Quick! What picture do you conjure up in your mind when you hear the word “evangelism?” Quick! Don’t think about it too much. Just describe the picture. Did it?
Here’s what I picture most of the time: walking up and down the streets of an urban area, approaching people who seem to not be doing anything, getting into a conversation with them and steering that conversation into questions about God and heaven and Jesus and asking them if they would like to pray a prayer with me. (Thank you, EE!)
For those of us who’ve been in traditional evangelical churches for a while, I’m sure your pictures are similar to mine.
A little while back I posted my reflections on Michael Spencer’s reaction to evangelism as a potential form of child abuse. You can go back and read the post if you missed it or want to relive the experience. The gist of my post was this:
“The key, though, is to help connect children and families to Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to do the work of conversion. It’s more than just praying a prayer, raising a hand or coming to the altar. It’s about life transformation, and that is something that can’t be manufactured or manipulated into existence.”
A couple of days ago, I ran into this post from Mark Batterson. He had his congregation pray this prayer with him at their weekend services:
“Lord, I pray for an opportunity to share my faith with someone in some way. It’s not up to me to decide who or when or where. But I know why. Because you love them and want a relationship with them. So Lord, surprise me with opportunities to share my faith.
Forgive me for trying to do your job for you. You are the one who convicts of sin. You are the one who draws to Christ. But help me do my part as salt and light. Help me see those opportunities to react compassionately or listen patiently or speak kindly. Through word and deed, help me plant seeds of love in the lives of others. Give me boldness when it’s time to speak. Give me restraint when it’s time to listen. Give me words to say. But more importantly, give me ears to hear.
Lord, help me be sensitive to the prompting of your Holy Spirit so I can see the divine appointments you send my way. Help me not to be afraid of questions I cannot answer. Help me not to be afraid of people’s reactions or rejections.
Lord, help me preach the gospel every day, when necessary, with words.
In Jesus name, amen!”
What an awesome prayer for each of us to pray. Evangelism isn’t about what we do or say. It’s more about living our lives as Christ followers 24/7 and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide what we say and do. If that means we tell someone about Jesus, then so be it. If it means we keep our mouth shut, then so be it. If it means we simply listen and be a friend to someone who needs one, then so be it. It is not our job to do the converting. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job. We need to learn to work with him. For some of us that means taking a step back. For more and more of us, it means getting over our fears and hangups and taking a step forward.