Are you evangelizing? If you follow Jesus, evangelism is a mission you were born into. The Great Commission is a part of our lives.
Most Christians become guilty, nervous, or both when asked if evangelism is a part of how they demonstrate their faith. They either are evangelizing, or it is something that they dread.
If you are someone who dreads evangelism, you are going to be delighted to engage with my new blog series. I will be publishing a post each of the next eight weeks focused on presenting the Gospel the way Jesus and the Apostles did. You are going to find great joy in evangelizing with this approach.
If you already spend time evangelizing, I highly recommend wiping your evangelism slate clean to get the most from my teaching. I’m asking you to allow me to teach you a perspective that might be new to you, one that I spent a decade perfecting while out on the streets leading others to Jesus.
Our society has experienced a lot of change over the last 50 years. Western soil has hardened, leading to an increase in the number of people who dread evangelizing. It can be discouraging believing you already know how people will respond to your engagement. “No thanks, leave me alone.” Even worse, more and more people are starting to respond with, “Don’t push your hate agenda on me.” We are living in a time when the truth of the Gospel is viewed as hating others.
Sadly, the methods some use for evangelism support this thinking. However, I am confident there are blessings to be found in evangelism using a 1st-century approach, especially in the hardest of soils.
I spent the first 50 years of my life disliking Christians and their judgmental culture. When I finally made peace with God, the Holy Spirit made sure I knew that evangelism would be a part of my life. He led me, someone who had been a shy geek my entire life, to hit the streets in a state with some of the hardest soil in the country and engage other people face to face. To say I was challenged is an understatement.
Because I am a geeky guy, I wanted to learn as much about evangelism as I could. This included studying different evangelism methods that were popular at the time. I memorized the Roman Road, Steps to Peace With God through Billy Graham’s organization, Ray Comfort’s approach, and even taught Rick Warren’s Celebrate Recovery program to addicts. There are many other books and articles I have read.
When it comes to evangelizing, the advice I received from the Bible has been the greatest. I follow what He has taught me: to love them because He loves them.
But more specifically than being a minister of love, there are some principles that I learned which caused me to change my evangelism practice over the years. I want to share those with you.
Evangelizing on the streets, exposing my broken heart.
Similar to most practitioners, the experiences that God led me through have been a significant influence. I would frequently encounter strong skeptics while on the streets, people just like my former self. The last thing they wanted was to meet a Christian who couldn’t wait to call them a sinner. I would also run into people who needed spiritual help to untangle the mess that their life had become. When these two intersected, my heart would grow sick as our short conversations would end.
They might have been waiting in line at a soup kitchen, distress written all over their face. So, being the best evangelist I knew how to be, I would pull out a track, start down the Roman Road, or in some other way to tell them that I was a Christian, and the conversation would shut down with the person turning their head and letting me know they were fine. They weren’t interested in hearing about God. “I’m all set. I’m good.”
God would lead me to let the situation go, walk away, and pray for them. But, my broken-hearted tears would overwhelm me as I silently cried, “But Lord, they aren’t all set! Their life is a mess! They need your help, and I want them to have the same joy you have given me!” I would sense a response of something like, “You would have said the same, my son. Just pray for him. I love him, and I will send someone else.”
My greatest desire and motivation was to tell them that they were missing something amazing. Today! I am ashamed to admit, their eternity wasn’t my greatest concern. Instead, I wanted them to live now in the same confidence and love I had found in the Bible.
The problem was, I couldn’t find this message on any track. Most tracks focus on eternity. Eventually, I didn’t bother with the tracks. My goal wasn’t to tell them about a free ticket to heaven. On the inside, I burned with a desire to share the joy that was available in Jesus. For 50 years, I had been wrong and missed out on this joyful life in Christ. I had to share with others what they were missing.
The apostles didn’t use a 21st century track, either!
Along with the experiences I had on the streets, something else made me question the standard evangelism practices. I was, and still am, a voracious Bible reader. Four years into my journey, I started reading the Bible according to Professor Grant Horner’s program. This is a unique and intensive sequence of reading 10 chapters a day. It led to me read the book of Acts every month. I read the Bible like this for three years. I was continuously reading the Book of Acts, 36 times. I paid great attention to the Acts of the Apostles.
During those three years, it slowly dawned on me that the Apostles hadn’t read the modern evangelism books and tracks that we have. The approach they used was nothing like today’s experts write about.
When they were on hard ground, the Apostle’s approach went something like this:
Connect to their culture. Find out who they listen to and who they worship to establish some common ground.
They told them they had news. The benevolent uncreated creator God (whom they already knew) sent His Son, Jesus, to establish something they had all been waiting for: a powerful restorative path of access to the Creator and a new kingdom.
To prove this, Jesus had done countless miracles and was raised from the dead, witnessed by thousands.
Knowing Jesus, therefore, has become critical because He has been set as judge over everyone. Change your mind and believe.
As Christian evangelists, I believe we need to get back to sowing seeds like Jesus and the Apostles.
I have spent the last few months writing my new book, “Sowing In Hard Ground.” A copy can be purchased at this link. Additionally, I will be publishing a post for the next eight weeks focusing on approaching evangelism the way Jesus and the Apostles did.
In next week’s post, I will be discussing one of the most important topics we face evangelizing, the general public’s dislike for our Christian culture. Most of our seeds are dying immediately. Let’s discover why and adjust!