One Word Evangelism
By Bob Wilkin
I once read an article entitled "One Verse Evangelism." The author, Randy Raysbrook, advocated using just one verse when sharing the gospel. He pointed out that when we bombard unbelievers with lots of verses, we end up confusing them. They experience overload and can’t take it all in.
Recently I came up with a semi-facetious evangelistic idea that takes Raysbrook one step further. Instead of limiting us to one verse, how about one word?
There is no example in Scripture of one word evangelism. However, if you could only use one word to tell someone what they had to do to be saved, what would it be?
Before you read on, take a moment and decide. What would the one word you would use be?
The Bible didn’t come with a table of contents. If it did, Book 43, the Gospel of John, would be listed under either "Evangelism," or "The Doctrine of Salvation." Because it is the sole evangelistic book in all of Scripture (John 20:31), it makes sense that we would develop our view of evangelism and of the doctrine of salvation from there.
Those familiar with John’s Gospel know that one word indeed is the overwhelming favorite in explaining what one must do to be saved, or what we must do to have eternal life. That word is believe. It occurs 99 times in John. That is why it has often been called the Gospel of Belief.
So, my exhortation to people who wish to share their faith—and that should be all believers—is to tell people to believe.
One Word You Can’t
Live Without in Evangelism
Just as a carpenter can’t work without a hammer, a witness for Christ can’t work without the word believe. Take that word, and its synonyms, away, and the witness is unable to make the issue clear in evangelism.
Yet it is not at all uncommon to read tracts where the word believe isn’t used even once. Many radio and TV evangelistic appeals never use the word believe. Instead we are told to commit our lives to Christ, turn from our sins, receive Christ as Lord and Savior, follow Christ, etc.
Surely this grieves the Holy Spirit. The title of AWANA Missionary Don Bunge’s booklet hits the evangelistic nail on the head: What Happened to the Word Believe? So, too, did Southern Baptist Pastor Dr. W. O. Vaught in his book, Believe, Plus Nothing.
Now, of course, we need to tell people what it is they must believe to be saved. However, it all starts with telling that all they must do is believe.
The Shortest Evangelistic Appeals in the Bible
Let’s consider some of the shortest evangelistic appeals in Scripture. I have selected "appeals"—if we can call them that—that have 15 words or less. In many of these cases an entire verse is not cited, merely the appeal contained within it.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved… (Acts 16:31).
He who believes in Me has everlasting life (John 6:47).
Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die (John 11:26).
Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6).
A man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law (Rom 3:28).
By grace you have been saved through faith (Eph 2:8).
Whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins (Acts 10:43).
Look over those appeals once again. What do you see? All of them contain the word believe, or, in two cases, its noun form, faith. But what precisely must one believe to be saved? That is why I said the idea of one-word evangelism is semi-facetious. People should be told what it is they must believe. However most of the battle is to get them to see that the Bible teaches justification by faith alone, and that faith is just that, faith. Once that is established—or while that is being established, we can point them to the object of saving faith.
Christ Promises Eternal Life to All Who Simply Believe in Him
The object of saving faith is Christ. But what specifically must one believe about Him? Specifically one must believe His promise regarding eternal life. In John 11:26 Jesus told Martha that, "Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die." He then asked her, "Do you believe this?" This refers to His promise that "Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die." In other words, what one must believe is that Jesus guarantees eternal life to all who simply believe in Him for it.
Let’s say a father told his son, "I’m taking you fishing this coming Saturday." If the father had proven to be a man of his word, then his son would believe him. If, however, the father, though well intentioned, had often failed to keep promises, then the son might not believe him.
Well, Jesus has proved to be completely trustworthy. So when He says, "Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die," it is perfectly reasonable to believe that spiritual death is impossible for anyone who has come to faith in Christ. Jesus guarantees it!
Tell Them to Believe
I have heard many evangelists, pastors, and theologians give evangelistic appeals and never mention the word believe. Turn from your sins. Follow Christ. Give your life to Christ. Receive Christ as Lord and Savior.
Even though you will never be limited to just one word in evangelism, I wish you would keep one word foremost in your mind when you have an open door to share the gospel. Believe. It really is that simple. If you keep that in mind, then you will stick to the issue. All who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ have eternal life. No strings attached.
Tell them to believe. It will seem so shockingly simple to them, you may find that they open up and ask questions. A brief witness in which you tell people to believe can have a profound impact on a person’s life. Sometimes he who communicates less communicates more. Focus is vital in evangelism.
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." Short, sweet, simple, and saving. "Believe!"