I’m struggling with evangelism. What comes to mind when you hear the word evangelism? Telemarketers? Mormons? TV evangelists? Sales? Agenda? The word literally means proclaim good news. How in the world did “proclaiming good news” get such a bad rap?
In the world that I have grown up in, we have researched, practiced, and marketed the best ways to evangelize. I can teach you how to use Evangelism Explosion, The Four Spiritual Laws, The Wordless Book, and Steps to Peace with God. I have been to evangelism seminars and read evangelism books. We have specialized evangelism strategies such as prayer evangelism, servant evangelism, and friendship evangelism.
Why do we need so much training to proclaim good news? Do you remember going through birth classes? Did I miss the night they trained us how to tell others the good news that my child was born? Remember when your favorite football team won the Superbowl? Did you miss the half-time training regarding how to tell your friends the good news that your team won?
Did you ever find yourself in the midst of using the friendship evangelism strategy, only to have your friend start wondering if she was your “project?” All of a sudden the friend feels betrayed by your evangelism. See here is what I’m thinking; I think evangelism most naturally occurs in the context of friendships… where friendship is the goal and evangelism just happens. When evangelism is the goal it simply feels uncomfortable.
See the ultimate commands that we have been given are twofold: Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor like you love yourself. Developing friendships is the goal not a means to an end. If this is the case, we might want to be counting conversations more than we count conversions. We might want to be training people on how to develop strong friendships more than we are training people how to use an evangelism strategy. And if a friend says no to our Jesus, it should never cause them to lose a friend.
I know a woman who has been leading a Bible Study among women in our extended neighborhood for most of my life. Some of them are not Christians yet, but they are friends. I believe that God smiles on those friendships and with all my heart I believe He is pursuing those women with all his heart.
Perhaps one of the reasons we struggle with evangelism is that we just don’t have time to develop friendships? Go love your neighbor. Some day when your neighbor is your friend, tell him about the Jesus who has changed your life.