Is Evangelism a Dirty Word?
Tonight I hung out with a bunch of people from The Well and we sat around and talked about the scary, evil topic of evangelism. It’s funny, for some Christians “evangelism” is a dirty word and for others its like the greatest thing of all time. If you are a Christian or have ever been friends with one, you probably have some strong opinions about the topic.
We started out the discussion by sharing our favorite (or not-so-favorite) evangelism stories. So we didn’t get too cynical, I asked that we tell some bad ones about ourselves too. I figure now is a good time to let my own embarassing personal evangelism story out of the bag.
You might know about See You At the Pole. If you don’t, it is basically a day where all the Christians in all the public schools in America gather around their school flag pole to pray for their schools. I won’t spend my time here talking about whether its a good thing or a bad thing. I’ll let someone else do that (just not in my blog comments please!) But the reason I bring this up is because it happens to be the context for one of the worst “how to do evangelism” examples of all time.
Like a good Christian, I met with about 10 others outside the main entrance to my High School at early on a crisp fall morning. Of course, I was wearing my “Warrior for Christ” Christian t-shirt (Mark Driscol would have been proud!). We stood there, holding hands of course, and prayed for our school while all the rest of the students got out of their cars and wondered what the heck we were doing there. In case you didn’t know, you tend to get a lot of stares for standing outside of the main entrance to your school holding hands with your heads down focused on the ground.
The hard part is that after you are done you go into school and have to see the students who just witnessed you awkwardly standing around the flag pole holding hands with people. Of course, they ask you “what were you guys doing standing around the flag pole holding hands?! That was weird dude.” Now, this isn’t the best scenario for a freshman in high school trying to fit in. Honestly, it would hvae been more convenient if we met at the flag pole a little bit later so then we could have timed the ending of the prayer with the first bell. Then we would have been able to go right to class and avoid the strange questions!
But alas, as I was getting my books from my locker one of my friends, 10 lockers down from me mind you, asked very loudly, “Hey Todd! What were you guys doing out at the flagpole this morning?” Now I know what you are thinking, “what what a great opportunity to tell her that you were praying for the school.” That wouldn’t be that hard of an answer would it? Would that even be that weird? Sure, I guess it might be pretty weird but I mean, every one is cool with prayer right?
Well, I was kind of caught off guard and really didn’t know what to say. After about 5 seconds of trying to pretend I didn’t hear her she asked again “Todd what were you guys doing outside at the flag pole this morning?” She wasn’t even asking with a cynical tone. She was really curious. It was then that I gave one of the greatest, worst answers of all time. I said, and I quote, “You’d like to know, wouldn’t you!?”
Then? I walked away.
Nothing like seizing the moment.
The thing with evangelism is that it’s not a science. We like to talk about “friendship evangelism” but I feel like that even falls short. Far too often we are friends with people a) with an agenda, just to get them saved and they end up feeling like a project (which, they actually are!) or b) we never actually talk about Jesus and we’re just friends.
I have a friend who is perhaps the best “evangelist” (in the true sense of the word) that I know and he says that evangelism is really pretty simple. He basically says that we have to talk with people as if Jesus is real.
An example he referred to was he was having a conversation with someone who was having relationship problems. He responding by saying that he thought that most relationship issues in his life stem from an identity problem. After some time talking about that he said what he believed about identity: that we won’t really have a firm identity until it’s rooted in Jesus Christ.
Think about that: he just said what he believed was true about the world. He didn’t try and turn the conversation. He didn’t preach at her. He just said how the gospel has changed and impacted his life. Her response was overwhelming and she really appreciated his insight and said she’d actually consider going to his church some day.
I think, far too often, we don’t talk about our faith because a) we are too busy trying to get them “saved” than be their friend and b) we don’t really believe the gospel and it hasn’t really affected our lives enough.
All that being said… what’s your best/worst evangelism story?