Summary: 3 styles of evangelism are: Intellectual (Paul); Confrontational (Peter); Testimonial (the man born blind)
Evangelism Series #5
CHCC: February 12, 2006
What’s your Style?
SCRIPTURE READING: Acts 17:16-23
I was downtown in front of the Alamo one day a few years back when I noticed a Street Preacher. I couldn’t help but notice him. He had a megaphone in one hand and a big black leather King James Bible in the other. His message was so “in your face” that I thought it crossed the line of rudeness. I remember thinking, “What a poor representation of Christianity! No wonder non-believers often ridicule people of faith.”
More recently I heard about the results of a Nationwide Survey reported in a book entitled The Day America told the Truth, by James Patterson and Peter Kim. Respondents were asked to rank 73 different professions for their honesty and integrity. Guess what was profession was third from the bottom: TV Evangelists. TV Evangelists came out below lawyers, politicians, car salesmen … and even prostitutes. Only two occupations came out lower: organized crime bosses and drug dealers. (Becoming a Contagious Christian, Bill Hybels, p.121)
Unfortunately, the word “evangelist” often conjures up images of TV preachers doing jail time for bilking followers out of their life savings. If not that, it makes us picture circus-style tent revivals or street preachers like the one I saw Downtown. One of the greatest barriers to people sharing their faith is a characterization of Evangelism as being hypocritical if not misleading. But since “evangel” simply means “good news,” the word Evangelist should make us picture someone who has something positive to share.
Negative thinking about evangelism is a tragedy for the church. But it’s an even BIGGER tragedy for lost people who need to hear the “good news”!
So what can be done? Perhaps the first thing to realize is that the common stereotypes of evangelists are not accurate. Among Christians, there should be as many kinds of evangelists are there are types of personalities.
Bill Hybels put it this way: “God has custom-designed each of us with unique personalities, temperaments, talents, and backgrounds which God can harness and use in His mission to reach a messed up world.” (Hybels, p.122)
In other words, when you share your faith, you can be yourself! If you are an introvert, you don’t have to become an extrovert. If you are fun-loving, you don’t have to become serious and scholarly. If you are a new Christian, you don’t have to wait until you have been a Christian for 30 years and gone to Bible College. You don’t have to fit into someone else’s mold in order to evangelize. There are people around you who need to hear the good news from someone JUST LIKE YOU.
Some people (I think I’m one of them) would never be converted by a Street Preacher. If the guy in front of the Alamo that day had handed me his Bull-horn and told me to take over, I could have told him, “I don’t have to preach the way you do to share my faith. God made me different than you. My style of Evangelism is completely different from yours.” But I’m not saying his style is wrong. There are some people who need to get hit right between the eyes by someone with a megaphone. God may very well use a Street Preacher to reach them!
This week and next, we’re going to look at 6 Biblical examples of Evangelism Styles. (I’m taking 3. And next week Ronnie Morgan will talk about 3 more.) Today we’ll look at 3 unique individuals who represent 3 Evangelistic styles: Peter, Paul, and … an unnamed man who was born blind. (I know, you thought I was going to say Peter, Paul, and Mary.)
1. Intellectual Style – Paul Acts 17
The Apostle PAUL represents what we’ll call the INTELLECTUAL STYLE of Evangelism. Paul was well-suited for this style of evangelism. For one thing, he was highly educated. In fact, he was personally tutored by Gamaliel, who was one of the top Rabbis of his day.
And Paul was no “country bumpkin.” His “home town” of Tarsus was a bustling trade center and a hub for Greek philosophy. In our day, Paul might be like someone who grew up in Boston and earned a PHD from Harvard.
Paul was not only intelligent, he was analytical by nature. He was a master logician. You would not want to come up against him in a debate. Acts chapter 17 gives a prime example of Paul’s INTELLECTUAL STYLE.
On the screen you see modern-day ruins of the Areopagus in Athens. This was the place where Paul described the new “philosophy” he was teaching to the Intellectual Elites of that day. When you read his presentation, you can’t help but see how adept Paul was at fitting his evangelism to his audience. He started by appealing to their pride in their city and culture: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.” Acts 17:22-23