Actually, I’d Rather Not Tell You About Jesus

July 19, 2010

It’s official, Christians are no good at evangelism.  Add it to the list of things we aren’t good at.

I think that’s probably been official for a while.  Greg Laruie recently said it again though, that Christians are generally unncessarily offensive, lame, and poor communicators.  It’s not something most people want to admit, though we all feel really guilty about it. 

I’ll be the first to admit it.  I’m terrible at talking to people one on one about Jesus.  I’ll gladly recommend my latest favorite movie.  And like any good evangelical, I’ll look for an opening to slip in the Savior.  And if I get that far, I’ll stumble through some half-baked “evangelism.” 

Not that I get that far too often.  Probably because an obvious opportunity doesn’t usually present itself.  People don’t walk up to strangers at Golden Corral and say, “You know what would be great?  A stranger telling me if this fried chicken is any good and that Jesus is the Savior of the world.  That would really make my day.”

I desperately want to share Jesus with other people.  You probably do too, and feel guilty that you don’t.  But I think my seminary evangelism class left me woefully unprepared to share Jesus with people. 

I think the problem is Christians don’t have enough choices on how to do evangelism.  Here’s what I mean…

Four Sort-of-Not-Great Ways to do Evangelism

Bus Stop Evangelism

This was the extent of my seminary evangelism training.  Step one: approach an unwitting stranger.  Step two: disrupt their day by giving them a tract and asking them if they know where they’re going when they die.  My professor ridiculed any other methods because this was “how Paul evangelized,” by talking to people in the streets.  Really?  Did he hand out tracts with cute stick figure drawings too?  He even justified it by saying, “It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work and it gets no results because it didn’t work all that often for Paul either.”  Okay, I guess you’ve got a point…sort of.

When most people hear the word “evangelism,” this is what they think of, and I don’t know who hates it more, the people being evangelized, or the Christians.  Most Christians hate the thought of confronting strangers and getting into a big debate about the meaning of life. 

Christian: “Hello, stranger.  May I talk to you about Jesus?”

Stranger:  “Get out of my face.”

Christian: “I was hoping you’d say that.  Good-bye.”

Once in a while, I see a couple of Christians handing out tracts, and they always look miserable, like they’re doing something illegal, or they’re waiting to get shot.  But hey, this is what Jesus said to do, so we’ve got to, right?

My only saving grace in our class’s street evangelism was pairing myself up with a very outgoing guy who had no problem telling strangers they were going to hell.  It was amazingly easy for me to do it when I was with someone else, even though we produced no results.  I think another pair got a confession of faith out of a guy who was drunk as a skunk.  But I’m sure that counts, right?

I think someone once called this method “rape evangelism.”  That was a comparison my evangelism professor repeatedly derided and scoffed at.  After all, how does cornering a stranger on a street corner, assaulting them for ten minutes, and then running away resemble rape?

Encyclopedia Salesman Evangelism

When my dad founded a church in the late eighties, he did it by cold calling people on the phone and asking if they wanted to come to church.  Wow.  And beyond anything I could imagine today, people said yes.  Double wow.  I cannot imagine getting a call from a stranger and deciding to go to church based on that call.  People must have had very different attitudes twenty years ago.  But my Dad was also probably a very good salesman.  Problem is today, people hate advertisements.  And they loathe salesmen with all that is inside them.  People just aren’t hoping someone will come to their door and sell them…well, anything.  Most people are on “do not call” lists, and will shut their door in your face.  They aren’t just not looking for Jesus.  They avoid people who are trying to tell them about Jesus, because they think anyone hawking Jesus is just looking for money so he can buy another cheap suit.

Litterbug Evangelism

This is a sneaky thing some people do.  You don’t have to waste your waitress’ time by telling her the four spiritual laws.  Just leave her a tract as a tip when you leave.  Other people leave tracts in libraries, in books at bookstores, on public bulletin boards, and wherever else someone might happen upon it, and all without the mess of ever having to talk about Jesus.  I guess we have the Gideons to thank for that.  But unlike Gideon Bibles, which people expect to find in hotel rooms, the likelihood of anyone having a revelation from a piece of trash seems pretty remote. 

Lifestyle or Friendship Evangelism

I think this is what most Christians probably do.  Sure, we aren’t going to be the weird Christian at work who’s always talking about Jesus this and Jesus that.  But we’ll be quiet witnesses who treat people well and just act like “good Christians.”  This is what you do with your non-Christian family, unless you insist on bringing tracts to every Thanksgiving.  And once every year on “Evangelism Sunday” (if your church is so inclined to have one), everyone will be made to feel guilty that they haven’t converted a single person all year. 

