Evangelism is often an abstract and misunderstood word. We think of the end result and not the journey towards a life reconciled to Christ. Today, we are going to look at that journey and how placing value on authentic relationship is the center of life on life evangelism. Here are three facets of that pathway:
Caring. Evangelism is not a one and done conversation with strangers, it is a string of meaningful encounters that lead up to a spiritual conversation. At the core – you have to build relationships with people. The risk we run is investing into people who could reject us. But this is an egocentric approach, removed from the mercy of God. To care—means to love, even beyond comfort, recognition, or risk of rejection. In order to encourage caring inside of your church family, ask, “Who are the three people who are not Christ-followers you are seeking to build relationship with so they might ultimately become followers of Jesus?” Be upfront about expectations, that you, as the leader of the church, do not see evangelism as running into people randomly. Challenge your congregation to do acts of kindness to people within their sphere of influence. Eventually those are the people who are going to ask why you have been kind – that is the moment to explain the heart behind the hand. But true evangelism don’t stop there – or else you are just a “good person” simply involved in “good deeds.”
The next key is Sharing. Sharing emphasizes placing God into the conversations. This can happen in a multitude of ways which are genuine. Each follower of Jesus has not only their testimony to share, but an account of what God is doing at the present. Sharing starts with listening. Letting someone else share and then respond by placing God into the conversation. Let them be honest about how they are struggling and enter into their moment. Ask them if you can pray about that. Then follow up. Ask: how is that moment or circumstance going? Another option is to share something God is teaching you. This isn’t about bringing sharing how or where you heard it, as if the conversation was a pitch to come to an event. It’s about everyday life moments that have been affected because you are living life that has been changed by God. For example: my stress load has decreased. Then they ask, well what have you done? Share in simple terms. When done without over lording or parroting, this can be incredibly genuine.
Challenging. Challenging is just that—a challenge given to follow Jesus. Most people when they think of evangelism immediately imagine the challenging aspect. But this mental concept is similar to being beneath an apple tree when it isn’t ripe, pulling in vain, wanting to yield fruit. We have to wait.
Challenging before caring and sharing rarely results in impact. Realistically, when the fruit is ripe, you just have to tap the branch. In the same way, we need to give time, build connection, and patiently be willing to be uncomfortable or inconvenienced in order to move through the journey of evangelism. As leaders within the church, we need to encourage our congregations to not become discouraged regarding evangelism, but to continue to care, share and then keep looking for opportunities to challenge. Don’t quit after challenging the first time. This is where the church needs to come in to aid the Christ-follower in evangelism—we encourage them, we equip them as they move through the journey, and we provide events that are safe for them to invite their friends to and then together we celebrate with them as hearts are turned towards Christ.
Question: What hesitations do you or your church face when it comes to evangelism? What keys have you discovered to overcome these challenges?