The nations have never been more mobile. They reside in cities worldwide—many live in our cities. We can be missionaries without leaving our zip code. So we must intentionally engage in meeting people in the places where active daily life happens. We must take the gospel to the common places people frequent.
But before we talk to people about God, we talk to God about people. For evangelism to be effective, God must intervene. Our good gospel information means nothing apart from his Spirit at work. God convicts of sin, God convinces repentance, and God conforms people to his image. And this powerful working of God is what we see happening in Jesus’s interaction with the woman at the well in John 4.
Missional Engagement at the Cultural Crossroads
Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the cross-section of culture that was the village well. People gathered there to receive their most essential need: water. Villagers mixed and mingled there; the well quenched their thirst and provided what they needed for their families, farms, food, and fellowship.
Just as water is essential for life, Jesus is essential for this life and life eternal. When Jesus revealed himself to the woman at the well, he gently yet boldly opened her eyes to her need for “living water” and gloriously showed her that he alone could meet her eternal, soul-deep thirst for spiritual life. Where is your Samaria—the place you walk around though God would have you walk through? Click To Tweet
In essence, evangelism is sharing the vital need of the gospel laced with the demand of repentance from God for all people. Here are five lessons for practical evangelism.
1. Imperative: The Gospel Compels Our Engagement
Jesus “had to pass through Samaria” (John 4:4, my emphasis). Other Jews would take the long route to avoid Samaritans, but not Jesus. He stopped where life happened and centered himself in the margins—Jacob’s well at high noon! He sought one cast out by society. Jesus challenged age-old ethnic division and stood up against hatred and segregation. He didn’t avoid the historical animosity between Jews and Samaritans but faced it by holding out the water of everlasting life to this living-in-sin Samaritan woman.
Dick Hillis, missionary to China, famously said, “Every heart with Christ is a missionary; every heart without Christ is a mission field.” Do we have that perspective about the souls we meet every day?
We must go to people, not travel around them, and address difficult people rather than avoid them. Amid discomfort, loss of reputation, and difficulty, Jesus engaged with people. He was compelled to do so.
Where is your Samaria—the place you walk around though God would have you walk through? Where does life happen in your neighborhood? Find that place, plan for mission there, engage the lostness of that area as a church, and regularly share the gospel. Sit, soak, and serve there.
2. Intentionality: The Gospel Sets Our Purpose
Bringing the gospel to bear on those around us requires intentionality. Notice how Jesus masterfully uses conversational evangelism. He intentionally moves the conversation toward spiritual dynamics.
We must be prayerful, planned, and prepared—laser-focused on sharing Jesus with lost souls. We don’t do spooky osmosis evangelism—“friendship evangelism”—where you build a relationship but never graciously confront people about Jesus. No, we cross all cultural lines and barriers because we want them to have friendship with God. We don’t do spooky osmosis evangelism—“friendship evangelism”—where you build a relationship but never graciously confront people about Jesus. Click To Tweet
Here’s a simple plan for any context. Ask these questions and posit the hope:
- I’m praying that you will trust Jesus as Savior one day.
- I’m praying you will do that soon.
- Would you like to pray to receive Jesus as Savior?
Just ask. Don’t be scared—and if you are, ask anyway! Be driven to push past your temporary conversational discomfort by the reality of people going to hell eternally.
3. Innovation: Connect Regular Desires to Eternal Hope
Jesus uses the woman’s everyday need to reveal her eternal need. “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would ask him, and he would give you living water” (v. 10). We can use the regular things of our environment, context, and culture as opportunities to share Christ.
In this, we engage creatively, carefully, and prayerfully. Think of a typical conversation you have with others. What is something from those conversations that could point (like the water) to a deeper spiritual need for Christ? What would that conversation sound like? Plan it; write it down. Innovate for effective engagement.
4. Information (Interference): Tell the Truth about the One Who Meets Our Deepest Needs
Jesus intends to move the conversation to spiritual matters, so he disrupts the woman by telling her, “Go, call your husband” (v.16). He responds to the woman’s thoughts and belief system with truth. Her comment about where to worship (v. 19) gives him a gospel in-road, and he uses it to inform and disrupt her understanding of the Messiah.
Who can you courageously and lovingly confront with spiritual truth about Jesus? Over lunch, dinner, coffee, or at the office Christmas party, have the conversation lovingly and with hope. They may be waiting for you to speak. Who in your sphere believes incorrectly and needs to be informed with the truth of the gospel? Be driven to push past your temporary conversational discomfort by the reality of people going to hell eternally. Click To Tweet
Who may think they’re already a Christian but are not? Study what they believe outside of Christ’s Word and set up a series of three to five meetings to discuss it with them. Use a book, a blog, a beer—but research and study. Don’t argue for the rightness of your doctrine; use right doctrine, by God’s grace, to fight for the righteousness of the lost person.
5. Inspiration: Center People’s Longings on the Solution—Jesus Himself
The Samaritan woman was hoping and waiting for salvation, drinking all this temporarily satisfying water, cycling through relationships—then she met Jesus, who said, “I who speak to you am he” (v. 26). I’m it! I’m the Messiah! He revealed himself as the solution to all her longing, loneliness, and fear.
Your neighbors and family members are hoping and waiting for salvation, too. We don’t lift ourselves and say, “look how good I am.” We make our boast in Christ! We can be honest about our faults and failures, pointing to the faultless Savior—Jesus.
Many people are at the precipice of brokenness, uncertainty, hopelessness, divorce, cancer, and relational, financial, and family discord. The gospel is the forgiveness of sins and life eternal with Christ in a new, diverse family. The bondage-breaking, demon-destroying, evil-evicting gospel of Jesus brings life and hope. These souls need their “home at last” word from God, and we’re on this earth to center their longings on Jesus himself.
Once Thirsty, Now Overflowing
The Samaritan woman came for water to Jacob’s well. She left with a word from Jesus and as a worshiper of Jesus. She was no longer thirsty—she left her water pots and told everyone she saw about the Messiah (vv. 28–30). The bondage-breaking, demon-destroying, evil-evicting gospel of Jesus brings life and hope. Click To Tweet
Isn’t that our story, too? We came to Jesus thirsty, drawn by his powerful Spirit at work in us. He gave us his Word, made us worshipers, and sent us out to bring others to him. Let’s boldly evangelize, introducing Jesus to the lost souls all around us.
“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied” (Acts 9:31).