What does the Bible say about pre-evangelism?
S. Michael Houdmann
Got Questions Ministries
Pre-evangelism means different things to different people. Some see pre-evangelism as doing what Paul did with the philosophers at Mars Hill. He began with what they knew about an "unknown God" and argued for the existence of a personal God (Acts 17:22-34) who demands righteousness. This type of pre-evangelism seeks to meet people where they are. Others see pre-evangelism as "friendship evangelism" where the believer develops a friend relationship with an unbeliever and, by acts of kindness and living the Christian life before him, the truth of the gospel can be seen even before it is shared. Others see pre-evangelism as extensive preparation in apologetics before attempting to share the gospel with others.
Even though we can't assume people today have heard about Christ, we have to understand that Romans 1:19-20 assures us that God created us to know about Him because He has made it evident within every human being ever born. The knowledge of God can be found by looking at creation and seeing "His invisible attributes, His eternal power, and divine nature," as Paul states in this passage in Romans. God made us that way so that none of us can ever claim that we've not known about His existence. In other words, "we are without excuse." That internal knowledge of God then leads mankind to search for Him, and we are assured that if we do that, He will be found because "He is not far from each one of us" (Acts 17:24-28).
So the presence of a "God-shaped hole" inside us drives us to search for God, find Him, and worship Him. Only by doing so will we gain eternal life and true satisfaction, peace, joy, and contentment. Sadly, many people instead begin to worship the created, not the Creator (Romans 1:21-23). They try to replace their need for God with anything and everything else. Jesus commissioned all of His disciples, past, present, and future, to go out into the world and proclaim the gospel, the good news of His sacrifice on the cross on our behalf. The reason He gave us this command is that, even though God created us all with the ability to know Him, many still reject and despise Him. To accept Christ as Savior means we must acknowledge the fact that we are sinners in need of salvation. So, to confess our sin means letting go of pride and bowing before God in a humble request for salvation. Too many people, even after hearing the message of Truth over and over, just will not do so.
To effectively reach people with the gospel requires followers of Christ not necessarily to go door to door in an evangelism outreach, although in many circumstances that is an effective tool, but rather to live out our salvation with such joy, hope, and peace that the people with whom we come into contact daily can't help but see Christ in our lives. As 1 Peter 3:15 says, "But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence." We followers of Jesus Christ truly are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).
We have a responsibility to share the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ with those people within our daily sphere of influence, i.e., our neighbors, people we work with, anyone with whom we come into contact. There are no coincidences involved in the circumstances surrounding the people we meet each day, only opportunities provided by God to "let our lights so shine before men" that they may give glory to our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
Establishing relationships with the people in our sphere of influence requires us to get to know them and to have a genuine interest in their lives. Conversations that consist of asking questions in order to learn more about them and then actively listening and asking follow-up questions is an excellent way to start a relationship. As we get to know people, we can then ask more personal questions along the lines of, "Do you believe in God?" or "What do you have faith in or believe in your life?" which can go a long way in helping us determine what they deem most important in life. This can help lay the groundwork as we seek to share the Good News with them.
Everyone in this life goes through trials and tribulations, and letting people around us know that, when we experience difficulties, our faith and hope rest in Christ, and we can in turn help them realize they need Him as well. Nothing speaks more powerfully to those around us than the evidence of God's supernatural peace in our lives in the midst of turmoil.
Above all, when we have conversations with people around us each day we are to use both our own personal testimony and the Word of God as tools in our toolbox. Telling someone how we came to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and using Scripture to back it up brings the power of God to our testimony. As we know, it's not our words but the power of the Holy Spirit that convicts the world of sin (John 16:8).
While forming relationships and finding opportunities to share Christ with those whom we come into contact with each day may not sound like a strategy, it is turning out to be one of the most effective means of evangelizing the world today. And the best part of sharing Christ in this manner is, since a relationship with that person is already in place, it positions us to disciple him once he comes to faith. Discipleship is a crucial part of our spiritual growth and helps establish and strengthen a firm foundation for our faith that will last for eternity.