My professor loved to mock lifestyle evangelism, as if people who didn’t go out on the street corner and spiritually attack people were skirt wearing pansy boys.  But even though he was kind of a jerk about it, he had a point.  After all, how many people have become Christians just because I’m a Christian?

Then again, this is actually the hardest thing to do, because it actually requires an investment of time, energy and emotion into people.

There’s going to have to be a fifth choice, beyond inviting friends to “pack a pew” Sunday and handing out tiny Jesus comic books.  I don’t know if it’s Facebook or Twitter or blogging or something else.  Maybe actually being friends with people is the only kind of evangelism that will work in the next twenty years.

There you go.  Christians are uptight about evangelism, but we’re guilted into thinking it’s something we should be doing constantly, but we don’t know how to do it anyway.  How do you feel about it?  Are you great at any of these methods?  Do none of them work for you?  Do you want to share Jesus, but don’t know how?

56 responses to Actually, I’d Rather Not Tell You About Jesus

  1. Religion has become more and more a personal thing to people, and we have come to value privacy more and more. Part of the reason I hate the intrusive forms of “evangelism” is the intrusion into people’s lives. It is not just an invasion of personal space, but a bit of judgement: missionary called to civilize the “Heathen Savages”!

    Yet, in the social network there a strange sharing of every TMI that crosses the mind. Is “personal” redefined in this medium, or does the facelessness of it make it more impersonal? Your 4 types seem to apply to what I’ve seen on Facebook. It will be interesting to see in time if we are just as ineffective digitally as we were live…

  2. I remember as a teenager (about 18) doing a Lifestyle Evangelism weekend. I don’t think I’ve ever used anything from it. I do work in an op shop (thrift store) run by our church, and find that by building relationships with people, being prepared to listen to them, and love them where they’re at in their life is the best way (for me) to have an opportunity to speak Jesus into their situation. Also, because we are the face of our church in our community, most people who come in know that we are different (and it is all GOD, we pray He will be honored and glorified in all that happens in that place) and if one of our volunteers offers to pray for them it isn’t out of left field…most the time.

    So, I guess I’m trying to say that my style of evangelism is relationship.

  3. Good post, and something that I bet a lot of Christians really do think about…and shy away at the available options.

    Personally, I think there is a hybrid of number 4 and number X that we don’t always look at. Maybe an evolved form of ‘friendship evangelism’ that requires a little more than just hoping people who know you will eventually decide to go to church with you because of how awesome you are.

    Side note, I don’t think our idea of religion being private is going to be a permanent idea. With the way we deal with personal/private information online I would be very surprised if we don’t start to feel more open about that sort of stuff shortly.

    Also, our world is shrinking. There are variants of all these types of behaviors that can be done online. Only here instead of going up to a random stranger, you can be there for people who need emotional or spiritual help when they actually need it.

  4. I find going with just lifestyle evangelism can actually make things harder in the long run. When you’ve known someone for ages and not said much about your faith, it can be hard to communicate that despite your previous silence, faith is actually something important to you and something they probably should consider.

  5. Great post, Matt.

    First, where do we get the idea that evangelism is some sort of sales? 1,000 in funnel, 212 conversations, 91 invitations to church, 1 family comes, 6 follow up phone calls, and one recommitment. Sure, more talkative folks tend to meet more folks – but after that, it’s got to be more than numbers.

    My friend Antonio is an amazing evangelist. He grabbed a mic on a tour bus in Brazil and had 41 raised hands for salvation/recommitments. There were 69 passengers. He preached on a street corner and 54 people gave their lives to Christ. We have led waiters at restaurants to Christ while having dinner. It is a gift. (Eph 4:11) Some folks didn’t really believe that – so he preached a sermon where 14 folks got saved. The pastor of the same church preached the exact same sermon at their “Friendship Sunday,” and NO one got saved.

    Some of it is cultural – he went to Jerusalem for 45 days, a few years ago, and 2 folks got saved at a coffee shop he visited each day – and 4 Americans on the plane on the way home.

    So where does that leave the rest of us when it comes to the Great Commission? It should get us to ask God what our gifts are, and get down to using them.

    There is an other type of evangelism that is very effective in the land of the frozen chosen. It’s called Servant Evangelism. It’s about serving others out of love and passion for Christ. Some groups went out and scraped car windows at 6 AM, went down the street and shoveled walkways, raked leaves for free, did free car washes, clean the toilets at every gas station in their local, handed out water at parades, gave out coffee at the mall, wrapped presents, the took day old bread to the projects, vested nursing homes on Christmas, fed the homeless week in and week out, drove detox patients to church every Sunday, went door-to-door doing home repairs, offered free day care 5 days a week at the church, went door-to-door with free roses on Mother’s day and one time went door-to-door giving out light bulbs.

