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Winsome Evangelism

by Ed Daly

Our salvation should be a cause of joy that radically alters how we conduct ourselves in the world. Psalm 51:12–13 says,

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You.

We are like beggars who have been shown a bountiful, inexhaustible banquet feast, and we should want to share the host’s sumptuous feast with other beggars like ourselves. People should see us as joyful and not burdened or burdensome, as loving and not as harsh, critical, or judgmental. Our manner with the unsaved should attract them to the love of God. While they may object to the message that we are sinners in need of salvation, they should see the change that a loving, gracious, and compassionate God effected in our lives. The word that perhaps best captures the manner in which we share the gospel is “winsome.”

Granted, you won’t find “winsome” in your concordance. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines winsome as “generally pleasing and engaging often because of a childlike charm and innocence.” But, of course, the Bible’s definitions of character traits always run much deeper. Winsome connotes the idea of gracious speech and a loving demeanor characterized by joy, wisdom, faith (total trust), a sure and steadfast hope without compromising on the truth and our convictions, and above all compassion. Colossians 4:6 says,

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

In his commentary on the Book of James, J. R. Blue says,

Winsome speech comes from a wise spirit. A controlled tongue is possible only with cultured thought. A mouth filled with praise results from a mind filled with purity.

Consider what James says:

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3:17–18).

God has revealed His wisdom to us, and it should be displayed as much in our manner as in our words. That’s the essence of winsomeness.

We tend to be argumentative or fall into judgment when we believe that it is our responsibility to convert people to Christ, as if we can summon the strength or intellectual prowess to present the perfect argument to convert someone. But, it’s the Holy Spirit who converts the heart (2 Corinthians 3:12-18; 4:6). We just share the message, which takes an enormous weight off our shoulders. We also can tend to focus on people’s immediate reaction to the gospel. We fear ahead of time that people will reject the offense of the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:18) and prepare an onslaught. Or, we may react with disappointment or exasperation when we do not win them over immediately with the gospel. But, we have every reason to just be delighted with the opportunity to share the gospel, regardless of the immediate outcome of our conversation. The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians,

For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God (2 Corinthians 2:15–17).

Now, there’s a strong motivation to be both zealous for sharing the gospel with as many people as we can and winsome in sharing the gospel! Regardless of the person’s reaction, we are “a fragrance of Christ to God!” You please and delight God when you share the gospel. That should be our reward. That truth lifts a burden from our shoulders. We can share the gospel in winsomeness and love and entrust the outcome to God, praying for those individuals and trusting the Lord to do what is just and right in their lives.