3 Passages That Help us Define Success in Evangelism

Many have asked the question about how we define success in evangelism. I’ve heard many different answers. I have learned from many different passages how to shape my thinking in that area. I would like to share with you three ideas from scripture that help us answer that question.

1. It’s not really about the numbers.

OK, I’m cheating a little, it’s more than three scripture passages. The first area I’d like to cover comes from 3 passages and evangelistic messages in the book of Acts.

First, we have Philip the Evangelist, who was called by the Spirit to go meet the Ethiopian court official. He was reading Isaiah and Philip engaged him and “told him the good news of the gospel.” (Acts 8:35) After hearing this, the Ethiopian believed and was baptized.

Second, we have Paul in Athens, speaking to the Areopagus. After proclaiming the resurrection, some mocked him, some wanted to hear more, and a few believed. (Acts 17:32-34)

Thirdly, Peter at Pentecost, where “many devout men from every nation” (Acts 2: 5) were gathered, he proclaimed Christ crucified to them (Acts 2: 36). Peter was mocked by some as well (Acts 2:13), but about 3000 souls were baptized and added to God’s people (Acts 2:41).

One might think that a name that starts with ‘P’ is required to be successful in evangelism. But seriously, there is no indication that God was impressed with the numbers, he did not consider Peter, who reached 3000, more successful than Paul with his ‘few’, or than Philip who ushered in 1 soul. In fact, we are reminded of the parable of the lost sheep, where “there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:7).

We do see all three of them being faithful in the work that God prepared for them (Ephesians 2:10), each according to his assignment.

2. The parable of the Sower.

We see in these three encounters that souls were added through the gospel message. Can we count these as notches in our belt? A friend of mine reminded me of the parable of the Sower found in Matthew 13:3-8.

3And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

When Jesus explains this parable to His disciples, we see that in a couple of these cases, the person believed and even embraced the gospel with joy (Matthew 13:20) but later fell away. Despite the outward acceptance or conversion of their soul, the things of this world captured their attention and they did not take root and produce fruit (Matthew 13:21-22). It is only the seed that fell in good soil that was truly converted and produced fruit. When someone accepts the gospel, only God knows if it is a true or false conversion. When someone comes to church or joins your Bible study, we rejoice and know that God saves according to His mercy (Titus 3:5).

3. God is the master gardener.

When pressed, 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 gives us the most direct answer.

5What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Without this understanding, many are left empty in pursuit of their goal of converting souls. First, Paul chastises the flock for playing favorites, “What is Apollos? What is Paul?”, demonstrating they are both servants, equal before God. In the passages above, Philip does not need to feel jealous of Peter because he brought fewer to Christ than Peter. The Lord gives according to what he assigns to each, not encouraging pride or competition. It is a labor of love, and God rewards according to your labor.

Paul tells the saints that success belongs to God, not the evangelists. Every one of us are servants, given a labor to bring the good news to the unbeliever as God has prepared for us. It often takes several interactions to break up the soil and prepare the heart for the gospel. It takes much to prepare the soil, plant the seed, and water it multiple times to make it grow and produce fruit. God is the Sower and makes our faith grow, but he uses His people to labor and work the field; it is His field.

We are not called to an outcome or result, we are called to labor as God assigns us. We point others to Christ and his death, burial, and resurrection for our sin. Let us faithfully proclaim the good news in whatever situation God gives. It is our joy, to be servants as God prepares the soil and brings souls into His Kingdom (Isaiah 52:7).


As we labor for the harvest, we rejoice in the work that God has assigned. We are thankful the outcome is not up to us, it is fully in God’s hands. Let us not get caught up in outward appearances, or in numbers, that we might boast. Simply boast in Christ and proclaim the good news of salvation in Christ.


Author: Jon Neifert
Posted on June 06 2023