I’ve had the honor of writing a lot of books related to the subject of evangelism, but the best I’ve read is straight out of Scripture: the Acts. Here are a few takeaways from the Acts to help us think about effective evangelism today by following the example of the early Christians.
First, all believers witnessed personally. The idea of a course or seminar on personal witnessing would have been foreign to the first believers because sharing Christ was such a part of their culture. Witnessing was one of the defining marks of authentic Christianity. Even on the day of Pentecost, known for Peter’s great sermon, personal witnessing permeated the city (see Acts 2:10-11; 46-47). We read of all believers sharing Christ in 4:29-31, and all believers except the apostles in 8:1-4 and 11:19f.
Second, only some preached to crowds. Peter, Paul, Stephen, and others stood to preach the gospel, but they represented the minority by far. Being a zealous Christian does not mean you have to be any kind of public speaker, but it does mean we are are personal witnesses.
Third, they lived and shared their faith daily. One of the most overlooked aspect of the Acts is the frequency of the term “daily.” Two times in Luke’s first summary of the early church (2:41-37) he mentions the daily nature of the church. Over ten times we see this theme (see also 3:2; 5:42; 6:1; 17:11; 19:8-10, etc).
Fourth, they reached people and formed churches. They didn’t start with an elaborate church planting strategy or network. They had the simple plan of Jesus to share the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth (1:8). They went out sharing Christ, winning others to him, and then forming them into churches. Make sure your church planting strategy has an unqualified focus on reaching the lost around you.
Fifth, they declared an unchanging, timeless message in effective ways. The message of the gospel did not change throughout the Acts. The application, however, did. Peter in Acts 2 quoted the Old Testament and referred to Jesus as the Messiah. Paul did not do that at Mars Hill in Acts 17; he began with creation and moved to the work of Christ. I would only add that we live in an America much more like Athens than Jerusalem, which is why I share Christ from the perspective of the grand narrative of the gospel.
Sixth, they gave personal testimony to the gospel’s power in their lives. See Acts 4:20, and Paul’s testimony in 22 and 26.
Seven, they shared Christ in the face of many obstacles. They faced inward obstacles: hypocrisy (chapter 5), ministry neglect (6), and theological matters (15). They also faced outward obstacles in the form of intensifying persecution: threats in chapter 4, beatings in 5, and martyrdom in 7.
No matter what they faced, the gospel continued to advance through this band of believers, this covey of Christians. May we follow their example today!
NOTE: This was adapted from my Evangelism Handbook.