Eight (Brief) Exhortations for Effective Evangelism

by Derek Brown

About midway through his second letter to his young pastoral protege, Timothy, Paul offers this new shepherd some powerful words on how to conduct an effective ministry. The principles he develops in 2 Tim 2:22-26, however, can easily be applied to our personal evangelistic ministries as well.

1. Pursue Holiness and Spiritual Maturity (vv. 22-23). If you want to conduct an effective evangelistic ministry, you must also pursue spiritual maturity. Paul writes, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (v. 22). If there is no distinguishable difference between how we live and how unbelievers live, we will have a hard time convincing them of the gospel’s reality.

2. Do Not Be Quarrelsome (vv. 23-24a). Likewise, we will likely repel those whom we are seeking to evangelize if we go into our conversations with a combative spirit. “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome.” One important way of avoiding quarreling is to “avoid foolish, ignorant controversies.” When talking with unbelievers about the gospel, it is important to focus on the gospel rather than attempting to engage in every possible issue they might have.   

3. Be Kind to Everyone (v. 24b). In an outrage culture, kindness is a character quality that clearly distinguishes Christians from the world. Paul says to Timothy, don’t be quarrelsome, but be “kind to all.” When we meet resistance in evangelism, we may be tempted to become angry and frustrated with the person with whom we are sharing the gospel. But these impulses must be resisted, for they may serve to only harden our listeners to the good news of Christ.  

4. Be Able to Teach (v. 24c). We need to be growing in godliness and kindness, but we must also be able to articulate the gospel. Effective evangelism only happens when we rightly share the gospel. This doesn’t imply that you need a degree in theology; it only means that you understand the gospel and are able to communicate it clearly to an unbeliever (see 1 Cor 15:1-6).

5. Patiently Endure Evil (v. 24d). It is possible that you will meet resistance from unbelievers as you share the gospel. In these cases, you must patiently endure evil when you encounter those who actively speak against you and against Christ. Paul tells us elsewhere that we will reap a great harvest if we don’t give up (Gal 6:9).

6. Correct Your Opponents with Gentleness (v. 25a). Kindness, the avoidance of quarreling, and gentleness. Paul is emphasizing the gracious conduct of the Christian because he knows that “a soft word breaks a bone” (Prov 25:15) That is, the Holy Spirit often uses the gentleness of the believer to soften the heart of the unbeliever. 

7. Remain Rooted in the Sovereignty of God (v. 25b). But the ability to avoid quarreling, to patiently endure evil, and to exercise kindness toward our opponents is not a product of our will-power; it is the fruit of good theology. Only God can grant repentance, so we don’t need to get bent out of shape with the obstinate unbeliever. They need sovereign grace, just like we did: ” God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.”

8. Recognize the Real Enemy (v. 26). Finally, our patience, kindness, and gentleness is not only rooted in God’s sovereignty in salvation; it is grounded in the fact that the unbeliever with whom we are engaged is not our enemy. Actually, they have been ensnared by the real enemy, Satan, and they need to be rescued from his deadly clutches.  “…and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” Those with whom we speak are in need of our sympathy, nor our scorn. 

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