The Oil of Evangelism

Let’s face it, when many Christians think of evangelism, many different viewpoints arise within their minds and there seems to be a general misconception of the true nature of personal evangelism.  Let’s explore two general types and their application within modern American culture.

Within the realm of personal evangelism, there are generally two types:  incarnational and informational.  According to John Stott, incarnational evangelism is akin to “entering into other people’s worlds with Christ-likeness.”[1]  In essence, this type of evangelism is more commonly known as relational evangelism, in which one enters into another’s environment through relationship to share the Gospel of Christ with that person.  In contrast, informational evangelism is simply to render the Gospel of Christ informational to the listener, which aids in their translation of the message in the midst of a constant stream of opposing philosophical worldviews.[2]  Through this type of evangelism, the information being shared takes precedence over a relationship. 

Both incarnational and informational approaches to evangelism are equally important, especially in modern American culture.  This culture fosters a ‘results-based’ approach to everything, and many concepts are rendered a ‘hard-sell’ without a visualization of the end result.  One cannot effectively ‘sell’ Christianity to unbelievers without an outward demonstration of its benefit over existing alternatives.  For example, would one be more apt to purchase a fitness program from an obese smoker with Type II diabetes, or from a buff, energetic person?

Jesus provides the answer to how one should balance incarnational and informational in the Gospel of Matthew.[3]  True Christians are the bearers of light, or lamps, to a world in darkness, bearing the light that only comes from an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.  Much like the oil lamps that were common during the days of the early church, Christians maintain this light through a continuous supply of oil, which represents the Holy Spirit residing in each believer.  Christians should strive to be so filled with this ‘Oil’, that It exudes from every aspect of one’s life, to include one’s evangelism.  In fact, the Spirit is life to each believer, and one’s informational approach to evangelism is an offer of life to the unbeliever.[4]

While there are many barriers to sharing the Gospel with others, a prominent one being fear.  For example, fear is a major barrier for me in sharing the Gospel with others, mainly a fear of professional repercussions associated with my job in the military.  Since there are strict rules against proselytizing, there seems to be a razor’s edge line between this and simply sharing your faith.  However, as Will McRaney states, “we must continually be guided by the Holy Spirit” in all evangelism efforts.[5]

With this statement, McRaney provides the key to personal evangelism—the Holy Spirit—and has been since the Great Commission was given by Christ.  With the Great Commission, Christ issues a directive to all Christians.  Even though most refer to Matthew’s version of this directive, Luke’s version includes the preaching of repentance and remission of sins, coupled with an endued power from on high.[6]  The evidence of this power, or boldness, is also evidence of the appropriate relationship with the Holy Spirit necessary to preach repentance and remission of sins with boldness.  One cannot effectively do one without the other.

The Apostles before the ascension of Christ were generally the same Apostles throughout the remainder of the New Testament, but with one distinct difference:  they possessed the unfaltering boldness of the Holy Spirit to evangelize the world.  This distinct boldness is first seen in Peter and John, and even unbelievers marveled at the difference in their message and immediately knew they were Christians.[7]

In order to conquer one’s fear associated with evangelism, one must first seek the boldness of the Spirit, in the same manner that Luke discusses in Acts 4:29, and Paul in 2 Corinthians 7:4 and Ephesians 3:12.  In addition, to specifically address our fear of not doing a good enough job representing Christ, Acts 4:13 speaks of a newfound boldness in Peter and John, where prior to receiving this boldness from the Holy Spirit, people saw them as uneducated and ignorant men.  They marveled at their newfound boldness, and they saw the evidence of Christ in them.  Despite our barriers, we should pray in the manner of the early church, and ask God for an increasing boldness to proclaim the Gospel and do mighty things in His name.[8]


[1] Quoted from John Stott’s final public address at the Keswick Convention in the United Kingdom, 2007.

[2] Scott Dawson and Scott Lenning, Evangelism Today: Effectively Sharing the Gospel in a Rapidly Changing World (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2009), 179.

[3] Matthew 5:14-16, NKJV.

[4] John 6:63; Romans 8:10; Revelation 2:7, NKJV.

[5] Will McRaney, The Art of Personal Evangelism: Sharing Jesus in a Changing Culture (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2003), 191.

[6] Matthew 28:16-20, NKJV and Luke 24: 46-49, NKJV.

[7] Acts 4:13, NKJV.

[8] Acts 4:29-30, NKJV.

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