    What would happen if we served 1,000 people within a few minutes of our church?

    • I think you’re absolutely right, David. I think we’re called to be evangelists, but that doesn’t mean we’re all gifted to be evangelists, like the Holy Spirit is a one-size-fits-all deal. That was another fallacy of my evan. prof. He’d look at Paul’s letter to Timothy where he tells Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist,” and he’d say that applies to everyone, everywhere, in the exact same way.

      • @Matt – yeah. It’s too bad we don’t just work on helping people discover their spiritual gifts (not talents), and teach them how to use them. Evangelism is only one part of what the church is supposed to be doing.

        It appears that you and I have the smart a$% gift. ;o) For the blogosphere it seems very useful.

        My new church is working diligently on getting folks emotionally healed so that they can become confidant workers in the harvest – refreshing.

        Got my button and sticker!!! Thanks, Matt.

  6. This is the kind of thing our Women’s Prayer Group is discussing. We know it is our mission, or at least part of our mission, to evangelize. But as Catholics, in general we lean toward the last method you mention. And honestly, I’m pretty sure people didn’t hear me with my big loud laugh at a party and say to themselves “Wow. I wish I knew Jesus, too”, or see me with my big floppy hat at a bbq and think “Wow. She hasn’t stole from, raped or murdered anyone here, so she must be a Christian! And that big floppy hat shows Christians worry about sunburn, too! How oh how do I become a Christian?!” Right now, we are inviting people we know to come and pray with us, or asking if they want to be prayed for. We are leaning toward inviting the people we see at parties and bbqs right now, but are open to the Holy Spirit moving us to offer prayer to strangers.

    I think the term “rape evangelism” for street evangelism is much too strong. I found that sort of approach annoying in college, but that mainly stemmed from misunderstanding. The people I ran into used verbage that I as a Catholic wasn’t familiar with.
    Ex. Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?
    Only people from select Nondenominational denominations use that terminology. My only honest answer at the spur of the moment could be “Uh…. I’m Catholic….” which seemed to mean “No” to the person doing street evangelism. After taking time to contemplate the meaning of the words “personal” and “relationship”, I realize I can answer “Yes, yes I do…”. But for years, I felt like Protestants don’t accept Catholics as Christians, rather than that terminology was getting in the way.
    Second Ex. Are you born again?
    I can honestly answer yes for myself, but do I mean it the same way the questioner does? I can’t give you a time, date and circumstance. I don’t remember the details, just like I don’t remember being born the first time, but I know I was.

    There are people who have come to believe in Jesus through street evangelism and tracts, so I can’t totally knock it. But the ritual in which it is done can become off putting and polarizing.

    • My old minister (when I was in my teens) had a couple of J.Witnesses come to his door and ask if he was saved. He said ‘No’, and when they started to go into their spiel, he said ‘I am being saved.’ We had been doing a study that was teaching about salvation as a process, as well as a decision. (They mustn’t have been locals, or they would have known they were at the Manse which was about 3 streets away from the church.)

  7. I’ve drifted from one extreme to the other and then settled into a heap on the floor.

    I was a go-getter in high school. I’d tell you about Jesus. Oh yes I would.

    And nobody got saved.

    I had a breakdown in college about that. My therapist, however, was great! [smile]

    Then I started the lifestyle approach. Come over to my house on a Saturday night and you’ll find us watching movies, playing video games, laughing at a video on the internet…

    And nobody’s got saved.

    So what works? I don’t know, but I can assure you that I get really angry when people say stuff like “God is just looking for available people” or “God wants to save your friends”… because… well… near as I can tell: He doesn’t. Not that His heart doesn’t break when people reject, but that–for whatever reason–He allows people to continue to reject Him despite overly-ambitious people like me doing our best to share the good news with people.

    Sort version: Been there, done that. Didn’t work. I seem to remember stories about Jesus having a similar issue and then dying, or something…

    ~Luke

    • I don’t know that you can be sure that it isn’t working, actually. I have become more convinced over the years that as much as God wants people to come to saving relationships with Him, He also wants to love them. And love us. And have us love them. These are activities without a goal that can tell us we’re done. It has to do with meeting needs, binding wounds, and genuinely displaying an affection and availability to people that God has for us. We are His witnesses, and part of that is showing people the parts of God that they can’t see without us. That’s what the fruit of the Spirit is about. That’s what loving our neighbors is about. God didn’t tell us to love our neighbors in order to get them to do something, He just said love them. And part of loving them is living out our relationships in front of them, some will be curious and some won’t. But that part is God’s part.

