us it pertains to the spreading of the Gospel.

Our passage today will take the topic of evangelism and bring it to bear in three arenas of life: your prayer life; your personal life; and your speech. What does faithfulness to Jesus Christ look like when it comes to evangelism.

Not only that, but we are going to see our human weakness and our need for God’s grace today in this passage. Faithful evangelism relies not on human ability, but depends on God’s mighty power, and is carried out by faith.

As we work through these simple instructions, it is going to help us identify where and we can struggle in faithful evangelism.

My goal in our time together is to provide you with a clear framework for how God calls the members of a congregation to get involved in this work of evangelism. We aren’t going to find a program for evangelism or a quota, or even a methodology per se. 

What we are going to find instead are principles to be believed and applied.

3 Intentional Activities for Engaging in Evangelism

Faithful evangelism must be intentional, as we will see in our passage today. As we have said with so many other areas of the Christian life, we never really drift into evangelism, so it requires deliberate planning and effort. These three intentional activities for engaging in biblical evangelism are:

  1. Persistently ask God to provide evangelistic opportunities (2-4)
  2. Purposefully structure your life for evangelistic opportunities (5)
  3. Prudently speak to maximize evangelistic opportunities (6)

Colossians 4:2–6—2 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; 3 praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; 4 that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. 5 Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

  1. Persistently ask God to provide evangelistic opportunities (2-4)

This is the starting point for your obedience to God in the area of evangelism. You pray for opportunities.

(2) Devote yourselves to prayer

Be devoted (προσκαρτερεῖτε)—to persist in something, to busy oneself with, be busily engaged in… denoting something that consumes much time, and also requires perseverance (a holding fast and continuing in).

Believers have always been devoted to prayer. In Acts, the story of the birth of the church we find the twelve apostles with the rest of the gang, waiting in the upper room and devoting themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14).

In the next chapter, the Spirit of God descends at Pentecost. Peter preaches a powerful sermon and three thousand people get convicted and repent and believe: an instant megachurch and these little babies in Christ who were among other things, devoting themselves to prayer (Acts 2:42).

As the church grew, the apostles are getting overloaded with administrative responsibilities and it threatened their priorities of being devoted to the word of God and to prayer (Acts 6:4).

Paul instructed the churches to be devoted to prayer.

Friends, it is undeniable that God’s people are to be dedicated in prayer to God. It’s the heart of someone who loves God to want to spend time with him in this way.

Jesus, as we saw in Mark, possesses the very nature of God, and yet isolates himself and even loses sleep for the sake of communing with his Father in prayer. He prayed before eating, he prayed while ministering, and he prayed in isolation.

This is what it means to be devoted to prayer. It is a priority and it is something that you persist in and remain steadfast and enduring in.

And there is a characteristic of this committed prayer. It is to be attentive.

  1. Your attentiveness to prayer (2a) devote yourself and be watchful!

keeping alert in it | γρηγοροῦντες ἐν αὐτῇ

Keeping alert sounds a little too sophisticated here. You could translate the expression woodenly: keep your eyes open! 

I was working on this verse on Monday morning, and I’m tracing out this word for being awake and alert in prayer. And of course Monday morning I woke up early to spend time in prayer and not long into it fell back asleep on the couch. Wrong day to do that one, huh?

I mean is this not is eerily familiar to Matthew 26:38-41 where we encounter that painfully interaction with Jesus and his disciples. Jesus hours from dying and in deep grief asks for prayer support. Matthew records they couldn’t do it for even one hour. 

We struggle to stay mentally focused and awake and on track in prayer.

But this goes beyond the mental engagement in prayer.

Paul surely also has in mind being spiritually awake. Like a coach who yells to the little leaguer picking daisies in the outfield—look alive, kid! We tend toward spiritual coasting, drifting, sleeping. 

Believers are to be alert. 1 Peter 5:8 be alert because Satan is seeking to devour you. Colossians 3:4 be watching for Jesus to come back and get you. Ephesians 6 being spiritually alert.

So, don’t give up quickly in prayer, even when you wait a long time for the answers. Trust God and remain steadfast. And then when you pray, be engaged. Be physically and spiritually alert.

This addresses our tendency to aimless prayers. 

It doesn’t mean that you need a complicated system necessarily, but that when you pray you are to consider that you are coming before the throne of the Almighty God and you present your petitions with such a disposition.

