That’s a provocative question.
I’m not wrestling with the unchanging gospel, but how we present the good news.
Competing Evangelism Methods
On the one hand, I’ve encountered people who follow systems of evangelism that claim
- We do what Jesus did
- We are the correct way to do it,
- We’ve got the only organized method that gets quick results, and
- If it’s not our way (our recipe), the results will be suspect.
These people show their proof from their favorite texts in the New Testament and paint a narrow picture of biblical forms of evangelism.
On the other hand, I’ve encountered people who follow systems of evangelism that reflect
- work with different communication styles
- work with different means of communication
- work from different worldviews
- work with different personalities.
These people too, show their proof from their favorite texts in the New Testament and paint a wide picture of biblical forms of evangelism.
Both sides have their various authors, books, and related training ministries, and sometimes they get in each other’s way.
In one way, it reflects the tension between
- the URGENCY to communicate the gospel
- the RELATIONAL foundation for sharing the gospel.
Can I change up the question from THE WAY to A WAY?
What is A Biblical Way to do Evangelism?
Let me raise three issues that expanded my scope of evangelism methods.
I can’t easily reconcile these with claims to an exclusive methodology.
1. Inherent limits of “just one.”
I work cross culturally. In doing so, I see the limits of claiming any kind of exclusiveness to any methodology or script.
To say there is only one way of evangelism is too limiting working across worldviews.
For example, how can I explain the gospel to an indigenous woman in a tribal culture who is afraid of the alligator they have deified (See Contextualizing the Gospel Crossculturally)?
If I’m limited to one method, script or formula, I have to get this indigenous woman to my starting point in my worldview, even if she doesn’t have a worldview like mine.
2. Different Personalities Communicate Differently
The book The 5 Love Languages showed many of how different we give, say, hear and receive love.
We filter how we hear what we are told and how we communicate what we say because of
- Different personalities,
- Different worldviews,
- Different experience based upbringings.
To limit all people to just one methodology forces people to fill a mold they don’t feel natural in.
We can train them, equip them, and help them memorize a presentation.
But for many, it’s like wearing a pair of shoes that just don’t fit – no matter how many days you try to break them in.
It’s an evangelism that isn’t natural.
3. Lasting Results From Training Different Styles
I’ve been doing evangelism training for over 10 years.
I define fruitfulness in training
- Ongoing habits of confidently sharing your faith.
- Implementation of Action steps to improve your skills.
- Conversations about the gospel that are as normal as breathing.
- Regularly and Clearly communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Confidence in sharing with strangers or friends.
I’ve seen training fruitfulness long term (not just the afternoon of the conference) when people discover how evangelism can be as natural as breathing.
They find the confidence to share their faith in the secure knowledge of
- who they are
- what God has done for them
- how God is at work drawing people to faith.
- what they can say to communicate the gospel.
Some of this is rooted in
- their different personalities,
- different experiences of Christ working in their life,
- and different social networks of people they are rooted in.
People discover freedom when they discover how God can use them as they are and where they are.
From the stories that find their way back to me, this discovery lasts months to years, not just the days after the conference when a fresh jolt of adrenaline is in their system.
4. Never the same way twice.
When I look at the evangelistic encounters that Jesus had, and when I look at the preaching events and individual conversions in the book of Acts , I see such a variety of methods.
I can’t get around the variety that I see.
- “I don’t know” and “give a reason”
- People seeking Jesus, and Jesus seeking people.
- Contexts of friendship, and contexts of stranger encounters.
- Personal testimony, and story telling, and apologetic defenses.
- Experience based testimony, and carefully thought out theological arguments.
- “Chance encounters” between strangers, and friends leading one another to faith.
- Cultural references to the Old Testament and cultural references to Greek altars and poetry.
Sometimes I see signs and wonders, and or power encounters.
See these links for some different conversion stories.
The Apostle Paul
Simon the Sorcerer
Let’s look for Biblical WAYS to do evangelism.
With all this diversity, it is my conclusion that we can find lots of different biblical WAYS to do evangelism.
- Contact evangelism between strangers,
- Open air preaching
- Theological Discussions and Debates
- Personal Testimony between friends
- Service oriented works that provide evangelism contexts.
Not again, I’m not talking about changing the content, just recognizing the varieties of the delivery mechanism.
As a evangelism trainer, I want people to discover how to use the knowledge they already have to do evangelism in the ordinary course of their life in a way that fits them, but also reflects the importance of communicating the gospel.
Recognizing the validity of different ways to do evangelism help me equip the Body of Christ to do that work.
Lindsay Van Sicklen
Chris, I love the way you continually challenge God’s people to rethink matters surrounding evangelism rather than getting stuck in a rut. Blessings!
This is becoming more of an issue these days is it not? There is much debate over the validity of the sinners prayer as well. I would say that as long as the gospel message is communicated to the hearer in some understandable fashion then you have a valid form of evangelism.
It is pragmatism.
For this article, I’m looking at communication skills and styles, not the message or content, but the praxis of personal evangelism.
The Gospels indicate that Jesus trained the 12 and 72 to proclaim the nearness of the Kingdom of God, call for repentance, and heal the sick.
Healing the sick is least practiced by the average Christian.
I would have to totally agree.