      • I agree with Jeanne. Lifestyle evangelism generally takes time – years and years – to do effectively. It takes a lot of patience, and even then, we may not be the ones who “close the deal. We do get to help open hearts and minds so that when the time is right, the people we share our lives with will be ready to accept Christ.

  8. I just don’t even know what to say about this. It’s a frustration that I end up trying to ignore, and then I feel guilty about it. Yes, it’s true that I’ve had the occasional person ask me about why I do or don’t do such and such, but that’s really rare. I have also walked up to someone’s door and asked them if they knew where they were going when they died. I have also made an attempt to season my speech with salt, as it were, and been way too preachy. It seems like everything I’ve tried is not quite what Christ meant when He said to take the Gospel to all nations. I just… don’t know. I couldn’t name anyone who’s come to Christ after I shared. Well, maybe one, but that’s a really big maybe.

  9. Another for your list: One of my theology profs once coined the term “Streaker Evangelism.” You go out in public on the street, and you expose the most intimate part of your soul to a total stranger. As soon as you see their reaction, you run away before they can do anything about it.

  10. I don’t know the answer. I truly don’t. Our little church plant tries to evangelize through just being good neighbors. After Hurricane Ike, we asked church members if they had neighbors who needed their fences fixed. We got a crew together and fixed fences. We didn’t wear snazzy matching t-shirts or anything, we just went and fixed fences. If people asked about the church, we would tell them, but mostly we just tried to help people who needed it. Did it fill our church to overflowing? No. But I’d like to think it at least helped people see that Christians care about people’s lives, not just whether they’re sitting in our church on Sunday morning.

    • Interesting. Our teams never got matching t-shirts either. We were trained to engage folks ready to lead them to the Lord, offer prayer for the Baptism of the Holy Sprit, pray for healing, or pray for other needs.

      We found most of those that “something” happened to – they felt something God’s presence, or had an answered prayer – they would come and check out the church.

      And yes some days, we just served people for no apparent reason, and they never even knew why.

      Keep up the good work!

    • Absolutely. Isn’t it a bit more altruistic and Christ-like to actually help someone without expecting something in return (like, say, come to church and become a member in order to validate us?)

  11. Oh, and that’s another thing. I find myself talking more about my church than I do about Jesus. Hmmm…

    • It’s so very true how that happens. We seem to associate our relationship with Jesus to our church. Possibly because we have the physicalness of a church in our lives, and the social prospects it gives us. But, I agree, that should not necessarily be the focal point when we are evangelizing.
      hmmmmm….. lots of food for thought!

  12. Having been raised that i was “responsible” for all the folks going to Hell because i didn’t evangelize them, this has been a huge issue for me thru the years.

    I remember being about 9 & talking about evangelism in SS & one of the other girls shrugging & saying, “I just tell them about Jesus and they pray to accept him.” Like it is really that easy. Like her job was then done. But i think i was rather envious at how easy she seemed to find it.

    Then there was the church i attended in my early 20s where the pastor believed you couldn’t evangelize unless you were insulting the person. Evangelism was telling them how horrible they were & how they were headed for Hell & then bringing them to Jesus. I think he had some successes, but i’ve often wondered how many people he drove away for each of his “successes.”

    I could go on & on. Thru the years i’ve actively moved away from conscious evangelism because i couldn’t do the type i was taught, but didn’t know with what to replace it.

    I think i’ve just begun to come to a place where i’m evolving. First, i think we tend to box God & other people in. It has to fit this context or box or route. We do X, A, & Z & then we are done. But God meets each of us individually where we are at, & i think he would ask us to do the same with each person. Some people may in fact respond to what i consider an insulting conversation about how awful their lives are. But others would be driven off by that.

    Paul said “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” 1 Cor 19-23

    Now, maybe Paul had this down perfectly so that he didn’t come across as a hypocrite, but i think i struggle with this. I do think it is good to keep it in mind so that we try to meet the person where they are at rather than fit them into OUR scenario. I haven’t much regard for your professor’s way of doing things, Matt. I think he lost sight of God working at God’s pace.

