Evangelism For Normal People, Week 1: What Went Wrong?

Evangelism has become a bad word to a lot of people

  • Chances are if I told you to come to church for an “evangelism” event some of us would think twice
  • If I said that we were going to have an “evangelist” come speak to us some of us would conveniently have plans
    • For some evangelist brings to mind Billy Graham, for others it brings to mind the person on the street corner with a megaphone
  • “Evangelical” – has become as much political word as a church word and that carries all kinds of issues with it
  • The number of people  identifying as “evangelical” is declining, the number of churches that emphasize evangelism is shrinking, evangelism has become a bad word

Before we get to why/how, lets start with what it is we’re talking about

  • Evangelism – the spreading of the Christian Gospel by public preaching our personal witness
    • Euangelion – “good news,” the gospels in Latin are “Euangelion” of Matthew, Mark,  etc.
    • Evangelism is telling people who God is and what God has done in Christ
      • The question we face: How did the good news become bad for so many people?

Two stories and a video

  • Margaret Atwood, “Scarlet Ibis.” Work of fiction, Christine is on a trip to see the scarlet ibis in Florida and gets into a conversation with a woman who used to be a missionary

“Christine had been raised Anglican, but the only vestige of this was the kind of Christmas cards she favored: prints of medieval or renaissance old masters. Religious people of any serious kind made her nervous: they were like men in raincoats who might or might not be flashers. You would be going along with them in the normal way, and then there could be a swift movement and you would look down to find the coat wide open and nothing on under it but some pant legs held up by rubber bands. This had happened to Christine in a train station once.

  • Sandra Tsing Loh, Depth Takes a Holiday, true story about a first date she went on:

“We were halfway through a lovely Thai dinner; we had discussed the music of John Coltrane; we had discovered a common love of volleyball. Our faces were flushed. Lanterns swayed hypnotically. Grasping my hand, Jeff impulsively leaned forward. “Sandra?”

“What?” I asked huskily

“Have you accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your savior?”

Just like that. No warm-up. No mood music. No idle teasing around the God issue to loosen the soil. Had Jeff grabbed my breast I would not have been more shocked.

  • What do they have in common – both of these people like people of faith and discussion of faith to unwanted sexual advances – not great
  • Video – Taking the Hill
    • Imagine if you were one of those poor people living around them – they know nothing about you and they’re going to come pester you on your weekend
    • Campus Ministry I was in in college – suggested we go and witness to the homeless folks in Columbia – because they were there and looking for things to do
      • They talked about people they knew who they talked to every year doing that. What better way to show you don’t actually care about these people than coming up to them year after year and not doing anything to try to help them

How did the good news become bad for so many people –  we did a horrible job of sharing it

  • Ways we describe evangelism
    • “crusades,” as though evangelism was warfare with unbelievers as the enemy or at best “prisoners of war”
    • “Tools,” as though evangelism were an industrial product with unbelievers as the raw material
    • “strategies,” as though evangelism were a marketing campaign with unbelievers as the consumer
    • “Friendship Evangelism,” which makes friendship a means to an end
    • “Lifestyle Evangelism,” as if Christian discipline were a lifestyle adopted not our of obedience to Christ but in order to impress and attract those outside of the faith


Is there another way? An evangelism for normal people that can attract a generation inclined to be dismissive? – what we’re going to spend the fall answering.

  • Genesis 3
    • Adam and Eve go about trying to hide from God. God comes in, knows what happens, and asks “where are you?”
    • God could have gone straight into a lecture, God could have ignored them (confirming what they believed, that the relationship was broken beyond repair), but instead God seeks them out. God tells them to come out and talk, to figure this out
      • Evangelism is, at its core, God coming after us, even at our very worst, to invite us to come home. That’s good news that’s still good. We just need to figure out how to go about telling it.

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