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Looking for a semester of “cross-cultural” experience, non-Christian college student Kevin Roose transferred to Liberty University. As an undercover unbeliever, Roose’s goal was to understand how Christians think and get a sense of the evangelical culture from a firsthand “insider” perspective.

As part of his cultural experiment, Kevin decided to go on a weeklong outreach adventure over Spring Break with a group of 13 other Liberty students. Their mission? To bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the beer-guzzling, body-baring, sand-loving sinners on Daytona Beach. The team was trained to share the gospel and then unleashed to comb the beach on a spiritual search and rescue mission.

After a solid week of almost constant rejections, the group consoled themselves that they had planted spiritual seeds that would sprout later. Roose concluded that these well-intentioned street evangelists had really not made any converts. Even the few who had ostensibly said “yes” to Jesus were not followed up on or plugged into local churches. In his words,

“The issue of post-salvation behavior is an interesting one. I thought, when Scott was teaching us to evangelize, that we’d be told to do some sort of follow-up with successful converts, if we had any—guide them to a local church, maybe, or at least take their contact information. But there’s no such procedure. If Jason had decided to get saved (he didn’t), Martina would have led him through the Sinner’s Prayer (“Jesus, I am a sinner, come into my heart and be my Lord and Savior” or some variant thereof), she would have let him know he was saved, perhaps given him some Bible verses to read, and they never would have seen each other again. Cold-turkey evangelism provides the shortest, most non-committal conversion offer of any Western religion—which, I suspect, is part of the appeal.” (Source: salon.com).

Interesting.

Clearly he didn’t write his article out of vindictiveness or venom. He seemed to actually like these evangelicals and was exploring why they were willing to go through all the pain and strain of being persecuted without seeing tangible results. His conclusion was that the prospect of saving someone from hell was enough witnessing fuel to keep them going in the face of mockery and disdain.

Before I give my perspective on all this, let me explain that I was born and bred on street evangelism. I did my first cold-turkey evangelism when I was 11 years old. I was terrified and trembling as I shared the gospel. But I was hooked. This was the closest thing I had experienced to extreme sports and I loved it.

The church that reached my entire beer-drinking, body-building, tobacco-chewing family (and that’s just the women!) was a street evangelist training ground. My tough, ripped Uncle Jack was led to Christ when the preacher at this church went to his house, knocked on his door, and started sharing the good news of salvation. That began a domino effect of salvation in my large extended family.

As a result, I was immersed into this pre-evangelical world of fundamentalist Christianity and loved it. Why? Because, now I not only had a real Heavenly Father (I was the product of a one-night stand and never knew my biological father), but I had a purpose: the salvation of souls from hell.

From that first witnessing experience as a fifth grader to my freshman year at Liberty University, hardly a Friday night went by without me and my Christian compadres going “soulwinning” at local malls across Denver.

We would gather together, train the newcomers, and head out to do cold-turkey evangelism. While sharing my faith, I have been hit, spit at, picked up by the throat, pushed down, laughed at, and mocked relentlessly. But these became battle scars for my adolescent soul. I could talk about them and show them off later to my fundie friends. After all, every rejection was worth it if just one person put their faith and trust in Jesus. And unlike Kevin Roose, we were trained to try and get the people we led to Christ plugged into our church, where they too could be trained as street evangelists.

I estimate conservatively that I personally witnessed to 5,000 people from the time I was 11 until I left for college. I was an expert at serving cold-turkey evangelism sandwiches. But to be honest, out of all of the street evangelism I have done, I am only aware of a handful of stories when someone who got saved actually got plugged into a faith community.

So do I think street evangelism works? Yes and no. Yes in the sense that I have seen countless people look me in the eye and say “yes” to Jesus. In my heart of hearts, I know that many of them were sincere. As Romans 10:13 reminds us, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” It makes no preconditions about location or depth of the relationship. If they genuinely believe in Christ, then they truly receive the gift of eternal life. So, yes, I believe street evangelism works when it comes to making converts. But I don’t believe it works well when it comes to making disciples.

Does that mean that I think we shouldn’t do street/mall/park evangelism? No. I just think we should try to do it differently.

To be honest, God has been taking me on a journey of reflection over the last several months and I am trying to figure out where He is leading. You see, my goal is to make as many disciples, not as many converts, as I can before I die. Making converts is merely additional (souls added to the kingdom). But making disciples is exponential (souls multiplied through disciples who make disciples who make more disciples.) And the street and the shopping mall are not the best places for making disciples. Again, we may have opportunities with various strangers and we should make the most of them to wisely and gracefully share the good news. God may be using you to plant a seed, water the seed or reap the harvest with those strangers He brings across your path. But I am more and more convinced that sharing Christ with strangers must be done in a very specific way.