    This is already long, but something has occurred to me, also, in the past few weeks. We have been church hopping & i’ve come across some folks who are really passionate about their church. It has hit me that if we are as passionate about Jesus as we are for our churches, evangelism might not be so hard.

    http://4katekattoo.blogspot.com/2010/07/just-some-thoughts.html

  13. It makes me throw up in my mouth a little every time our pastor preaches on “evangelism.” Why? Because it invariably always boils down to “invite a friend to church.” As a culture of Christians, we’ve stopped caring so much about the “unsaved” and care _FAR_ more about the “unchurched.” Like the minute they walk through the door, our job is finished.

    This has also changed how we view “programs” at the church. Since the job of the believer is now to bring people to church, all church activities have become evangelistic (seeker-sensitive, if you will). The biggest problem with that is its short-sightedness. If EVERYTHING is evangelistic, then nothing goes any deeper than the basics and we end up with a lot of immature “Christians.” Those that sincerely want to go deeper end up getting frustrated and cynical because everything’s geared toward the new or non-believer. But our job’s done because they come to our church.

    I also hate the “free” festivals, etc. that churches provide – in this day and age, my contact information is NOT free!

    So how do I do things? Well, I had a friend once walk us through the book of Mark and we spent FOREVER on the first couple of verses. John (“the Evangelist”) was told to “make the paths straight” and “prepare the way of the Lord.” His job wasn’t to create the encounter with the Savior, it was to move aside any boulders in the way. So often “evangelism” is confrontational, causing people to put up their fists. Instead it should enable people to put _down_ their fists, drop their defenses. The goal (imo) shouldn’t be their “conversion” (that’s between them and the Holy Spirit), it should be the loving, gentle, and reasoned preparation of their soil (Paul planted, Apollos watered, but GOD gave the increase).

    • Amen, Leia. So much energy is spent within the church to just sustain itself (i.e. grow it bigger) rather than grow it deeper.

    • Amen Leia – deeper is always better!

      The problem with church is that the pulpit has become an icon for it. Everything is supposed to happen in front of the altar/pulpit.

      The church is meant to be made up of many gifts. 1 Cor 12, Rom 12 and Eph 4. We are not all evangelists – and usually the only folks the really believe that ARE evangelists. Churches that are only evangelistic are shallow. They get their converts and never end up discipling too many of them. The newly saved need teaching and pastoral care. Churches also need apostolic vision and prophetic guidance. One person or one style will never be effective.

      If a church wants to get folks saved, I suggest they pray for evangelists to be raised up, or show up – even hire one. Then be ready to disciple them.

      • I think it comes down to our understanding of the purpose of the “church.” Is the “church” for “seekers” or is it for believers? _I_ think the church is for the education, edification, and encouragement of _believers_ (it’s even sermon-worthy! 3 alliterating points!). I don’t think that the church is for the lost (or the “pre-saved,” as some would call them) at all.

        Anathema, I know.

        • Good three point sermon.
          And if you look at the book of Acts, the Christians came together, ate, prayed and went back out into the world (doing their jobs, etc), and many more were added.

    • I agree that equating evangelism with getting people to church is often not helpful. I love my church, but given how little understanding of Christianity many of my non-Christian friends have, I’m not convinced that bringing them to normal church services early in the learning about God phase will always be really helpful.

  14. Matt,
    As a 6’8″ 285 Youth Pastor I am impartial to Dodge-ball evangelism. They usually accept Jesus when they see me coming. Ha.

  15. Lifestyle/friendship evangelism works. But it doesn’t work in one day. You have to truly invest yourself, and love the other person where they are–holding out something higher and better, but not pressuring. I’ve seen results, although sometimes it has taken years. I believe we have to earn the right to be heard. Offer love and respect, be ready to listen and slow to talk. Be consistent. Be genuine in your caring.

    I had one such close friend go quite a distance out of his way to visit last Tuesday, just to tell me in person that he has submitted himself to God’s love and authority. I’m still floating!

  16. Ahhh. My secret shame. I suck at evangelizing. I can write all day about why I love Jesus and how he rocks my world daily. But put someone in front of me and I start stuttering and stammering. Then I start beating myself up for sucking so bad. Then I beg God to make it better. Then feel like I failed God even more when I still suck the next time I try.

    Here is my account of my attempt to teach on my recent missions trip: http://testingstuf.wordpress.com/2010/06/20/outreach/

    That basically tells you everything about how bad I am at it. Still haven’t found my way yet, but continue to pray about it.

    As a sidenote, I received my pin and sticker today and got totally excited. I am like a kid when it comes to getting mail :)
    So my bible bag is now sporting my church of no people pin proudly. Thanks for the stuff!

    • Hi Kim, I came across this site today and just read your comment. Thank you for sharing your mission testimony. Just want to encourage you and let you know that God honors everything we say and do in His name for His glory. Be blessed!

