Eight Keys to Effective Evangelism

Emily Adams

May 6, 2024

Sharing the hope of the Gospel seems like it should immediately transform lives into a fairy tale of the joy and possibilities of life with Jesus. We imagine planting seeds of the Gospel will be like tossing flower seeds into perfectly moist potting soil and watching them burst into growth and blooms. But, most of the time, sharing the Gospel is more like sowing flower seeds in hard ground—it requires prayer and preparation to soften the soil. Often, there may be a number of keys to effective evangelism the Holy Spirit would have us use to prepare the ground to plant the seeds of the Gospel.

Seeing the Need for Keys to Effective Evangelism in My Backyard   

Spring is quickly approaching summer in the Carolinas! Thermometers are ticking upward, cicadas are singing belligerently, and the pine trees have finally finished their weeks of puffing with clouds of pollen!  

A couple weeks ago, I identified a section of my backyard to plant with Salvia and Lavender flowers and an Angel’s Trumpet tree. But as soon as I got my hands into the dirt, I realized my dreams of purple and white blooms were going to take some significant preparation.  

The soil in this part of my backyard is thick with clay that solidifies into a concrete-like hardness when dry. As I tried to turn the earth over with a large, heavy plow fork, it became obvious that I didn’t have the weight or strength to effectively use such a big tool in this hard ground.  

I was going to need a tool that could concentrate my force all in one spot. Reaching for my shovel, it took me the next couple of hours to painstakingly turn over even just the top 3-6 inches of earth in this section of yard. 

After all that back-breaking work, I could tell my delicate flower seeds would not be able to grow in such heavy clay. Over the next few days, I mixed a little compost into the clay, and now I have just bought a good potting soil to put down for the young roots, as well as, seed starter to mix in as I scatter the seeds before covering them with a little straw mulch. 

This process has taken a lot longer than I expected when I bought the seeds and a handful of small plants two weeks ago. They have been waiting patiently in their temporary containers for me to get the soil prepared well for them to grow.

I am confident that they will thrive happily once I do plant them—because I have done the hard work to get the ground ready! 

The work I have been doing in my backyard is very much like the keys to effective evangelism. When we pray and ask the Holy Spirit to give us His keys for effective evangelism to specific people or groups, He will show us what to do to prepare the hard ground so the seeds of the Gospel can take root! 

Just like soil is different across lands and areas, every person’s or group’s heart to receive the Gospel is going to be unique as well. This is part of why prayer is so critical in the keys to effective evangelism—we need God to show us which ones to use, when! 

Sometimes soil needs to be mixed with:

  • Compost 
  • Peat moss 
  • Manure 
  • Minerals 
  • Vitamins  

Sometimes people’s hearts need to be: 

  • Seen and heard 
  • Valued 
  • Encouraged 
  • Filled 
  • Loved 

When you cultivate friendship and become aware of some of your friends' needs, your Gospel presentation becomes much more powerful, because it carries a potential solution to both real and felt needs.  

Here are 8 of the Most Useful Keys to Effective Evangelism:

1 — SEE THE READINESS OF OTHERS TO RECEIVE JESUS

Believe that the Spirit of God is hovering over your neighborhood, workplace, or school. Some are defeated in using keys to effective evangelism before they even start because they are not convinced people near them are interested, seeking, or being prepared by God.  

You can believe it, the Holy Spirit will prepare people near you who are seeking answers and lead you to these people. Ask Him and see! See more than just homes, garages, and cars as you go out about your neighborhood. Those homes have people with names and faces living in them. And these people are being prepared by God to receive His message of hope! 

2 — MAKE AN INITIAL ACQUAINTANCE

God knows the responsive hearts in your sphere of influence. How do you locate them? Pray as you build relationships with persons near you. You will become aware of those who are ready to respond to the Gospel. It takes time and effort to soften hard ground. And, there is no substitute for time. Often it is necessary to move slowly with the keys to effective evangelism. 

The key is to build a climate of friendship for effective decision-making. You are surrounded by people who are spiritually hungry. True, you cannot adopt 500 families, but how about extending your friendship to four or five individuals in your everyday world? You may discover two or three of these to be responsive. 

3 — ESTABLISH A GROWING RELATIONSHIP

  1. Real relationship is one of the most important keys to effective evangelism. Ask God to give you help in how to get to know others. Learn names. Be certain you pronounce them correctly.  
  2. Smile! Be the kind of person those around you would want to know. If you desire to build friendships, be friendly! 
  3. Be a good listener. Discover and discuss the interests of others rather than your own.  
  4. Sometimes it is helpful if you have some subject categories in mind, for example: 
    • Profession or career  
    • Hobbies  
    • Sports and recreation 
    • Family activities and interests 
    • Vacations 
    • Children's activities and accomplishments 
    • Current news items 
    • Boats, cars, pets, gardens, etc. 
    • Religious background 
    • Current projects and home improvements  
    • Current books, films, etc. 
  5. Take the initiative to be of help when it is appropriate. If your friend is painting the house, grab a brush! Offer to mow your friend's lawn and look after the house and pets while the family is on vacation.  

