Most forms of Christianity have a function of evangelism as part of their mix. It is also the most misunderstood component in most churches because the way it’s expressed–usually out of one of two ditches and nothing in between.
The first ditch is the ‘soap box preacher’ tasked with the erroneous job of saving the souls of some lost people group. This person will either awkwardly intercede in a seemingly regular conversation raising the question, “have you ever thought about what happens to you when you die?” The question is actually tame in comparison to the kind of ‘evangelist’ we see in the media picketing against people fighting against some kind of human rights violation. These folks think spreading the message of love is done primarily through fear and condemnation.
The second ditch is a reaction from the first and eliminates the entirety of proclamation replacing it with ‘actions’ or just plain ‘love’. You’ve heard it said,
At all times preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.
The quote, attributed to St Francis of Assisi, was likely never said by him (a man who made a living preaching…), and holds no Biblical precedent.
Both of these forms are extremes. The place where we should land, in my opinion, is somewhere in between.
The notion you don’t have to use words, that your actions, or just ‘loving people’ would be good enough for them to ‘preview the Kingdom’ and somehow magically figure out everything about your faith is an unknown precedent in scripture (it doesn’t exist). The crucial expression of the church certainly must include active ‘works’ that subverts the cultural norms especially in the face of poverty, equality, and justice, but that goes hand in hand with announcement.
There is a very clear and necessary announcement component. Romans 10:14:
- There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich towards all who call upon him. “All who call upon the name of the Lord,” you see, “will be saved.” So how are they to call on someone when they haven’t believed in him? And how are they to believe if they don’t hear? And how will they hear without
someone announcing it to them? And how will people make the announcement unless they are sent? As the Bible says, “how beautiful are the feet of the ones who bring good news of good things.”
How that announcement proceeds isn’t random, it’s rare for evangelists in scripture to randomly poll strangers about their eternal life. Nonetheless, it’s still important.
How should we approach evangelism? Luke 10 has the best example.
First off, the disciples are not sent alone. He sends them out in two. The emphasis shouldn’t be lost.
Second, disciples are sent to participate in a harvest. The implication is evangelist efforts aren’t ‘plating seeds’ (I suppose it could be that), but rather harvesting from the Kingdom that’s already unfolding with or without the disciples.
Thirdly, the disciples go until they find a person of peace, someone willing to have a conversation, to listen, trade ideas. No ram and jam of religious doctrine to random people.
Where does this leave us?
Announcement is crucial, but it’s done in a far simpler environment. In the end:
seek to do what you love with people you like to people that like you.
That’s an evangelism strategy if you’re searching for one.
What do you love to do?
Find a friend and go do it.