Friends With Benefits: Re-Imagining Evangelism, Part 1

This past Sunday I was privileged to give the message at the church where I serve, Trinity, and kicked off a series on evangelism. Evangelism is a topic that comes with a crazy amount of baggage, and most of us have been the recipient of, or participant in evangelism-gone-wrong. This series is attempting to work through all these issues and come out on a more practical and applicable view of sharing the good news. I’m experamenting here, and so, instead of typing up the whole sermon, I’ve decided to blog-series it. Stay tuned for the next few days. We’ll be working through the message together. I hope it means something to you. I was learning and being stretched all week as I prepared this message.

NOTE: If this post feels different than usual, know that I wrote it thinking of people hearing the words instead of reading them. So…if you find the following posts awful…I blame it on that…

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I have a confession- Evangelism scares me. I used to sit in my ministry class and we’d talk about all these great evangelists, D.L. Moody, or John Wesley, and I’d read the stories of the incredible numbers of people who would come, hear and respond to the gospel. The truth is I was incredibly insecure when I read these stories. As a minister in training, I had a hard time envisioning myself as the evangelist preaching to 5,000 people in the middle of a city. It seemed so out of reach for me, and so, I began to think of it as something I would never be capable of doing.

What we think evangelism is

I think this is common, and I’ve come to see that most people struggle with evangelism. The hard part is, though, that if we look at scripture, over and over Christ compels and commands us to go, and make disciples. We are told to preach the gospel and to share what Christ has done in our lives.  So, if that’s Christ’s final commandment, why is it so difficult?

I took a couple moments to reflect on Evangelism and the hurdles people feel they need to overcome before they are able to actually :

Highly Confrontational: We think Evangelism needs to be “ambush evangelism.” We see people who run up to strangers, to ask them if they know they’re going to hell, and if they stutter, they spout out a bunch of verses, all of which were memorized for such a time as this, thinking that they will convince them of their need to go to heaven.  When they aren’t sure, we usually throw out the deal sweetener of “if they were in a car accident after this conversation…”

Highly Academic: We sometimes think of evangelism as the means of convincing the Harvard graduate atheist of his moral, theological, and philosophical errors. We think we need to make an air-tight case, and have all the answers to all this atheists’ rebuttals to all the difficult questions. (I.E. If God is real or good, why are there natural disasters? What about genocide in Africa, or poverty all over the world?…etc.)

Highly Spiritual: The thing that always tripped me up when I read all the stories of all the great Christian evangelists was their spiritual lives. You hear of some preachers who woke at 5 in the morning and then prayed for 3 hours until he started his daily work. You hear of others performing great miracles or living these wonderfully pious lives, and then we look at ourselves in the mirror and realize we’re lucky if we wake up 10 minutes before work, and if you’re like me, you think extra hard to remember if you’ve ever even seen 5am.

Tomorrow we’ll dive into the story of Zacchaeus to see what it means to take part of the “inciting incidents” of life.

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7 thoughts on “Friends With Benefits: Re-Imagining Evangelism, Part 1

  1. Interesting topic Michael, always a tough one because there are so many different aspects to evangelism. The best way I have found in my own life is to live like Christ walks beside you. I know that sunds a bit old and worn, but if we will introduce our friends to our best friend the Lord, then we can get through all the issues raised in the” confortation.”

    • I think that’s pretty wise, Mr. (is it okay if i still call you mr? Feels unnatural to call you Robert) Cook. Then again, you’ve always been wise! Thanks for taking the time to read! It means a lot to me.

  2. I am anxious to see where you go with this, but my first thought is that the real work of evangelism needs to be personal. People may have responded to a sermon by Billy Graham in a stadium of ten thousand, but they were there because of an invitation, usually a personal one from someone they know.

    • Thanks for taking the time to come around and read. I think you’ll like where we end up. I’m thrilled you’re walking through this series with me! I hope to hear your thoughts on the upcoming posts!

  3. Pingback: Friends With Benefits: Re-Imagining Evangelism, Part 3 | Michael Palmer

  4. Pingback: Friends With Benefits: Re-imagining Evangelism, Part 4 | Michael Palmer

  5. Pingback: Friends with Benefits: Re-imagining Evangelism- A Recap | Michael Palmer

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