Evangelism as Discerning the Needs of People

John 4:15. The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw." 16. Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." 17. The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; 18. for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly." 19. The woman said to him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.


Faith-sharing Evangelism Library

How to Win Friends and Influence People for Jesus
Six Messages teach others how to witness. 
Based on Faith-sharing, by Eddie Fox and George Morris

Messages in this series:
1: The Incredible Seeking God
2: Gambler for Love
3: Share; Do; Name!
4: Getting on the Same Frequency
5: Up On the Handlebar!
6: $50K in 90 Days or Less!

Beyond Faith-sharing:
Digests of lectures and texts that demonstrate
quick ways to improve and increase your
ministry's outreach.

Lessons in this Series:
1:   The Outward-focused Church
2:   Discerning the Needs of People
3:   The Incarnational Ministry
4:   Engaging Secular People
5:   Living Debt-free Biblically
6:   Youth Ministry Leadership
7:   Growing a New Church 1:
      The Price Tag, the Target
8:   Growing a New Church 2:
      The Pastor, People, Program
9:   Spiritual and Motivational Gifts
10: Envisioning, Friendliness and Authority
11: Making the Case
12: How Do We Get Them to Come?



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Six Types of Ministry Called “Evangelism”

   1) The first type is heard to say, “Let us help you.”  Such is an evangelism of presence, incarnation and embodiment.  It is people helping people, sharing struggles, lifting burdens.  Results are measured in how many people are helped during a particular time.  Examples of ministers and ministries of this type include Mother Theresa, United Methodist World Service and Latin American Mission.

   2) The second is heard to say, "Let God help you."  Such is an evangelism of persuasion: Yahweh will intervene with healing, self-confidence, financial blessings, and so forth if faith is present.  Results are measured in the number of testimonials to the effectiveness of their ministry.  Examples of ministers and ministries of this type are Oral Roberts, Copeland, Benny Hinn and Brownsville Revival.

  3)  The third is heard to say, "Hear the Word!"  Such is an evangelism of proclamation -- getting the story out with heraldic preaching or teaching.  Results are measured in the size of listening audiences.  Examples of ministers (ministries) of this type include televangelist Rod Parsley and authors J. I. Packer and John MacArthur.

  4)   The fourth is heard to say, "Make a decision!"  Such is an evangelism eliciting an act of will – “getting folks to make a decision” (or getting them “saved”).  Results are reported in numbers who make “decisions for Christ.”  Jack Van Impe, Pat Robertson, Billy Graham and Campus Crusade are examples.

  5)  The fifth is heard to say, “Help me out!”  It is exemplified in Jesus’ asking the Samaritan woman for a drink.  We call it “favor evangelism.”  Deputating missionaries use it as do many pastors.  Asking a favor from “Could you jump-start my vehicle?” to “How much would you charge to mow the lawn?” to “Would you support this orphanage?” is a very effective way of getting the door open for evangelism.

  6)  The sixth is heard to say, "Become Christian Disciples!"  Such is an evangelism of teaching and reaching, helping people become

1)  life-long followers of Christ,

2)  incorporating them into the body of believers (the messianic community, the church). 

This form of evangelism was rediscovered by John Wesley is the 18th century and is enjoying a revival today.  It is a preferable form of evangelization because it addresses every area of the disciple's life.

   The first five types are actually "pre-discipling stages."  In order to make disciples, the minister (ministry) must

(first) achieve a loving presence,

(second) encourage the discovery of the Spirit's interaction in the person's life,

(third) the person must hear the gospel rightly presented, and

(fourth) he /she must make a decision for Jesus.  It is at this point where

(fifth) discipleship-style evangelism actually begins.


Evangelism Is...

   (First) Evangelism is what we do to make faith a useful option to undisciplined people.  After all, "Christ has no hands but our hands, no feet but our feet, no tongue but our tongue...."  Our objective is to bring people into the full faith, life, church, mission -- help people to become fully what they were meant to be in the Savior.  In this country, there is an estimated 155 million people are undisciplined (or undiscipled, as the case may be) both without and within the church.

   (Second) Evangelism is what the Savior does through kerygma (inspired proclamation or preaching), koinonia (Christian fellowship) and diakonia (service).  We participate in his "Great Commission" through invitation; we are empowered by his spirit (insofar as we allow him to enter in); and all the while, grace abounds. 

   (Third) Evangelism happens when the receiver turns to Yahweh, to the Christian ethic, to the messianic community and to the world in love.  These four "turnings" may happen in any order.

