Knocking on doors is not a method of evangelism. Did that statement cause you to frown or have a surge in your heart rate? Using our hand to ring a bell or knock on a material door might result in someone coming to the door/gate or even opening it. That puts us in close proximity to another person (in most cases, a lost person). But, as long as we just stand there, do nothing else, and say nothing, then we have not practiced evangelism. We simply have shortened the distance between us and another human.

Sitting next to a person at a ballgame or music concert, working on an assembly line beside a person, or standing face-to-face with someone after we have knocked on his door – each of these may provide us with an opportunity to evangelize, but being located close to another human being is not evangelism.

I am not trying to be antagonistic about this, nor am I trying to be tricky with words. At some point, we must clarify what we mean by the term “evangelism.” When I use the word “evangelism,” I am talking about teaching/communicating God’s message of salvation (the gospel) to lost people. Until that process begins, what takes place is not evangelism.

“Well, do we not need to prepare the soil? Do you not agree that no one is going to listen to what we have to say until they know us and we earn their respect and trust? That takes time.” In some cases, that may be true. In other cases, though, people will discuss spiritual matters or listen to the Bible the very first time that we meet them. At some point, whether we have known a person and interacted with him for five minutes, five months, or five years, at some point, brothers and sisters, we have to “go for it.” The “it” is for us to bring up spiritual matters and try to get the person’s ears to hear the gospel. As long as a person is still outside of the Christ, he remains lost. If I frequently engage in some game or often share meals with him, he may become my good friend, but he is still a lost friend outside of Jesus!

“But what about attracting people with our good works, like we read about in Matthew 5:16?” Even non-believers can show love by doing good to others. Jesus said so (Luke 6:31-33). Do the kind deeds of unbelievers save other lost people? Of course not. In the same way, our appealing conduct and acts of compassion might get someone’s attention and cause them to wonder why we are the kind of people that we are, but such “good” on our part cannot change a lost person’s lost status. Any approach to saving lost souls that tries to sidestep the need to communicate the message of the gospel is a faulty method.

We often talk about Paul’s “preaching journeys.”

“Preaching” trips are just that – preaching! It may be that we travel five thousand miles to teach the lost, or we may walk ten seconds to a neighbor’s house to teach a lost person. Brethren, when we think about “evangelism,” we have to think about lost souls. What else? Teach, teach, teach the gospel.

What did Philip do with that eunuch from Ethiopia? Our brother opened his mouth and taught him from the Scriptures (Acts 8:35). That is evangelism! What did the Lord tell Paul to do in Corinth? “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent” (Acts 18:9). What did Paul then do? He stayed around in Corinth for another eighteen months, “teaching the word of God” (Acts 18:11). Twenty-first century church, are we listening? That is evangelism!

Think with me. If we help finance a person’s two-week or two-month “mission” trip to Jamaica, India, or Poland, what are we expecting that person to do? Are we anticipating that they will go there and only try to make friends with lost people and engage in social activities with them? I think not. Our mindset is that we are sending them there to be involved in evangelistic activities. Exactly! We are expecting them to be like Philip and open their mouths to teach.

There comes a time when we have to “pop the question,” so to speak. At some point in our dealing with lost people, if we want them to be saved, we must give them a chance to hear the gospel. We can arrange for someone else to communicate God’s word to them, we can give them written, audio, or video Bible-related materials, or we can try to teach them ourselves. There are different ways of teaching the gospel, but teach it we must! (Mark 16:15).

Only the blood of Jesus can wash away sins. Playing games with people does not save them. Eating food with or just hanging out with a person does not cleanse him of his sins. Only Jesus’ blood can accomplish that. And when does His blood redeem a lost person? Not until he obeys the truth is his soul purified (1 Peter 1:22,23). Well, when do we pop the question, that is, bring up spiritual matters to a lost person? That is a matter of judgment that each one of us will have to handle on his own. But, we must not put it off forever. People outside of Jesus are l-o-s-t.

God wants every person to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). So do we. Lost souls cannot become saved souls until they submit to the Lord and His instructions. Faith comes by hearing the word of God, not by playing games, enjoying a meal together, or engaging in other social activities. Let us make sure that we are not trying to evangelize without evangelizing.

— Roger D. Campbell