Happy New Year! If you’re reading this and you don’t call yourself a follower of Jesus, that’s really cool. You’ll probably find this post a bit strange, as it’s really aimed at those who already follow Jesus. Evangelism is essentially telling people about Jesus and what He’s done for humanity. Here’s a nifty summary of this message called Two Ways To Live, if you’ve never heard it explained before. Please let me know what you think (this post could be seen as a bit controversial!). The last two posts will be on their way in the next couple of days.
The problem with my evangelism
Evangelism is something which Jesus followers are often encouraged to do.
It’s something I can easily feel guilty about. Often other brothers and sisters have amazing stories about opportunities they’ve had with colleagues, course-mates, friends and families. They either make me praise God and encourage me to keep praying for opportunities. Or they make me feel my own evangelism is inadequate and there must be something I’m doing wrong.
It also makes me wonder if Christian Unions’ and churches’ emphasis on hosting evangelistic events has made me feel guilty over the past few years.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying evangelistic events are bad. This is coming from someone who was heavily involved in organizing them at university. At the end of my first year, I was on the planning team behind CU’s outreach in my second year’s freshers’ week. I organised stewarding at CU main meetings and events like carol services and lunch bars for most of my second and third year. And I co-led the team that planned the Spring term mission week in my final year. Evangelistic events were at the forefront of my mind as a student.
But I’m sad that I focused so much on getting friends to an event. And if they didn’t attend, in my mind it was devastating. They’re missing out on hearing this message so clearly proclaimed. Much clearer than I could put it. And if they said no to me, they’ll never want to attend another one. They’ll never hear the message and know that they must make this really big decision of life or death.
In making events the focus of my evangelism, I wasn’t making full use of the daily opportunities to encourage discussions and conversations about faith. I constantly thought how can I get this person to this event? rather than, what questions can I ask them to find out what they think of Jesus? or what’s the best way for them as an individual to hear about Jesus?
I viewed God as being limited outside evangelistic events.
I also was too hopeless to answer my friends’ questions.
So God couldn’t use me.
I couldn’t offer to read something like Uncover with them (a series of studies on one of the eyewitness accounts of Jesus’s life), because I didn’t work for a Christian organisation and hadn’t been asked to lead my hall’s small group or CU on the committee. I resolved to ask someone, but never felt I could.
I was also worried that people would think I was weird for asking to read the Bible with them. And often my friends didn’t ask me many questions anyway.
It was easier to focus on events because they were comforting and encouraging, to see the whole CU working together. I felt like I had considerable backing and support when we were hosting a public event, whereas few people I knew at CU were seeking to read the Bible with friends. Or I assumed that many weren’t because it wasn’t something that people talked about.
Essentially, I didn’t trust God really had the power to be at work in my friends’ lives, unless they attended an official Christian event or gathering.
What changed last year
So what changed? I read Uncover with a non-Christian for the first time ever. We both learnt more about Jesus. She seemed to enjoy it. And it’s given me more confidence – reading the Bible with seekers is something I can do. And if I can do it, anyone who’s literate, has the Holy Spirit and a Bible can do it. In fact, asking to read the Bible one-to-one with someone interested in the Christian faith has way more pros than inviting them to an evangelistic event.
Events can be intimidating for some. They also require effort to go to. And there’s a tendency for those hosting to focus on the other elements – like the food, vibe, people, entertainment or activity – and not really flag up that there will be a pretty intense talk about the Christian faith.
It’s easier to turn down an invitation to an evangelistic event, than turn down having a cup of coffee or tea, where there’s a cheeky bit of Bible time.
It’s also less of a deal if someone turns you down. You don’t feel like you’ve let down the CU or church organizing the event. And it’s far easier to gauge what they really think of what they’re hearing. It’s often hard for people to be truly honest after they’ve heard a talk. Whereas, in a one-to-one setting, there’s freedom to be more frank. It’s embarrassing to leave an event if you hate the talk, yet far less if you just want to change the subject over coffee.
I haven’t read Uncover with anyone else since, but I’m praying that in the next few years, God will give me another opportunity with someone who’s interested.
Now when it comes to evangelistic events, yes, I do feel sad when people I know aren’t interested in coming. But it’s really really not the end of the world. Because evangelism isn’t all about evangelistic events. We can still witness clearly and faithfully without them. God is in control, and isn’t limited. He hears and acts on our prayers, and has given us His Word and Spirit. We will face persecution and rejection from others who don’t trust Jesus. But we mustn’t lose heart. We need to pray for courage to be bold, in our society where there are real consequences for explaining the Christian message faithfully.
And I really encourage you to check out Uncover yourself, whether you trust in Jesus’s claims or not. It basically gives you a series of questions to follow so you don’t have to worry about having to write a Bible study. I have a copy if you’d like to borrow it, and I’d love to read those passages with you if you’d like. And if you’re looking into the Christian faith and want to ask me questions about it, please feel free to drop me a line. I’d be happy to help! xx