Evangelism is going out of style, says a 2019 Barna report called Reviving Evangelism. More than half of survey respondents said they’d had two or fewer conversations about faith with a non-Christian in the past year. Without evangelizing, we wouldn’t be here—“we” being those who have accepted Jesus’ invitation into our lives. Remember when he said, “Come, follow me”?
Evangelism should be life-giving, so what’s stopping us? I can think of two reasons. Maybe you tried to evangelize and it went poorly. You didn’t feel comfortable nudging the direction of conversation with your friend, or imposing on a stranger; you weren’t confident about your command of relevant Bible verses and apologetics; you found your gospel advances rejected. They didn’t transform into new creations in Christ Jesus, and it didn’t feel life-giving for you.
Or maybe you felt poorly and didn’t evangelize. You know the stereotype of an evangelist (think slippery, slick, cheesy), and you certainly didn’t want to be counted among that number. So you avoided divine appointments—God-arranged moments when it seemed like the gospel would be
welcomed. You ignored invitations at the corps to participate in evangelistic events such as door-to-door prayer forays or open-air meetings. There are likely other dynamics at play, too.
Some readers may remember hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky’s phrase, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” If you never evangelize, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever play a direct role in someone being born again. If you never take a shot, you’ll never get a goal.
There are things you can do to address the two “maybes” above.
If you lack confidence in your understanding of the Bible and apologetics, there are many resources available to get a handle on basic concepts in evangelism. Territorial headquarters offers a learning cohort called GO FOR SOULS (visit saministryhelps.ca/learning/cohortoptions/go-for-souls).
Pray that God will share his love for the people you may be soon evangelizing.
If you are uncomfortable initiating a discussion with a friend or stranger, try asking questions. Find out their perspective on the big-ticket questions (e.g., “Does God exist?” “What is God like?” “Who is Jesus?” “What about suffering and evil?”). At some point, the conversation will likely turn back to you and, having listened to their beliefs and doubts, you can share some of yours.
You can pray that God will share his love for the people you may soon be evangelizing with you, so that you love them like he does. Ask God to give you insight into their hurts and doubts, or an encouraging word. Ask God to show you anything in your life that might hinder your presentation of the gospel (think “sin in your life” to confess). Ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit and to arrange an opportunity to evangelize. Go with a partner—that’s a biblical precedent. There is courage in numbers, but also, one can be praying while the other is talking.
As all of this is saturated in prayer, you may feel more like you are co-labouring with God than just doing something on your own because it seems like the right thing to do. And there is nothing more affirming than partnering with God. Is it life-giving? It is to you, and sometimes even to the person with whom you speak.
The number from the Barna report was 56 percent, meaning that 44 percent of respondents did evangelize at least twice in the past year. And if you and a few of your friends—and maybe even some other readers of Salvationist—join that group and start evangelizing, we could climb into majority status, and you know what that means. We already know it is re-creational. But we can make it trendy again!