You’ve probably seen the people standing on street corners with signs about God, or had a tract shoved into your hand, or had a stranger ask you about your faith. You might even have done those things yourself. You might think that’s what evangelism is-- a salespitch or a show.
You might not like the idea of evangelism as a result. You might feel like it's intimidating or inauthentic.
“I know why you dread evangelism,” Darrin Patrick says. “You don’t want to be that guy or that girl.”
His recent article “Make Friends, Not Just Converts” dispels the myth that evangelism is all about passing out tracts to strangers on the sidewalk or ambushing people with questions about Jesus, and he speaks from personal experience doing both of those things.
The good news is that we don’t have to share the gospel like that. We don’t have to “dread doing evangelism” or “treat it like a sales pitch. Jesus certainly didn’t,” Patrick says.
Here’s the key to great evangelism: it’s all about intentional relationships.
Jesus demonstrated this throughout his earthly ministry-- it wasn’t about just proclaiming good news to passersby or handing them a Bible, but instead about walking alongside people, spending time in their homes, even touching the ones who were outcasts in society. It was all about relationship.
Patrick shares two examples from Scripture where Jesus, the eternal God made man, chose to enter into people’s lives and minister to them intentionally.
“Think about Jesus and Zacchaeus (Luke 19). Jesus shows up in town and people flood the streets to get a glimpse of him. Zacchaeus, a short but eager IRS agent, climbs up in a tree to see over the crowd. Jesus looks up at him and says, “hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today” (v5). Can you hear the urgency and necessity in his voice? Zacchaeus came down right away, while the crowds looked on, grumbling, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner” (v7). Jesus could have stayed with anyone, but he chose to enter into this messy man’s life.”
What can we take away from this today? Jesus didn’t just make friends with people with great wealth or fame or status. Even when many people wanted to be with Him and He could have chosen to stay with people who would have made him look great, He chose to be with the guy everybody else would have ignored or pushed aside. Jesus showed us that we should love people well, no matter who they are, no matter what their reputation, no matter what it looks like to the world.
“Consider Jesus and Matthew. Here’s another tax collector that Jesus approached. He invites Matthew to follow him (Matthew 9:9), which results in Jesus inviting himself to Matthew’s house. Jesus gets to know Matthew’s life and friends. He hangs with them. He gets comfortable with them. We read that Jesus was “reclining at the table” and reclining with him were his disciples and “many tax collectors and sinners” (9:10). God came to be with people.”
What can we learn from this story? Jesus came to spend time with people, not just to be a good teacher. It wasn’t enough for Him to share parables and then leave town-- He chose to stay in people’s homes, meet their families, break bread with them, get to know them, ask them questions, and be present in their worlds. It’s so easy for us to be distracted by technology and the demands of our culture today, but this is a convicting reminder that we need to work to be fully present and engaged with the people around us.
Patrick gives three practical action steps we can take to do what Jesus did: get out of the house, open up your house, and do what you enjoy.
Doesn’t that feel so much more authentic? Doesn't that seem like the kind of evangelism you can do and want to do?
It makes sense that a close, personal friendship would lead to a more meaningful life change than a pamphlet handed out on the street. Ask any Christian to share their testimony, and you're guaranteed to hear the names of influential people who helped introduce them to Jesus or grow their faith. Relationships change our lives.
Evangelism doesn’t have to be a dreaded activity. When we look to Jesus as our example, we see that sharing our faith is about living a meaningful life while loving people well wherever we are. It doesn’t have to be cringe-inducing-- it can truly be life-giving.
How can you intentionally love people well in the coming weeks? We would love to hear your ideas for evangelizing to your neighbors in the comments!
Publication Date: March 10, 2016
Rachel Dawson is the editor of BibleStudyTools.com