Disciples of Jesus know they’re commanded to share their faith. Countless resources exist for evangelism—including tracts of all shapes and sizes. I like some of them and find them to be beneficial in certain circumstances; but they’re not my favorite way to share the gospel. Here are just a couple of reasons why:
One, it is difficult to summarize the cost of following Jesus and what responding to the gospel entails in a small booklet.
Two, we live in a culture that increasingly does not possess a biblical worldview. Therefore, a more comprehensive introduction to Jesus is warranted in most cases.
That brings me to my favorite way to introduce people to the Jesus of the Bible: the Bible itself. Despite popular perception, more twenty-somethings are open to discussing the Bible than one may think. A few years ago, Ed Stetzer from Lifeway Research reported that 61% of North American unchurched twenty-somethings would be willing to read the Bible with a friend if asked. This presents a great opportunity—particularly for those of us working with college students and young adults.
It’s something I like to call the “21-Day Experiment” or the “21-Day Challenge.” I was first introduced to this concept about 20 years ago in Bill Bright’s classic work, Witnessing Without Fear. I’ve tweaked it and narrowed the focus a little for use in my setting.
Here’s how it works…
- Begin with relationships. Rather than compartmentalizing evangelism as something only done with an uncomfortable tract with a total stranger, look at your friends. Begin with relationships of trust. We all have them.
- Ask. Simply ask them to read the Bible with you: “If Jesus is as consequential a figure as the Bible purports Him to be, don’t you owe it to yourself to see what He said and did in His own words?” Friends are probably more willing to do this than you might realize.
- Communicate expectations. This is the heart of the “experiment.” There are 21 chapters in the Gospel of John. Challenge them to read one chapter of John per day for the next 21 days. This includes three things for them to do: First, pray to God asking Him to show the truth of who Jesus is. Second, thoughtfully read the text. Third, write down any insights and questions in a notebook.
- Meet one-on-one. During the timeframe, meet up once per week to discuss what was read. One of my favorite questions to ask is, “What stood out to you most? Why?” You might share what stood out to you as well. It’s also an opportunity for them to ask clarifying questions from the notebook.
- Ask for a response. In John 20:31, John says he wrote his gospel “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” At this point, you have the opportunity to give an invitation making that question a personal one.
I love this approach because it allows a person to hear from Jesus Himself. It also lets someone grapple with biblical truth in community. And it marries evangelism and discipleship.
After 3 weeks, your friend might be ready to follow Jesus. But maybe they want to study more. Either way, you’ve begun a comfortable and safe place to read the Bible together. That’s a win for both of you!
Chris James serves as Boston Collegiate Coordinator for the Baptist Convention of New England where he serves as Pastor of Mill City Church & Christian Student Fellowship, a multi-site ministry reaching students at UMASS Lowell. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi (BA) and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv).