This article originally appeared on ABWE’s blog.
Evangelism is hard.
It is true that the current global circumstances have opened doors for spiritual conversation in a variety of ways. Record numbers of individuals are searching for keywords related to prayer and hope. According to Google, there was a 170 percent spike in searches for Psalm 91, and Pastor Greg Laurie’s Palm Sunday worship service online drew more than a million viewers. Many of us are seeing our neighbors more often than ever—some for the very first time. All of this adds up to give believers worldwide a multiplicity of opportunities to witness.
But this does not mean that sharing the gospel has become easy. The reality is, proclaiming the good news is still a challenge to our flesh. We need every bit of equipping and empowerment from the Spirit of God.
One of the best ways we can prepare ourselves for evangelism is through Bible memory. Be encouraged by this selection of Bible verses and Scripture passages for evangelism—some being especially relevant in a time of worldwide economic and health crisis.
Psalm 2: God’s Reign Over the Nations
“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens laughs; the LORD holds them in derision.” (vv. 1-3, ESV)
God’s Word has a supernatural ability to diagnose the world’s ailments. Increasingly, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone who does not agree: the nations are “raging,” and the power structures of the world are plotting, scheming, and wringing their hands. Whether one attributes the current crises in geopolitics to conspiracy or ignorance, never before has the inherent sinfulness and human imperfection of our leaders been more evident.
But the psalmist goes beyond this simple analysis to the deeper spiritual reality of things. The nations are raging against God. The chaos on the world stage is a result of an inborn human hostility to its Creator.
The psalmist contrasts this with God’s power and sovereignty. Yahweh laughs and holds the hostile world leaders in derision. Instead of these leaders, he exalts king Jesus and commands the world to come to him for terms of peace (see vv. 4-12). As a result, all 12 verses of Psalm 2 are worth memorizing and sharing with others in these trying days.
Isaiah 45:7: God’s Judgment and Power
“I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things.”
Is the current global pandemic a result of God’s direct action? Regardless of how one interprets current events, we know that ultimately, God is the primary sovereign cause behind everything. We also know, through conscience and through God’s law, that we are guilty before God and deserve nothing good. So natural disasters—whether straight from the sovereign hand of God or mediated by the amoral chaos of nature—are tools in his hands to lead us to repentance.
All suffering in the world is a result of Adam’s original sin. When we are faced with the futility of life in a fallen cosmos, we can plead with our neighbors to seize the opportunity to remember their Creator and come in faith to the Savior who rescues us from the effects of the fall.
Romans 2:4: God’s Kindness and Repentance
“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”
This passage offers the converse perspective to the previous verse from Deuteronomy 28. While we often presume that illness and pandemics are the discipline of God, the Apostle Paul challenges his Jewish readers to think differently in Romans 2. It is not only pestilence and plagues which God uses to draw people to himself; it is God’s kindness that draws us to repentance.
Many of us, together with our families and neighbors, have tasted real blessing even in the midst of unemployment and uncertainty—mealtimes with families, connectedness to children, and rekindling of old friendships through video conferencing. These graces are intended by heaven to spur us to repentance, not further self-reliance. As you talk about some of the hidden blessings of quarantine life, consider sharing this important text of Scripture.
Jeremiah 29:10-12: God’s Good Plans Amid Calamity
“For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.”
We are accustomed to seeing Jeremiah 29:11 taken out of context. What common uses of this verse miss is the context: judgment. Judah is about to be annexed and taken captive by the Babylonians for 70 years, yet in the midst of this calamity, God’s plans are good.
This is not to say that God plans material good or success for all people at all times; for the wicked, who are not in the family of God, he plans disaster. God both wounds and heals, kills and makes alive (Deut. 32:39). But for his people—those who are in saving, covenant relationship with him—he does not plan any chastisement without restoration. Note from verse 12 that God’s plan is good because it is a plan to pour out a spirit of repentance: “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.” His discipline is intended for our good, defined not merely in a material sense but in terms of our conformity to Christ (Rom. 8:29). Hence, we can say: though he slay me, yet I will praise him (Job 13:15).
Consider explaining to your unbelieving friend that God’s purposes behind current world events, whatever they mean, certainly include repentance. What sins must we confess? How can we be forgiven? These questions pave the way for a discussion of Christ’s redemptive work.
Lamentations 3:21-23: God’s Mercy in Judgment
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
If the book of Jeremiah is a record of the prophet’s public message, the book of Lamentations is a glimpse into his psychology (assuming Jeremiah wrote it). Named for what it contains—a virtually unbroken string of laments—this book of Scripture is marked by such internal turmoil and despair over the judgment of Judah and Jerusalem that any glimmer of hope is sure to stand out with piercing brilliance.
