Tuesday, January 22, 2013

5 Tips For the Timid Evangelist

The Lord Jesus bookended His earthly ministry with admonitions for His followers to be evangelists. If you were to cram those two instances into one statement and then paraphrase it, it might read something like this:

Follow Me and I will make you into fishers of men who will go into all the world and preach the Gospel to everyone, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

With such a crystal clear commission it's hard to believe that somewhere around 80% of professing Christians are not consistently involved in evangelizing the lost. Even more shocking is that 95% of Christians have never won a soul to Christ.

Obviously something is amiss. Many a fired-up evangelistically-minded preacher might simply chalk it up to indifference to the lost condition of the unbeliever and their lack of compassion for their impending eternal punishment. While there may be truth in that outlook, and indeed there is, I choose to give the bulk of my brothers and sisters the benefit of the doubt and assume that our roadblocks to evangelism are the same.

With that in mind I offer a handful of meager tips and strategies for sharing with our unbelieving friends and pagan coworkers.

  1. Ask questions - This should be a no-brainer, but let's face it... usually we would rather talk than listen, but this strategy will do two very important things to aid your evangelistic efforts. First, it will make your friend feel comfortable because she, like you, most likely would rather talk than listen. Second, it will gather information for you about what your friend actually believes. Christians will oftentimes hear that the person they are witnessing to is a member of a certain religion and begin to "auto-spout" all the information they think they know about said religion, while in reality the person may not even believe all (or any) of that! Find out what she actually believes.
  2. Listen! - This obviously accompanies tip number one, but believe it or not many people need to see this tip or they will simply ask a question and try and think of what to say next when they should be listening! Admit it, you have done this. I know I have, and I sense when someone else is, so chances are your prospective convert will sense it too, and nothing hurts an evangelistic encounter more than letting the person know you aren't really interested in their thoughts and opinions. Remember, religion is a sensitive topic for many and gaining some rapport will go a long way toward getting someone to open up enough to actually consider your case.
  3. Ask more questions - Seriously. Once your friend has answered your first question, don't feel like you have fulfilled your listening-to-a-person-talk quota and immediately launch into a lengthy monologue about why your friend is wrong and you are right. Ask another question. As an example, you could open with, "Do you have any spiritual beliefs?" Let's say your friend answers with, "No, I am an atheist." WARNING! Don't feel it your obligation to explain exactly why atheism is, in fact, a religion in itself. Ask something like, "Oh, really? How did you come to that belief?" Be sincere and humble. Then repeat tip number two.
  4. Smell the stink: Learn to spot internal inconsistencies and logical fallacies - This practice takes a little bit more experience to get right, but the best way to hone this skill is by doing a lot of the first three steps. Ask, listen, THINK. Much of the time a person's beliefs are not consistent. For instance, one of your more rabid and hateful atheists may mention how he believes religion is evil. This simply cannot be the case if atheism is true, because without a moral lawgiver there can be no absolute moral laws, and without absolute morals there can be no true good or evil. To call something good or bad is akin to stating the flavors of ice cream you like or dislike. So, as you listen learn to spot those inconsistencies and formulate new questions that aim to expose the person to the faulty nature of their beliefs. Trust me, getting someone to realize on their own, through asking well-timed questions, that their beliefs don't make sense is far more impacting than simply telling that person why he is wrong.
  5. Sow that seed: Be content planting a seed, or just tilling the soil - Sometimes you will be able to plant the Gospel seed, pulling off a beautiful, eloquent Gospel presentation. Other times you may simply plant a seed of doubt. What I mean is, you may only get a couple of questions out which will cause your friend to question their faulty beliefs. That's fine. I call this tilling the soil. Some people are so hardened to the Gospel that, just like in the Parable of the Sower, the seed is immediately snatched away by the enemy. It is these people who need the kind of discussion I'm talking about. Casting doubt on false beliefs can go a long way to getting the soil of the hardened heart tilled. Some people have emotional barriers which can't be helped too much by this approach, but many unbelievers have honest intellectual issues which, once dispelled, will pave the way for the Gospel.
In summary, I really pray that this will be even marginally helpful to some of you who have a sincere desire to reach your lost friends, family, coworkers, and fellow humans with the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. So, the next time you find yourself in a position to get a discussion going, just remember ALASS! (not the best mnemonic device, but it works)

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