PRESPECTIVE ON EVANGELISM

Wallace (Shaun) Shaunfield Copyright 2014

Posted 1/8/14

 

Christian evangelism is the spreading the good news of the Gospel in a way that would bring others to Christ, something that you would expect to a major part of the Christian experience. However, it is argued that many churched people today ignore evangelism. If true, could that be the reason for the lack of growth in many of the major denominations?  I do know that many Christians shy away from evangelism, either for lack of knowledge on how to do it and/or the lack of confidence. It could be that their perception of evangelism is wrong and not suited to their comfort zone. Evangelism, if done with confidence and in a manner suited to your personality is one of the most rewarding Christian experiences you can have, especially if you see people come to Christ.

Evangelism covers a broad variety of activities ranging from the demonstration of Christianity by living as a Christian, to a personal one-on-one discussion with a friend, to major programs such as the Billy Graham Crusades. Evangelism involves knowing your intended audience, knowing the various styles that can be used in evangelism and then knowing which style you are comfortable with. Each of these also covers a broad range of possibilities.

 

Intended Audience

Your intended audience can be divided into two groups: the intellectual and the non-intellectual (the philistine or a person who is just uninterested in intellectual pursuits).

These can then be further divided into the following categories:

  • The strongly devout atheist
  • The moderate atheist
  • The person with some knowledge of Christianity but now does not now believe because of a bad experience that they blame on God.
  • A person that has just drifted away from believing.
  • The Christian youth who upon leaving home ceases to believe in God.
  • A person who claims to be a Christian but does nothing to show it.
  • A person with some knowledge of Christianity but is indifferent to the precepts.
  • A person who has no prior experience of knowledge of God, Christianity or any religion.
  •  A person with strong beliefs in another religion.

 

This results in at least 18 different types in your intended audience and this might not be all possibilities as people have many reasons for not believing. It is easy to see that one evangelism style would not work for all types. So what are the styles that are effective for the various categories of people? First and foremost, all styles should be done with respect and be non-argumentative. In addition, it is imperative that you live your life as a Christian in all aspects all the time. You should be an example of what other people find attractive . However, it is important to not come across as a religious fanatic, as that is a real turnoff to the non-believer.

 

It is possible that a person may accept Christ after one encounter with the evangelist, but it is most likely that it will take some time. It is important to keep in mind that a person’s coming to Christ usually is a process involving a lot of reflection and thought. It involves a major change in their worldview. It may take some time, so do not be discouraged. Also, you are just a facilitator in the process, and that the acceptance of Christ is an action of the Holy Spirit and eventually the individual. The most important event you can impact is to have them CONSIDER the truth of Christianity. If they do that in an objective way and research the facts, then they will very likely accept Christ. You might not even know the full significance of your working with them,

 

If a person does not believe there is a God, then the absolute first step is to show them that He really does exist. If you are dealing with an intellectual, approaching them with a Bible is hand is the wrong style.  If they do not believe in God, then they also do not believe the Bible is true, and that gives you two hurdles to overcome. Generally, in this case, approaching them with secular evidence is the most effective. The intellectual usually has a curiosity about new ideas and that is often the best route to take. There is an abundance of profound evidence of God in the many apologist books available. See if you can find a profound argument for God that they have not heard. It is worth noting that if something does exist, then there should be evidence as is the case with God. I am not aware of the possibility of evidence for something that does not exist. There is often strong opinion but no evidence. An exception to this rule of using secular evidence is the style of Ravi Zacharias. He provides a strong argument for Christianity usually with a biblical style, although secular evidence and logic are also used. In my own case, I came to Christ because of Lee Strobel’s book, A Case for Faith. Strobel used secular evidence to show that Jesus really did exist, His miracles were true, and the Resurrection was also true.

 

For the non-intellectual, a combination of a secular and a biblical style is probably the most effective. Again, the first step is to have them accept the fact that God does exist. One of the most important secular apologist arguments is to show that the Bible is true. All religion’s sacred books claim they are uniquely true; so how do we know the Christian Bible is true? The answer is really very simple: the Christian Bible is the only one with numerous prophecies that have come to pass. The only way that would be possible is that the God knows the future and guided the authors in their writing demonstrating God is real, and the Christian Bible is true.

 

If the person believes there is a God but is not yet a Christian, what is the next step? Even the Devil believes in God. For the person who comes to a new realization that God does exist, and they have some knowledge of Christianity, they are often eager to now accept Christ. It may be harder for the person who claims to be a Christian but is indifferent what that means. There are a large number in this category. About 80% of U.S. citizens claim to be a Christian, but probably less than half attend church regularly to demonstrate their belief. Are they really in Christ and should we not evangelize to them?

 

For someone starting out in evangelism, you will likely be in a one-on-one situation with a friend or loved one although you should always be prepared in case the opportunity presents itself, even with a stranger. Almost every Christian has a friend or loved one who is not in Christ; however initiating a discussion with them can be very difficult for fear of upsetting the relationship you have. But consider the consequences if they do not accept Christ, and you could have been instrumental in bringing them to Christ.

 

Next, we will look at some of the particular methods of evangelizing Christianity. Most of the following discussion is based on the book, Got Style? Personality- based evangelism, by Jeffrey A. Johnson (2009). The premise of the book is that while there are many different styles to evangelism, not all are suited to your specific personality. However, if you match you personality type or style to the corresponding evangelism style you will both be comfortable in your efforts and most effective, as well. Johnson identifies six different styles to evangelism and the corresponding personality styles that are best suited to these styles. A test is provided to determine your personality style and which of the evangelism styles you are best suited. I believe that this approach will eliminate the dread many have just hearing the word evangelism and instead add new positive dimension to their Christian experience. After all, we are directed by God to spread the good news of the Gospel.

