So much interpersonal drama would be avoided if Christians were all about evangelism! I’ve heard it said before, but recently, I’ve been thinking about the mechanics of the how.
Let me begin by saying that when we talk about doing evangelism, our minds tend to think about an organized program or event—whether it’s knocking on doors or hosting a stop-smoking seminar. But that is a very narrow view of what evangelism entails.
Evangelism is not just an event. And when our concept of evangelism is purely relegated to a program or an event, then it becomes limiting.
Firstly, it limits who can be most effective in evangelism because the programming tends to favor the participation of certain temperaments. For instance, it might be easier for an extroverted sanguine to cold call than it would be for an introverted melancholy. Yes, by all means, we should all stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zone for our character development. But we will miss out on the unique contributions that different individuals can bring to God’s work if we define what is encompassed in that work more narrowly than God Himself would define it.
Secondly, a narrow view of evangelism limits those outside of the church that you can reach. All too often, the wealthy and well-educated fall beyond the reach of the traditional methods of evangelism employed. For instance, you cannot knock on their door to drop off a flier inviting them to your event at your church because you cannot access their door to begin with. Yes, the simple gospel is powerful enough to reach even the highest in society. But we should be careful not to restrict access to it by the way we package it.
Finally, when evangelism is just an event or a program, it can lead us to neglect those already in the church who need to see Jesus. The success of an event or program tends to be judged by statistics like how many people showed up, or how many baptisms resulted. Yet the process of disciple-making encompasses way more than statistics and goes beyond baptism. Yes, even the deacon who has served for years in the church needs to see Jesus and showing Him Jesus is as important as it is to show Jesus to your atheist friend.
Just so we’re clear, then, that I’m not talking about evangelistic programs, I’ll use the term evangelistic outlook. So much drama would be avoided if Christians had an evangelistic outlook.
An evangelistic outlook orients you in three beneficial ways:
Outward to Help.
An evangelistic outlook causes you to look outwards towards others. Instead of thinking about how you can be personally benefited, you’re thinking of how to help others get to know Jesus better. So then, even when you’re slighted, or otherwise mistreated, for instance, your primary concern is not to defend yourself but to help the offending party. With an outward orientation, it’s easier to give a soft answer that turns away wrath and diffuse volatile situations.
Inward for Humility.
As you try to engage others in a helpful way, you will no doubt be forced to confront your own shortcomings. You may find it easier to interact with people of a certain socio-economic status, or educational level, or ethnic background than others. The introspection leads to humility as you realize that you still have some growing to do until you reach the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
Upward in Hope.
Your insufficiency points you upward to the One who said “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.” Although you are imperfect, it is the omnipotent Christ who commissioned you and “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” So when conflicts arise, you can trust your case to Christ, the ultimate Agent of reconciliation.
By orienting us outward, inward and upward, evangelism can oil the friction of our relationships. Not the formulaic evangelism that is events-driven. But the evangelistic outlook that brings a soul-winning mindset into all we do. With this mindset, we can be helpful, humble and hopeful as we share Jesus with a world in need. And we could save ourselves a whole lot of drama.