What I Got Wrong About Evangelism

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I used to teach an evangelism class at the BSU (Yes, I know it’s now the BCM. Whatever, it will always be the BSU to me). In this class I taught techniques that people could use to share Christ with someone. We covered things such as the Roman Road, the Sinner’s Prayer, how to initiate conversations about your faith, how to share your testimony, and even the use of tracts and how they can be beneficial. I started this class because I was consistently being asked about how I started all of the conversations I did about my faith.

Back then, I was going to a local coffee shop every morning at the same time to do my devotional and spend some time with Jesus. If you’ve ever been to a coffee shop at the same time day after day, you know that you quickly develop a little community. There was a group of us there each morning reading. Before long, we began to discuss the different things we were studying. Some were reading about world events, others were studying for their various classes, a few were doing devotionals like me. We became a type of really chaotic book group. It was easy at that point to share my faith because it was what I was reading about.

What I didn’t realize back then was that these people I was sharing with weren’t listening to me because I knew the Roman Road or could give them a tract that showed them how to have a relationship with Christ. They listened to me because we had a relationship. We had common interests – reading and coffee (which really how do you ever relate to someone who doesn’t like coffee?). We shared a space. We had earned the place to speak into each other’s lives. We had put in our time.

So, when I went to teach this evangelism class there was a piece missing. I knew all the right things to say and all the tools that could be utilized, but I didn’t realize, or relay to my students, how important that relationship aspect is. There’s that old saying, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. Yes, I know it’s cliché, but most clichés become so because they are true.

If I had to do it over again I would tell them that, of course, it’s important to know your testimony and writing it down can help with that. After all, scripture tells us that we should be prepared to give an answer for the hope we have. I would explain that tracts can be used as a tool to help us stay on track if we are presented with an opportunity to share with someone. I would show them the Roman Road and encourage them to flag those passages in their Bible so that if someone they know is at a point where they are ready to hear the good news they have the scripture to support what they might say. Finally, I would explain that if they want to memorize a Sinner’s Prayer to pray with anyone that they are blessed to lead to the Lord, that’s fine, but those words are not magic. What matters is the heart of the person praying, so perhaps it is better if they just let the words overflow from the outcry of their heart in that moment.

Above all, I would tell them that praying with someone is not the end goal. God’s children are not tally marks on some score card for how many people we have led to Him. They are precious and dearly loved and need to be treated as such, so we don’t pray with them and leave them. We journey with the people we lead to the Lord. That is just the beginning, not the point at which we dust off our hands and move on.

Real, life-changing evangelism is not having someone fill out a survey at the mall, standing on the street corner shouting your beliefs, or leaving a tract for your waiter or waitress. Real, Christ-honoring evangelism happens in everyday life. It happens with the people we interact with on a daily basis. It happens when people notice the hope in us and ask why we have it (1 Peter 3:15). However, this type of evangelism takes time, energy, and commitment. It requires us to actually live out our faith day in and day out. It’s not something we can do once or twice and feel better about ourselves, but it is what Christ requires.

Can God work through a survey or even a bullhorn? He’s God, so of course He can (after all we have multiple examples in scripture of him using fools). However, when we are following Christ’s example of sharing with the world, we will start with the people we are doing life with. And if all of those people are Christians then we probably need to change the way we do life. When those people notice something different about us, we need to be prepared to give an answer for our Hope, but we do not need to beat people over the head with it. If we live our lives in genuine service and love, it will do so much more for the cause of Christ than any one evangelism technique ever could.

Below are some books that further discuss this idea:

   

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