I have a shelf full of books on evangelism but that doesn’t make me evangelistic. We have a problem if we have read more books on evangelism than the number of people we have studied with. I am convinced that you don’t have to be an expert or know the latest (fill in the blank) in order to be effective in reaching the lost. You just have to try.
We have overcomplicated our message. Must one understand the nuances of substitionary atonement or N.T. Wright’s criticism of various atonement theologies in order to help bring people to faith? Not at all. Is it helpful? It can be. But what inadvertently gets communicated is that evangelism is a boutique enterprise. It is a specialized field for the highly trained because the message is often presented in a professionalized and highly nuanced way that only experts can understand. This communicates the wrong message about evangelism. You don’t have to be an expert to evangelize. You just have to try.
Second, what I have also come to realize is that the power in evangelism is in the word of God and not in my ability to persuade or catch people in a trap. I need to get the Word of God before people who don’t believe in Jesus as the Son of God. If they can be exposed to the scriptures, then they have something to latch on to but more than that – they are being exposed to the words that have far more power than my words do.
Last, we need to start with new converts and begin teaching it as normal to reach others when you have been reached. Disciples make disciples. The message is simple. You just have to do it.
It really isn’t that complicated and most of us have studied enough to do what we have been told to do. You aren’t one more book away from reaching a lost person with the latest strategy. You are one conversation away.
Matt, this is one of the problems within the coC, in that we study things to death, but are very poor at execution. And then we complain that others aren’t executing things right, even though we don’t execute any. In this we have created an environment of fear, where people are afraid of doing wrong, so they don’t do anything. It falls within the parable of the talents, where the one is given one talent and then he buries the talent due to fear of getting doing something wrong.
Just recently we have had a study on evangelism, for a whole quarter, but nothing changed, because people don’t hold each other accountable for change. It appears it is enough to sh9ow up to the Bible study.
Neither the preacher or elders confront people about who they have talked to, because they themselves are very poor at it. Even our “evangelist” is really just a pulpit preacher and doesn’t push the envelope of seeking the lost.
We expect the lost to show up on our door step led by an ad in the newspaper.
This is even true of many other things.
We study, but don’t execute.
We study about Jesus helping the downtrodden and going without and then we fail to even know who the downtrodden is, thinking that we are the downtrodden, when we actually are the blessed in terms of things and earthly wealth.
Giving is done through the church, but who do we give to personally?
One of the best methods I have ever heard in regard to informing people of Jesus was from Jim Woodroof, preacher for the College church at Harding during the seventies, who said, “Use the gospels”. Since then whenever I have found myself in a conversation with people and the subject of the Bible came up, and some started to complain of how difficult it is to read or how it is filled with contradictions, I simply suggest to them, “Pick one of the four gospels and focus on it alone; I believe you’ll find it very interesting”. Ninety percent of the time they will ask why. Of course, my answer is that it tells of the life of Jesus. I then emphasize again, “Don’t get caught up in contradictions and don’t be jumping from one part of the Bible to the other. Just focus on the gospel you’ve chosen.” I always suggest Luke because it tells of the human compassion of Jesus. But if they ask about the others, I give a short explanation. The truth is, many seem t like the advice…and some have come back satisfied.
There were/may still be quite a few people in cofC congregations who have never heard much about Jesus because he wasn’t discussed. How can they teach someone about a man of whom they know so little? If people aren’t happy about their Christianity, why would they (want to) teach someone else?
“Once we got money, we replaced evangelism with marketing. Marketing is a poor substitute for evangelism.”
Mark, that quote is very profound. Money going to the congregation instead of going through it alters what it does and how it does it to many degrees. We think there must be money involved to preach and spread the gospel, when in fact the apostles didn’t have money of their own and the money went to help the needy, which included needy evangelist, but the evangelism wasn’t dependent upon the money.