4 — EXTEND AN INVITATION TO YOUR HOME 

Keys to effective evangelism help you advance daily interactions with those near you toward a more significant friendship. Meals are a great way to do this. If you entertain friends for dinner, host in a way that helps your friends feel relaxed and “at home”. 

When your friends who need to know Christ are over for dinner, don't feel compelled to say something spiritual. Sometimes we think that if we have not shared the Gospel before the evening is over, we have failed. Not so. This is about cultivation. Patience does pay off. 

I would suggest you pray over the meal. It is your home, and it is natural for you to do this. Just be brief and thank Jesus for your friends by name. 

5 — CULTIVATE COMMON INTERESTS 

We want to build a reservoir of shared experience with people near us whom we desire to introduce to Jesus. Sometimes it is good to think through a list of possible common ground activities. Certainly, there are things which both you and your friends enjoy that can be keys to effective evangelism. It is important to discover these contact points and use them as friendship building blocks: 

  • Tennis 
  • Golf 
  • Fishing 
  • Hiking 
  • Sewing 
  • Concerts 
  • Bowling 
  • Boating 
  • Pickleball 
  • Movies 
  • Lunch 
  • Ice Skating 
  • Jogging 
  • Hunting 
  • Skiing 
  • Sports Events 
  • Gardening 
  • Eating 
  • Knitting 
  • Guns 
  • Woodworking 
  • Coffee 

6 — BE AVAILABLE FOR THE HURTING 

In other words, watching for the wounded around you and offering them your understanding and help can be one of the keys to effective evangelism. Life is tough. Sickness, death of a loved one, marital problems, financial difficulties, and other pressures provide opportunities to express Jesus’ love through caring, sharing, and serving.  

Remember, people do not care how much (or what) you know until they know how much you care. The hurts of others are your opportunities to become Good News to them. A helping hand and sympathetic listening give your beliefs validity and impact: mowing lawns, preparing meals, babysitting, and providing needed transportation are some ways to help people in need. 

One caution: do not forget—you have needs as well. How about letting others meet some of them? Maybe the greatest gift you can share is the gift of your need. Your availability is often your greatest ability. Be a listening, sensitive, giving, caring friend, and look out—it is contagious. 

7 — BECOME A GIVER

Pray about giving your friends something to read or listen to that shares Gospel principles. Be sure the material offered is top-quality. Stick with books that are need-centered and have good graphics. Have some on hand which you can give to your friends at the appropriate time. 

There are also some podcasts or videos which are effective in evangelism. Be sure, however, that you listen and watch first! They should be positive in tone and attitude, need-centered, and Biblically sound. 

Be creative in your use of Christian resources as keys to effective evangelism. Purchase a supply of quality items and keep them readily available. In all of these activities, the goal is to become a servant to the spiritually needy friend near you. 

8 — FIND AN APPROPRIATE GOSPEL INVITATION  

A time will come when the ground has been softened, enriched, and prepared and you know in prayer it is time to plant the seeds of the Gospel. Sensitivity to your friend’s preferences and personal views is important as you consider how to share the simple Gospel.  

For a nonathletic vegetarian, an invitation to hear an all-pro athlete speak over a steak dinner probably is not appropriate. There are many Gospel invitation possibilities. Here are some examples: 

  • Home Bible studies  
  • Family dinners 
  • Business breakfasts 
  • Christian movies 
  • Conferences or retreats 
  • Fishing/hunting trips 
  • Church sports programs 
  • Christian music concerts 
  • Church-sponsored events 

Obviously, this list is limited only by one's creativity. Look for activities that will help blend people who know Christ with people who need to know Him. For more specific helps on the mechanics of sharing the Gospel, check out episode 11 of the Multiplying Movements video series on the Forge App, “Reaching the Lost”. 

Keys to effective evangelism are built on relationships, whether person-to-person or through small group Bible studies, worship services, or evangelistic events. 

Surveys reveal that at least 80% of the unchurched who respond to an evangelistic invitation to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior at an event were brought personally by someone else! 

Sharing the hope of the Gospel often means first preparing hard ground—just like in my backyard—with prayer and nutrients to soften the soil. May these keys to effective evangelism be used by the Holy Spirit through you to prepare good ground for the seeds of the Gospel to bloom! 

Portions above adapted from the books Life-Style Evangelism by Joseph C. Aldrich, © 1981 Multnomah Press and Evangelism and the Local Church by Sterling W. Huston, © 1984 Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.