      I just started my blog end of May 2012. My husband seizes an ‘open door’ to witness and there are testimonies on my site that you can read on ‘God’s Enduring Love’- http://heulu.wordpress.com He’s great at evangelism, whereas I don’t have his boldness and zeal. God bless you!
      Liz

  17. There have been many good points made on the difficulties of evangelising, and even how we are perceived telling others about Jesus our Savior and what he has done for EVERYONE. How did we hear about God, was it our parents, friends, or a stranger. There are many people out there spreading the word of God, it got to us, and we can get it to others. Look back on how you came to God, and build off that for your witness. Start small, and continue to work on how you approach people. We are human, we will make mistakes, we just need to learn from our mistakes. Just keep pushing on and sharing God’s word with everyone.
    Live your life showing others that God comes first in your life, and let HIS light shine through you, don’t dim the light just because who you are around. If you love God, go for it, put it all out there. We should not care what people think, we are doing the works we were told to do. We may not personaly see the fruits come to life in the people, but we did blow on that ember(God’s love) that is burning deep down inside each person we encouter.

    Our evangelism can be anything, everyday happenings that occur when we are around that we may not even be aware of. An example I have is at work. A coworker used to complain and tell me how much he hated it when I would say “Bless you” after he sneezed. I realized I had cut it short and should have been saying “God bless you.” So I started saying ” God bless you”, at first he gave me a sideways glance, but he did not say a thing about it. And over the past few months we have started having open conversations about God. I have not invited him to church, yet, but during our conversations I can tell he wants nothing to do with church, yet. But I am sharing the word of God with him, and showing him Jesus’ love by being open and honest with him.

    So in short….Just Go For IT!!!

  18. //Then again, this is actually the hardest thing to do, because it actually requires an investment of time, energy and emotion into people.//

    I like that, in regards to the lifestyle and friendship evangelism. I met a friend through ebay and we talk pretty regularly. It’s amazing what people share when you let them talk and not try to force Jesus into the conversation. And when I let him be who he is, he lets me be who I am. It’s a great place to be for both of us. I don’t judge him and he lets me talk about things that Jesus says.

    nicodemusatnite.blogspot.com

  19. Two things that have always troubled me about evangelism are discipleship and wondering if I really want others to “get saved.” People at my church always talk about evangelism, but discipleship – and by that I mean truly loving Jesus and giving everything for Him and such – is never really discussed. And I’ve never seen a tract with all the hardcore Luke 14 stuff inside. Jesus let people walk away if they weren’t willing to give everything. No one ever told me what I was getting myself into when Jesus saved me. It seems like we just want people to make a profession and check a box so we can feel good about ourselves.
    Another thing is that I wonder if I truly want others to get saved. I was sitting with some of my Christian friends the other day, and I just wondered if our gathering was any different than a gathering of people who don’t claim to have a relationship with Jesus.
    Well, that’s all.

    • I totally agree, Marissa. I was just hanging out with a few girls from church and they were watching The Bachelorette and I was sitting there disgusted and trying not to be a brat for thinking we should not be sitting around watching trash like that, but instead discipling one another and growing closer to Christ through our friendship.

      What if our lives were drastically changed? What is Christ was so important to us that HE was literally all we could talk about?

  20. Blogging is one form of evangelism in this new age of technology. People from all over the world could be reading your words and forming an opinion about Christians and their Jesus.

    With that in mind, and I’m sure you didn’t intend any offense, but I hope you will consider the comparison you’ve made between sexual violation and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with someone. Even if someone is in the worst mood of their life and doesn’t want to hear anything at all about Jesus; how can that even begin to compare to being attacked and raped by anyone?

    I understand the point you were intending to make, but I hope next time you will give greater consideration before appearing flippant about rape, and perhaps even appearing flippant about the most important decision any human being can make for all of *eternity*.
    I believe God can use a 10 minute conversation, if spoken in love, at a bus stop. And who knows but that someone could be put into this opportunity for such a time as this?

    I think David @ Kingdom Bloggers is really onto something: 1 John 3:16-18

    • Todd, of course I would never intentionally be flippant about rape. It’s just a comparison I’ve heard. I can see both sides. It’s a huge stretch to really make a comparison, but someone felt violated enough to make that comparison.

  21. Oh, and one more thing… :)

    I think we often miss the point when we talk about evangelism in most churches I’ve known. I have been evangelized, witnessed at, and recruited more times than I can count now that I’m a believer.

