Easter and Christmas can be times of great reflection for a person. In a culture such as America, the focus of Easter and Christmas can quickly shift from celebrating the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to commercialism and materialism. If anything, these two holidays encourage and create more church visitors than any other time of the year. No matter what we think about evangelism as it relates to “getting people in the doors,” we cannot deny that both Easter and Christmas afford us great opportunities to share the gospel with many people who would normally not be seen near a church.
Evangelism is an important part of being a Christian. It isn’t simply something we do, but it is who we are. There are many methods of evangelism with a host of fervent proponents of each method. Growing up, the most commonly mentioned and practiced form of evangelism was door-to-door evangelism. I am sure we all have stories and experiences in the door-to-door method whether we were the evangelist or the evangelized. Times have changed since the advent of the door-to-door method and continue to change. It seems that every year that goes by brings with it a growing sense of skepticism relating to the “effectiveness” of door-to-door evangelism. So let us ponder and discuss the door-to-door method this week. Here’s your Monday Muse question:
Is door-to-door evangelism still a viable and effective method of evangelism today?
Today I began listening to the recorded sessions from the Convergent Conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Let me just say that so far they are stellar. I have listened to the first three and now wish I would’ve been in attendance. J.D. Greear is soon to become one of my new favorite preachers. He gave some great examples of how to better serve your community. Ed Stetzer did a great job of reminding us of the inherent relevance of the gospel. I thought the highlight of his message came when he distinguished between changing modes and changing theology. The methods of reaching out and sharing the gospel can and inevitably will change as culture changes. However, the message of the gospel is timeless and not subject to the popular notions of the day. This is where the most extreme manifestation of the emergent church has gotten it wrong. Stetzer’s discussion naturally led itself into Mark Driscoll’s session. He gave an overview of his life and ministry and then explained the three streams of the emerging church: relevants, revisionists, and reformed.
These messages are quite possibly the best I have heard on the subject of the emerging church, cultural engagement, and differing methods. They are so good that I’m going to post them all here so you can have easy access to them. And if you are an iTunes user you can download all of the audio directly at the Southeastern podcast.
The thought of evangelism has been consuming my thoughts lately. What am I doing to bear witness to the gospel of Jesus? When was the last time I told someone about Jesus? I keep running questions like these through my head. I don’t want to be the type of person who spends more time talking about evangelism than doing it. My friend Josh said the other night that his fear was that he enjoys arguing with other Christians about doctrine more than telling non-believers the gospel. I completely resonate with his fear. What he is saying is that we are bold to debate and discuss the scriptures amongst each other but we fail to simply mention the name of Jesus to a guy sitting at the table next to us who started a conversation with us in the first place. How can this be? Is it a lack of knowledge or preparation? Do we simply lack courage or faith? Are we ashamed or embarrassed? Is there just not enough time in a day to evangelize effectively considering all the other things we must do?
I have probably asked each one of these questions to myself multiple times. At any one time the answer could’ve been yes to any of these. I find that time is one of the most consistently daunting issues for me personally. It seems that by the time I get home, fix dinner, and do everything else there is only an hour or two to do anything before its time to hit the sack. This issue isn’t just confined to the average lay person. It extends to ministers as well. They can cram their days so full of activities, meetings, and administrative duties that personal evangelism seems to be squeezed right out of the picture. An article by Joe McKeever, Director of Missions of the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans, addresses the issue of pastors finding time for personal evangelism. As he says,
“Every pastor knows the problem. Between sermon studies, staff leadership, office responsibilities, weddings and funerals, outside speaking opportunities, hospital and nursing home visits, and denominational duties, the poor minister can feel overwhelmed. Finding time for his family can be a challenge; finding time to relate to his neighbors and bear a witness for Christ in the community can almost be impossible.”
Though it was written primarily for pastors, I found the article to be helpful in suggesting multiple ways we can see and make opportunities for evangelism in the midst of our every day lives. In the article, one pastor says, “Witnessing opportunities for the pastor is just like good sermon illustrations. They’re all around; you just have to pay attention.” This is good advice for all of us. We should be prepared at all times and mindful of our surroundings. Not more than an hour after praying that the Lord would make me aware of such opportunities I found myself in the midst of a conversation with a guy at a sports bar while watching Monday Night Football last night. Opportunities are everywhere.
However, we also need to be intentional about creating opportunities to share the gospel with others. As another pastor mentioned, “But sometimes you need to be more intentional. Create a situation where you will have opportunities to share your faith.” Sometimes it requires us to step out into an uncomfortable position to a place that is ripe for sharing the gospel. I’ve found downtown Nashville to be that sort of place. I don’t know how many times I’ve been approached by a homeless person downtown. Sometimes you know that a certain location is a prime target for the homeless. So you place yourself in that situation knowing that the opportunity will present itself in a matter of time.
I would encourage you to read the entire article. Consider the challenge it presents to your own life whether you are a pastor or not. If you are willing, share some of the struggles you face in sharing your faith. Also, leave some thoughts on how you have shared the gospel with others and what you have found helpful in doing so. May we all be encouraged to share the gospel more often as opportunities are made and presented to us.
Timmy Brister at Provocations & Paintings recently posted a three-part series on engaging spiritual conversations written by Gary Rohrmayer. I believe it is appropriate to first begin with a few challenging questions before outlining this series. How many conversations do you have on a weekly basis concerning things of eternal value? Are you seeking these type of conversations out? Is evangelism a dirty word in your vocabulary? Does the mere mention of the word make you nervous and uncomfortable? These are tough questions but we must be honest with ourselves in answering them if we are to rightly evaluate our hearts and lives concerning evangelism. If I’m honest with myself about this area, I would have to admit that those questions sting a little bit. Evangelism is an area that needs much growth in my life.
What is evangelism? We know the Great Commission that our Lord Jesus Christ gave to his disciples. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:18-20) These words are oft quoted in churches. Many Christians have this verse memorized. But what does it look like to go and make disciples? If you are like me, you have tried a few different methods. There is everything from friendship evangelism to service evangelism to the dreaded door-to-door. Honestly I think sometimes all these “correct” methods can be a bit overwhelming and confusing. I also think that methods can change and there is nothing wrong with that. But are we doing it? And how do we do it?
Personally, I think conversations built through relationships is one of the best ways to share your faith with others. Through conversation you can feel out a person’s beliefs and encourage them to consider what they believe about the world and life. Where does it begin? Where does it end? Is there more after life? Why are things so messed up in the world? In all of this you are not just throwing some verses at a person or handing him or her a track, but you can truly begin to love this person and care for his or her needs. It becomes less of a sales pitch and more about expressing love toward that person. The root of this love is Jesus Christ and so it is to be shared and made apparent not only in your conversation but how you conduct yourself as a Christian.
So how do we make these spiritual conversations more frequent in our lives? The key is being intentional. But don’t take my word for it, go read Gary’s series for yourself. I found it practically helpful. He shows us how evangelism is a part of who we are and so it can come out naturally throughout our day. Here are four ways Gary suggests increasing spiritual conversations:
- Make It a Priority
- Pray for Opportunities
- Get Out and Into Your Community
- Establish Routines and Cultivate Relationships
So go read it then come back and share some thoughts.