Resource                      Receiver turning to

   Kerygma    <------------>     the message and ethic

   Koinonia    <------------>     the congregation

   Diakonia    <------------>     the world, in love & mission.

One might at this time assess what turns have been made, and which need to be made.

Hierarchy of Motives (A. Maslow)

   There are often two overarching problems in sharing faith.  Most people are either inarticulate or mute on the subject of their faith stories, or they talk too much about them.  To avoid these problems, one needs a point of contact between the object of evangelism and the gospel.  Points of contact may be readily found when the evangelist discerns the "deep motives" within people, such as hopes, needs, yearning, desires, fears, longings.

   Several psychologists have scaled such motives (or needs).  One scale helpful to evangelists is Abraham Maslow's version -

7.  need for beauty (aesthetic)

6.  need to know and understand

5.  need to realize inner potential (self-actualization)

4.  need for esteem from self and others

3.  need for love and belonging

2.  need for safety and home

1.  need for food, water, air.

All these needs are intrinsic to human behavior; but the prevalent need is the lowest yet unfulfilled.

The evangelist who would use this model must know it well enough to think in its terms automatically.  (This can fairly easily be done.)   It may be practiced with people the evangelist is close to until proficiency is achieved.  At the first conversation with a prospective disciple, the evangelist might determine what need stage is prevalent in his/her life then one might use this information in conjunction with the resources koinonia, diakonia, and kerygma in one of the appropriate aspects of the Inductive Model.


The Inductive Model of Evangelism

    There are four stages:

1) the evangelist discovers through sharing some need for which the gospel is relevant;

2) the evangelist shares a facet of the gospel relevant to the need;

3) the evangelist appeals for a response to the facet;

4) the evangelist remembers at all times that the Savior is involved in the transaction. 

   There are two variations of the Inductive Model, depending on what the prevalent need of the potential disciple is.  If the potential disciple is high on Maslow's scale (if he/she is a strong and affluent person), use the Inductive-Missions Model:

1) Share a Christian cause or mission involving the needs of people in the community, along with its “soteriological” interpretation (what has Jesus to do with it?);

2) Appeal: “Will you join Jesus and us in one of  these causes?”  (The person need not decide immediately although a quick decision is best.) 

3) The evangelist trusts in the Almighty, and a commitment to his kingdom may arise through diakonia in the community and koinonia with other believers.

   Here is an example:  The potential disciple is a medical doctor.  He is at Maslow's stage 6, determined from his high opinion of himself and the financial success of his practice.  The evangelist shares a

Christian cause:

“Say, we at the church are involved in helping children in desperate need of medical attention in Haiti.  Jesus teaches us that we are to care for others, especially disadvantaged children, so we have an opportunity to travel to Haiti on a medical mission.  We desperately need a doctor's assistance.”  The evangelist appeals, “Perhaps you would be so kind as to join us when we make our trip next year.  We are even now making plans....”  (Give the short list of details).  “Here’s a brochure!  I'll call you back Wednesday....” 

If the doctor answers that he will go (and many do go when the Spirit leads), then the evangelist trusts Yahweh that something will happen during the trip to make the doctor aware of his spiritual need, and Jesus’ offer to fill it.

   If the potential disciple is low on Maslow's scale, use the


Inductive-Grace Model


1) Establish a caring relationship with the potential disciple, and determine the need;

2) Share the facet of the Gospel that is appropriate;

3) Appeal to the person to open himself or herself to the facet;

4) Trust that is there is a positive response, the Almighty will honor the process and fulfill the need through kerygma (the evangelist's) and koinonia.


Stages of Faith

   The opening question should never be, “Are you saved?” but “How can we be of help to you?”  The open-endedness of the latter question (or some variation) leads to conversation.  Examples: If there is a person who looks depressed, say, “You look blue - care to talk....” or “What do you think the church should do to help people in the community?”  Later, follow up by inviting the person to help do whatever they suggested.  One might ask, “How has the Almighty helped you in the past?” or "Has G-d proven worthy of your trust in this situation?”  The process takes time, just like sowing and reaping.  There is fertilizing, planting, germinating, subterranean growth, visible plants (see Mark 6).

   There are several stages one traverses through on the way to discip1eship.  Awareness of the gospel or of Jesus’ reality, the relevance of the Gospel to a particular situation or need, interest in the possible fulfillment through faith, trial - in which a person “tries Jesus” for a little while, then finally adoption of Jesus and his Gospel of the Kingdom.


