Introduction

The Great Commission is God's call to Christians to evangelize the lost, or to bring non-Christians into the fold.  Scripture calls all Christians to share their faith, or to witness.

In order to clear up any confusion, some definitions are in order here:

  • evangelism (evangelizing the lost):  The act of converting non-Christians to Christianity
  • witnessing (sharing your faith):  The act of sharing the Christian faith with another person, with the goal of bringing this person to faith in Christ or at least bringing him or her closer to this decision
  • leading a person to Christ:  the same as sharing your faith, except that the lost person has to accept Christ and become a Christian

The Great Commission

Old Testament Passages

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 12:1-3)[1]

And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. (Genesis 28:13-15)

And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul. (Ezekiel 3:16-21)

New Testament Passages

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:15-16)

And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:46-48)

Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. (John 20:21)

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles...Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. (Acts 8:1,4)

All Christians Are Commanded to Evangelize the Lost

Scripture calls all Christians to evangelize the lost. The first three passages (Genesis 12:1-3[2]; Genesis 28:13-15; and Ezekiel 3:16-21) indicate that this call is not new to the New Testament. The final passage (Acts 8:1,4) indicates that the call to witness does not apply only to leaders, but to all Christians.

Size of Group to Witness

Solo Witnessing

Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea. (Acts 8:26-40)
 

Paul at Athens

Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them. (Acts 17:16-33)

Witnessing in Pairs

Jesus Sends the Twelve

And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits; And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse: But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats. And he said unto them, In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city. And they went out, and preached that men should repent. (Mark 6:7-12)
 

Jesus Sends the Seventy

After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house. And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell. He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me. And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. (Luke 10:1-17)

Group Witnessing

But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. (Acts 2:14-40)

Conclusion

It is scripturally acceptable to share your faith by yourself, with another person, or in a group. If you are comfortable witnessing by yourself, by all means. If you are more comfortable with another person or in a group, then find another person or a group and go.

 

However:

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (2 Corinthians 13:5)

You need to constantly check yourself to be certain that you are influencing the people that you are witnessing to rather than vice versa.

 

How to Share Your Faith

The Scripture passages given above describe several ways to share your faith as to the size of the group to witness. Other ways to witness are described below.

The Woman at the Well

Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? Then they went out of the city, and came unto him... And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. And many more believed because of his own word; And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. (John 4:6-30,39-42)
 

Although few, if any today, are omniscient as was Jesus, this passage describes one method of witnessing: bringing a lost person before somebody knowledgeable about the gospel.

My Own Witnessing

I should also state how I share the gospel the majority of the time. Most of the time, I do solo witnessing. My approach is more of a Dale Carnegie type approach (of course, a person cannot be saved solely because he likes the person doing the witnessing: God must be involved!).
  • I will walk up to a person or a group of two or more people and try to start a conversation with them.
  • I usually ask them how they are doing. I will then move on to small talk, such as the weather or a similar subject. I then attempt to find things that the person(s) that I am talking to are interested in or things that we have in common. This can be from what they talk about, or sometimes by what is on their T-shirts, jackets, caps, etc.
  • The word "I" is the most common word used in a conversation. I try to use the word "you" more often than "I" in a conversation, although I will not completely abstain from using "I".
  • I try to affirm the person that I am speaking with. I will say things such as "I care about others"; "I care about you"; "I think you are important"; "Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself, and I am trying to show that I do"; and the like.
  • When I find areas of interest or areas that we have in common, I talk to the other person(s) on these areas. For example, if the person is wearing a Denver Broncos (a pro football team) jacket, I may talk to him about the Broncos, even though I personally may not have a lot of interest in that particular team. My objective at this point is to get the person(s) to like me and for them to enjoy the conversation. The conversation can be short (often is, for example, when the weather is cold) or long.
  • Early in the conversation, I will extend my hand and give them my first name. Usually, they will shake hands and give me theirs. First names are usually non-threatening. I then make an effort to remember their names (people appreciate if I remember their names during a conversation).
  • At some point in the conversation, usually toward or at the end of the conversation, I hand the person(s) a tract (pamphlet) that contains the gospel.
  • Often the conversation ends at that point; other times, they ask me about the tract; and I can then go into the gospel with them. Sometimes, this ends with one or more people accepting Christ.
  • If a person says that he needs help in any way (other than money, since giving out money normally does not help in the long run), I usually offer to help him out, if possible. I will often "go the extra mile." For example, if he wants to know how go get to a particular place, I often walk with him to that place rather than simply giving him directions. Or, if he needs to get somewhere outside of walking distance, I may offer to take him there without charge, even if it is out of my way. Remember, actions often speak louder than words!
  • I will also use this approach when I am at a farmers' market when there is no line at a booth; in this case, I also will buy something from the person at the booth. After all, this is in part how they make a living!

