There are many different personal evangelism methods being taught these days in the body of Christ.
In part, these different evangelism methods are an outgrowth of different strengths, personalities, personal preferences and diversity in the body of Christ.
Evangelism trainers like myself have found these different ways to help nervous people grow more comfortable in sharing their faith with others.
Every evangelism training ministry and book on personal evangelism is aimed at helping followers of Christ do better at one task that we will never need to do in heaven.
This is a noble goal: to equip the body of Christ with tools and skills to be confident in faith sharing conversations.
Personal Evangelism Styles
- Apologetic / Intellectual
Numbers 2-5 loosely fall in the bigger category of relational evangelism, though the others can be expressed in the context of existing relationships.
One has to explore the question (as I do here): What is a biblical method of personal evangelism?
What is relational evangelism?
You’ve likely heard the similar terms for relational evangelism.
- Incarnational evangelism
- Friendship evangelism
- Lifestyle evangelism
Friendship evangelism is often defined around “earning the right to be heard.” Build an intentional relationship, earn credibility, and wait for spiritual conversation to come about. When the topic of faith comes up, you’ve earned the right to share your faith in Christ.
Lifestyle and incarnational evangelism are similar, but these approaches focus on doing good, living good, so that your lifestyle attracts spiritual curiosity. “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” Matthew 5:16 (NLT).
There is significant overlap between these terms, but some nuances of distinctions as well, which is beyond my scope for today.
I look at relational evangelism this way:
- Living in such a way that your faith is obvious AND
- Being intentional in talking about the gospel
- In the context of intentional relationships
The gospel spreads through credible witnesses in the context of personal relationships over the course of time, with intentionality on the part of the Christian believer.
If personal evangelism is strictly defined as sharing the facts of the good news, this is an event – the communication of content.
It is the verbal sharing of the content of what we believe.
It is a singular focus on verbal communication.
Content is the only issue.
It’s a single rail.
- the sinfulness of mankind,
- our own sinfulness,
- our separation from God, and
- what God has done to reconcile us to Himself through Christ.
This is the core content of the gospel, reduced to a set of propositional statements.
We can preach it, teach it, share it, give it out as tracts, dramatize it, talk about it.
We trust the Spirit of God to use our words in the work of conviction and spiritual rebirth, leaving the responsibility for outcomes to the Holy Spirit.
If personal evangelism is defined only as sharing content, the evangelist will not concern himself or herself with the context of sharing that message.
Any time is the right time, whether your conversation is with a stranger or a friend.
A dual rail
Relational evangelism includes sharing the verbal content of the gospel, but also includes an awareness about the context and spiritual journey of the person with whom one is sharing.
It is a dual rail of incarnation and sharing, of content and context.
Relational evangelism recognizes that a person’s journey to faith comes in stages.
Relational evangelism recognizes that a person needs time
- to count the cost,
- to evaluate,
- to think, and
- to get answers to their burning questions.
Relational evangelism values the context of the conversation as well as the content of the gospel.
Relational evangelism values the incarnational presence of the credible witness, as well as the unchanging revelation of the word of God.
It is both expressing our faith (in our life) and explaining our faith (in the content).
The incarnational presence adds credibility to the message being communicated.
In the various styles of evangelism mentioned above, each one can be seen in the context of relationships:
- Intellectual: recurring discussions on apologetics, the nature of the Bible, who is God, who was Jesus.
- Testimonial: recurring stories of the powerful activity of God in the life of a person.
- Invitational: Come and see what God is doing with us and with me in blessing the community.
- Servant: Opportunities to explain why you sacrificially give your time and money to church and kingdom of God.
In the next post, I’ll look at some of the criticisms of relational evangelism, as well as some biblical examples.