Here is my (ever-changing) game plan
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From Luke’s Journal Jan 2023 | Vol.28 No.1 | Evolving Professionals
As Christians, we know that evangelism is important. We know that sharing the gospel with people is something that we should be doing. But too often we fail to share the good news with our friends, colleagues and fellow medical students.
The reasons for this are numerous. Sometimes it is the fear of what other people might think of us. Sometimes we aren’t sure how to share the gospel. Other times, we get so caught up in our work that we simply forget. Or even still, we share the gospel with lots of people and seemingly see no fruit from our effort and so get burnt out (as was the case with one of my most faithful friends in medical school). I don’t claim to be an expert on evangelism but during my time as a medical student, I have picked up a few helpful tips.
What is evangelism?
Before sharing those tips, it is important to think about what evangelism is. At its core, evangelism is proclaiming the gospel. It is about sharing the good news of salvation freely offered to us by the work of Jesus, knowing that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).
Why we evangelise
There are at least three biblical reasons why we proclaim this good news:
God’s glory, God’s command and God’s love.1
First, we have a God who is glorious. Put another way, He is majestic and praiseworthy. He is deserving of all honour and worship. God is glorious because of His character as a loving, compassionate, gracious and just God (Exodus 34:6-7). He is also glorious because of the work He has done in creating all things (Revelation 4:11) and redeeming all things through his death on the cross (Revelation 5:11-13). When people are actively rebelling against God they are robbing him of the praise and honour and worship that he deserves. It is only through hearing the gospel that they can repent of their sin and turn back to rightly glorifying him (Romans 10:14-15).
Second, we evangelise because God has commanded us to. In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus, who has all authority in heaven and on earth, commands his disciples to go and make other disciples in all nations. This command applies to all of Jesus’ followers to the end of the age and so, applies to us as much as it did to the original disciples of Jesus.
Third, we evangelise people out of love for them. Whether or not someone trusts in Jesus has eternal consequences for that person. Whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life, enjoying the blessings of being in his presence and in a world free from sin (Revelation 21:3-4). Conversely, if someone has rejected Jesus, God’s wrath remains on them (John 3:36). They will spend eternity facing God’s judgement for their sins. So, sharing the gospel with someone, in the hope that they will repent and believe in Jesus, is the most loving thing we could ever do.
How we evangelise
With that in mind, how do we evangelise as medical students?
Here are seven tips that I have found helpful:
- Be intentional with the people you are trying to share the gospel with. I have found it helpful to have three people I am actively trying to share the gospel with at any one time. This doesn’t mean that I will never share the gospel with anyone else. But these three people are the people that I am intentionally creating opportunities to evangelise to. These are the three people that I am trying to build a relationship with. Having them over for a meal, engaging in one of their interests with them, or just offering to study with them, are all good options. One of the blessings of studying medicine is that it is so easy to form deep relationships with people as we study with them, work with them and sometimes, even live with them. These three people can change over time as new friendships are formed and old friendships end. However, it is good to be clear who you are intentionally evangelising to.
- Pray for the people you are evangelising to. We have a God who hears and answers prayer (John 14:14). We know that those who do not follow Christ are spiritually dead in their sins, unable to revive themselves (Eph 2:1). It is only when God works in someone, by His Spirit, that they can turn back to Him and be saved. So, it makes sense that we would pray for the people we hope God would save, knowing that all our efforts are useless if God is not at work. There are a variety of opportunities to do that as medical students. Personal prayer may involve using an app like Prayer Mate as a way of structuring prayer by setting up a list of all the non-Christians that you are evangelising to. CMDFA prayer groups are one option for communal prayer and a helpful way to get other Christians to pray for your non-Christian friends, as well as for you as you share the gospel. This can also be done in medical Bible study groups or prayer and Bible study groups at church.
- Ask good questions. In Acts 17, when Paul was in Athens he took the time to observe the gods of the Athenians. Then, as he preached the gospel he presented it in a way appropriate to their context. While he didn’t change the gospel message he changed the way it was presented so that what he said was more appropriate for the people he was speaking to. So, while not vital, it is helpful to know what someone believes before we share the gospel with them. Asking someone questions about themselves also shows that you are genuinely interested in them. It is a way of loving them. Good questions also allow someone to see the inconsistencies in their worldview even before you have shared anything about Christianity. In medicine, as we are constantly surrounded by people who are suffering and dying. Some helpful questions include: Why do you think suffering exists in this world? What do you think happens after we die? If you were to die today and God were to ask you why you think you should go to heaven, what would you say?
