I find it fun to go through times like I am currently. I’ve been pretty frustrated with a lot of things, and stressed with the amount of things in which I am involved. So, when I get on a soapbox like I have been lately with evangelism, it’s gratifying to have it affirmed by the things around me.
Not more than 24 hours after this post, I happened upon a link to Issue 4, 2006 of the WCA News. The particular issue happens to be focused heavily on evangelism and affirmed everything that has been floating in my head lately. I’ll pull out some highlights, but please take some time to read the issue in your spare time.
The first article, titled “Evangelism in 3-D” highlights Willow’s 3-D philosophy: Develop Friendships, Discover Stories and Discern Next Steps. Here’s a quip about the root problem of evangelism today:
People hate evangelism. Christians shy away from it. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re afraid of it, discouraged by it and feel guilty when they fail to drag a seeker across the line of faith. If Christians dread evangelism, non-Christians despise it. They feel pressured, preached at, cornered, judged, condemned and reduced to spiritual projects. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Somewhere along the line, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve forgotten what evangelism is really about and weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve reduced the process to simply inviting people to a weekend service,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Willow CreekÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Director of Neighborhood Evangelism, Garry Poole. This is a problem.
This is a serious problem, folks. The statement “…they fail to drag a seeker across the line of faith” sums it up too plainly. This isn’t a task at which we can fail.
The same article also offers some responses to the question “what is your knee-jerk reaction to the word evangelism?” You can read for yourself to see some pretty scary responses. Poole also had this to say:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We needed to shift from Ã¢â‚¬Ëœdoing community in the churchÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ to Ã¢â‚¬Ëœdoing church in the community,Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Ã¢â‚¬Â
Developing friendships is showing an authentic interest in their interests. Ã¢â‚¬Å“DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t try to be interesting, just be interested.Ã¢â‚¬Â
And whatever you do, don’t view your neighbor as a project. No one wants to be reduced to a spiritual project just so you can check them off your list.
How many times do we write a name down on a card and… yeah. Poole said this, too:
Christians often view evangelism as getting the seeker to listen to us while we share a verbal witness Ã¢â‚¬â€ give our testimony in the hopes they will better understand the gospel… We’re omitting a critical part of the process Ã¢â‚¬â€ the other person’s story. Non-Christians are eager to tell their stories.
Amen, brother. I am in the midst of another amazing book titled The Revolutionary Communicator. The first principle in that book is that communication is about listening. People just want someone to listen and be authentic.
There is a great deal more to learn from that article, but let’s move on to one by Bill Hybels, the Senior Pastor at Willow. In Just Walk Across the Room (also the title of his new book), Bill describes a relationship he had with his son’s childhood soccer coach, Brian. It is a relationship that was Spirit-led and took years to yield a new believer, surprising no one more than Bill himself. He nurtured the relationship on Brian’s terms, serving him, listening to him and just being a friend. Relationships and serving others goes a very long way to expanding the Kingdom.
And finally, an article titled Connections: The Bridge to Grace, also highlights the importance of relationships with an interesting story. The author’s wife was in the middle of an evangelism course and had an assignment to have evanglistic conversations each week (what is an “evangelistic” conversation, anyway?). He describes a conversation where her close friend opened up and shared some things that completely redefined their relationship…
A soul connection was made. For the first time in many years, this friend saw Jesus and the church in a different light Ã¢â‚¬â€ a very positive light!
…she flunked with an “F”… because she failed to present the plan of salvation… and that was the assignment.
Granted, this was an assignment for a graded class, but sadly, I feel like this is exactly how we view our role in evangelism Ã¢â‚¬â€ an assignment that gets graded.
While tracts, strategies and events are brilliant tools perfect for certain situations, evangelism is about “walking across the room” and building relationships. The Bible tells us to be prepared to answer questions, but not to shout those answers to those who are not listening.
I didn’t plan on writing this, but I felt the need. Who knows if there will be more. Stay tuned.