In chapter 3, the author breaks from his prophetic woes to declare the steadfast love, or chesed, of Yahweh. For God, such steadfast love is not merely emotive; it is his consistent covenant faithfulness, reflective of his perfect character. God’s commitment to his people is never challenged by their suffering, deserved or not.
Ask your unbelieving friend or neighbor: how have you seen God’s faithfulness displayed to you even in the midst of these current circumstances? Challenge them to consider God’s constant reliability, and point them to Christ, whose blood secures this covenantal love.
Psalm 91: Safety and Refuge in God
“You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.” (Psalm 91:5-6)
If you’re feeling ambitious, why not commit this entire chapter to memory? (No judgment here—I haven’t!) Each verse of Psalm 91 speaks powerfully to the problem of pandemics. While many “shelter in place,” the psalmist invites us to dwell “in the shelter of the Most High” and “rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (v. 1). Though “a thousand may fall at your side,” the plague will not prevail (v. 7).
Taken out of context, this chapter could be misinterpreted as a high-octane health-and-wealth prooftext. But the so-called prosperity gospel is heresy; God does not unconditionally promise Christians a healthy or trouble-free existence if they only exercise enough faith. The Puritan Thomas Watson commented, “God doth not say, no afflictions shall befall us, but no evil.” We may have affliction, but affliction will not have us. Psalm 91 helps us—and those we are seeking to evangelize—look above the physical and temporal to set our sights on heavenly realities so that we can recognize that our afflictions are light and momentary compared to eternity (2 Cor. 4:17).
We may have affliction, but affliction will not have us.Tweet
2 Samuel 24:12-14: Natural Disaster and Human Choice
“‘Go and say to David, “Thus says the LORD, Three things I offer you. Choose one of them, that I may do it to you.”’ So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, ‘Shall three years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider, and decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.’ Then David said to Gad, ‘I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.’”
The national crisis recorded in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 was a human disaster and a preventable one. Satan, conspiring against Israel, preyed upon David’s proud desire to glory in his military might, resulting in a census executed in an unworthy manner, forbidden by God’s law (see Exodus 30:12). Graciously, God afforded David a choice of consequences: either (1) three years of famine, (2) three months’ defeat in war, or (3) three days’ pestilence.
Relevant to our purposes, David chose divine over human consequences. He recognized that a brief pestilence—controlled by God and God alone—was preferable to famine, with its vast economic fallout, and war, with the brutality of the nation’s enemies. God may have mercy, he reasoned, though men will not.
Should your conversations with your friends and neighbors turn towards the economic and geopolitics of the pandemic, encourage them to consider this account from the life of King David and the application it may have. What could our leaders have done differently? Moreover, what could we do differently? Should we not seek God’s mercy as David did, rather than trusting in human ingenuity?
Romans 6:23: The Wages of Sin
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
This season has caused many to reflect upon the reality of mortality as never before. Every descendent of Adam carries the pathogen of sin, and the case fatality rate is one hundred percent. Whatever the physical cause, we will all die, and it is because our fallen race and world are in rebellion against our Creator.
Every descendent of Adam carries the pathogen of sin, and the case fatality rate is one hundred percent.Tweet
Against this backdrop, the glorious news of the resurrection shines. Jesus guarantees eternal life to all who turn from sin and come to him for forgiveness. If we believe in him, we will not stay dead (John 11:25). Christ came to “deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb. 2:15).
Does your unbelieving friend or neighbor fear death? We cannot avoid illness or mortality forever in this life. Our longing for security can only be satisfied by the promise of resurrection and eternal life. Let us boldly press this gospel truth.
Romans 8:28: Everything Works Together for Good
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
A skeptic recently asked me on Twitter if God’s decree, which contains whatsoever comes to pass, includes this pandemic. I answered an unequivocal yes. I love the way the London Baptist Confession of Faith beautifully summarizes the doctrine of God’s sovereignty:
“God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree. (Isaiah 46:10; Ephesians 1:11; Hebrews 6:17; Romans 9:15, 18; James 1:13; 1 John 1:5; Acts 4:27, 28; John 19:11; Numbers 23:19; Ephesians 1:3-5)”
My interlocutor replied, “Jerk move, God.” But in my response, I challenged him to consider that there are really only four possibilities with regard to God’s power and the purpose behind these events:
- We live in a universe of blind, pitiless indifference without God, meaning that our suffering is completely without purpose.
