Summary: we may not all be evangelists, but as followers of Christ, what we all are is witnesses.
The Dreaded E-Word
Evangelism for the rest of us
January 9, 2011
There are things in life we don’t look forward to because we don’t enjoy them. We might not look forward to getting up to early in the morning. We might not look forward to the proctologist, urologist, or even the dentist appointment.
We might not look forward to going back to work or to school after a nice vacation. Then, there are things that, at least in our minds, are much worse than those we just don’t look forward to. These are the things we dread.
Some of us, for example, dread any occasion of public speaking. Some of us might dread written tests or exams. For some of us, what other people just don’t look forward to, because they really don’t enjoy, we dread.
For example, I know some people who just dread going to the dentist. Some people dread getting older. You know, realizing that the day has come when everything hurts, and what doesn't hurt doesn't work. Or dreading the day when your insurance company has started sending you their free calendar... a month at a time.
Very few things are universally dreaded. Some people actually enjoy public speaking, or going back to work after a long vacation. But there are those things that are dreaded by most people.
A perfect illustration of this is when Mark Radzinski led a study in our house church years ago. He started out the meeting by saying that we were going to go out and do evangelism – we were going to go witnessing.
You could see the beads of sweat forming on people’s brows, and hear the nervous laughter in the room, until Mark told the group that he was just kidding. But it revealed something about us – and I think this applies to many more of us here, than it doesn’t apply to.
While there are some here for whom the idea of going out witnessing sounds fun and exciting, I believe those people are few and far between. For most of us, this sounds like something we dread. It’s the dreaded E-Word, evangelism.
I’ve thought a lot about why this is true. I think I’ve come up with at least several key reasons why most of us dread the idea of going out on the street, or even going to one of our neighbors, and doing what we call evangelism.
It’s not just fear of rejection. It is that, but not just that. It’s not just that it takes us out of our comfort zone. It’s not just that we fear we won’t know what to say or how to say it or when to say it. I think Evangelism is the dreaded E-Word because we’ve so narrowly defined the parameters of what evangelism is, and we have a sort of Christian cultural understanding, that evangelism is bringing people to the point of deciding to follow Christ.
Part of the problem is that it is that, at least eventually – but that’s not all it is. Evangelism isn’t just the point of decision, when a person is convicted by the Holy Spirit that he’s a sinner, repents, turns and decides to follow Jesus. That’s just a part of the process, but well-meaning teachers and preachers and writers through the years have made the point of decision, the sum total of evangelism.
Since most of us don’t like to challenge people, or confront them in any way, or ask them to make a decision, we’re not only uncomfortable with this part of the process, but we dread it. It feels too much like selling something, and while there are some people who are really good at sales and even enjoy it, most of us find it challenging at best, and dreadful at worst.
So let’s start by re-defining just what evangelism is, and isn’t. First of all, evangelism isn’t just a particular method. Evangelistic crusades are not the only kind of evangelism. Evangelism Explosion, in which some of us were trained, is not the only thing that qualifies as evangelism. The Four Spiritual Laws are not the only kind of evangelism. Street witnessing, or door-to-door witnessing, are not all there is to evangelism.
The common denominator of all these things we’ve mentioned, is a complete presentation of the gospel, that begins by explaining the sin problem, and ends with an invitation to receive Christ. Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with these kinds of things. They’ve been effective in bringing people to Christ, and for that we should all be grateful.
But most of us never, or hardly ever, do these kinds of things. Why? Because we dread the whole experience. Most of us will avoid this, and then feel guilty because we’re not involved in evangelism.