I argued in an earlier post on this blogsite that Jesus likely came to earth not just to sacrifice Himself but also to teach. In this post, I’d like to elaborate on that, making the point that His teaching is important for us to study not just for what He taught but for how He taught.
That is, we can learn much from His ministry about how to evangelize. Here are some lessons:
- Don’t be afraid to keep it short. It’s amazing how pithy Jesus could be.
- But sometimes longer works. There are occasions when Jesus delivered sermons for a relatively extended time.
- Keep it simple. Even when he talked at greater length, His message was still uncomplicated.
- But sometimes you have to make people think. The meaning of his parables sometimes requires some thought. Speaking of which …
- Use parables. And use real world examples and analogies. This is one thing Jesus had in common with many successful modern speakers — who probably took the idea from Him, directly or indirectly.
- Tell the truth. It’s fitting that Jesus often begins by saying, “Verily, verily” — also translated as “Truly, truly” or “Amen, amen.”
- And that means don’t sugarcoat it. There are many times when Jesus’ message is not one that the audience wants to hear.
- But don’t hide the good news either. That’s what “evangelism” means, after all — delivering the “good news,” and here it is indeed the best possible news of all.
- And along the same lines: Don’t avoid conflict when necessary. On the other hand, don’t pick unnecessary fights that might get in the way of your message.
- Delegate. You can let others evangelize, too. (And, as a temporal corollary to this, we have to accept that — since we are imperfect messengers talking to imperfect people — sometimes a message has to be delivered more than once before it takes hold.)
- Be willing to talk to large groups, individuals, and everything in-between. Sometimes Jesus spoke to the multitudes, sometimes to a group of followers, sometimes to all twelve Apostles, sometimes to just a few of them, and many times He had an audience of only one. And we should be willing to reach out to all people, no matter how unlikely, as indeed Jesus was (His first two converts were Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Jewish Council and, at the other extreme, an apparently promiscuous Samaritan woman). Seize your opportunities whenever and wherever you have them.
- Show love. That’s the main message, after all.
Now, to be sure, Jesus could do things that most of us can’t. We don’t perform miracles, for example, and we can’t claim authority in the way He did. But short of that, He can still be our role model.
I began by citing an earlier post on this blog site, and I’ll end by quoting another one here:
In deciding how we ought to go about evangelizing — and of course the Great Commission says we ought to be evangelizing — it makes sense to pay particular attention to those parts of the New Testament that describe how Jesus did it. To be sure, there are things that Jesus said about Himself that we can’t say about ourselves, and there may be other ways in His approach that we cannot adopt wholesale. Nonetheless, in His mixture of bluntness and subtlety, His individualized consideration of who a person was and what the person might most be looking for, and above all in His willingness to reach out to everyone, He presents — unsurprisingly — a great role model.