Evangelistic Counseling Approach

   Bryan Green has developed an approach for those who have been ushered onto the “verge of faith.” He suggests when the need has been isolated and the facet of the Gospel applied, the evangelist should lead in an “act of faith” such as a prayer.  “Let's pray together and put our trust in the Lord.  Can we see Jesus come into this situation as we pray silently?”  In a short while, ask, "Has Jesus made him/herself real to you?"  If so (and if you get this far, it will always be so), say, "I'm glad to hear it.  Let's thank him aloud.”  Then the evangelist offers prayer.  Finally, the evangelist communicates a sense of assurance based not on feelings, but on the promise of Yahweh.  Green also suggests that the evangelist lead the new disciple in communion.


Aristotle's Ancient Model Rediscovered

   Aristotle of Macedonia (384-322 B.C.E.) was a philosophical genius.  He was the teacher of Alexander the Great.  Much of Aristotle’s understanding of “the soul” was incorporated into Roman Catholicism by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).  Aristotle was a master rhetorician and pioneer in logical argument.  He theorized that the primary factors in communication were

the ethos -- the character of the message-sender,

the logos -- the word or content of the message, and

the pathos -- the suffering or feelings of the receiver.

For the cause of evangelism, it is useful to amplify each of these facets of communication. 

   The message (logos) that we send is the Gospel of Jesus the Nazarene, “once delivered to the saints” and now residing with us.  The message has to be

(first) relevant, demonstrating that it has something to do with the "deepest needs and motives" of people.  People perceive Christianity to be limited to church squabbles, liturgies, potluck suppers, and rummage sales.  Politicians use Christianity to gain their own personal ambitions.  It is a “soul saving enterprise” having little to do with the reality of everyday life.  But we know that Jesus is alive and faith in Him is redemptive, contemporary, and applicable.  We need to demonstrate such relevance in our message.

   The message must be clear.  It must be spoken within the context of the language and culture of the audience.  It must not be laced with church or Bible jargon words such as “sin,” “blood,” “saved” and “kingdom.”  (Of course, our target audience is the seeker who knows very little about doctrine or practice.)  Religious terms have no meaning outside our own context.  Lawrence Lacour tells us that “we must re-mint our language or we will shortchange our hearers.”  The message must be limited to what can be easily assimilated at one time.  Avoid “information overload.”  Share only an applicable facet, but share it not as though it were the full gospel – hold out for something more.

   Finally, the message must be biblical.  Our gospel is discovered in the Bible, not in our own minds, subcultures, church doctrines; we speak biblically, but use contemporary, relevant language.  The audience (pathos) must be induced to appropriate feelings about the message if beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors are to be changed.  “To say that it is possible to persuade without speaking to the passions (pathos) is but at best a kind of specious nonsense” (A Philosophy of Rhetoric, 1776).  Emotional arousal is the enabler of response, and there can never be a religious response without involving feelings.  Appealing to the needs of the audience will always elicit feelings and response.


Strategies in Ethos

   1) Since emotions are physiologically related to motives, needs, and hopes, strategies for arousing emotions are conducive to getting the message across.  (Ethos in presenting the logos should arouse pathos.)  Most people will respond with feelings when they see their motives are likely to either be frustrated or gratified.  The philosopher Cicero tells us that “speakers must have a scent for an audience -for what people are feeling, thinking, waiting for, wishing.”  It is not wrong to arouse emotions in others, it is wrong not to do so.

   2) The Gospel of the Kingdom is never routine or general: it is for each one of us personally.  Therefore, the message does best when it is personalized in our stories and testimonies.  Kierkegaard, a

fervent Christian and "the father of modern existentialism" (who wrote circa 1834 - 1855), tells us that. the Gospel “is like a love letter from God with your personal address on it.”

   3) One may feel free to reveal personal feelings by reporting what it is about the good news that is changing your life.  The “personal revelation” is best left until the end of one's sharing time.  Beginning with personal revelations has actually been found to be counter-productive -- the speaker is sometimes thought to have lost control.

   Another tip in sharing personal stories and revelations is to never share all -- only partly reveal feelings -- forcing the hearer to take the “leap of faith.”  Finally, we note that it is very important how one's ethos is perceived by the hearer.  Important characteristics to be conveyed include integrity and sincerity; Aristotle adds intelligence, character, and good will; Hunter adds expertise, identification (is the speaker incarnational? Is the speaker "for us or against us?"  Is the speaker credible (does he actually "walk the walk")?


Hunter, The Contagious Congregation, Abingdon Press, 1932, pages 1-80.










©2007 Jackson H. Snyder II.  (jackson @ jacksonsnyder.com)  This information may be reprinted in whole or part if author and copyright information is left intact.

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