If there’s one thing I’ve learned about evangelism, it’s that I have a lot to learn about evangelism…
but not really.
That sounds arrogant. Let me clarify.
I recently took part in a rather intriguing peer panel on the subject at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. Terrace Crawford led the discussion that Greg Stier, Brent Lacy, and I helped speak into.
All of the attendees likewise added observations to help recognize the way things are versus how we hope they’ll be:
- Church itself isn’t full of consistent Christians. We have people who regularly attend church but haven’t yet encountered Jesus.
- There’s a rise in homeschooling. This confuses the dynamics of those students reaching other students.
- Not every church or student ministry values evangelism at a public level. It’s rare to find a weekly cadence where church leaders regularly pray for the lost or everyday people tell their stories of reaching others.
- Most program-level strategies turn the professionals into the quarterback. We essentially communicate, “You bring your friends and I’ll throw the pass.”
- Some people have created a good life for themselves without following God. When life isn’t “hellish” it isn’t easy for them to have a fire about hell.
- Awkwardness is a luxury we have abandoned. Our traditional approaches at evangelism require an awkward conversation, but this generation has learned to avoid awkwardness with the “blocking/unfriending” concept. Parents likewise rescue kids left-and-right from tough situations and so we’re getting even further away from requiring kids to feel awkward at all.
We likewise engaged in some what-if’s toward a solution:
- What if we got even a core group of Christians committed to something proactive: The research shows that if you can get 10% truly committed to something noble they will flip the rest. Jesus invested His time this way. It’s okay to tell others, “Yes, I play favorites with my time, and you can be one of them.”
- What if we clarified what’s at stake in a simple statement: We could talk about eternity, like “I don’t want anyone to go to hell. I want everyone I know to go to heaven.” We might also simply explain about the difference Jesus makes, like “I want everyone to have the same opportunity for a new life through Jesus. I’m going to start with the people around me, whether I know them or not.”
- What if we modeled failure as much as success: Is it more important to have a fairy-tale ending to every story or for us to show what it means to faithful as the means to join into what God is doing?
- What if we took a core group into a strange place to share Jesus with strangers: This may feel safer than just telling them to win their community for Jesus. Give them success stories to draw from and share. At the end of this experience, build a day that is all about their community and friends.
- What if we redeemed the concept of a formula: We would all love to be incredibly organic and artistic in how we share our faith, but you don’t pick up a guitar to riff out a song without knowing how to play at least a few chords.
Speaking of formulas, I offered one that I developed after spending some time noticing how Christians may complain at some point that they aren’t being “fed” by their churches. After his interaction with the woman at the well, Jesus said his “food” was to do the will of the Father. What if that’s how we saw evangelism – as a chance to “P.R.A.I.S.E. H.I.M.” as we shared”
- Prayer: Seek God to learn what He’s doing in/around you. Prayer creates room in your heart and theirs for God to move.
- Relate: Leverage your sphere of influence by leaning into the lives of people you know are are near who need Jesus.
- Ask: Use intentional questions that help you get to know someone’s deeper values/beliefs.
- Invite: Bring this person with you to church or an event/meet-up where they will somehow be better exposed to Christ.
- Suggest: Dare your friend to take the next step with God. Be specific, telling him/her what you think that next step is.
- Empower: Encourage your friend with your words and follow-up resources you go through together.
- Huddle: Bring other Christian friends around your friend, like a Bible study you take part in together.
- Invest: Serve with your friend in a ministry or event to share the joy of making a difference under God.
- Multiply: Together with your friend, commit to reach another.
I began this post by saying I have a lot to learn about evangelism, “but not really.”
I share this because one thing Greg Stier imparted into me years back is that we all already know “how” to do evangelism. We share about things we’re passionate about all the time, be it a restaurant, movie, sports team or otherwise. Students and adults are already in the practice of sharing their excitement about everything.
What we’re trying to do is to help them see and experience the impact of doing this for Jesus.
Maybe we need to dare them to take steps toward this, like “Take your Bible with you everywhere you go for 30 days.” Or maybe we need to be a prophetic voice into their lives so they realize how God has enabled them to be that for someone else.
What did you see here that spoke to you?
Any follow up thoughts or questions that you’d be willing to add to the topic?