What Evangelism Isn’t

Dr. James Emery White | Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary | Monday, July 11, 2022

What Evangelism Isn’t

Let’s say you’re in. You agree with the apostle Paul when he wrote:

“Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others…. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” (II Corinthians 5:11, 18–20 NLT)

How then do you answer this question, also posed by Paul?

“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” (Romans 10:14 NLT)

Obviously, the Bible is asking these questions rhetorically. Nobody’s life will be impacted for Christ unless somebody impacts it for Christ.

So how do you do that? How does someone who is a Christ follower impact someone spiritually in a positive way who isn’t a Christ follower?

I can tell you what won’t reach those who are far from God. They won’t read a tract that you leave in a bathroom stall. They won’t listen to Christian radio or podcasts or watch Christian television or movies. They won’t read a bumper sticker that says, “Jesus Loves You” and feel like pulling their car over to the side of the road and reorienting the entire trajectory of their life.

So how do you impact a life for Christ? The answer is you become an evangelist. I know this immediately raises images of somebody pushy, obnoxious, loud, opinionated, and annoying—everything you hate. You probably don’t even like the word evangelism itself. Probably the first thing that enters your mind is going out and knocking on people’s doors or standing on a street corner with a bullhorn.

Trust me, I get it.

But that’s not what evangelism is about. The core dynamic of evangelism is investing and inviting.

Let’s start off with the invest part. Investing in someone is simply about building a relationship. Getting to know them, spending time with them, entering into community with them.

Only within the confines of a relationship will there be the trust to be authentic and to have conversations about what matters most in life. You already have these relationships built into your life. You have friends, family members, neighbors, coworkers. You have people that you interact with through your kids at school or with sports teams.

But if you’re going to make an impact on them for the cause of Christ, you have to be intentional about those relationships. You must serve those relationships. You need to invest in them as someone who is on mission for them and their life.

You’re going to pray like mad for them.

You’re going to pray for your time with them.

You’re going to pray for openings to talk about spiritual things, opportunities to let them get to know you and how Christ has intersected the deepest needs of your life.

And those openings will come. And hopefully the fact that you’re a Christ follower will come out. You’ll have chances to peel back the layers and tell your story—what you were like before Christ and what life has been like after.

The ways you ran from God and chased after anything and everything else, and then what it was like when you finally came home.

You can tell them the difference your relationship with Christ has made in your marriage. The difference it’s made in the lives of your kids and your parenting.

Then comes the invite part. Along the way, they’ll have good, fair, honest and reasonable questions. They may want to explore, and they may be intrigued by your life. They may see something in your life (and I hope that they do) that they don’t have themselves.

That’s where the invite part comes in. Invite them to come and see, come and hear, come and explore. If you have an online campus at your church, it’s so easy to do this. Nothing forced, nothing big, just an invitation.

This tandem of investing and inviting is at the heart of the mission. It always has been.

I mean just ask yourself: Did you come to Christ because of an advertisement on TV or in a newspaper? Did you come to Christ because somebody you didn’t know handed you a tract or knocked on your door?

Or did you come to Christ because you were invited to a church service or event by someone you knew—either a friend, relative, or somebody you worked with?

I think I know your answer.

Don’t let evangelism scare you or put you off. It’s one of the most important and rewarding investments you can ever make—not only for your own spirituality…

… but for the spiritual lives of others in our world.

James Emery White

Sources

Excerpt from James Emery White’s After “I Believe”: Everyday Practices for a Vibrant Faith, order from Amazon.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book After “I Believe” is now available on Amazon or your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. 

His latest book, After “I Believe,” is now available on Amazon or your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast. 

Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.