Evangelism is a Scary Word but it doesn’t need to be

Recently I have heard some people express concerns about speaking to others about their Christian faith.  For most, when they hear the word evangelism they get a mental image of walking onto a stranger’s front steps and knocking on their door and then asking them if they know Jesus Christ.  I can honestly say that the very notion of doing this frightens me and I would expect that I wouldn’t be warmly welcomed.  Thankfully, statistics indicate that this method is not the most effective form of evangelism.

     A few years ago Rev. Dr. Jeffrey A. Johnson, American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ national coordinator of Evangelism and New Church Planting, wrote a book called ‘Got Style‘ that introduced friendship evangelism.  Dr. Johnson once met with a group that had gathered here at Meridian Avenue on a weekday afternoon to discuss friendship evangelism.  Dr. Johnson’s book says that the most effective evangelism is where you share your faith in the context of a friendly, casual conversation.  This is done by looking for opportunities to talk about your own faith experiences.

     So how does friendship evangelism work?  There are several ways in which to utilize friendship evangelism, the way that I like best is to look for a chance to make a statement that offers an opportunity that allows the listener to begin asking me questions.  Below are a couple of examples that have worked for me in the past. 

     While sharing a pizza with someone from work I mentioned that the best pizza crust that I ever had was while I was in Santa Ana, El Salvador.  A statement like that will either not be responded to or it will prompt the other person, or persons, to ask what I was doing in El Salvador.  The answer to his question was that I was there helping to build new homes following two devastating earthquakes in 2001.  Often more questions will then be asked; how did you get there, who were you working with, what things did you see and why did you go? 

     Another choice that I have used to start the same general line of questions and responses is by stating that the most unusual thing I have eaten is Iguana.  This normally receives questions such as, where did you eat that which is followed by what you were doing there.  (I was in Nicaragua at the time.)

     The point of this type of methodology is that the other person(s) feel that they are in control of the conversation.  If you, out of the blue, begin a discussion about the need of salvation, or about what Christ has led you to be a part of, you are controlling the conversation and others may feel threatened that the ‘do you know Jesus’ question is coming.  On the other hand, if you can turn the conversation so that others are asking questions, then they are leading the conversion and they feel less stressful.  From their perspective it is simply a friendly conversation.

     Generally, if you can put another person into directing the flow of the conversation then they are more open to actually listening to what you have to say.  People are often eager to hear how God has influenced our lives…. as long as they are asking the questions.

     Questions are bridges for effective evangelism.  If you feel that you don’t know enough to effectively witness (evangelize), be assured that you know more than you think you do and always trust God to take the conversation to where it ought to go.  When exercising friendship evangelism be sure to subtly mention that whatever you have done is to God’s glory and never for your own.

      It is the task of the Holy Spirit to save the lost, not our’s.  Our job is to plant seeds and to water the garden that another may have already planted.  The Holy Spirit will move in a person’s life when the time is right.  We are to be available and willing to share Jesus in our life but we should earn the trust, from another person, to speak of Jesus to them.

     I have mentioned a couple of methods that I have used to open conversations to share my faith with others.  Helen, my wife, is far more gifted in the use of friendship evangelism.  She was employing friendship evangelism before either of us knew there was a name for it.

Bathe the Church in Prayer

Julie P. recently said that the most important thing that we, the church, should be doing is to bathe our church in prayer.  To bathe means to immerse in water, to clean oneself with soap and water.  The word bathe, when used as a verb, indicates an active participation in the cleaning, immersing process.  To bathe our church in prayer is a prayer process that means intentional and thorough cleaning.

     Here are seven ideas of how to go about how to bathe Meridian Avenue in prayer.  Feel free to expand on this list below as the Spirit leads you in prayer.

1.      Pray for unity in the church.

Pray that God will help us to set aside any differences we may have as we look to serve the greater cause that is Christ.

2.      Pray that God will be glorified in all things that we as a church do and that Christ is continually exalted.

Pray that we as a church may make a difference in this world for the glory of Christ and for God’s purpose.

3.      Pray that God’s Spirit and power will fill the church.

Pray that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.

4.      Pray that the church would be faithful to go into all of the world and share the gospel of Christ.

Pray that we are bold in saying that Jesus paid the price of our redemption and for us to never take the gift of his love, in our behalf, for granted.

5.      Pray for those who serve in church leadership.

Pray that every leader of this church, and churches around the world, have their hearts and minds directed towards Christ.

6.      Pray for God’s power and protection against the attacks of the enemy.

The enemy we combat is strong but the power of God is far stronger.  Pray that each of us is sheltered in His strength against the enemy of the church.

7.      Pray that the church is awakened and is stirred into action.

Pray that each of us is awakened and that we live aware, listening to God’s words, and willing to make a difference in the lives of others.