Let’s Make Evangelism Not Scary
Evangelism. WHOA, that’s all I had to say, and I know I probably just lost half of you. In our culture, evangelism has many negative connotations. But before you abandon this blog post to go look at cute puppy videos because “evangelism isn’t for you” or you’re “bored because you know all there is to know about evangelism,” I’d ask you to stop right there and observe your initial reactions to that word. Did your heart rate increase? Did feelings of rejections and a memory of a failed evangelistic conversation come to mind? I’d encourage you to process those feelings and thoughts further with God. What’s beneath your boredom or angst when it comes to evangelism?
What is evangelism?
In its most basic form, the English word evangelism is taken from the Greek word euaggelion, which means either (n) gospel, good news or (v) announce good news. For example, I could literally evangelize or “announce good news” about the delicious pizza from Tasty Pizza that I had for dinner last Friday.
The actual good news that we are talking about in regard to Christian evangelism is: God is loving and personal, so he created humans to have a relationship with him. However, humans chose to rebel against God. This lead to the corruption of sin within our lives and throughout our world. Jesus Christ, humbled himself and became human; he lived the perfect life that we were unable to live and took the punishment for our rebellion upon himself on the cross. When he rose again from the grave, he defeated sin and death, thus restoring the possibility for humans to have a relationship with God. This means that we can respond by repenting of sin and choosing to place our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior! This is GOOD NEWS!
Why practice evangelism?
My assumption is that if you are a Christian, the Good News of Jesus Christ has probably changed your life. SO evangelism is simply declaring who Jesus is and what he has done! Jesus’s last words before his ascension to heaven were to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). We practice evangelism because the Good News of Jesus Christ is too good to keep to ourselves.
A study by Barna found that 96% of Christian Millennials agreed that part of their faith means being a witness about Jesus. 94% of Christian Millennials agreed that the best thing that could ever happen to someone is for them to come to know Jesus Christ. But strikingly HALF of Christian Millennials (47%) said that it is wrong to share their own personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith. How can the Christians that said “the best thing is knowing Jesus Christ” be the same Christians that said it is wrong to share their faith? Where does this disparity lie?
President of Barna David Kinnaman says, “The data shows enormous ambivalence among Millennials, in particular, about the calling to share their faith with others. Cultivating deep, steady, resilient Christian conviction is difficult in a world of ‘you do you’ and ‘don’t criticize anyone’s life choices’ and emotivism, the feelings-first priority that our culture makes a way of life.”
At the root of all of this, it is clear that Christians do not simply have a behavior problem of not evangelizing. Christians have a belief problem. Do you believe that humans are eternal beings? Do you believe in the reality of hell? Do you believe that time on earth is short? Do you believe that Jesus died for the classmate sitting next to you in your chemistry class? Do you believe Jesus longs for a relationship with your brother who is currently running away from his faith? Do you believe that the gospel truly is GOOD NEWS? If you’re still not convinced that evangelism is for you, then I’d challenge you to spend some time with God yourself and answer these questions. Don’t just give the “churched, Sunday-school” answer, but honestly answer them for yourself.
“And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? [...] As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!’” (Romans 10:14-15).
What keeps Christians from practicing evangelism?
I want to dig deeper with you and look into some of the common lies and fears that hold us back from engaging in evangelism.
“What if someone asks me a question that I don’t have an answer to?”
That’s perfectly okay! One of the best responses to people’s hard questions is to say, “I don’t know, but I’d love to keep asking that question with you and find the answer.” In a way, this response is full of humility and allows people to see that you are just another human being with limited understanding like them. This answer also normalizes the pattern of asking questions and seeking truth. Whatever you do, don’t make up an answer. Not knowing is okay!
“It’s not as easy for me to talk to people as it is for others.”
One of my favorite passages on evangelism is 1 Corinthians 2:1-4,
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
Paul, the great evangelist, confesses his inadequacies in speaking, but Paul sees that as a good thing because that meant that his message was not dependent on his charisma, but on the power of God! The same God who was working in and through Paul is now at work in and through your life.
“People don’t want to talk about God.”
I was under the assumption that people just didn’t want to talk about religion or what they believed. When I started sharing my faith with my friends and sorority sisters, I could not have been more wrong! People are so open to talking about the purpose of life, what they believe, who God is, and so on. The truth is people often want to talk about this stuff, they just don’t have anyone to talk to about it. If someone came up to you and asked you what you believed in a non-threatening way, would you respond negatively or positively?
“I don’t want people to dislike me.”
Personally, this one was my biggest fear. I struggle with people pleasing, so the possibility of a person disliking me after an evangelistic conversation was terrifying. I was struggling with two things. First, I worshipped other people’s approval more than God. Second, if my identity truly was in Christ, then why was I trying to hide the most significant thing that defined who I was. I began praying that God would change my heart. Galatians 1:10 became my prayer, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
How can Christians engage in evangelism?
To follow up with the list of common fears and lies, I want to provide you with a few resources that are accessible to you as a Christian.
The first one may surprise you, but one of the best evangelism tools is our God-given ability as humans to be curious. As part of our innate humanness, we have been given the ability to wonder. In his book God Space, Doug Pollock explains, “In the land of wonder, we give up the notion that we need to have all the answers, We return to a humble mind-set in which asking, seeking, and knocking are normal. Wondering helps us move into spiritual conversations authentically by eliminating canned or awkward transitions.”
Here are some key questions that are helpful when talking with friends, classmates, etc. to make the conversation “go there.”
“Hey _____, I know we’ve been friends/roommates/classmates for a while, but I’ve been wondering, what do you believe? Did you grow up having any religious or spiritual faith?
“I’ve noticed you mention that you feel like some things are missing from your life right now. I was wondering if you’ve found something capable of filling those voids?”
Another great evangelism tool is your story. Even though it is subjective in nature and no one’s story is the same, nobody can deny your personal witness of what God has done in your life. As much as the Pharisees tried, no one could deny the blind man’s testimony of Jesus Christ, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25). It is important to have a current example of how Jesus is changing your life - whether big or small. The gospel isn’t just about what happened when you first became a Christian, it’s also about what God is doing in your life right now! We get to share how the Good News of Jesus Christ is impacting our lives in our current reality TODAY!
Resources for sharing the Gospel
When it comes to the practicalities of sharing the gospel, there are a few resources I’d love to recommend.
First, it is important to never look past the pure goodness of Scripture. Ephesians 2:1-10 is a great passage to walk someone through to explain the gospel.
There are also a couple of great apps that you can download onto your phone:
The Big Story is an app developed by James Choung, an InterVarsity staff. The Big Story explains the gospel of the kingdom by asking engaging questions and drawing illustrations.
God Tools is a resource developed by Cru. On this app, there are a variety of interactive dialogues including ‘Knowing God Personally’ (a basic presentation of the gospel), ‘Honor Restored’ (a presentation of the gospel for people from honor-shame cultures like Asia), and ‘Satisfied?’ (a presentation on the Holy Spirit for those who claim to be Christian).
Power of the Holy Spirit
The last but certainly not the least is the Holy Spirit who dwells within all of us who are in Christ. Evangelism is way less about us and way more about God’s Spirit working through us.
To conclude this blog, I want to remind you that the definition of ‘successful evangelism’ is taking a step of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ and leaving the results up to God.