The overall focus of Equipping the Saints is change. There are four units of material organized under the headings, Change Your Heart, Change Your Mind, Change Your Life and Change the World. The fourth unit, which we are now beginning, deals with concepts related to ministry. The opening chapter addresses miscellaneous, preliminary ideas and clarifications about a few concepts foundational to what follows. We begin with some things that evangelism is not.
God designed human beings in His image. We are moral agents who function according to certain moral principles and procedures. We honor or violate such moral agency. Honoring our design produces good results while violating our design produces complication, confusion and entanglement. Evangelism involves efforts to convince a person to take the first step back into right relationship with their Creator. Some people, even in the Christian community, seem to confuse spiritual activity with magic. Instead of understanding God’s moral design for man, there is an assumption that we can “claim” someone’s salvation or do some other “wave of the wand” that produces a change of heart.
It is true that deep emotion might accompany genuine conversion, but the emotional experience is not the essence of repentance. For example, Paul states, “…the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Co.7:10). An emotional response of sorrow can be selfish in nature (“the sorrow of the world”), producing nothing but further death, or it can be an expression of conviction about grieving and dishonoring God, leading to salvation. The phrase “leading to” indicates that sorrow is not repentance. It is also worth considering that it does not necessarily lead to repentance. One can experience such conviction and emotion and yet fail or refuse to repent.
We are Not Aiming to Make Friends
The goal of evangelism is to lead a person to conversion, back into right relationship with Christ. Often, the truth one needs to communicate in this process is not what the person wants to hear. If our mindset is to make friends with such individuals, we will likely avoid saying certain things that need to be spoken. Of course, we are not aiming to insult people, but rather, speak the truth in love; tell them what they need to hear for their highest good. This might be insulting to some, but that is not our goal. When it is all said and done, we might make a friend, but that is not our goal.
Leading a person to repentance and conversion is not convincing them to give Jesus permission to take them to heaven when they die. The desire to receive the reward of heaven can be the manifestation of the same selfish heart that produced other religious or non-religious behaviors.
The Sinners Prayer
Putting words in a person’s mouth does not produce conversion. The “repeat after me” formula does not magically bind God to a contract obligating Him to assign a seat in heaven. The true nature of the sinner’s prayer is not words mechanically repeated after another, it is words expressed as a manifestation of a changed heart.
Act Like a Christian
Evangelism is not giving a person a list (different from group to group) of external activities and behaviors that make them act like a Christian. Such external changes might follow genuine conversion but without the internal transformation, the external changes produce a whitewashed tomb full of dead men’s bones (Mt.23:27).
Act Like a Non-Christian
In a strange reverse fashion from the above, some believe that in order to reach the unconverted, the evangelist has to act like the unconverted. Of course, they wrongly apply Paul’s statement, “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some” (1Co 9:22) as a justification, but we can deal with this concept at a later time.
 This involves a call to repentance. After genuine repentance, other levels of instruction about changing specific aspects of one’s understanding and conduct is appropriate. This is under the general heading of discipleship.
 It might be going to church, listening to Christian music, wearing different cloths, cutting their hair, etc.