Friday, October 3, 2008

Evangelistic Conversation

Lately, I have been thinking about evangelism. I haven't been thinking about the specific content of our message; I have been thinking about how to do evangelism. What do we do that we consider evangelism. Wherever Jesus and Paul went they evangelized. Books and sermons analyzing John 4 and Acts 17 can be found in abundance and they are great examples of the masters at their work. First, I think that evangelism is most affective when it comes from the overflow of the heart. When we are familiar with the scripture and have been wrestling with it we are far better prepared to evangelize. Understanding is of great importance, and so is personal application. Having the gospel close to our hearts and fresh in our minds makes us ready to evangelize. So, that is what sets the stage for evangelism, but what about doing it? Ideas are endless, churches plan visitations and work at soup kitchens and various ministries, like campus ministries,tract evangelism and helping internationals. At some point I have done most of these, and I like them. But what I really want to consider is what should be the most common form of evangelism, simple personal evangelism. If every Christian was involved in the above ministries, I still don't think that we would see the results that we would hope to see. Personal evangelism, then, is the most important for the lay Christian. Lets consider conversing about the gospel. How do you start a conversation?

When virtually any issue comes up, political, social, emotional, intellectual, etc., there is an opening. Giving your opinion on a issue, and state the Christian motive behind that. This is applying our christian worldview to the issue so that others see it and can consider it. Of course, this means we had better think about things beforehand. Making it explicit allows people to connect it and you to Christianity. People can and will disagree with you, but as time goes on they will (if the relationship is long lasting) be able to see a comprehensive worldview, and rationale. When people see the rationale, it gives them more reason to consider it. The goal is for them to be informed about what you believe and be challenged by it. Avoid starting an argument, state what you believe and why, if the conversation is with a friend you will have more opportunities to discuss it. If someone starts arguing with you about your position, give a defense and make it clear that there is a fundamental reason for the disagreement, namely that you are a Christian, but don't continue arguing. The idea is, don't start it but don't fear it.

Another suggestion is to be inquisitive, ask questions, let people tell you what they think. This shows interest and respect, so don't be condescending. If their position is lame they will reveal that. Learn from them, and hopefully they will start asking you questions too. Be prepared to answer questions and defend against attacks.

The third thing is to be compassionate. Listen to their struggles and show interest. Listening shows respect and wins trust. If appropriate ask them questions that allow them to think about things, and when you can give advice be sure that you show its connection to the gospel. When we do this we show an ordered rationale that rightfully becomes associated with Christianity and not our own wisdom. In compassion we can be most winsome to those in need and most offensive to the angry. But it is helpful for both to see that Christ is compassionate, and just. The fact is that when they reject it they'll know in their hearts that you are right.

So, their are three things to keep in mind: be opinionated, be inquisitive, be compassionate. None of these will make a difference if not connected explicitly to the gospel. Assuming that people will think that you do things because you are a believer is a bad idea. Let them know the reason and the rationale for your action or belief. This shows that you are conscious of it and that you are passionate about it (you really believe it!). Unbelievers don't understand Christians and don't piece things together correctly, which is understandable, so be explicit about how things work. All of this assumes that you are thinking about how things work and are prepared.

There are some other things I really wanted to mention in addition to this, but I will have to save it for another post. In that post I will talk more about what I mean by personal evangelism and creating opportunities for it. Let me know what you think of my ideas, tell me yours I am interested in finding out what you think.

by Samuel Gantt


William said...

Good ideas Sam. I would add that you need to to be relevant. "Context" is taking the issue, subject, or circumstance and creating a bridge to the message. Jesus did this by taking the scripture that was read in the local synagogue and showing the truth, Paul did this with the "unknown god". Being salt and light is creative, purposeful and relevant.

Melody said...

I like your blog.

-Amen, especially to avoiding arguing. Two people listening to and voicing their own arguments. Isn't that a sign of foolishness. “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Arguments don't always communicate.
Being a fool myself, I've found, knowing what you believe and finding security with God helps one to keep from arguing. Some Arguments where I'm just airing my opinion are driven by my own insecurities. One feels like he has "to win" lets be secure in the truth rather than its track record or ours. Someone told me once, “God doesn't need your help.” They were right, alas God is real even if you or they don't know what your talking about. So, Taking time to understand is important like you said bro.

Forgive me im running low on sleep i hope something here makes sense i liked this blog entry.

-Amen, to sharing what you believe. Although, I dont like the word opinionated, no fault of the word itself. Even, what you meant by it is cool (assertive n stuff.) In my mind, the word opinionated sounds “to me” self valuing, what your refering to is valuing something else, like in belief and faith. What i mean is, What your valuing isn't something you came up with. Alas I can't think of a better word that makes me happy.

-Amen to not getting frustrated by disagreements. Gloria once said to me that people rarely change their stance in such situations where they are in disagreement. Think about most often you go home and think about it before realizing you said something stupid. Its like somehow we have to think of things "for ourselves". We should be encouraged that it is not over after the conversation ends, and pray.

-Amen to not being scared of disagreements. Its part of maturing. A good disagree 'er' will keep you running to the truth rather than your own version of it. Like Watchmen Nee said“An opinionated man is an unbroken man”. Its good to get broke. That way Jesus can get the logs out of our eye.

-Amen to relationship evangelism. In the context of relationship, I think its also good to know you don't have to say everything all at once. Chill out.
I also think its cool that in relationships we have the opportunity to be like Jesus himself. That sounds all sunday school like n stuff but really. God's message is a person. God honors us we get to be like him, we suffer, bless, love enemies, heal the sick, and are a living sacrifice even unto death. You know how we admired the superheroes n stuff and used to pretend to be them. We like Jesus so much more, what greater expression of "liking" is there. In our hearts, perhaps the ultimate affirmation/worship of all that God is, is to set our heart to be like Him.

Melody said...

actually its me nick

Anonymous said...

Hey Sam,
Good post! The term relationship evangelism can be worked out in two different ways. A good way and a bad way. First RE can be worked out in a bad way in that someone can build a relationship but then because they are friends with a non-christian person they do not want to speak of "repentance, Christ Lordship, Kingdom of God, and the necessity of faith" because it might ruin the relationship. So what we (because I have done this)do is justify not speaking the gospel because we think we can "live" the gospel. That is a danger. So I suggest while in the initial stages of getting "personal," bring out the gospel so that it will be easier to make an appeal to the other person to be reconciled to God.
The second way PE can be worked out is essentially the opposite of the above approach.
The key thing that people need to know is that the gospel is not something we "live" but rather it is something that we tell. It is not something we act but rather proclaim. The gospel is good news. The good news is good news about a historical event in first century Palestine. The gospel will make us unpopular but Jesus told us that. We need to fear God and not man.