Friday, March 22, 2013

Thoughts on Evangelism

This morning I bounced this question off my college-age daughter, who's a missions major: "Can you give me one clear example from the New Testament of a Christian (even Jesus, or any disciple, apostle, etc.) who walks up to a stranger and initiates a conversation specifically for the purpose of converting them to Christianity?" In other words, does our modern technique of aggressive E.E. find any real support in Scripture?

She was stumped.

So was I.

She proposed the lame temple beggar whom Peter healed. I noted that the beggar initiated that conversation. I thought of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. The eunuch initiated that. Then I thought of the people who approached Jesus, whom He almost seemed to rebuff -- the rich young ruler, the Syro-Phoenician woman, to begin. Even when people approach Jesus, He seems to counter with, "Are you really sure you want this faith?"

There is the Great Commission: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, teaching them ...." Go, teach, baptize, teach. But there's no instruction about accosting strangers on the street, individually. I don't see any examples of this. Please correct me if my failing memory is, um, failing me. Which is certainly possible. (I guess Paul himself, and the disciples perhaps, are the best examples of aggressive evangelism! But I'm really thinking of after the Lord enlists this core group as His team.)

Generally speaking, even with Paul, the most aggressive of the missionaries, I see a man who goes into a new community, enters the existing religious establishment and starts preaching. He does what Jesus instructs. Then he waits for interested parties to approach him and ask questions. I simply don't see examples of door-to-door evangelism. I see bold, vocal, friendly Christians who respond to those whom God draws to them.

(Has somebody famous already written a book about this, and I just missed?  I, and every guilt-ridden Christian I know?)

Because ... all Christians (especially the introverts among us) feel mighty guilty that we're not out there evangelizing in that accost-a-stranger fashion. We've been told since 4 year old Sunday school that we're supposed to. Nobody ever dared to voice the lazy, good-for-nothing, chicken opinion that we could simply make friends with lots of people, work hard to be like Jesus, and wait for them to ask.

That would mean we would wait for God. We would wait on the Holy Spirit to have moved already in the person's heart. We would have trusted Him to draw His people to His people.

Maybe I'm crazy, but this was a small eye-opener to me. I'm gonna stop feeling guilty that I don't scare people at their front doors. I may work harder, however, at being a real friend to more people, and not just ones in my church. It's a good idea. Maybe God will use it.


  1. I was always taught that "Let your light shine so that men see your good works, and Glorify Your Father" meant that the way we live should prompt others to ask us about our faith... "Why are you doing that?"...and that would be a natural opening to answer the question by talking about the Saviour. When the Spirit prompts them to ask, then they will be ready to hear the answer.

    blessings xx

  2. So interesting that you brought this up. At our prayer group on Wednesday afternoon, a new man at church (one of those types who comes in and attempts to change thing...always a mistake to do that early on), asked each of us what we thought about evangelism. Not a hot topic at our Anglican church.

    All of us answered unlike what he was wanting. He was inching toward neighborhood canvassing, I think, but that wouldn't go over too well. I really do like where you're going in this post. I totally agree.

    And you prove your point with your stories so well. Thanks for that.

  3. The woman at the well.
    But I do like your idea of being a friend. Thinking on this earlier this week when the preacher asked if he/his family could come visit me.
    GLORY BE TO GOD! He's the second to ask if he could almost 18 years!
    The last "company" I had was 12/11, when Dave died a friend asked if she could spend Christmas with me. People are so caught up in them and their family they forget, don't care or don't think.

  4. Great post, MK.
    When I was a new convert, I felt the pressure to "win" souls. Even my "friendship evangelism" was meditated through my own manipulative - get results - personality.
    Now that I am old, I know that Christ will have his way "in spite" of what we do.
    Go be a true friend to non-Christians - expecting nothing in return. I know that you will always be ready to "give an answer" - just make sure you are asked.

  5. Thanks for bringing up something I've always struggled with. I, too, thought of the woman at the well.

    I'm also an introvert, so I've always thought I shouldn't push myself into other people's private space. I think we probably do need to work at developing a relationship with folks before they will really take our attempts at sharing the gospel seriously. Sometimes the door-to-door type of evangelism can seem very surfacey or simplistic because there isn't time to build a foundation.

    Having said that, I think I've also allowed my introversion to become an excuse for doing nothing. We may need to speak up at times that it's out of our comfort zone to do so, but we should feel that inner leading of the Holy Spirit before doing so.

    Just my two cents worth on a touchy subject. :)

  6. Sandra and Lisa -- another friend on facebook also mentioned the Samaritan woman at the well, and I think perhaps that's the best example anyone has come up with of the E.E.-type example.

    It's not necessarily that I think this method is never used in Scripture (glad you girls reminded me of that one), nor that it should never be done. I do think for some people it really works to accost in that way, and perhaps sometimes to BE accosted in that way. I just think it's the exception in Scripture, not the rule. And if we really want to pattern our evangelism after Scripture, we need to look for a pattern. I do think boldness and a vocal approach are instructed there -- in preaching and teaching, to groups, but not in the one-on-one, face-to-face, individual accosting of a stranger. I may do a brief follow-up post on this.


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