There are a lot of questions around evangelism, and quite a few misconceptions as well. Here are the most common ones we encounter:
What do we mean by the word evangelism?
Evangelism is simply sharing with others your faith as a Christian.
Why does evangelism have such a bad rap?
To many people the word evangelism stirs up some pretty negative images of people trying to aggressively pressure others to agree with a list of propositions about God. To others the word is associated with religious charlatans who take advantage of vulnerable people on the internet or television.
It’s fair to say that this image of evangelism arose from exactly these kinds of abuses. So yes, evangelism has a bad rap for some very good reasons. But is this what Jesus himself meant by evangelism? No.
What did Jesus say about evangelism?
Actually, Jesus never used the word! But when Jesus sent out the first Christians* to share their faith with others he told them to share good news (without receiving any monetary gain). This good news was that people could find forgiveness, healing, purpose and wholeness by turning toward God and by then coming to know and journey with God.
(*You can read about this in one of the first biographies of Jesus’s life;
a book in the Bible called the gospel of Matthew, chapter 10, verse 8)
Jesus demonstrated patience with people who were curious about or intrigued by him. He was patient with people who began to follow him. He journeyed with many of his first followers for a full three years, recognizing that it would take time for them to figure out who he was, what he was teaching, why he had come, and what it meant to live as one of his apprentices. Still today, many people become Christians as a result of a journey that takes several years.
Why should I, as a Christian, care about evangelism?
In short, because God wants as many people as possible to come to know him, and to know the transformation that comes from that relationship. Jesus’ final instruction to his first followers was to go and share with the rest of the world this good news, teaching others how to become and live as his apprentices. Sharing your faith was meant to be a part of every Christian’s life.
How can I, as a Christian leader, cultivate a church that naturally shares their faith with friends, family and neighbours?
The Institute of Evangelism exists in order to help every church become an evangelizing community.
We do this by providing resources and experienced leaders that can help churches share the Christian faith in healthy and respectful ways. We offer assessment, training and resourcing to help churches share their faith in various ways: in their on-line presence, with children and youth, and with adults wanting to explore Christianity. We can help churches embarking on a parish re-boot, or church plant, as well as those churches wanting to become connected to what God might already be doing in their neighbourhoods.
I'm not the outgoing type
But you don’t have to be.
The first followers of Jesus were made up of people with lots of different personality types, and it’s been that way throughout the ages since. Every Christian can be used by God to draw people closer to him, no matter how shy or outgoing they are.
Phew. Good news for us introverts!
What if they ask questions I don't know the answer for?
A lot of people we talk to are concerned about this.
But here’s the thing: You don’t need to know all the answers! It’s ok to say: “You know what? I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ll try to find out.”
I don't want to come across as pushy
Totally understandable! But who says you have to be pushy to do evangelism?
Maybe the best approach is to honestly admit that you’re worried. Maybe it’s okay to say to a friend, “I found something that I’d love to tell you about, but I’m worried that I might offend you and hurt our friendship.”
I long for an authentic community where sharing your faith is natural and unforced
So do we. Our hope is that every church will be on its way towards this goal.
But if you are in a situation where you feel you need some extra support and help right now, why not join our Facebook page and learn about some steps your church can take toward becoming this sort of community.
I wish I didn't have to speak to share my faith
Yeah, I hear you. It would be great if people could either read our minds or see the gospel perfectly just through the way we live.
The fact is though, sharing good news about anything involves actually telling someone about it in some way. The good news of the gospel is no different. Sharing what you’ve come to know about God doesn’t always start with talking though. It often starts with listening to someone’s questions and seeking to understand where they’re coming from. This way you’ll be better prepared to share with them what you believe.
How can I get my congregation excited about sharing their faith?
Great question. Like evangelism itself this is a process.
It often starts with a congregation getting comfortable talking about their faith with each other. It may then lead to a few people sharing their story of faith with the congregation as a whole. Others may then share situations in which they had an opportunity to talk about faith with someone in their lives.
This can lead to some new initiative to form relationships with those outside the church. In the meantime, those in the church might meet to learn some practical ways to open up conversations about faith with people. Step by step natural and authentic evangelism can be cultivated in the life of a church.
If you need some practical resources we recommend the Invited series – a series of short films that explore genuine Christian Invitation – or Christian Foundations – a study guide for small church groups.
How do we start?
Start by getting some mentoring in various areas of church life related to sharing the faith including: organizational life, ministry to children, missional small groups, communications, community connections and sharing the faith one-to-one.