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How William Wilberforce Can Encourage Your Personal Evangelism

William Wilberforce from WikipediaWho Was William Wilberforce?

William Wilberforce was born in England in 1759, and became a member of Parliament when he was 24.  At that time he was worldly, unbelieving, and not interested in biblical Christianity.

But that changed over the next two years, when a former schoolmaster and friend shared the Gospel with him.  As a result, Wilberforce put his trust in Jesus Christ, was saved from his sins, and experienced what he called “the great change.”

Soon after this he became convinced of the evils of the slave trade, and started what made him so well-known — his personal crusade to make slavery illegal in England.  And after 46 years of prayer, hard work, massive opposition, and many defeats, Wilberforce saw his dream fulfilled, and the slave trade was outlawed in England.

Personal Evangelism

But what is not so well-known is his commitment to personal evangelism.

As he studied God’s Word he saw that humanity had been ruined by sin and faced God’s judgment.  But he also saw that salvation is offered to all through the death of Jesus Christ.

God used these truths to give him deep sympathy towards the lost, and a passionate conviction that he must do everything he can to bring others to faith.

Compassion For The Lost

Here’s how Eric Metaxas describes this in his book on Wilberforce —

As far as Wilberforce was concerned, faith in Jesus Christ was the central and most important thing in life itself, so it can hardly surprise us that sharing his faith with others was central and important to Wilberforce too.

And so, everywhere he went, and with everyone he met, he tried, as best he could, to bring the conversation around to the question of eternity. 

Wilberforce would prepare lists of his friends’ names and next to the entries make notes on how he might best encourage them in their faith, if they had faith, and toward a faith if they still had none.

He would list subjects he could bring up with each friend that might launch them into a conversation about spiritual issues.

He even called these subjects and questions “launchers” and was always looking for opportunities to introduce them.

His efforts to draw his friends into conversation about “first things” sometimes failed, and the objects of his kindness may on occasion have felt more like his quarry.

But in many cases Wilberforce’s conversations bore great fruit.

(Eric Metaxas, Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, pp.167f)

What This Teaches Us

Evangelism starts with seeing and feeling that unbelievers are desperately lost, and that Jesus Christ offers a full and complete salvation.  This will fill our hearts with sympathy for the lost, and a conviction that we must do all we can to save them.

So if you lack compassion or conviction — start here.  Pray earnestly for the Spirit’s work in your heart.  Pray over passages describing the plight of unbelievers (Matt 10:28; Mark 9:47-48; 2Cor 5:10; Rev 6:15-17; Rev 14:9-11), and passages describing Jesus’ full and complete salvation (John 3:16; Rom 3:21-26; 1Cor 6:9-11; Eph 2:1-10; Heb 10:12-14), until you experience the Holy Spirit changing your heart.

As our sympathy and conviction grows, we will care about every unbeliever we meet.  And we will do all we can to point them towards Christ.

Be cautious about this next step.  We never want to see people as projects on a to-do list.  So if you take this step make sure it’s motivated by love and compassion.  But since it helped Wilberforce, I recommend you try it.

Here’s the step: write down the names of unbelievers you know, and start praying for their salvation.  Then ask the Father to give you wisdom as to how you can best encourage them toward faith.  Ask Him to give you “launchers” — subjects you can bring up with them that could launch the conversation in a Gospel-direction.  And jot down the wisdom He gives you.

And then — with much prayer and love — start using these approaches in your everyday conversations.

And let me know what God does.

Comments?  Feedback?

I’d love to hear them.  Leave a reply below — thanks.

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And here are some related posts you might find helpful –

 

(Picture is from Wikipedia and is in the public domain.)

Category: Help with Evangelism

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5 Responses

  1. Paul Walton says:

    “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” Romans 10:1

    “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

    Steve, recently I have been praying with these two verses as my inspiration, to truly delight in the Lord, and to ask for those whom I love deeply to be saved. It has given me a new hope that the gospel will capture their heart as I find my joy in knowing Christ. The desires of our heart is granted as we make Christ the center, He knows our heart, He has put those desires there, He will fulfill them as He promises.

    To my shame I had grown cold in trusting that God would give me the desires of my heart, since it has been so many years of not seeing a change for those I have been praying for. But as I saw these two verses side by side it gave me a new hope and a new passion, I will delight in Him, because He is faithful, and everyman is a liar, even my own heart is untrustworthy.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Paul.

      I’ve wondered what exactly God is promising in Psa 37:4. Where I’ve landed is that if I am delighting in the Lord, then my desires will be for more of Him, and He will always give more of Himself to those who long for more of Him.

      I’m glad God is giving you renewed hope and passion that He can save the lost.

      Onward in the Great Commission, brother!

      Steve

  2. Paul Walton says:

    Steve,

    Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.- Psalm 37:5

    The second half of the next verse in the Psalm, trust in Him and He will act. I think of Rahab’s trust in God and how it saved her whole family, also the Philippian jailer whose whole family was saved when he turned to trust in Christ. So there are examples of whole families being saved through the commitment of one person, to trust in God in His word.

    So we can certainly ask God to do the same for us as he has done for others, in His word.

  3. Yohannes Afewerki says:

    As always, my soul being encouraged through your ministry. Thank you for the list of verses you posted. Helping me so much to meditate on them.
    Thank you so very much and infinite blessings.
    I found this on YouTube and wanted to share it with you. “A Call to Anguish – David Wilkerson”

    Thank you,

    Yohannes,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=lGMG_PVaJoI

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