Billy Graham Center
World Congress on Evangelism, 1966
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William R. Bright

If the Great Commission is to be fulfilled in our generation, there must be a dramatic new emphasis on personal evangelism.

Most every Christian leader will agree with this statement. In practice, however, very little is being done about personal evangelism. Why?


From a special project on personal evangelism involving thousands of counseling sessions, four basic reasons for this lack of personal evangelism have become apparent.

1.         Christian leaders are not setting an example in the area of personal evangelism, because most of them

a. have not been trained
b. are not fruitful themselves
c. are “afraid of man”
d. are too busy.

2.         It is estimated that approximately ninety-five percent of all Christians are living defeated fruitless, carnal lives.

How can a defeated, carnal Christian who is living in the experience of Romans 7, present a witness for Christ? 

3.         Most Christians do not know how to share their faith effectively with others.

In the United States, it has been estimated, one thousand laymen and six pastors are required to introduce one person to the Lord Jesus Christ in an entire year. In one major denomination there we two thousand individual churches without a singe salvation decision reported during the year of 1961. Of the few Christians who have the courage to share their faith, most see little response because they do not know what to say or how to present the Gospel. 

4.         There is unbelief. Our Lord “Could do no mighty things in Nazareth because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58).

This same “spirit of Nazareth,” the spirit of unbelief, also renders the twentieth—century Christian impotent. Most Christians have believed the “big lie” of the centuries, namely, that men don’t want to know God.” The Christian has been brainwashed into presupposing a negative response to a personal witness for Christ. 

The Christian knows that he should and wants to witness, but is afraid to try. 

This failure on the part of the Christian to witness is all the more tragic when one discovers that the average non—believer wants to become a Christian, but does not know how. 

In a “Collegiate Challenge Magazine” survey of 10,500 students from scores of campuses throughout the United States that covered a period of three years, it was discovered that 89.1 percent of all those interviewed did not know how to become a Christian. Yet the majority were looking for a faith. 


What then is the solution to this problem of the fruitless witness and the impotent church? If most Christians want to introduce others to Christ and many non-believers want to become Christians, what can be done to satisfy the desires of both?

1.         First, the Christian must understand how to abide in Christ, how to appropriate the power of the Holy Spirit in his life moment by moment by faith.

Personal evangelism apart from a conscious moment by moment abiding in Christ, or “walk” in the Spirit, leads to legalism, spiritual pride and ultimate frustration. No Christian can be used of God consistently to introduce others to Christ unless there is an understanding of and personal experience with the person of the Holy Spirit as our source of power for witnessing.

2.         Second, training in personal evangelism is imperative.

a.         Jesus trained His disciples - the three, the twelve, the seventy, and then one-hundred—twenty.

b.         Paul emphasized the value of training when he admonished Timothy to teach others the things which he had learned (II Timothy 2:2). Even though Timothy was a third-generation Christian and his trained helper, Paul still found it necessary to admonish Timothy to be more bold and aggressive in his witness for Christ. He said, “Stir up the gift of God that is in you,” “Do not be ashamed to testify to and for our Lord” (II Timothy 1:6-8 ANT).

c.         Paul depended upon the men whom he had trained to communicate. his methods and procedures (I Cor. 4:16- 18ANT).

d.         Those trained by Paul’s methods in Thessalonica became disciples and were greatly used of God (I Thes. 1:4—10).

If Paul in the first century found it necessary to say: “Recall to your minds my methods of proceedings, course of conduct and way of life in Christ, such as I teach everywhere in each of the churches,” how much more must we give attention to training, to methods, to procedures.

Through training in personal evangelism the Christian learns how to communicate his faith. He learns how to share the basic facts of the Gospel in a logical, clear, brief and precise way, free of offensive religious jargon.

Hundreds of Student and Lay Institutes of Evangelism conducted by Campus Crusade for Christ, Inc. have shown us the validity of training in personal evangelism. In thousands of cases carnal fruitless Christians have become effective fruitful witnesses for Christ with only a few hours of instruction.

A word of caution should be given regarding the use of “canned approaches” or definite methods and procedures: the trainee should be carefully instructed to avoid using techniques, methods and materials without complete reliance upon the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit.

It should be made emphatically clear that the Christian is only an instrument, a channel of God’s love. Salvation is a gift of God made known through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus explained to Nicodemus (John 3:1—8).

No amount of argument, logic, high pressure, techniques, methods or materials are adequate to bring someone to Christ. Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him...” (John 6:44).

A proper understanding of the Christian’s role in the witnessing experience and of the Holy Spirit’s role helps to remove the tendency to fear man, to become discouraged when there are no results, or to become spiritually proud when God blesses with “much fruit.”

The importance of training in personal evangelism is demonstrated from Scripture, from history and from experience. Renewal cannot come to the Church of Jesus Christ until a renewed emphasis is given to the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit and Christians are trained to share their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in a more effective way.

3.         Third, Christian “leaders” must place greater emphasis on personal evangelism.

The pastor must assume leadership by personal
example as well as by exhorting his people about the
importance of personal evangelism.

To produce pastors with a vital concern for personal evangelism, Christian schools and seminaries must restore personal evangelism to its rightful emphasis in the classroom.

The Great Commission can and by God’s grace shall be fulfilled only through a renewed emphasis on personal evangelism.

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Last Revised: 10/25/06
Expiration: indefinite

Wheaton College 2006