Evangelism. What does this word bring to mind? Typically, most people think of street preachers, revival tents or mass crusades, and handing out gospel tracts.
But the most effective means of evangelism, since the time of Jesus till now, is personal evangelism. Person to person, relational, intentional sharing of God’s Story—the gospel—in a personal way.
Some people are called to be preachers, whether on a street corner or in an auditorium. Others are quite bold and confident in approaching people in any circumstance for the sole purpose of sharing their faith.
But not everyone is like this. I’m not.
My personal experience
Even though I’ve preached in church pulpits, public outreaches, on the radio, and handed out tracts on the street, evangelism is not what I'm inclined to do. I'm not an evangelist.
Many people are not equipped, nor called to traditional public evangelism, but we are all called to be ready to share the hope we have within us—Jesus—and our relationship with Him (1 Peter 3:15).
The hindrance for many of us sharing our faith is timidity and lack of confidence, but the key is focusing on building a relationship.
A more typical focus is on the mechanics of how it should be done or the content of what needs to be said. But when we look at the example of Jesus in the Gospels, we see a very tailored, personal approach.
Jesus showed more interest in the person than a methodology in reaching people with the gospel
When I share on evangelism, I encourage people to consider how each of their life stories connects with God's Story. I also encourage people to use biblical storying to share their faith with others.
Our prime example—Jesus
Compare Jesus' example to the more common approach of monopolizing a conversation with a prepared spiel, in an attempt to convince people they are sinners.
We see Jesus' example early on when He was in the temple among the Jewish leaders and rabbis (Luke 2:41-50). Jesus is found “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” He isn’t preaching to them, but listening and asking questions.
Further along in the gospel narrative, we find Jesus engaging people with stories and wise sayings called parables.
Jesus engaged people with stories and wise sayings called parables
He often used questions when challenged by the Jewish leaders, asked questions of the crowds of people when He taught them and used questions when He explained things and to exhort His disciples in private.
The Jesus-way of evangelism
Jesus engaged people from all backgrounds and stations of life. He seemed to tailor His interaction with people to their level and state in life.
He treated those with questionable backgrounds and character with unexpected dignity. He rubbed shoulders and ate with prostitutes, drunks, unethical business people, political agitators, and the like.
And His band of followers included uneducated fisherman and tax collectors (renegade IRS-agent types) to mention a few.
His tactics were different than anyone expected, which included His followers and the Jewish spiritual leaders.
Jesus' tactics were different than anyone expected
His tactics were different from what is customarily seen today. Jesus' way is different than what is found in most evangelism training programs and books on evangelism, let alone stereotypical evangelists, whether well-known or not.
Learning from Jesus' example
How can we learn from Jesus' example? It just might make sharing our faith with others easier, and more fruitful.
People, worldwide, know they are sinners in some way or another, or at least that they are less than perfect. Most people, throughout the world, are lonely and often feel less than important.
When someone shows interest in them and is willing to listen to their story, they take notice. I have found this true traveling nationally and internationally on planes, and in airports, and other situations.
People want to tell their story to someone
One reason people seek out a counselor or therapist, even in social networking, is to find someone who will listen to their story.
A simple starting point
Here's a simple starting point for personal evangelism. Simply ask a person about himself or herself. Who are they? What do they do in life? Just show interest in them. Genuine interest.
This builds rapport, the beginning of a relationship. It establishes interest and even a sense of trust. It builds a bridge that makes it possible to share your own story and the greatest story—God’s story.
This requires genuineness above all. Most people are perceptive enough to know when you are listening to them, or just listening for an opportunity to break in and say something.
Once you hear a person’s story, you've built a bridge of respect and trust. This will often give you an opportunity to share your own story, your life story of faith.
Once you hear a person’s story, you've built a bridge of respect and trust
This isn’t a complicated or new approach. In fact, it takes place many times a day, often without any intention. It just happens.
Wouldn't it be nice if sharing your faith just happened in a natural way?
It can. I'll post a follow-up to this next week... so stay tuned!
Think about what I've shared so far.
Take some time to look at how Jesus engaged people with the truth of His story—God's story.