The way some believers go about evangelism, you would think that non-Christians are the enemy. No! They have been taken captive by the enemy.
Our responsibility is to attract non-Christians, not attack them. So much so that Paul the apostle said even our speech should “always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Col. 4:5). That could be called Proper Etiquette in Evangelism.
What are practical ways of practicing etiquette that reflect Paul’s instructions?
- Practice politeness with everyone. Note Paul’s word “always.” You don’t change the way you speak when non-Christians come around. The way you speak to people in general will be the way you speak to non-Christians in particular. Politeness everywhere should mark your life.
- Speak with kindness. Let your words have a graciousness or pleasantness about them. Even if someone else becomes rude or sarcastic, you and your words must remain gentle and loving. Your impact on people is greater because you are tender, not terse.
A good question to ask yourself is, “When I leave their presence, did the way I spoke make me a person they would like to know better or a person they hope to never see again?”
Grace should be reflected not only in what you say and how you say it, but sometimes where you say it as well. If the person you are meeting with is embarrassed talking about spiritual things in front of their mate, approach them one-on-one. You might choose a corner of a restaurant. That way, should he become teary-eyed about his need for Christ, he doesn’t feel like everyone is staring.
- Choose what you say; don’t say what you choose. Your words are to be “seasoned with salt”. Salt, as it is used in Scripture, has a two-fold purpose: It induces an appetite by making something tasty; and it acts as a preservative, rendering something wholesome. Words matter! Control your tongue—don’t let it control you.
- Offer hope—not condemnation. Paul said in Col. 4:5, “that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Words spoken to you in a conversation might reveal bitterness against the Lord or confusion about why God allows what He does. Your goal is to speak in such a way that this person moves closer to the cross. They need to be aware that they (like you) are sinners who deserve eternal separation from God.
Spurgeon reportedly said “Before you can get people saved, you have to get them lost,” But your thrust must be as in the entire gospel of John (John 20:31), to invite them to heaven with good news, not scare them out of hell with bad news.
An illustration that ties all of these etiquette aspects together might help.
A minister spoke to his neighbors about Christ. Their response was both rude and insulting. A short time later, the minister’s son became ill with a terminal disease and passed away.
The neighbors not long afterwards teased, “Well, where is your God now?”
Tenderly, wisely, and calmly the minister replied, “The same place He was when He lost His Son.”
Etiquette is essential in evangelism. The message may be offensive to some, but there is no need for the messenger to be.