Questions Regarding Evangelism

In the congregation where I am serving we have decided to take our mission to have an impact on our community seriously, and we are working on some ways by which we can do that. One of the ways is, to be blatantly obvious, evangelism. My problem is that I am not an “evangelist” either by nature or by nurture. I put the word “evangelist” in quotation marks (not scare quotes, by the way) because the word can have so many different connotations, and I am using it in the specific sense of one who intentionally and effectively is able to confront total strangers with the message of the gospel. I know many who have that gift, and I honor them, but that is just not my personality type. Which, given the direction we as a congregation would like to go, is problematic. I am the “blind” leading the sight impaired. So – for those of you who are gifted in the realm of evangelism, or for those of you who have effective evangelism ministries in your congregation, I have oodles of questions for you. Please feel free to answer as many or as few as you would like as as you have experience. Let me thank you from the heart in advance.

First, (and please forgive if any of these questions appear foolish or elementary, I am beginning at the beginning), what do you consider to be the goal of your evangelism? Do you consider a baptism to be the goal? Or, do you have a more holistic approach whereby the evangelism is not complete until a new Christian is fully integrated into the life and ministry of the congregation? How do you communicate that goal?

Is your evangelism a “one pony trick” (led by a one trick pony) or do you have a congregational view of evangelism? Do you have a small group dedicated to teaching Bible studies, or just one or two “evangelists”? (There is that word again)

Do you use a set curriculum, or program? To be perfectly honest, I have a very dim view of most, if not all, evangelistic programs I have been introduced to (and that is quite a few). Invariably the program or the curriculum was written to fit the personality type of the author (or authors) and, in my opinion, forces every student into one stereotypical mold. This is one reason I have been turned off about developing my evangelistic abilities in the past. I just have not found a curriculum or a program that treats the student with a very high degree of respect. But, this is a new venture for me, and I am willing to consider all thoughts. [By the way, I have recently discovered Tim Archer’s material Church Inside Out, and in my opinion it speaks most clearly to my concerns. It is not a “program” or a “curriculum” as such, although he does offer some guidance about how he teaches an evangelistic type Bible lesson.]

What kind of budget do you have dedicated to evangelism? Do you have money specifically set aside for evangelistic efforts, or is your evangelism budget wrapped up in a larger “education” classification? What, specifically, do you spend your evangelistic budget on? Do you purchase materials for your students, or do you use the text of Scripture alone? Do you provide Bibles for your students, and if so, what translation do you purchase for them? Do you advertise in a newspaper, or do you use materials such as “House to House and Heart to Heart”?

Very closely related to the above questions, how do you generate contacts? Do you use the old standard, door knocking? Do you rely on contacts provided by the congregation? Do you use any kind of direct mail to generate contacts? Do you have a yearly (or twice-yearly) public meeting with a specific audience targeted (i.e., divorce recovery, money management, grief recovery, etc.)?

If you have a group approach to evangelism, how do you train and equip your group members? How do you handle disappointments and rejections? How do you maintain a high degree of morale? How do you encourage members to become a part of your group? And, lest I overlook this issue, how do you combat the idea of the evangelists as the “super-Christians” of the congregation?

I’m not sure how many questions I am up to, and I could probably come up with some more, but literally any advice or wisdom you could provide would be appreciated. Contrary to how these questions might appear, I do have an idea of the general direction I would like to lead the congregation, but I want to have all the advice and wisdom of those who have traveled a little bit further down the road than I have.

Maybe some day I can write a follow-up post to this one in which I provide all the answers that I will obtain as we enter into this venture.

Once again, for those of you who take the time to respond, many thanks in advance.

Author: Paul Smith

Paul Smith was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He holds the Bachelor of Science in Youth Ministry, Master of Biblical Studies and Master of Divinity, all from Abilene Christian University; and the Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Paul's passion is in teaching and preaching the gospel. Beyond the study of the Bible, his main academic interest is in the life and theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He is an unashamed mountain-goat, and longs to spend his time with his feet in a cold trout stream.

2 thoughts on “Questions Regarding Evangelism”

  1. Paul, your article on “Questions Regarding Evangelism” is one topic with which I am familiar. Evangelism is very simply one beggar telling another beggar where to get bread. If you can tell someone your name and then patiently wait until they respond, you can do evangelism. I know, because I have done it for 70 plus years to the effect that every congregation I have served has been blessed by God to grow. Evangelism is 75 percent patiently listening to the “suspect,” who you want to make a “prospect” for becoming a Christian. You tell the person — a total stranger — “Hello, I am Paul Smith.” Then you wait with a smile on your face. They will respond within 20 to 30 seconds, in one way or another. When they give their name, you tell them you are happy to meet them, and you have a pleasant presentation for them. You want to introduce them to your brother. Then, you wait patiently, with that smile on your face. Naturally, they want to know who your brother is, since they have just met you. Then, you tell them you want to introduce them to your brother, JESUS! Either they will agree to hear your prepared presentation which YOU have made (so you are comfortable and knowledgeable with it); or, they will say “Oh, I already know about Jesus” or words to that effect, at which time you say, “Great! You tell me about Jesus so I can know Him better!” Then, listen to their presentation without interruption, keeping in mind that they are revealing their understanding to you. Do NOT prepare an answer while they are talking! Just listen, then agree as much as possible. Then, ask questions about things that you heard them say! Questions should be non-threatening, but pointed. You are doing evangelism. The whole purpose of evangelism is to make people aware of “Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” as Paul said. Do not rush to bring baptism or the church into the conversation. Study the preachers and sermons in Acts and see how they present Jesus. Consider Paul’s presentation of Jesus in his letters as well as in the bits and pieces we have in other writings. That’s what they did in the first century, and it is still accomplishing God’s purpose in the world today. I imagine you have more questions, but I always use my own experience to encourage others in doing evangelism. In Christ, J B Harrington

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    1. Thank you for the kind words, JB. As I was writing this post I thought of you! You are a great example to me, and I treasure the friendship and the wise counsel you gave to me.

      I have no idea exactly how far these posts reach, but I find it revealing that you are the first (and so far, only) one to respond with any kind of suggestions. When I look at “churches looking for a preacher” lists, virtually every one of them will list as a requirement, “must be a an evangelist, with a track record of growth” or some such phrase. Yet, anecdotally, the Churches of Christ are losing members, not by a drip, but by a flood. So, where are the evangelists? Where are those with a “proven track record of growth,” where are the congregations that are growing? I would suggest that most of the “proven evangelists” are men such as yourself, those who are retired or are nearing retirement age. Yet, no church wants to hire a 60, 65 or even 70 year old to be their minister. Nope – what they want is a 20 something who can “relate to the young people.” The very people who are leaving the church in droves, by the way. So, congregations change their worship practices, add this or that to make the worship more “appealing” or “exciting,” – and members continue to leave.

      Sigh.

      As I said in my post, I do not, and really have never, considered myself much of an “evangelist.” I have viewed myself as a teacher, and on my very best days, a preacher (that does not happen frequently). But I also have come to the conclusion that Amos really did not want to be a prophet, and I’m not sure Jeremiah did either, and I think most of the apostles were pretty content to be fishermen, tax collectors, etcetera. So – maybe I had better get to business doing what I can, and let God handle the conversion part.

      Anyway – enough of the navel gazing. Thanks again so much for the response, and I do appreciate the idea of “one beggar telling another beggar where to get bread.” That resonates!

      Paul

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