 

Styles of Evangelism

The six evangelism styles from the book are described below. The first three styles are word-based, while the last three are works-based in their methodology. Here works are good deeds for others done after your salvation.

  1. Assertive – This usually a single encounter with the evangelist doing most of the talking in more of a presentation style. You can have the public-assertive such as the Billy Graham Crusades or the personal-assertive style of Ray Comfort where he confronts individuals on the street and goes through a series of questions about their actions and beliefs. This group engages the world by what they say. This style does not translate well into a book as do other styles. The occupation most closely related to the assertive is the salesman.
  2. Analytical – This group is especially associated with a conversation or a book and involves much reason and logic and for that reason is also referred to as persuasion evangelism. The profession most closely related to this style is the engineer or professor. It is in this style you will see many of the arguments of Christian apologetics. Examples of people in this group include: C. S. Lewis, Lee Strobel, Ravi Zacharias and Josh McDowell. Here you will also typically see the Christian layman discussing Christianity with a friend and often with a book to support the discussion. This style usually does well with another analytical type, but not so well with one who is not analytical.
  3. Storytelling – Story tellers are those people very good at telling a compelling story that ideally relates some profound incident which illustrates the truth of God and Jesus. The key is that the story should also be pertinent to those hearing the story. Storytelling is a long term attribute of humans. The storyteller is often well liked, and you will typically see them having  numerous sessions with the evangelized. The profession most closely related to the storytelling style is the musician and  actor.
  4. Relational – This is a people-oriented style and specifically the relationships that are a key attribute of humans. This style is one of the most effective. Studies show that 75% of people come to Christ because of a friend rather than a stranger. Relationships really do matter. The group most closely associated with the relational style is the counselor, teacher or close friend.
  5. Invitational – This style is typically associated with an event which is used as the basis of an invitation to attend. Often all it takes is an invitation “would you like to come with me…” to initiate a life in Christ. People in this style are typically a host, event planner, director of activities or just an associate who cares. This style is also very effective; one study found that 37% of Christians became a Christian due to an invitation to come to church. However, another study showed that only 2% of church people invite an unchurched person. Herein is an opportunity.
  6. Incarnational – This style is best described as service evangelism. These people are a needs-oriented who enjoys helping others rather than having philosophical discussions. It is the basis for the outreach programs in many churches. A nurse is typical of a person involved with Incarnational evangelism.

It should be noted that there is much overlap in the various styles. It would be common to see a relational type invite a friend to a church event or an invitational type to use an analytical evidence of God in a discussion with a friend. It is also important to match the style of evangelism to both the one evangelising and the one the evangelism is directed to as describe in the beginning. This will take a judgment of the individual case, and it might be that another person be brought in that is better suited to the optimum style.

When evangelism is first brought up the style that comes to mind in most people is the assertive style, the style that has the most visible publicity, such as the Billy Graham Crusades or the door-to-door evangelism of some churches. That style is rejected by most people as something they feel uncomfortable in those situations.  However, the more effect style of evangelism is that that involving a personal involvement such as in all the other styles. While they might not be aware of the other styles, they would be very comfortable and effective with them with a minimal amount of training. That is why test is important to determine your individual styles.

 

After testing you will find that people fall into one of three different categories of evangelism:

  • Evangelist – People in this category have the highest test score in the assertive style. Only 3% to 10% of Christians are in this category. And a study completed in2001 showed that only 6% of clergy felt they had the ability of the evangelist.
  • Gift of Evangelism – People in this category have high scores across all the categories of evangelism.  The number of people in this category is less than 4% and maybe as low as 1%.
  • Evangelizers – People in this category have their highest score in one or two styles in the analytical through the Incarnational style.  Over 90% of Christians are in this category.

While you can use the Johnson’s book and test at the individual level, it is most effective in a church wide program. Here you would outline the program and then test those who are interested (without a commitment to participate further). Then if the church is large enough you might offer training in all six of the evangelistic styles giving the participants the chance to have training in at least two styles where they scored the highest.  For the smaller churches, you might select the two highest scoring styles and offer training in them. Johnson’s book provides an extensive list of resources for reading and testing for each of the styles of evangelism.

The goal should be to have the congregation knowledgeable in the style of evangelism that fits their personality and where they are both comfortable and effective. I know that most Christians have a friend or loved one who is not in Christ, and it bothers them, but they do take any action because they do not know how and are afraid of upsetting the relationship. I know that being a witness and helping bring someone for Christ is one of the most rewarding and joyous things a Christian can do, joyous for both the evangelizer and the evangelized. Equipping the congregation for this evangelism addresses an unfulfilled need in the church and also follows the command of God to make disciples of all nations.

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, Matthew 28:18-20

I highly recommend that a church use Jeffrey A.  Johnson’s book, Got Style? Personality- based evangelism, as a guide for implementing any program of evangelism.  This small book provides a comprehensive and logical approach to the issue of evangelism at the church level.

 

One Response to “PRESPECTIVE ON EVANGELISM”

  1. Bob Dibble
    January 28th, 2014 at 14:03 | #1

    Great article..thanks

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