As a Missionary/Evangelist, people ask me pretty often, “how do you evangelize?” Honestly, my answer is usually I don’t know, but I have tried to think about it and put an answer into words.
So then, what is the “key” to evangelism? As far as I can tell… it is love. Evangelism, in a word, is love in its simplest form. You may develop the greatest plans and strategies, yet without love it’s worthless. Obviously a passion for knowing The Word and a dose of courage are necessary, but in the end it comes down to love.
“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2-3
If love is the primary ingredient, I don’t believe there is a “wrong” strategy for evangelism. A poorly thought out strategy for the given situation, possibly, but not a wrong one. There are more strategies and plans than I can count, and most people tout their particular strategy as THE ONE. But, I plead with you not to fall for it. If you follow our work, you know that we have worked hard to develop a structure within which evangelism should happen more naturally, and to take advantage of all given situations in order to allow evangelism to happen. Evangelism in Asia may look different than evangelism in the U.S. or South America, and that is a good thing. The one thing that ALL evangelism should have in common is love.
It is love that allows you to forgive that moron that cut in line; it is love that forgives that blowhard bigmouth who can’t seem to keep his or her mouth shut. It is love that allows me to approach the neighborhood gossip and show her kindness even though she started a rumor about me. It is love that moves me to talk to a complete stranger even though I am terrified. As said in many songs, “love will find a way.”
Romans 5:8 tells us that, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It is that forgiveness which allows us to see our fellow humans through the same lens through which God sees us. When Christians confuse being “sanctified” with being “better than”, we end up coming off as self-righteous. We act as though we are better than the world because of the changes that Christ has made in us. The problem is that those in the world are still sinners, and it would be silly to expect people to act differently when they haven’t yet experienced the love of Christ. We should be “better” in some aspects, while remembering clearly that ALL GLORY goes to God, because these are the blessings God offers in Christ. When I’m having a good day, this love-based humility breaks through all sorts of barriers, and saves time. In my “not so good” days, when I act arrogantly or self-righteously, I build walls between myself and those I’m trying to reach.
Love should also give us a sense of urgency to communicate with the lost. Dr. Blackwelder taught me, “The first rule of communication is, to have a desire to communicate.” Imagine that you’re in a foreign country where everyone speaks a foreign language. If you’re hungry, I promise you will find a way to communicate your hunger… even if it means walking around flapping your arms to get a piece of chicken. In the same way, if our desire to communicate the gospel is strong enough, we WILL find a way to communicate. The fuel for that desire to communicate is love.
Do you have a desire to communicate? If you truly want to be an evangelist, increase your love. Work on your ability to forgivingly and selflessly seek the best possible potential in others, knowing that their “best self” is found in Christ. To be an evangelist, take a deeper look at yourself. We could all be more honest with ourselves about our own humility and the way that we view the lost. I’ll keep working on “the answer,” but in the meantime I hope this triggered something or was helpful in some way. Maybe I’ll keep thinking about it and take another crack at this topic in future blogs. If you can add to the discussion please comment below, to add to or clarify my ramblings.