Greg Stier is the founder and president of Dare 2 Share Ministries. His website offers hundreds of resources (many of them free) for evangelism and youth ministry, including a field guide called Dare 2 Share. This practical book will give Christians the tools they need to share their faith with anyone, anywhere and anytime in a compelling and Biblical way.

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Talk about it...

Mike Ingo

commented on Jul 13, 2011

I agree Bro. Greg. As a pastor and street minister to a certain extent I have learned over the years that sometimes we can even mislead people into believing they are "saved" because of a simple encounter with us and our testimonies. After a few years I learned that telling people about Christ and leading people to Christ did not always bring them into a relationship with Him. Now I teach and preach that our mission as disciples is to INTRODUCE people to Christ. Before they can know His forgiveness and love, they must first experience Him for themselves; not just take our word for it. God Bless you in your work for our Lord.

Keith B

commented on Jul 13, 2011

Depends on how you do the street preaching. If all you do is scream at people and call them sinners, no...that's not going to work most of the time. But if you draw a crowd and provide a coherent message of the Gospel, great things can happen.

Mitchell S Hutchins

commented on Jul 13, 2011

Brother Greg, I love you in the Lord and I truly appreciate all you are doing in the Name of the Lord. I believe that we must focus as much on obedience to the Scripture as we do on belief. In a perfect world Belief = Obedience. However, in the real world we know that most people believe its against the law to speed but they do it anyway. The Scripture tells that even the devil believes and trembles. We must learn to teach people who are used to doing everything their own way to obey Jesus teachings instead of feeding the lust of the flesh. That cannot be accomplished in cold contacts alone there must be follow-up with good biblical teaching.

Scott Dossett

commented on Jul 13, 2011

I have done the door-knocking, street-walking "witnessing" program. Unlike the author of this article, I never thought it made much sense, but I did it, took my lumps and "sowed my seeds." Still, I'm convinced that this is not a generally useful tool for a few reasons: 1. Buyer's Remorse - Putting pressure on people to make a decision seldom results in a genuine faith decision, 2. Bad Marketing - more people are irritated/scared/turned off than tuned in, 3. Incomplete Pass - it might "save people from hell" but divorces that from the hope of the gospel in everyday life. That's not to say no one should ever do it (it could be a calling for some) but I don't think it should be a generalized or primary method for sharing the faith. If we are "introducing" people to Christ, why not simply spend time building relationships (even short term relationships) with people and letting the "testimony" of our faith speak through our words, actions and lives instead of functioning as gospel street vendors? Just an opinion

Scott Dossett

commented on Jul 13, 2011

I have done the door-knocking, street-walking "witnessing" program. Unlike the author of this article, I never thought it made much sense, but I did it, took my lumps and "sowed my seeds." Still, I'm convinced that this is not a generally useful tool for a few reasons: 1. Buyer's Remorse - Putting pressure on people to make a decision seldom results in a genuine faith decision, 2. Bad Marketing - more people are irritated/scared/turned off than tuned in, 3. Incomplete Pass - it might "save people from hell" but divorces that from the hope of the gospel in everyday life. That's not to say no one should ever do it (it could be a calling for some) but I don't think it should be a generalized or primary method for sharing the faith. If we are "introducing" people to Christ, why not simply spend time building relationships (even short term relationships) with people and letting the "testimony" of our faith speak through our words, actions and lives instead of functioning as gospel street vendors? Just an opinion

Roger Asselin

commented on Jul 13, 2011

Street evangelism does work. It brings the lost to a juncture. They are faced with an acception or rejection of the Gospel message. Discipleship begins after salvation. Few churches have a solid discipleship program to offer new converts. Shame on us for not following through. We have the same problem in some of the Christian churches. We have a tendency to have a show of hands by those who have answered the alter call but no follow up. The new convert is left to his own devices and more often than not falls through the cracks never to be seen again. That is a leadership fault. Street witnessing deserves follow through with names, addresses, phone numbers and email so follow up can effectively take place if at all possible. I can't imagine any big ticket sales person doing less to close a sale. You can make the greatest pitch but without the close, you go home empty. Presenting Jesus Christ and His free gift of salvation is the most important presentation we give can every living soul. What a shame to go through the presentation without going for the closing! The perfect close always brings a person to 2 words... yes or no. All we are required to do is to bring a person to that point. A true yes will result in a heart that will be open to follow up. How we deal with the yes is just as important! If we do not follow through properly, we give the fowl of the air an opportunity to steal the seed that has been planted. A properly trained disciple knows how to not only present the Gospel but also knows the importance of following up.