- There is a god who does not desire suffering but is powerless to stop it. (This would be no god worth worshiping as God, nor is it the God described in the Bible.)
- There is a god who inflicts suffering needlessly, with evil or malevolent purposes. (Again, this is not the God described in Scripture, nor would it fit any philosophical conception of God as the necessary highest good that exists.)
- There is a God who chooses to ordain and permit suffering as a part of the curse on sin, yet who has purposes known only to him by which he can bring about good from evil.
Only the fourth option is tenable. What humans mean for evil, God means for good (Genesis 50:20). Even the crucifixion of God’s own Son was foreordained (Acts 4:28), yet from this came the greatest good imaginable: the redemption of a new humanity.
Romans 8:28 is a pertinent reminder that, for those who are in Christ, no suffering or circumstance can befall them which has not first passed through the hands of their omnipotent, loving Father. Thus, if he allows it, we have infallible warrant to believe that it is for his glory and our good.
For those who are in Christ, no suffering or circumstance can befall them which has not first passed through the hands of their omnipotent, loving Father.Tweet
But this is not a promise that applies to those apart from Christ, who remain subject to God’s wrath (Rom. 1:18). For this to be true, one must be in Christ. In these strange days, let us invite the lost to come to Christ in faith and take hold of Romans 8:28 for themselves.
Mark 6:56: Jesus Touches the Sick
“And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.”
While doors for evangelism are opening in recent days, our ability to share the gospel meaningfully is complicated by the need to socially distance ourselves. Our modern medical knowledge is imperfect, but one thing we know with certainty is that maintaining proper boundaries can prevent the transmission of dangerous diseases.
Given this context, it’s astounding to recognize that the Lord Jesus Christ transgressed similar boundaries drawn by the law experts of his days, intentionally touching the sick to make them well (even lepers!). While we do not have Jesus’ same power to heal, we can share his compassion. Those who are feeling isolated right now—singles, the elderly, or those medically quarantined already for other reasons—must hear that the God of the Bible is a God who leaves the safety of heaven, enters into frail human flesh, takes our spiritual disease upon himself, and heals the hurting by picking them up with his own two hands.
We owe our salvation to the fact that the Lord Jesus never socially distanced himself from sinners. So while we ourselves should maintain proper distance and use wisdom, we must also be driven by this same compassion which drove Christ to defy the conventions of his day in the name of love.
We owe our salvation to the fact that the Lord Jesus never socially distanced himself from sinners.Tweet
Matthew 11:28: Jesus Relieves Our Anxieties
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
A University of Michigan study from March 31 indicated that since the onset of the pandemic, 50 percent of participants reported recurring anxiety. Nearly a third described symptoms matching clinical depression. It is no mystery why; with U.S. unemployment claims approaching 20 percent and death counts delivered to us all daily by push notification, the natural human response is despair.
Perhaps your non-Christian colleague, coworker, friend, or family member needs to simply know that Jesus is a Savior who promises to ease the burden of life. I fear that those of us who are serious about theology (self-included), in an effort to avoid the dangers of the soft, watered-down American gospel of comfort and inclusivity, fall into an opposite extreme in which we neglect the tenderness and mercy of Christ. We forget to preach what Jonathan Edwards so often described as the excellencies and sweetness of Christ. God’s justice and wrath are real and must be fled, yet when we flee them, we find ourselves in the compassionate arms of the Good Shepherd. He does not even snuff out a smoldering wick or break a bruised reed, nor raise his voice in the streets (Isaiah 42:3). Jesus is near and available to all who are afflicted with fear, worry, and despond.
John 3:16-17: Jesus Saves the World
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
Perhaps you don’t have the capacity to memorize a dozen Bible verses for evangelism; that’s alright. We all have John 3:16 memorized. Rather than let familiarity breed contempt, we must recognize that what our friends and family may need most right now is a familiar truth.
Verse 17 is also relevant. It may feel like the world is ending, but in Christ, the world is being saved. Yes, the sinful and corrupt parts of the world will be melted away like dross on the last day. But the world itself is destined for glory, following the pattern of Christ in death and resurrection. Jesus is Lord, and he is making all things new (Rev. 21:5). We are invited to join this burgeoning new creation right now by placing our faith in him as Savior.
As part of God’s plan for cosmic renewal, he is committed to all peoples, nations, tribes, and tongues partaking of salvation through Christ (Rev. 5:9, 7:9). This is why we send missionaries. And this is also why we must spread some good news to our neighbors for a change.