Editor’s note: This month, we are praying for and learning about evangelism in China. Preacher Yang today shares about how he and his church community live out Christ’s command to make disciples in the rapidly changing urban Chinese environment.
Why practice evangelism?
Evangelism is the command of Christ. It is also the reproduction of the life of Christ. Christ himself carried the mission of the gospel and preached the gospel of the Kingdom. He lived out the gospel and saved us, so we who are saved should also share the gospel. This is the ministry of the priesthood, part of the threefold ministry of Christ. We preach as prophets; love as priests; discern, rule and help as kings, and even restore through apologetic work.
Equipping Believers for Relational Evangelism
For me, personal evangelism happens mostly in contact with brothers and sisters in the church. We chat with their families or friends when we eat together, or share with them when they are sick. We try to lead the topic to Christ and eternity, but not too fast at the beginning. Usually, I do friendship evangelism. First I am in contact with them, then start sharing, bringing in the gospel according to their questions. Of course, everything should be under the leading of the Holy Spirit. Experience plays a part: knowing when to share the core message, and when to pave the way toward the gospel.
We teach believers how to share the gospel, using illustrations and presentations to equip them. However, the most important thing is the pulpit. We talk often about how to share with Gentiles. In sermons, we focus on gospel application, preaching to both prodigal sons and Christians at the same time. When we preach, we consciously speak about how to talk to a friend who is interested in the gospel. A lot of this comes out of experience, helping people find ways to lead conversation to the core messages of the gospel: eternal life and death, and substitutionary salvation.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
In the city, it is still difficult for Christians to share their faith. Many difficulties come from believers who are not equipped, and are therefore afraid. Actually, Christians can share their experiences, lead the topic to Christ, and then live out their love. If they are not too results-oriented, this will not be a big deal. They must face their own weaknesses and fears of how others see them, and they need courage in situations when it is difficult to lead conversations to the gospel core. In short, believers need more practice. Christians are often afraid to share the gospel or just want people to come to church, but we encourage them to find ways to bring up gospel topics themselves.
For example, my aunt is not very educated. Whenever she takes a cab, she asks, “Do you know about Christmas?” Through this she shares about the origin of Christmas, what Christmas is about, how many years it has been since Jesus came to the world, and so on.
Time for Reflection: Patience as Part of the Process
Evangelism is now a little different from before. In the past, the temptations of the world were not so great, and people were not so restless. Previously—being influenced by modernism and truth-seeking—people thought deeply about things. Maybe, if the theory of evolution was dissolved, it was easy for them to think that God exists. But today, people are sophisticated. You need to be conscious what questions you raise in their modern minds.
I usually share the gospel in my sermons. This way, brothers and sisters bring interested friends to hear the gospel at church. Since we are being persecuted now [affecting public worship and bringing unbelieving friends to church], I intentionally host evangelism meetings. Christians bring their friends, and I talk about different topics so seekers can understand the gospel and its impact. I also tackle difficult apologetic issues. This evangelism class is ten sessions, covering fundamental truths, apologetics, and some application.
I talk about things like the difference between the gospel and religion, worldview issues, who God is, the Trinity, and the impact of the Trinity on worldview, especially as a contrast with the “law of the jungle.” In particular, only the Triune God has love—this is a core doctrine. I show movies on creationism, and talk about who Jesus is. Understanding that Jesus is both God and human is essential. Later, I talk about sin, and idols of man and idols of the heart. I discuss the origin of the Bible, talk about how to face suffering, and the importance of the church. Finally, I talk about Christian views of marriage and work. This is so seekers can know that Christianity is comprehensive, and is more applicable and reasonable than general views of marriage and work.
Many people continue to show interest. Those who are not interested will not continue to attend after one or two sessions, because God has not prepared them. Those who continue to participate till the end generally stay in the church, or significantly change their attitude towards Christianity. Since our church was raided last autumn, I have hosted this evangelism class several times, and it is quite effective. Many people were reached, and about ten people came to faith. This is something to be grateful for.
We definitely need to evangelize differently than in the past. We used to wait idly for the right opportunity: for example, a good environment to hold an evangelistic conference. However, we find those conferences more and more difficult to do. Why? Questions addressed in a setting like that are limited. A conference cannot sufficiently destroy the worldviews and values of the audience. It takes a series of lessons to help people digest and reflect, rather than joining the church in a moment of passion. This is a big difference between now and the past.
Discipleship Is an Essential Component of Evangelism
We always follow up with seekers. After they finish the class, we encourage them to join small groups and Sunday services. We try not to invite them before finishing the class. There are several reasons, one of which is it is already the best they can do to come to church once a week. If they had to attend other services, this would cause aversion and they would think Christianity exploits them for their time. After we introduce them to small group leaders, we also visit them. I usually follow up with them for a period of time, stopping once they are settled in their groups. Care from the senior pastor is still very important.
Instead of immediately recommending that new believers take discipleship courses, we wait until they have believed more clearly. This requires time and interest from them. (Of course, we adjust the process according to individual situations.) If we do not include discipleship training, evangelism is incomplete. New believers would not be able to live out the life of Christ in its entirety, which is detrimental to spiritual life. Discipleship training also builds up courage and faith, and allows people to experience God-given fruit and the joy of participating in ministry. All of this helps new Christians understand the gospel and grow spiritually. Therefore, discipleship training is an essential part of evangelism.
Preacher Yang is a house church preacher on the southeastern coast of China. He and his wife have one child.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray for Chinese Christians to boldly take the initiative to start gospel conversations with their friends, family, and colleagues.