Overcoming the fear and stereotypes
Most of us cringe at the word evangelism. Christians I talk to are creeped out by it, uncomfortable, and want to run as far away from “witnessing” as possible.
Evangelism, witnessing and sharing the gospel has a horrible image.
As my mom said to me the other day, “It seems that evangelists always need to go find people. Why?”
Evangelists and evangelism strike fear in people’s hearts. It has the connotation of being pushy, agenda-driven, careless with humanity, and furthermore, slick and salesman-like—inauthentic.
Yeah, that is the word we were looking for. Maybe forced, showy, and aggressive.
Evangelism has become a curse word, and we want nothing to do with it.
So my question to you as a Christian is this: Are you going to perpetuate, ignore or change that image?
As a Christian, you have to pick one.
Keep not paying attention to people’s feelings, keep not listening and doing whatever it takes to get someone “saved.” Listen, I have been this guy (ask my sister, my mom, some ex-friends) and it’s not cool. But you will keep being this person if you don’t wake up and ask someone sensitive around you, “How do I come across?” If you’re the kind of person who has the attitude that people have to get “saved” at all costs and every moment is the “God Moment,” then you are going to keep perpetuating the negative stereotype of evangelism that Jesus never intended us to have.
Guess what, the Holy Spirit isn’t pushy, you are. Calm down. Listen to someone around you who can see your blind spots. If you want to change, stop seeing every person who may say, “Hey, calm down a bit, be more patient, and listen more” as from the Devil. You probably need to calm down a bit and trust in the sovereign work of God in others.
So evangelism creeps you out. You can’t stand the person who is perpetuating everything you hate about evangelism and evangelists. The pushy, noisy, can’t-take-no-for-an-answer person. So you are just going to ignore it altogether.
Faith has become private, and if it is ever discussed it is only discussed with a select few in a controlled environment. You have spun Jesus into a personal/private God who pretty much exists to serve your comfort. You don’t like that I said that? Well of course you have made him that. If you can’t talk about him and can’t influence people towards him, then he is private and controlled and self-serving. He is your God and he follows you. Not the other way around. You have thrown out the mandate that came straight from Jesus mouth, the one that says this:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” —Acts 1:8
Jesus has always intended his followers’ witness to his life, death and resurrection. Every follower from day one until now is to be part of Jesus’ mission to witness to the whole earth. If you aren’t doing that then you aren’t following Jesus but some made up God.
If you want to change, admit you have a negative stereotype about evangelism, but also admit Jesus has a new paradigm for you—you just don’t get it or know what it is yet. Take Jesus seriously when he says in Acts or the end of Matthew, Mark and Luke that we as disciples are called to witness and preach the gospel to the ends of the earth. Ask a bolder friend what that means, and start trying to figure it out. Stop hiding behind bad stereotypes and move out into a new paradigm.
I am glad you want to join me in changing the perception around evangelism and evangelists. Evangelism means “to announce or bring good news.” This should be a great thing, right? Why does bringing good news only have to be loud, pushy and arrogant in its style? Even if the news is good, the method isn’t. Let’s change it.
You know how we can?
Do lots of evangelism, but with different and new styles. You see, the reason you have that negative stereotype (and so do your friends) is because all you see is the “perpetuating” person over and over.
But if you started sharing your faith more regularly in relational, humble, listening ways, and let’s say, 1,000 of us did this and started sharing our stories, then hey, we would start getting some new images of evangelists.
Evangelism doesn’t have to be the street sign holder, slick TV preacher or pushy person—it can be the relational, quiet, listening, yet bold in the right moment person.
If you want to be an evangelism change agent, then take hold of the reality that Jesus is good news and he has brought a kingdom to earth where life—and life abundantly—is possible. People need to know about this and they need to step into this. Find your way to share this good news. Find the way that you talk about anything great that happens in your life and start doing that with the good news of Jesus. We all influence people toward great things. Use that same authentic way about you to influence people toward Jesus. You can do it.
When you do, please share with me. We need more stories and styles.
Let’s recapture the imagination Jesus intended when he called us his witnesses.
This article originally appeared on CampusMinistry.org and is reposted here by permission.