Not to be flighty and inconsistent and not be aimless or apathetic. I don’t know about you, but I need these reminders for my prayer life. I have seasons that I am greatly encouraged by, but sustaining it over the long haul is 

And so, Paul encourages attentiveness in prayer, and then he also addresses…

  1. Your attentiveness to prayer (2a)
  2. Your attitude in prayer (2b) namely gratitude to God

with an attitude of thanksgiving; | ἐν εὐχαριστίᾳ, 

Gratitude magnifies God and expressing it re-aligns the heart. Gratitude marks our prayer life when we are thinking properly about ourselves and the magnificent grace of God to us in Christ.

This is exactly how Paul prayed:

Colossians 1:3—We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you…

1 Thessalonians 2:13—we constantly thank God that when you received the word of God from us you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God…

Philippians 1:1—I thank my God in all my remembrance of you…

1 Timothy 1:12—I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service…

2 Timothy 1:3—I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day…

Philemon 1:4—I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers…

Romans 1:8—First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world…

1 Corinthians 1:4—I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus…

This truth gripped my heart as I considered it. Paul is undergoing significant suffering in his own life when he wrote many of these letters. I could see thanking God for the Philippians, but the Corinthians?

Paul thanks whenever he sees the evidence of God’s mercy and grace and power at work either in his own life, or in the lives of God’s people.

So, when you pray, you are to be persistent and enduring (be devoted), and you are also to be attentive.

These areas are a struggle for me. To remain steadfast and not give up quickly in prayer. To begin to lose heart. Why do we struggle to pray? Our faith is weak. 

  1. Your attentiveness to prayer (2a)
  2. Your attitude in prayer (2b)
  3. Your aim in prayer (3-4) for God to sovereignly provide the opportunities for evangelism, and enable your communication when they come.

Paul makes the connection here specifically to evangelism. This is your aim in evangelistic prayer:

(3) praying at the same time for us as well, | προσευχόμενοι ἅμα καὶ περὶ ἡμῶν, 

Paul prays for these believers, he actually says since the first day he hasn’t ceased praying for them (Colossians 1:9). And now he expects them to return the favor and pray for him. 

These people had never met Paul. Most of these saints can’t leave their station in life to be missionaries. But they can be involved in anchoring his ministry through prayer support. Praying for missionaries is holding the rope as William Carey put it when he embarked on his mission to India. It is an unseen ministry that is behind the scenes, enabling ministry to go forward.

This prayer request isn’t a mere formality. Paul believes that prayer is God’s chosen instrument for producing spiritual fruit. And so he says, pray…

that God will open up to us a door for the word, | ἵνα ὁ θεὸς ἀνοίξῃ ἡμῖν θύραν τοῦ λόγου 

What an example for us to long for. 

Paul recognizes that even the opportunity for proclaiming the Gospel is a God-enabled privilege. He doesn’t presume on an open door. 

As a side note, please don’t ever use an open door as a way of evaluating God’s will for your life. God never sanctions that method of decision-making in Scripture. In this life you will have many open doors that will lead you into sin or could be foolish. Don’t confuse walking in wisdom with an available option.

The us here is probably including Timothy and Epaphras along with Paul.

But the open door that Paul wants for him and these others always relates to a ministry opportunity. Here it is for the word. Paul knows that if the word is heard, there will be results. He asks for prayer in…

2 Thessalonians 3:1—…that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you;

Similarly, he describes the word of truth, the gospel as that which…

Colossians 1:6—…is constantly bearing fruit and increasing…

The word of God needs to have an opportunity to go forth through human instrumentality. Ministry doesn’t ultimately belong to men and women, but it is the fruit of God’s Word going forth.

This puts our confidence right back where it needs to be.

And so, prayers for open doors in the New Testament relate very narrowly to opportunities to proclaim the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Just consider: there is a time of rejoicing at the church in Antioch after hearging the missionary report that God had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 14:27).
  • Paul stays at Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8-9) because he has a wide door of effective ministry.
  • Again, relating to ministry plans, Paul speaks of a door opened for him in the Lord (2 Corinthians 2:12).

Open door=access and opportunity for gospel ministry.

Paul says pray for opportunities to get the word out. It is a plain and obvious metaphor. My friends, God answered this prayer. Paul is in prison right now, and as he and the Colossians prayed for God to open doors for the word, just consider what took place.

Listen to how Luke describes Paul’s ministry while under house arrest in Rome:

Acts 28:30–31—30 And he [Paul] stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, 31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.

Paul was in chains, but the word of God was not in chains. There was opportunity after opportunity. Philippians 1:13 says that the whole palace guard heard the gospel. Paul wants an open door for the gospel—an opportunity for the word. 