Keith Light

commented on Jul 13, 2011

Buyers remorse is due too Focalisim and impact bias where someone believes that the result of acquiring something will make them feel a cretin way. Then the feeling fades and they regret the price they have paid. The person on the street has the same chance or ability to feel this regreat as the person who has relationship with someone and gives there life to Jesus. The key is in the discipleship. I like this article for that reason. There is biblical and practical reasons for all types of evangelism including street and door knocking. The Gospel is offensive to those who are perishing so that can't be our barometer but the love of Christ should be our motivation. We don't need less evangelism but more discipleship. Thanks again Greg for this article.

Keith Light

commented on Jul 13, 2011

Buyers remorse is due too Focalisim and impact bias where someone believes that the result of acquiring something will make them feel a cretin way. Then the feeling fades and they regret the price they have paid. The person on the street has the same chance or ability to feel this regreat as the person who has relationship with someone and gives there life to Jesus. The key is in the discipleship. I like this article for that reason. There is biblical and practical reasons for all types of evangelism including street and door knocking. The Gospel is offensive to those who are perishing so that can't be our barometer but the love of Christ should be our motivation. We don't need less evangelism but more discipleship. Thanks again Greg for this article.

Derrick Tuper

commented on Jul 13, 2011

I admire anyone who has the courage to publicly declare their faith; especially while dealing with persecution. And I don't necessarily doubt it's effectiveness. However, the problem I do have with it is comparable to the author's-discipleship. You have to remember, early on Christians weren't called Christians, they were identified as disciples. Therefore, you don't separate those two terms. You don't become one now and the other later. That's one of the problems I have with "cold-turkey evangelism" or "easy beliefism". You don't find the "sinner's prayer" in the bible. You won't find anyone coming to Christ through saying a prayer. What you will find is conversion through faith, repentance and baptism. Peter preached the first sermon and when the people were convicted over their sin and asked Peter what they needed to do Peter replied in Acts 2:38, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Ananias told Paul "What are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name." Acts 22:16. Even Jesus said in Mark 16:16, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved but whoever doesn't believe will be condemned." And it's not about just making Jesus your Savior, you have to make him your Lord also. Just like Christian and disciple are not two separable terms, Savior and Lord aren't either. If he's not both-he's neither.

Juanita Gilbo Ricard

commented on Jul 13, 2011

Street evangelism is great and necessary. I grew up in the Salvation Army. That was our church.I have always been involved in Open-Air Services. Sometimes, especially in wintertime, you may not see the folks, but they are there, listening. Some upstairs in buildings, some hurrying down the street. Remember, the Word of God never goes void. My church-The Salvation Army reaches out to the man on the street. I have seen souls saved and miracles take place in street services. God works through all things. Pray, go, proclaim. Things will happen. It is worth all the persecution, ridicule or whatever comes your way just to know you have brought one soul to Jesus.

Lisa Donald

commented on Jul 14, 2011

The last statement of the article is: "But I am more and more convinced that sharing Christ with strangers must be done in a very specific way." This seems to be the main point but Greg doesn't tell us what that specific ways is ... I'd like to know.

Sterling Franklin

commented on Jul 14, 2011

I'm a fan of 'Nike' Evangelism (Just Do It)

Limbani Kalumbi

commented on Jul 17, 2011

joining this discussion slightly late but thought it can still be helpful to share insights and experiences. am a new member of this website and i find the articles that are frequently posted to be of help to me. i beg to slightly differ with the author of the article with regard to the pitfalls of street evangelism. it is undeniable that follow up is problematic in street preaching as such we may fall short of making 'disciples'. however, the moral is do you just pass when you have the conviction to share the love of Christ to somebody because you will fail to make them disciples cause of failure to follow them up? i suggest we listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit with regard to street preaching, because if it is the conviction of the Holy Spirit, then the Lord Himself will follow them up. Lets not forget that it is not our guidance nor our wisdom which shapes converts to become disciples. i remember Paul in the book of 1 Corinthians was saying that one sows the seed or plants, another waters and it the Lord who brings the harvest. i suggest that if the opportunity arises we can guide them to the possible local churches and fellowships. am a malawian (a remote poor country in africa), some people live in the remotest of regions (hard-to-reach) where the only opportunity you can meet them is in the street or in the bus, now it is almost unfathomable to think of follow up. now, faced with such a situation the moral dilemma is do you then just live the situation cause you will not follow them? cause of this i support street and bus preaching striving to attach them to possible local churches or fellowships where possible. i suggest this may be a 'good' approach!

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