    Before, when I was in need of a savior, the only person who ever tried was a nut job that used to chase people with tracks. Literally chase them, at a full run, when they tried to get to their cars from the restaurant where we worked. My point is that before God got a hold of me, I was apparently pretty un-save-able to a lot of believers, so they didn’t make any moves to get to know me either. I guess they would have been unequally yoked if they did that (to spiritualize it just a tad!). But once I was cleaned up a bit, now I look safe enough to try to win, but there is still no effort to get to know me before hand, so that part hasn’t changed.

    People know when you’re genuine and when you’re looking for something from them. And looking to gain something from someone who is in need, in pain or in sin is not a good thing. Loving them where they are, before they ever even thought of loving you, and without expectation of anything in return is the pattern God set.

  22. No, I’m not great at any of the methods, but I think the last one has the best chance in the coming years. The problem I see – and the one I’m trying to help out with – is that Christians don’t know how to make friends on purpose. As a result, we don’t make it to the evangelism stage with many people, which is why our results look so pathetic.

    Working on that, though…

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

  23. Wow, need to take some time to get through all the comments. This may have already been said, but can’t be said enough, you should pick up a copy of UnChristian (if you haven’t already). It hits on all of these points (and others) for why we’re failing to reach this generation.

    Right now I’m doing a lesson I call “Three-prong Evangelism” that is based off of Matthew 9: teach, preach, heal. I figure if it worked for Jesus, it must be a pretty good model to follow. I assume most in this culture have heard of Jesus, just as Jesus taught in the synogogues to believing Jews, so we have to teach “authentic Christianity”, not some mega-church branding. Next we “preach the good news” this can be both cold-contact and lifestyle evangelism because we’re sharing literally what the Gospel has done in our lives to a willing audience. Finally, we need to be outside our church walls meeting needs in the community. We don’t need to advertise our intent- just be there to listen and to serve. If we’re doing the first two effectively, we will have a captive audience while doing the third just as Jesus did.

    Note that none of the above involves handing someone an invitation and then walking away. I like the description, harsh as it is, of “rape evangelism” because that’s exactly what it is.

  24. Hey Matt, I’m reading The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay (great book, btw) and they actually tell people not to do evangelism. Their philosophy is that if people are not asking you about your faith, you’re not really living like Jesus.

    IMO, that’s a key factor in friendship/lifestyle evangelism. If our lives looks just like all our neighbors’ and coworkers’ lives except that we go to church Sunday morning, don’t swear, and don’t party (as much) nobody is going to care about our relationship with Jesus. And if we’re only known for what we don’t do rather than what we are doing, why would anyone want what we have?

    If we really love Jesus and are becoming like him our lives will be overflowing with sacrificial serving and giving, joyful attitudes, and radically inclusive community like Jesus’ life was. Then other people will want to know Jesus and want to be like Him too.

  25. This is a great post.

    We’re closing churches in my community due to economics (we’ve got people, although that’s declining, and now the churches are in the red and consolidating)–and I’m the goof who suggests Hey! Maybe we can encourage more people to join our Church! You know, invite folks…? Talk about our faith out loud…?

    Clearly, I’m a nutjob. :)

  26. Our western culture hates the just walking up to people thing. Other cultures are sometimes different. In South Africa for example the Basotho people will gladly welcome you in, chat, and offer you anything they have. Paul did evangelism that was culturally-relevant. We should too.

  27. I believe that, if we really consider our options, its very obvious what we are called to do.

    As Christians we are called to bring others to Christ, its not something that we can ignore, but if we want to do this we MUST do it in a way that is effective. One point you said your proffessor made is that its okay to fail at this, and while it is better to try and fail, we must be very careful to make sure we wont fail because if we do someone could be turned off to Christianity and Jesus forever.

    Going up to someone on the street and trying to tell them about jesus takes some serious guts, but in all honesty it almost never helps. So why would you advocate a method that does no good? The Bible teaches us to be smart about what we say, if we just go around screaming at people that they are going to Hell, I don’t think that is being very smart.

    If we live a life that follows Christ in every aspect then look for aspects to talk to our friends who have seen our lives about why we live this way, then we have a very real chance of success.

    Finally its important to remember we don’t always have to try and convert someone on the spot. Often it can be good enough just to say “Hey what are you doing this weekend?” If you get a “nothing” then you can say something like “How would you like to check out the church I go to this weekend? It will be fun!”

    Simple conversations that are not meant as an attack can be very successful in getting a friend to come to Church with you, and if you can get someone to come to Church, that’s something worth celebrating.