He says as much right here, second part of verse 3:

so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, | λαλῆσαι τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 

God’s mystery is that which was formerly hidden, but is now revealed. Elsewhere Paul speaks of the mystery being Gentiles getting saved. But here this speaks of the mystery of Christ Jesus Himself.

Paul says I gotta speak about Jesus.

Testifying, preaching, proclaiming. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is news and the only way you understand news is through the communication of it. 

This is embedded in the very word gospel, and without proclamation there is no gospel. It would be like using the term broadcast to describe a private meeting. Broadcast means you are putting content out there over the airwaves and spreading it around. A private meeting isn’t a broadcast, and living the gospel is not communicating the gospel, telling of the gospel with your lips is communicating the gospel.

Don’t imagine that you have some secret mark that identifies you as a Christian. Certainly, your life should bear testimony. But we don’t have halos over our heads, or shining faces, we have vibrating vocal chords that testify.

Paul didn’t say pray that the people who visit me would see Christ in me and that by the testimony of my life they would understand the gospel telepathically. He said that I may speak forth Christ...

Speaking the gospel is hard. In fact, this isn’t the only place Paul makes this request. He wrote to Ephesus around the same time, and clearly this was a burden on his heart at this time to speak the gospel:

Ephesians 6:18–20—18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

Paul wanted to get the gospel right.

The gospel message isn’t asking people if they are unfulfilled and unsatisfied in this life and looking for something more. The Gospel isn’t merely sharing the experience that you have had with Jesus as the basis for someone else’s belief. 

The Gospel is the proclamation that you are created by a sovereign God, you are guilty in your sin for offending him, and yet in his mercy and because of his great love he sent his only son to die in your place. That king Jesus has arrived to set up a kingdom and you can be a part of it through his free gift of salvation, which comes through repentance and faith alone.

That is a costly message to proclaim. It’s good news, but it isn’t popular news. It isn’t popular today and it wasn’t popular then. Paul even says in the end of v. 3 this mystery of Christ is that…

for which I have also been imprisoned; | διʼ ὃ καὶ δέδεμαι,

And make no mistake that if Paul had remained a “closet Christian” he would never have gone to prison. He didn’t go to prison simply because he became a Christian.

Luke tells us the story of what happened. 

Paul was in Jerusalem and a crowd was stirred up against him and he got nabbed when he was at the temple.  And you know what they said about him? It wasn’t Paul just has such a commendable testimony and that really bothers us.

No, they said, “this is the man who preaches to all men everywhere.”

Some Christians are persecuted simply for believing in Jesus. For Paul it was speaking of Jesus that kept getting him in trouble.

Friends, a Christianity that costs little is worth little—so tight is the connection that it is biblical to say that Christianity that costs nothing is worthy nothing, meaning it isn’t true Christianity at all. 

People who have been bought by Jesus are willing to suffer his reproach.

Paul is writing this letter fully aware of the circumstances that have put him in his current circumstance. And he is encouraging others to pray for him, that he would maximize this opportunity and not shrink back from it.

He’s in prison due to his preaching. And now his prayer request is, v. 4—

(4) that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. | ἵνα φανερώσω αὐτὸ ὡς δεῖ με λαλῆσαι. 

Pray for the opportunity. Pray for the ability to communicate. Pray for the willingness to suffer the cost and not shrink back in fear from it. 

Paul wanted prayer to help him be clear and to speak how it was necessary for him to speak.

Think of how fascinating this prayer request is. We noted this when we studied Philippians, but consider what Paul is not asking for prayer for:

Pray that prison wouldn’t be so difficult. Pray that I would get out of jail soon. Pray that we would get some descent food here. Pray that my aches and pains would go way.

Furthermore, Paul, of all people seems the least likely to need prayer for communicating the Gospel. To date this man has completed three missionary journeys encompassing the historic records contained in Acts starting in 13-28. The only letters left to write are 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. Everything else is completed.

Why would he of all people, need prayer for this?

This is a critical demonstration of our inability. You can’t make anyone believe the message of the gospel, and you can’t even rely on your own ability to say all the right words at the right time in the right manner.

Paul was a Calvinist. Who believed in the human effort of dependent prayer and the human effort of proclamation because He believed in a God who was powerfully in control. Pray for the open door, pray for my communication.

Thirty years into ministry. Pray that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.

Friends, how does your thinking and your doing line up with Paul’s perspective and call to action in these verses? 

