Whether it’s war, sport or business, everyone needs a good strategy. Strategy is the ‘how’ question. You might have a vision—what you want to see happen. You might have a mission—what you are going to do. But do you have the strategy—how are you going to do it?
What is our strategy for evangelism? As Christians, we have our vision: the nations before the throne praising the Son (Rev 7:9-10). And we have our mission: to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19). But what is our strategy? How are we going to do this?
Thankfully we don’t have to come up with one ourselves. God has given us the strategy—and there is no better place to go than 2 Corinthians 4 to discover what it is.
Paul was being attacked by a group of so-called ‘super-apostles’ who saw his style and strategy of ministry as weak and ineffective. They valued strength over weakness, style over substance, law over gospel and ecstatic experiences over plain talk and persuasion. And the Corinthians were buying it. For Paul, this was a disaster. Not only were these false teachers leading his church away from Christ, their false strategy for evangelism would ensure that no-one else would come to Christ either. Paul had to set things straight, and this is what 2 Corinthians is all about.
And so here, Paul outlines God’s strategy for evangelism. It’s the strategy Paul used as he planted churches across the Mediterranean, and it’s the strategy that we must use today as we seek to make disciples of all nations. We can break the strategy up into three parts.
#1: Tell people about Jesus from the Bible
Paul begins by explaining what he won’t do to make disciples. He says that we do not, “use deception, nor do we distort the word of God” (2 Cor 4:2). This can be tempting. Churches sometimes try to trick people into the Kingdom, offering everything and anything except the gospel as a tactic to get people through the doors. Christians will often try to change God’s word to make it more palatable, glossing over the parts about judgement, sexuality or repentance. And it is usually out of a sincere desire to see people become Christians. But Paul says clearly this should not be our strategy. There are lines we must not cross.
So what is our strategy? Put simply: tell people about Jesus from the Bible. Paul instructs us that, “what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord” (2 Cor 4:5) and the way we go about doing this is by “setting forth the truth plainly” (2 Cor 4:2). That’s it. Open up your Bibles, and show people the truth about Jesus. From our sermons, to our evangelistic events, to when we meet up with our friends—we need to tell them about Jesus from the Bible.
#2: God opens blind eyes
This is not actually about what we do, but if we don’t believe in this second part we will never do the first part. While we are to tell people about Jesus, it is God who brings people to faith. If we think that people believing in Jesus ultimately depends on me and my power, my intellect, my appeal, then we will either stop sharing the gospel altogether or start distorting the gospel to get people to accept it. But part of our strategy is to understand that we can’t make someone believe—only God can.
Paul explains that the devil “has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel” (2 Cor 4:4). As long as the devil has blinded them, they won’t see the truth. They have a spiritual problem that requires a spiritual solution. Thankfully, God is much more powerful than the devil. He can open blind eyes and bring someone to faith. Paul writes, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). The same creative power that brought the whole universe into existence can bring blind unbelievers to faith in Christ.
This means that it doesn’t matter if you don’t feel very good at evangelism, because it’s not you who will open people’s eyes—God will. It also means that everything we do must be bathed in prayer. We won’t get anywhere with evangelism unless God’s Spirit is powerfully at work, so we must never stop praying for God to open eyes as we preach Christ.
#3: Give your life away
The last part of the strategy has to do with how we see ourselves. Paul describes himself as a servant. We know that Paul is primarily a servant of Christ (Rom 1:1). But here Paul tells the Corinthians that he is “your servants for Christ’s sake” (2 Cor 4:5). He is a servant to the people he is trying to reach for Christ. In other words, Paul is willing to give up anything and everything to see them come to Christ. He is willing to give up his time, energy, money, reputation, career-prospects, friendships—even his life—for the sake of those he wants to be saved. He has enslaved himself to them for Christ’s sake so that they might see and have life.
So what is our strategy for evangelism? How will we seek to make disciples of all nations this year? Here is my attempt at a summary: We tell people about Jesus from the Bible knowing that God opens blind eyes, and we give away our lives to see that happen.
Not a bad strategy? Let’s give it a go.
This article was originally published on Tom Habib’s personal blog The Word Grows and is re-published here with kind permission.