  28. Hello Matty,

    God does the wooing and the converting. I’m just called to love. I speak when I’m asked and all you need to do is be a friend and be present in a crisis and there’s plenty of opportunity to share. If somebody tells me they’re sick, I ask if I can pray for them. I’ve never had anyone turn me down and when I’m finished they usually thank me.

    I loathe partys with a purpose,
    Lazy Silly Girl

  29. What a great post! It puts a whole new perspective on evangelism. (I really don’t like that word). I’m convinced that there is a 5th type though. It’s similar to the lifestyle evangelism, but requires even more from us. Red Cross Evangelism. It’s reaching out to the people all around us, every day, and meeting their needs…their real, tangible needs. Then when asked why you’ve met their needs…and if you’ve selflessly met their needs, they always ask why…give them the REAL reason. It’s so easy to brush off the question and act as if you haven’t really done all that much. It seems like the humble thing to do, but it leaves people still with a need you haven’t met. Tell them that you helped them because Jesus wanted you to. They want to know that Jesus.

    • I really like that, Loralea- Red Cross Evangelism! That is what we do. When someone voices a need, or we see a situation/opportunity to pray and share with someone, God touches their lives for sure!
      God bless you and continue to use you in His service,
      Liz

  30. It seems more people would rather criticize different types of evangilism rather than practicing evangilism. It reminds me of the woman who told D.L. Moody that she did not like his approach to evangilism. He replied, “I don’t either. What is yours?” She responded, “Oh, I really don;t have one.” Few people take the time to see what is modeled in the NT.
    Do so and you will see them reaching out to their family, friends, and neighbors and confronting them with the gospel (Andrew finds Peter, Bartholomew finds Nathaniel, ect…)
    We see them going through out the villages and towns (“street evangelism”) and even witnessing to the strangers they meet (Peter and John with the beggar). Phillip was sent away from a huge revival in order to go out into a desert where he met a stranger.
     All of their outreach was connected to the church (Jesus and the 12 were the first church).
    With these things in mind, my personal view on the issue is that first of all, every Believer needs to be actively seeking the lost. We are not to sit and wait for the lost to come to us. Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus command the lost to come to church, but for the church to “GO!” We are to be proactive in our evangelism. I see many who criticize “cold turkey” evangelism doing no evangelism. It reminds me of a story regarding Moody. One day, a lady criticized D.L. Moody for his methods of evangelism in attempting to win people to the Lord. Moody’s reply was, “I agree with you. I don’t like the way I do it either. Tell me, how do you do it?” The lady replied, “I don’t do it.” Moody retorted, “Then I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.”
    I think that we (as Christians) need a comprehensive approach to evangelism. One that emphasizes our personal responsibility to reach our family, friends, co-workers, ect… as well as reaching those we contact on less personal basis. This is one issue I have had to deal with in planting a church. Is door to door the easiest way, NO. Do I enjoy doing it –not in the least. But we must do something to reach out to our community and let them know we are here. We have not seen many saved at the door, and we really do not try to present the gospel there unless they express an interest. But we do let them know who we are, that we are here, and look for opportunities to follow up. What I have found that our door to door ministry has done is help us identify people who have an interest and then target our follow up to them. And from that we have seen some results. At least two of our core families and several who attend on a less frequent basis are the result of this. I think the problem is that some churches place all there time on “cold turkey” without teaching the importance of reaching those around us. It is not an “either or” but a “both and” issue. And we must also remember, that getting someone saved is the beginning –not the end. A parent would not say, “Well, the baby is born –our work is through.” Birth is the beginning of the journey; so is salvation. Connecting those saved to a local church and helping them grow is crucial.
    In any case, one thing is clear. Few churches are serious about any kind of evangelism. Most churches “growth” comes by transfer, not conversion and the condition of our country reveals the serious decline in people with any Spiritual leading. With this being the case, I will take the person who witnesses “at the wrong time” over the person who never witnesses any day. So many people are waiting for the perfect opportunity and those rarely come. I have found I must be sensitive to the spirit and the situation, but I must also be willing to bring the conversation to Christ. I have seen some of our people making strides in this area and am glad for it. Hopefully, this will continue.

    • Good comment! Seems to me you summed up the whole subject pretty well! I think one reason for the reluctance to witness is lack of faith and this is due to lack of discipleship training in many churches. There isn’t enough teaching on fundamental truths/Biblical principles. In fact there may be many people sitting in the pews who are unsaved, and people who think they ARE SAVED because they are in church on Sundays. And if some pastors themselves don’t know anything about the gospel of salvation then they are blind leaders leading the blind, aren’t they?!

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