I know I find that this is struggle. I give up so quickly in prayer. I lose heart. I get distracted. I get sleepy (physically and spiritually). Certainly, there are seasons of passionate prayer about evangelistic opportunities in my personal life or for our church.

But devoted? Persistent and enduring over the long haul? I’m weak.

What’s so bad about a lack of devoted prayer is that it comes from unbelief and self-trust. Not believing the God will work, or that eternity is coming, or that his glory is more important than my comfort, or that I really need prayer that desperately.

Failing to pray for evangelistic opportunities also demonstrates a lack of love for the lost. Paul’s greatest motivation was the glory of God. That compelled his evangelism first and foremost. But he’s also the man who said he had great sorrow and unceasing grief in his heart… for the sake of his brethren (Romans 9:2-3) who were outside of Christ.

It broke Paul’s heart to see Jews reject Jesus. The very Jews who put him in prison. And his heart breaks for them.

My prayer in studying this passage is Lord, give me the heart that Jesus and Paul had for the lost. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Paul had grief that didn’t go away. And help me to be steadfast in prayers for evangelism.

Pray that we would have an open door for the word. That as a ministry we would find and take opportunities to proclaim this good news to those perishing around us.

Well that covers the prayer part of evangelism.

3 Intentional Activities for Engaging in Evangelism

  1. Persistently ask God to provide evangelistic opportunities (2-4)

Now Paul shifts from how the saints in Colossae can partner with him in his evangelistic efforts abroad, to how they can be involved in their own evangelistic efforts where God has placed them in the Lychus River Valley.

  1. Purposefully structure your life for evangelistic opportunities (5) setting the stage for opportunities and then taking them as they arise.

(5) Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, | Ἐν σοφίᾳ περιπατεῖτε πρὸς τοὺς ἔξω 

Simply put, live your life in a way that reflects what you believe about the gospel, with particular attention to those who are outside of Christ. 

Live your life in a way that reflects what you believe about the gospel, with particular attention to those who are outside of Christ.

Two groups—the insiders and outsiders. Elsewhere in the NT we are careful to regard one another in the body of Christ (relationships to insiders). Here the focus is on those outside.

Conduct yourselves is the same is walking. Walk in wisdom. Walk (live life) considering the impact on a watching world.

Titus 2:8-10 Paul speaks about adorning the gospel. It means the gospel message coming out of your mouth should be paired with a credible testimony. Titus 2 it is things like purity, dignity, speech, not being argumentative, being full of good deeds and above reproach.

What’s the point? When you speak of Christ, it shouldn’t be surprising to someone. And your life ought to demonstrate the power of the Gospel to change someone. Part of being an ambassador for the gospel is a life that conforms to the gospel.

One of the scenarios that will create a visceral response in my being is when someone disregards Jesus as Lord and yet proclaims him as such. It’s so frustrating. When someone is worldly and loves the world, and yet still names the name of Jesus Christ as though he were their savior. 

Please stop telling people that you are a Christian.  

You represent Jesus as his follower, so be mindful of that. You have Christ who is to us wisdom, so the emphasis here isn’t on needing more wisdom, but rather on needing to apply what you know.

Consider how to best structure your life to preach the gospel to outsiders. What things give me great opportunities for the gospel or could potentially cut them off? 

It is living in such a way that your life compels respect and it adorns the gospel, and if there is an offense, it is because of the content of what you are saying, not because of a lack of credibility or hypocrisy or respectfulness in your manner of life.

On a practical note church, take care with your testimony and your reputation.

Be careful what you post and share and like and what types of things you promote. Be careful that when you speak about politics, society, culture, or you endorse things that you aren’t threatening your ability to speak of Jesus.

You want your words to have a weightiness, that when you speak there is substance behind it because you haven’t tarnished your ability to speak by lacking in wisdom.

Another practical application of walking in wisdom is explicitly included right here in this passage…

making the most of the opportunity. | τὸν καιρὸν ἐξαγοραζόμενοι. 

You could say walk in wisdom by making the most of the opportunity.

Paul says literally redeem the time or buy up the time (Cf. Ephesians 5:15–16). Point is to maximize your return on the time you have by not wasting it. I love P.T. O’Brien’s vernacular here where he translates verse 5 as:

Be wise in your behavior toward outsiders by snapping up every opportunity that comes. 

A couple of implications of this encouragement…

  1. Time is limited and short…

John 9:4—night is coming, when no man can work.

Every day is one less day for evangelism. One day closer to the return of Christ.