- Use your testimony. This is something we see Paul do when he evangelised to the crowd in Jerusalem in Acts 22:1-21. As you ask someone questions about their own beliefs, people will naturally, in turn, ask you what you believe. This is an excellent opportunity to share your testimony and include the gospel. A good testimony will be clear and easy to follow. I recommend having a short version of your testimony, which is no longer than three minutes, and a longer version. Then you can modify your testimony depending on the context. A good testimony will consist of three parts: 1) what your life was like before you became a Christian, 2) how you became a Christian (which is where you can insert the gospel) and 3) how your life changed after you became a Christian. As a medical student, you might like to include how becoming a Christian changed the way you live, act and approach your studies. It would also be worth learning a gospel tract, such as “Two Ways to Live”, and using that in conjunction with your testimony to share the gospel.
- Think about the next step with each person. What is the next thing you need to do to share the gospel with the person you are praying for? For some people, this next step might just be telling them you go to church on the weekend and that you are Christian. If they already know that you’re a Christian and you go to church, it might be sharing with them what you find encouraging about church. Talking about what you learned at church can be great opportunities to explain the gospel too. For some people, the next step might be inviting them along to church or a church evangelistic series, such as “Christianity Explored” or the equivalent at your church. If someone isn’t ready to come along to church, it could be a good step to ask, “Why not?” Often introducing your non-Christian friends to your Christian friends can be a good way of bridging the gap and making an invitation to church more appealing. If your friend isn’t ready to come to a formal church event you might also suggest reading the Bible together. If they are interested, then going through “Christianity Explored” or the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students (AFES) series, “Uncover Mark” or “Uncover Luke”, can be helpful.
- Answer questions well. Always be ready to give a reason for your hope as a Christian (1 Peter 3:15). Questions and conversations around bioethical issues frequently occur in medicine and these are often a great opportunity for evangelism. Questions about your stance on abortion, euthanasia, suffering, transgenderism and homosexuality can all lead to sharing the gospel. As you answer these questions try and refer to the Bible as much as possible, knowing that the Bible is God’s inspired word that reveals the salvation found in Christ Jesus (2 Tim 3:15-16). Know what Biblical principles and Bible passages relate to talking about all these issues. As you have these conversations, remember that your primary objective is not to change someone’s view. Your primary objective is to share the gospel with them in the hope that they will come to know Christ. While it is important to faithfully and firmly hold to what the Bible says on all of these issues, it is only through coming to know Christ that a person will want to submit their views to Him.
- Adorn the gospel with your life. Continue to cultivate a life that is characterised by the fruit of the Spirit, such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). Not only will you be able to love people more, but a life lived in this way will often make people curious. People will want to know why you live so differently and will be more open to listening to you when you do share your faith. As a medical student in the hospital, this will involve acting with integrity by not lying in your logbook, showing patience and kindness to the difficult patient or staff member that no one else wants to deal with, or not gossiping about other colleagues or patients. At Uni, you might take the time to recognise a student who is struggling and offer to help them studying for exams or OSCEs, or you might offer to cook a meal for people during exam periods.2 You could also join your student medical society to help organise events and advocate on behalf of the students. There are numerous ways to love others as a medical student and often this will be best accomplished by making a series of little decisions every day, rather than any one big decision. And when you fail to love others, admitting you’re wrong,3 apologising and seeking forgiveness can also be a powerful witness.
Hope in evangelism
Finally, remember that as you share the gospel with friends, colleagues or fellow medical students you can trust that God will be powerfully at work. We see this time and time again in the Bible. Notably, in 1 Thessalonians 1, Paul acknowledged that the Thessalonians were chosen by God because the gospel came to them with power, the Holy Spirit and deep conviction (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5). Even if you don’t see fruit from your efforts, God is still glorified as you tell people about Him. He can sovereignly use those conversations even years later. And we don’t have to fear as we share the gospel because we know that Jesus is always with us (Matthew 28:20).
Dr Nicholas Brown
Dr Nicholas Brown completed his medical training at the University of Newcastle. He worked as a JMO in 2021 and is currently taking some time off medicine to complete a ministry apprenticeship with Hunter Bible Church in Newcastle.
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- Sam Chan. Evangelism in a Skeptical World. USA: Zondervan, 2018.
- Randy Newman. Questioning Evangelism. USA: Kregel Publications, 2017.
- Rico Tice & Carl Laferton. Honest Evangelism. UK: The Good Book Company, 2015.