For the next few weeks, I’m teaching in a Spanish language missions school, particularly on cross cultural conversational evangelism.
Two of the opening questions I often ask are:
- When I think about evangelism, I feel. . ..
- When “evangelism” is mentioned, I begin to think . . .
A North American Answer
When I ask these questions to audiences in mainline denominations in North America (English speaking), the typical answers I receive are
and a variety of synonyms around these words. Evangelism is a chore, survival strategy for churches, and something many feel incapable of doing.
A Latin American Answer
When I have taught in a Spanish language context in both the US and Latin America, the answers to the same question have been different.
When I talk about evangelism fears that English speaking North Americans feel, I get blank stares — as if I’m missing the mark. I finally figured out why.
Last week’s Spanish speaking class answered the questions above with
- Happy in my heart
- Freedom from my own guilt
- Privileged to share such a message
- Joy because I have received God’s grace
- Sad because other’s haven’t found this grace.
- Compassion for those who don’t yet know Jesus
Admittedly, the group I was teaching were students preparing for long term missions among unreached people groups. There may be a passionate slant towards evangelism.
Yet in 10 years of cross cultural ministry I have not yet encountered the same level of evangelism fears in Latin America that I find in the US among traditional mainline churches.
I find this contrast consistent enough in my experiences in conducting evangelism in both cultures and it makes sense as to why I get blank stares talking about evangelism fears in Latin america.
That’s not the hindrance to personal evangelism in this culture.
Let me ask you this?
When you think about evangelism, what do you feel?
Feel free to share in the comment fields below. Feel free to tell us a little of your context.
L. K. Williams
I think my biggest fear is feeling inadequate though I have studied and taught several evangelism classes. Having two kinds of testimonies in mind – direct connection with Jesus through answered prayer or other situations plus a Sunday School testimony is helpful. In one church where the pastor wanted me to teach a couple of evangelism classes, yet left it up to the classes to accept the offer or not, the offer was soundly rejected. The people simply did not want to do anything resembling evangelism and felt no obligation about doing it.
I think the worst things I’ve had happen are encountering people who simply want to argue about the Bible and not hear the message at all…seeking to belittle the person sharing. These argument prone people focus on very hard questions like “So what does the Bible say about dinosaurs?” Generally, these people approach me when I’m just sitting quietly reading my Bible, not doing anything more than that. I think that means they are feeling some sort of conviction from the Holy Spirit but decide to lash out against it.
I can certainly identify with those fears:
Loss of words
Fear of hostile reactions.
When I started thinking about evangelism in terms of discussing a person’s spiritual thirst, I discovered a way many of those fears got minimized.
This might be a great post to start reading:
Then follow the https://www.evangelismcoach.org/category/theology/spiritual-thirst/ category to find more.
Spiritual thirst reflects a level of interest and perceived need.