Most Christians are not preachers or teachers, and fewer still are evangelists, but all Christians are called to proclaim, to instruct, and to share their faith.
In Ephesians 4, we learn that the Holy Spirit gives preachers, teachers, and evangelists as a gift to the Church. These women and men are given to the body to help all believers be ‘mature’ and active in their ministry of proclamation, teaching, and evangelism. All Christians, then, should be growing and active in sharing their faith, instructing others about Scripture, and proclaiming good news in Christ. This includes helping non-Christians cross the line of faith.
So often, Christians assume that people’s decision to follow Jesus should best be made with a pastor or ‘professional evangelist.’ So often, Christians do the hard relational work of walking with a non-Christian for weeks, months, or even years, but never experience the joyful moment of his or her new birth.
Thinking that somehow/someway the person will eventually get it, many Christians think of evangelism as nothing more than a constant witnessing opportunity. I hear things like “I’m just planting the seed” or “I’m trying to be a good witness” but often we never have any intention of calling for a decision. There is one important thing that you can and should do in your witness—ask for a decision.
Asking for a decision can be terrifying no matter what the response is!
When we ask for a decision, we are putting everything on the table; we are opening the door (or closing the door) to a new normal in the relationship. There is a weight to asking for a decision for Jesus, make no mistake about it.
Asking, however, is just as much a part of our duty under Christ as is loving people. There are frequently three responses we can experience in response to asking for a decision for Jesus: yes, no, or I’m not sure. All three responses, however, are a part of a person’s journey toward or away from God, and asking for a decision helps facilitate that person’s journey.
If asking is important, how do we do it?
Here is a simple technique to help both us and the person we are asking to focus on the gospel and come to a place where a decision is possible. The technique is called ‘SPREAD,’ an acronym that helps us pastorally and prophetically move a person to seriously consider following Jesus. Here is how it works:
1. Set Toward Action. As we talk to someone about Jesus, it is important to help him or her know that a decision is expected and that a question is coming about his or her personal response. I will often say something like, “In a moment, I am going to ask you to personally respond to this” or “At the end of our conversation, you are going to have an opportunity to make a decision as to what to do with all of this.”
Stating things like this gives the person the anticipation of response and almost always elevates his or her attentiveness as we go through the message of Jesus because he or she knows a response is going to be expected.
2. Preparing the Person. It doesn’t matter if the conversation is with a person for the first time or the fiftieth, we need to prepare the person to respond and doing so requires prophetic boldness.
When we share Christ, we are not just talking about God, we are talking for God, as God makes his appeal through us (2 Cor. 5:20). I’ll often say things like, “I believe we are having this conversation because God is expecting you to make a decision” or “You know that you’ve been thinking about this for some time and God is wanting you to come to a place of action today.” Preparing the person acknowledges where he or she has been in his or her journey with God, but most importantly, it gives him or her an anticipation that something new is now at hand that he or she needs to respond to.
3. Re-Articulate the Gospel. Even if you think you’ve already shared the gospel before or over time, give a very focused overview of the gospel message itself. If you are unsure about what the gospel is, I’d recommend reading pages 17-25 of Growing Your Faith by Giving It Away or watching this quick video. The gospel is the power that enables a person’s decision and it is important to share it with him or her concisely.
4. Explaining the Decision. When we call for a decision, we need to be as clear as possible about what we are asking of the person. We are not asking him or her to join a church, to read the Bible, to be a better person, to stop sinning, or to merely be open to God. These things are good, but they don’t save us and they are not what we are asking a person to do.
We need to make it clear that we are asking the person to give him or herself to God, to acknowledge his or her sin, to ask God’s forgiveness, and to put his or her trust in Christ’s death and resurrection power.
5. Acknowledging the Moment. After we’ve done all this, we need to announce the moment of decision, to acknowledge the opportunity to respond is at hand. I will almost always say something like, “You know what I’m sharing with you is true, you’ve had time to think about it and to ask your questions, but now it is time to do something.”
I often add, “Everything in your life has been building to this moment—none of this is an accident and God is inviting you to respond today to his love.” Acknowledging the moment puts things in perspective; it puts weight on the moment and prepares the person to respond.
6. Decision. Leading the person in a decision is the last step. I’ll instruct the person, “If that is what you want, to confess your need for Jesus today, than I’m going to lead you in a prayer to God to do just that.” I might also ask, “You need to make this decision—is there anything standing in your way from doing that?” Asking a question like this can lead to more dialogue. Perhaps there are things standing in a person’s way from giving his or her life to Christ. If there are, deal with them right then and there and then re-ask the question, “Would you like to trust in Jesus right now? Can I lead you in that prayer for God’s forgiveness?”
Asking is almost always better than never asking at all. Calling the question and expecting a response is the right thing to do, particularly if you’ve already shared the gospel. Take the risk to ask for a decision, even from people you think are very far from God. You will often be surprised at what will come out of just asking!
York Moore is national evangelist for InterVarsity USA. He is the author of Growing Your Faith by Giving it Away and Making All Things New and the founder of the anti-trafficking movement Price of Life. Learn more at tellthestory.net.