They present a practical form of personal evangelism that can help the ordinary person in the pew overcome their shyness or fears in talking about their faith in Christ.
I was once the obnoxious in your face evangelist, but I’ve changed.
I have made them my own, rephrased them to suit me, and these principles are integrated into the DNA of the evangelism style I teach.
If there was one book that has shaped my practice of personal evangelism more than any other, it is Becoming a Contagious Christian, by Bill Hybels, Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg.
Relational Evangelism for Ordinary People
The primary topic of course is relational evangelism, and the idea of forming “strategic friendships with non believer’s” with the goal of helping them become fully devoted followers of Christ.
I found the book very helpful in stressing
- a holy lifestyle
- relational connections to non-Christians, and
- training in being able to clearly communicate a gospel script.
I read evangelism books for a living, and many focus on just one of those three.
The Core Principle in Becoming a Contagious Christian
The core of the teaching of Becoming a Contagious Christian is summed up in this principle:
Close Proximity + High Potency + Clear Communication = Maximum Impact
Close Proximity centers on forming relationships of integrity. I can testify from my workshops that many lifelong Christians have no irreligious friends and don’t even know how to befriend a non-church goer. You will find several practical steps to form relationships with non-Christians.
High Potency centers on living a holy life – a life that demonstrates the work of God, and a life that bears witness to the truth within us.
Clear Communication calls us to share the gospel with words. This book doesn’t teach that you life is the only witness you need. Instead the authors remind us that we need to communicate the gospel with words as well.
Maximum Impact is all about how to help a person become follower of Jesus.
The Greatest Contribution of Becoming a Contagious Christian
The greatest contribution this book makes is the recognition of various evangelism styles.
In the book, Becoming a Contagious Christian, the authors point out that there are a variety of different evangelism styles.
- Confrontational: Peter, Acts 2.
- Intellectual / Philosophical: Paul, Acts 17.
- Testimonial: Blind Man, John 9
- Invitational: Woman at the Well, John 4
- Serving: Dorcas (Tabitha), Acts 9: 36ff
- Signs and Wonders: First Corinthians 2:1-5.
To this list, I would add “Chance Conversations,” based on Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch.
This list has become a fountainhead for a lot of other teaching.
For example, it is the foundation for Jeffrey Johnson’s work, “Got Style?”, which helps your church decide the best evangelism course based on it’s personality
Read a full descriptions of these 6 evangelism styles and see Lee Strobel give a video summary.
Some who read this book claim that it presents a “man centered” form of evangelism and minimizes the work of the Holy Spirit.
However, Hybels frequently speaks of the role of the Holy Spirit in evangelism. He tells stories where he feels the nudge of the Holy Spirit. These quotes also go to show that he knows that the Holy Spirit has an active role in evangelism.
- Wherever there’s high savor, close interaction, and a straightforward presentation of truth, and where the Holy Spirit is active, there is contagious Christian influence that might lead, eventually, to the salvation of one more lost person who matters deeply to God.
- What’s holding us back? We have the Holy Spirit, we have the Word of God, and we have the church. We want to be contagious Christians, don’t we? Then let’s be real with people.
- It’s important to ask God for guidance in choosing the names. And you need to keep talking to Him about them, asking the Holy Spirit to open them up to the love and truth of Christ.
- Keep in mind that the Holy Spirit wants to be your unseen partner in reaching your friends, family members, coworkers, and neighbors with Christ’s life-giving gospel message.
- Acting on what seemed to be a prompting from the Holy Spirit, he told her quietly that he was going to pray for her, right there at the restaurant’s front counter.
- If you think this approach is for you, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to know how, when, and where to direct your words and challenges, as well as the wisdom you’ll need to do it with an appropriate mix of grace and truth.
- Then I try to discern whether the person seems at all open, and I pray quickly to see how the Holy Spirit might be leading.
- Your journey may not be as dramatic, but it can have a life-changing impact for someone standing a few steps away from you—and for you as well, as you learn the power of extending care, compassion, and inclusiveness under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Another common critique is that it is relational evangelism.
Most of these critiques come from the viewpoint that one doesn’t need to build a relationship first before the gospel is shared. If you are a fan of the urgent confrontational style of evangelism, for example, Way of the Master, then this material will bother you because of its emphasis on building relationships and earning the right to be heard.
If your church doesn’t believe in engaging the culture and having relationships with non-churched people, then this book will be so against the grain of your church’s DNA that it won’t work period [there are some very separatist type churches out there].
The final critique I see most often is that this book is not theological enough. If you want a theology behind evangelism, then I agree – this book is not oriented in that way.
It is extremely practical in how to talk with people, how to be genuine with people, and how to have spiritual conversation. This wasn’t written as theology book, nor does it pretend to be one.
Order your copy
If there was one book that has shaped my practice of personal evangelism more than any other, it is Becoming a Contagious Christian, by Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg.
If you haven’t read this book yet, then you have missed out.
Order your copy of Becoming a Contagious Christian, from Amazon and I’ll get a few nickels.