Last week I began a series, Lessons in Evangelism, dealing with how God has changed me over the last 6 months. I’m not a televangelist, though sometimes I look like Joel Oesteen with a curly-haired mullet, and I’m not even remotely considered an evangelist, but the last 6 months I’ve made an effort to do the work of an evangelist. I’m documenting what I’ve learned from the motivations of my heart to the methods I’ve used and everything in between. Through this process I learned a lot about my motivations (which I dealt with last week) and this week I want to focus on the content of the message when you evangelize.
The question and debate is always what constitutes evangelism? When does a conversation become evangelism? Here are my conclusions.
1) Christ and his disciples focused on a change of behavior (repentance) and belief in Christ alone as God.
2) These ideas were presented in different language and form based on their context.
Different in form, alike in Content.
In high school, I was trained to evangelize using the 4 Spiritual Laws, The Spirit Filled-Life, and using the Roman’s Road. These methods are based on the assumption and the idea of one-shot evangelism where you need to cover the whole realm of Christian thought in that moment or it wasn’t truly evangelism and you may never see that person again. In reality, the majority of our time is spent in on-going relationships where Christianity can be validated by deeds and shared with words over time. That doesn’t mean we neglect one-shot evangelism, as we should be prepared for those moments as they come, but we have to reevaluate our methods.
When we look at scripture, we will find that evangelism happened in both circumstances and we’ll realize that we do not have to cover every aspect of Christian theological thought for it to be considered evangelism. Looking at Peter in Acts 10/11, and Paul in Acts 17 as examples, the forms, language, and structures were different, but the content was the same. These were of the one-shot evangelism type and if you want to see Paul participate in the ongoing evangelism, one instance is evidenced in Acts 18 (reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath). The conclusion we can come to is that a conversation becomes evangelism when Jesus is exalted and proclaimed as Lord, and people are called to change their ways (repent) and believe in Him.
As you discuss Jesus with various types of people, the word choice you use, the structure of your explanation will vary. Artists don’t interact, connect, or talk like engineers, so the language and issues for each vary and they will connect with descriptions of these 2 major points of evangelism differently. Even in scripture, different language is used to describe sin (darkness, evil, rebellion, disobedience) and salvation (light, peace, redemption, rescue, following). Word choice may sound trite, but each word carries different symbolism and background for each different hearer.
This makes evangelism easier for us all. We don’t have to master a method, we don’t have to memorize a certain series of scripture as the magic evangelism bullet, we simply put the focus on Jesus and His declaration for men and women everywhere to turn from their ways and follow Him. Every Christian can do the work of the evangelist if they are a follower of Christ because they themselves have changed their behavior (repented), and believed in Jesus as Lord. This was Jesus’ first message, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is near” and it becomes our message as His followers.
Next in this series, I’ll be getting into the various methods I’ve seen used that are normal. The next post will be discussing the idea of questioning evangelism. You can check out the gospels and see how Jesus responds when people ask him questions to get a sneak preview of what I’m talking about.