There will of course be times when it either isn’t possible or practical or necessary to get into a long, involved conversation with people in order to try to lead them to the Lord—times when you won’t follow those four steps of personal witnessing. Perhaps the Lord will show you to tell some people that He loves them, right off the bat, or to give them tracts to read. Maybe that’s all there’s time for. Or maybe you already know someone well enough that you can start your witness by telling them about how Jesus changed your life when you received Him, and then suggest that they try Him too. In any case, the goal remains the same: to lead people to at some point receive Jesus so that they can begin a personal relationship with Him.
Whether people pray with you or pray on their own later, all they really need to know about salvation in order to receive it is:
God loves people and wants to be with them now and forever. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”1 All they have to do is believe in Jesus and they are saved.
But it is also good for you as the witness to know and be able to pass on to them if you can a few more basics that will add to their understanding of why we need salvation and what it entails.
1. People need forgiveness. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”2 Until they get saved, they are separated from God because they are not perfect like He is. Everyone makes mistakes and commits wrongs—what the Bible calls “sin.” But God wants to forgive their sin so they can be with Him. He wants to forgive them and show them His love.
2. Jesus can bridge the gap. When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the penalty for their sins and made a way for them to be reunited with God. “He [Jesus] personally carried the load of our sins in His own body when He died on the cross.”3
3. Salvation is a gift. It can’t be earned through good works. No one could ever be good enough to go to heaven. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”4 “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”5 All they have to do to experience salvation is open their heart’s door and receive Jesus as their Savior. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”6
There’s no set or “official” salvation prayer. All people need to do is sincerely open their hearts to Jesus. They can either pray out loud or silently. They can pray in their own words, or they can pray as they read a written prayer from a tract, or they can repeat phrase by phrase a prayer that you lead them in. There’s not a “right” method or even a “best” method. Jesus said, “He that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out.”7 All they need to do is “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and [they] will be saved.”8
You may find one salvation prayer that you particularly like and use that with most of the people you witness to, or you may want to have a few different prayers on hand to use in different situations and with different types of people.
A sample salvation prayer
Dear Jesus, thank You for dying for me. I now open the door to my heart and ask You to please come into my life and give me Your free gift of eternal life. Amen.
The challenge: Put Jesus to the test
A lot of people who say they don’t believe in Jesus simply haven’t made a final or informed decision because they haven’t had a real chance to know the truth. They have doubts or questions that need to be answered before they’ll be convinced, but if they’re sincere and really want the answers, if they really want to know Jesus, He will show Himself to them. They can put Him to the test and prove He is who He says He is. They just need to put Him in a test tube—and they are the test tube!
You can tell them, “Either Jesus is who He claims to be—God’s Son, the embodiment of God’s love, and the way to salvation—or He’s a liar and a fraud. If you want to find out which, just put Him to the test. He says He wants to come into your life in a very real and personal way: ‘Behold, I stand at the door [of your heart] and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him.‘9 Invite Him in. Put Jesus in you and see what happens!”
Once people admit the possibility, then they’re giving Jesus a chance. There’s a tiny seed of faith, and God will honor that faith by letting them see and feel and know the proof. Jesus will come into their hearts, and He’ll prove Himself by changing their lives and answering their prayers.—Adapted from D.B.B.
The personal touch
As a young preacher with a real love for the lost and a sincere desire to try to win the poor lost sheep the churches failed to reach, I tried everything I could think of and dreamed up every method I could imagine to try to carry the gospel to them. I preached on the streets and in the parks. I sang at the top of my voice. I showed slides and movies anywhere I possibly could—to reach the people outside of the church with the message of God’s love. But it was still the meeting method and the mass evangelism approach, which only had moderate success.
Then, one day I discovered the exciting truth that I could win more people to the Lord witnessing to them wherever I could find them, without a church or a pulpit or a meeting of any kind, anywhere, any time, and all the time, everywhere to everybody!—D.B.B.
“Joy in the presence of the angels of God.”10 Each time a new soul is born into the kingdom of God, it’s like the birth of a child. And the same joy, only greater, is experienced at the birth of a new spirit into the kingdom of God. All heaven rejoices over that one lost soul that was found and rescued, more than over ninety-nine who are already safely home.11