  1. You and I can actually miss opportunities.

It isn’t that you wear a constant burden as though you don’t have any other calling in life other than evangelism. There are times in God’s providence where you should focus on whatever God has given to do in a given moment and that’s faithfulness. And God is sovereign over the salvation of people.

But the point is: don’t let an opening pass you by when you are able to take it. Don’t neglect looking for and taking opportunities.

This would be more along the lines of God gives you half a day with an unbeliever and you realize you never talked about Jesus or asked any questions beyond surface-level. 

Some examples of how we fail to make the most of the time for the sake of evangelism…

You have a neighbor whom you’ve known for years, and to this day they have yet to hear you give testimony of how Jesus saved you. Your co-worker who you’ve had lunch with many times and yet you never can quite get around to speaking about your faith.

The family member who never has heard you tell them the truth about their standing before a holy God, and the judgment that is coming to them, and the hope that is in Jesus Christ. The person whom God has laid on your heart to reach out to, but each week you promise yourself that next week will be the time that you act on that intention.

We have all kinds of reasons for remaining silent. 

Oh, we don’t want to impose. We weren’t asked. We’re waiting for the right opportunity. Look when you bring up the God of the universe in conversation to an unbeliever it is nearly impossible to find the right time to do that. Paul wouldn’t be in prison right now if he only responded when asked or if he was concerned about not imposing.

Friends, love initiates and pursues and acts. Don’t rationalize your lack of speaking as loving others. It is self-love to remain silent, and love for God and others that compels speaking.

Something that is often on my mind as a minister of the gospel is not presuming that there will be another opportunity to say something down the road. Adopting this mindset prompts me to speak at times when I would tend toward silence. I don’t want to imagine that I need 10 conversations to get to the gospel.

Making the most of the time means identifying and taking the opportunities God has given you to speak to outsiders about Jesus. 

But there is also the part of this. It is structuring your life to plan intentionally for opportunities. Sometimes opportunities fall into your lap, and if you are praying for them you will identify them all over the place.

But if you have a heart for the lost you will also make opportunities for evangelism.

Think of ways to engage with unbelievers. We do sports teams. We’ve done school. We’ve met people in the community at events. Go to the library or the park or the coffee shop and build relationships in the course of everyday life.

Part of engaging in evangelism is ordering your life in such a way as to make create opportunities, and seeing the ones that are providentially provided to you by God, and then taking them by faith.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

God has given each of us a unique set of relationships with unbelievers in our respective spheres of influence. Paul expects that if you are praying for openings, then looking for them as you walk wisely to seize the opportunities, the Gospel is going to be advancing through you.

To do this is going to require sacrifice.

It requires a willingness to in give up time and convenience. That’s probably the biggest one I struggle with personally. Frankly, it is rarely convenient in the course of my week to stop and speak of Jesus to someone. It means displacing some other priority that I wanted to spend time on.

Testifying of Jesus will also require letting go of your reputation and what people think of you. 

Look, Christians aren’t actually supposed to be cool. I hate to break it to you if that’s the first time you’re hearing this. We have had a season in evangelicalism where the church is trying really hard to be cool, but it’s not. Christianity isn’t cool.

It’s almost always this way except for rare seasons of history in select parts of the world.

You are probably familiar with the inscription scratched in plaster found in Rome dating back to the first or second century displaying a man hanging on a cross with a donkey head. Below it read, “Alexamenos worships his God.” Christians worship a crucified donkey.

Even the term Christian originates form when the believers at Antioch were called such. And just for clarification—it wasn’t a compliment. It was derogatory. “Little Christs”

Friends, if we are going to be faithful in evangelism we have to be willing to accept being regarded as out of place. It is nonsense whenever someone talks to you about the thing that we need to do to gain respect as Christian from the world. The only way that happens is through compromise.

We don’t win people to Christ by being cool or compelling. People come to Christ because God regenerates their heart and they want to give up this life to gain Christ and be found in him not having a righteousness of their own, but the righteousness that comes from God.

The believers in Colossae, much like us today, were not suffering persecution for their faith. They had great freedom to engage in these efforts. And so Paul urges them, make the most of the opportunities God gives you.

3 Intentional Activities for Engaging in Evangelism

  1. Persistently ask God to provide evangelistic opportunities (2-4)
  2. Purposefully structure your life for evangelistic opportunities (5)
  3. Prudently speak to maximize evangelistic opportunities (6) everyday communication is gracious, and then when you engage about the Gospel there is a specific awareness of whom you are speaking to.

