Too often, too many of us have negative views of the word evangelism. Sadly, the 2,000 year old practice of evangelism has 2,000 years worth of baggage that comes with it (i.e. the inquisition, burning heretics at the stake, Jim Jones, etc.)
Jesus himself modeled the right brand of evangelism which was equal parts awkward and awesome, drenched both in love and boldness. He commissioned his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to everyone. The baton of that responsibility has been passed from generation of believers to generation of believers and it is now firmly in our hands. It’s our turn to run with it. But as we do we should do it with an eye toward changing people’s perspective of evangelism from manipulative and obnoxious to patient, powerful and persuasive.
He then goes through 5 reasons why he believes evangelism needs to be rebranded.
This is the first of a 5-part series where I will examine and evaluate each of the five reasons listed.
1. Evangelism literally means “to bring Good News.”
Christians are called to be the good news people not the bad news bears. When we evangelize we are to do it with a smile on our face and a twinkle in our eyes. It’s like getting the privilege of telling a friend that the Lotto ticket they had purchased was the big winner or sharing with a cancer-ridden family member that scientists have discovered the cure. Biblical evangelism reeks of breathless excitement and joy, not judgmental, frowny-faced coersion.
What does it mean to “rebrand” evangelism? Rebranding is “the creation of a new name, term, symbol, design, or a combination of them for an established brand with the intention of developing a differentiated (new) position in the mind of stakeholders and competitors.” In other words, it involves changing perceptions. When most people hear the term evangelism, they think of idiots standing on a street corner screaming at people to repent, or some televangelist claiming that if you send them money, God will love you. Greg Stier is correct: the word evangelism carries a lot of negative baggage. Non-Christians think evangelism means having Jesus crammed down their throats. Christians are uncomfortable with the negative connotations evangelism carries, and are therefore reluctant to share the Gospel.
My friend Carl Kerby often quotes Mark Cahill with the phrase, “Evangelism is a conversation, not a presentation.” Evangelism is not about yelling at people with a bullhorn, arm-twisting, or television marketing. It’s about talking to people about the good news of Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian, then you have been saved from an eternity in Hell by the grace of God; the Holy Spirit in you gives you the power to overcome all of the junk we all deal with in a sin-filled, fallen world; and we should be thrilled to have the opportunity to tell others about God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Evangelism is all about building relationships with non-Christians. In any relationship, conversations often turn to the things we hold most important. For the Christian, our relationship with Jesus Christ should be what’s most important to us, so it should come up quite naturally in our conversations with people. We don’t need some flashy PowerPoint presentation, or a prepared lecture; all we need is to tell our own story of how Jesus is working in our lives. Yes, it helps to prepare, to be able to defend the Bible, to have answers to all the tough questions people ask. All Christians should “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15). But, even if you’re not very well prepared to answer the tough questions, it shouldn’t stop you from telling others about Jesus. If you know Jesus, then just tell people about what He has done for you. It’s not complicated at all. It’s just having a conversation about what is most important in your life.
When a guy is madly in love with a girl (or, vice-versa), he can’t stop talking about her. If you’re madly in love with Jesus Christ, you shouldn’t be able to stop talking about Him, either. This is what evangelism is all about. We need to stop thinking of evangelism as some dutiful chore we must perform to be a good little Christian. Evangelism must be rebranded as the opportunity to tell others about the love of our lives.