Additional Approaches

Other approaches exist as well, such as Contagious Christianity and Evangelism Explosion. Rather than discussing these on this website, it would be better for the reader to find a website where somebody who has experience with these approaches discusses them, as I would only be a theorist.

Reasons Christians Do Not Share Their Faith and Solutions

Bad Theology

If one believes in universalism (everybody will go to heaven) or predestination (God already chose those who will go to heaven), witnessing essentially becomes pointless. See my page on free will.
 
Also, if one believes that witnessing only applies to the leaders (priests/pastors, missionaries, etc.), then again he probably will not witness. The Christians who were not the apostles in the Acts 8:1,4 passage listed above certainly did not agree with this!
 

Fear About Witnessing

Many Christians have this fear. I also get nervous about witnessing. Remember:
 
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear ; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
 
Please keep in mind also that Christians in more than 40 nations today risk their lives to witness; yet they witness to the lost!
 
A good way to overcome this fear is to go with a group. You could be a "silent partner" or a "prayer warrior," at least until you become more comfortable with witnessing. There is certainly nothing wrong with witnessing in a group. See my section further up this page on the size of the group to witness.
 

I Don't Know How to Witness

If we had to know as much as Jesus Christ to be able to witness, nobody could witness!
 
Many churches offer classes on how to witness to the lost. If you feel as though you need more knowledge, ask your pastor/priest. He should be able to help.
 
Another option is to go with somebody or a group and be the "silent partner." In fact, many groups will request that one be a "silent partner" for a certain amount of time to learn how the group witnesses. As an example, one group that I went out with required that one be silent for the first three times out before being able to witness himself.
 

It Is the Pastor's Job to Witness

The early church certainly did not agree with this:
 
And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles...Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. (Acts 8:1,4)
 
Note that the apostles remained in Jerusalem, which means that others were out witnessing.
 

Faith Is a Personal or Private Matter

Please show me where in Scripture that it says this! In fact, the Scripture says the exact opposite of this, as this entire web page shows. Yes, becoming a Christian is a personal decision (see how to be saved); but sharing our faith is commanded in Scripture.
 

I'll Just Pray for Them

Certainly, praying for lost people is important. God needs to move in their hearts. In some cases, this may be all that is possible. For example, one may never have a chance to go to Saudi Arabia; but he can pray for Saudis to find Christ. However, prayer can be a cop-out, as it should not be a substitute for action when action is possible.
 
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! (Romans 10:13-15)
 
I like to describe a salvation as (ratios may not be exact here): A person starts 1000 steps from Christ. God takes the first 990 steps; the person(s) doing the witnessing take(s) the next nine; and the person being witnessed to takes the final step. Yes, prayer is important; but somebody has to take those nine steps (Romans 10:13-15)!
 

Congregations Can Penalize Witnessing

This happens! One congregation that I attended would not allow me to become a member there because, due to witnessing to the lost, I missed Sunday School. When a congregation penalizes witnessing as this one did, clearly they will have less witnessing. The solution for this case is simple: congregations need to incentivize and promote witnessing, not the opposite.
 

I Will Live as a Christian and Let Them Come to Me

Certainly, living as a Christian should be a given. Our lifestyle should be significantly different from that of a non-Christian. However, I have not found a Biblical passage that says something like: "Live as I have commanded you, and they will come..." Certainly, during the rare occurrences when somebody approaches you about your lifestyle, you need to be ready to share:
 
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. (2 Timothy 4:2)
 
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: (1 Peter 3:15)
 
However, the passages at the beginning of this page clearly state that we are to go to the lost.
 

Congregations Do Not Recognize the Problem

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. (Isaiah 6:8)
 

Church leadership may believe that witnessing is common in their congregation when it actually is not. I was a member of the evangelism team of a large congregation and repeatedly pointed out how little witnessing was going on in the congregation, backed up by facts. The response with the rest of the evangelism team was "It can't be that bad." It can be that bad, and it was. If church leadership does not recognize a problem, are they going to take steps to address it?

Time for Action!

Time to put what you learned into action!

footnotes

[1] All scripture references are from the King James Version unless otherwise noted. Please see my about page for why I chose this translation.

[2] I am adding the ability to link to scriptural references for convenience, especially for users of mobile phones. You will not leave this page by using these links.