(6) Let your speech always be with grace, | ὁ λόγος ὑμῶν πάντοτε ἐν χάριτι, 

Notice that we aren’t talking about proclaiming the gospel here. Always be with grace. So, this means whenever you open your mouth it isn’t Gospel proclamation here, this is general conversation.

Always be with grace. When is ungracious speech acceptable? It says always but was the speech of Jesus always, with grace? Yes, because even when it was directed at the Pharisees it was for their good.

Luke 4:22, grace characterized Jesus’ speech. Elsewhere Paul says that our speech must give grace to those who hear… (Ephesians 4:29). That’s honest speech. Dignified speech. No place for being condescending or rude or belligerent.

He continues to describe this speech when he says, speak in such a way…

as though seasoned with salt, | ἅλατι ἠρτυμένος, 

Jesus of course makes reference to saltiness in conjunction with our lives in Mark 9:15, Luke 14:34, so this is familiar imagery for us. 

Salt functions to season and preserve.

The word seasoning here refers to the skillful application of condiments to a meal or a dish that provides flavor. You spice up a dish by seasoning. Fries and chips without salt are just greasy, flavorless potatoes.

The point is that salt has an influence on whatever it touches, and your speech is to be influential.

It’s fine to talk about the weather. We all do it. And the college world series and beaver baseball. And the upcoming mid-term elections and supreme court nominations. But my dear friends, any unbeliever can speak of those things. 

You know what brings salt to a conversation? To speak of Jesus Christ. Make your speech salty—flavorful and colorful and purifying by speaking often of Jesus.

This point was to speak prudently to maximize evangelistic opportunities. 

And that’s exactly where Paul ends this verse. He says I want you to as a habit of life speak with purity and grace and speak of Christ…

so that you will know how you should respond to each person. | εἰδέναι πῶς δεῖ ὑμᾶς ἑνὶ ἑκάστῳ ἀποκρίνεσθαι.

Such a wonderful instruction. Paul isn’t talking about preaching here. To preach the gospel in a group context you want to know your audience, but that’s delivering a message broadly.

But here Paul speaks of personal evangelism.

Literally: you will know how it is necessary to respond to each one. 

Each individual. To respond is to give an answer. That means a dialogue—a conversation. Paul isn’t giving a cookie cutter script for evangelism.

You are evangelizing a person he says, not filling out a long answer question on an exam. Instead you are considering what truths the individual you are speaking with needs to have explained to them.

You might recognize that the person you are speaking to is convinced that they are a good person or doesn’t believe that they are created by God. And so, you are going to bring God’s Word to bear to meet the specific need of that individual.

Just consider Jesus here, and how many different ways he spoke of discipleship and the kingdom. It was not a one-size fits all approach:

  • Jesus with Nicodemus (explains that salvation is not of works, not just to Jews, a free gift)
  • Jesus with the woman at the well (confrontational about her sin with an offer of forgiveness)
  • Jesus with the Pharisees (stern warning and public exposure)
  • Jesus with the rich young ruler (addressing his self-righteousness and his idolatry of riches)
  • Jesus with the crowds (challenges superficial attachment to him)
  • Jesus with the Syrophoenician woman (salvation didn’t come to you)
  • Jesus with the disciples (direct calls to follow him exclusively)

Our Lord dealt with people as people, on an individual basis, not with some canned approach to proclaiming the good news.

And I don’t say this to make you feel overwhelmed or bound up about how to speak to individuals, but rather to free you up. You don’t have to master some formula or system or strategy before you speak of Jesus. Of course, we want to grow in our ability to communicate, but that isn’t the point.

You have the Spirit of God within you. And so, you speak by faith trusting God to give you discernment when you speak. Use Scripture.

Isn’t that freeing? Paul just expects that these believers now when they are at market or sharing a meal together or working together in the fields that they will know how to respond to each one.

Well, one of the signs of a healthy church is when God’s people live out lives of faithfulness in all the spheres God has called them to. Even in our small ministry, we are connected to hundreds of people who don’t know the gospel and who don’t believe the gospel.

God is the one who saves and so we don’t carry the burden of saving people. But we are called to obey by praying for evangelistic opportunities, living in such a way as to give us those opportunities, and then to speak in such a way as to make the most of them.

This is such a privilege. It is granted to you (Philippians 1:29) to believe and to suffer for Christ.

I would encourage you to ask God to help you grow in these things. 

Pray for our church to grow in these areas. Find a brother or sister in the church and pray for one another in these areas. You can each have a list of unbelievers you are praying for to influence and you can encourage each other and spur one another on.

audio Block
Double-click here to upload or link to a .mp3. Learn more