Evangelism

6 Ways to Influence a Culture of Evangelism

Everyone follows the people they look up to. Just recently I had a handful of families over for lunch. It was joyful chaos with crowded rooms and team-work food preparation. If you watched, you could see the tiniest two-year-old mimicking and following room-to-room the biggest kid present, who was a respectable four-and-a-half. Every push of his toy truck and every wave of his hand was emulated with pizazz.

We orchestrate our lives around a big story that we trust in. The habits and decisions of our daily life are expressions of living that story

That’s how it is in the church. If you’re serving and leading, people are watching you. You likely have more influence on how others think about their lives than you may be comfortable with. Some might study your marriage. They might copy your spiritual disciplines. They might model your use of language. Or they might emulate your evangelism. Whether we recognize it or not, people follow their leaders.

We must depend on Jesus for help to lead well, but we must also be intentional. So how do we lead well in evangelism? The tone we set in our community changes the way those around us see the value of proclaiming the gospel. Here are six ideas to consider as others watch you.

1. Help Others Know the Message

Can those you are leading articulate what the saving message of the gospel is? I’ve found we often assume others can—when they cannot. She may love Jesus and want to serve him, but when you ask her what someone must know to be saved, a blank stare greets you.

When you are teaching, from any passage in the Bible, clearly define the gospel. We believe the Bible is centered on Jesus and the gospel, so each time you teach show you believe this focal point by talking about humans’ value and sin along with Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as our saving hope.

As you engage with the men and women, train them how to talk about the gospel. We are constrained by orthodoxy but are free in creativity to express the message in a variety of ways.

2. Speak of the Mission

To influence the culture of evangelism around us, we are compelled to talk about the mission of God into which he has invited us. We have been given a mission and a message with God as the great Actor. Our place is to love, serve, and speak of the good news—because we have the best news of a loving, forgiving God! People desperately need him, so we take the initiative to do those things and trust God to work.

We have been given a mission and a message with God as the great Actor

Speak about the mission when you’re on a walk when you’re at a lunch appointment, and when you’re praying with others. Talk about the ways you are taking the initiative to bring a meal to your neighbors, to invite your hairstylist to coffee, and to speak to the students in your classes.

I’m not talking about boasting in how well you’re doing—that’s not helpful—rather, sharing your steps of faith in humility, including your fears and failures. This sharing helps others have ideas for their next steps of faith. Talk about the mission like this is truly something we are on because we are.

3. Share Your Faith in God’s Power

Our view of the call to evangelism can be strange. At times, we treat it like the stain on the rug we scoot the couch over. If no one acknowledges it, maybe we can pretend it’s not there. Other times, we face it fully-focused, yet we slip into pragmatism, promotionalism, or moralism.

We get focused on what we are accomplishing, rather than trusting the God, who saves. Guilt or pride grow, depending on how your stats are going. Fear and changes in tactics seem like easy answers. As a result, we wrongly decide certain people are not “in the market” for what we’re offering.

Pragmatists, promotionalists, and moralists can be good evangelists, yet be doing nothing for the glory of Jesus. Their work is not done in dependence upon him.

Rather, share your faith in the power of God for salvation. We speak about Jesus because we believe that God actually does raise the spiritually dead. We believe our greatest need and greatest joy are found in God himself. Speak of this truth and protect those you serve from any “-ism” that will make evangelism about themselves.

4. Share the Gospel Yourself—and Take Others with You

This step is basic, but nonetheless important: Follow through. Ask God to open doors for the message of Jesus. Then pursue the people around you with love, kindness, and truth because you expect him to answer! Make coffee dates. Invite people over for dinner. And when you do and when it’s appropriate, bring others you lead with you to observe you talk about Jesus. They’ll learn a lot from watching and joining you in loving others this way.

I try to take a friend on coffee dates with me when I believe we’ll be talking about the gospel. Sometimes when I’m going to visit someone in their home, it’s easy to bring a gal with me. When we share the gospel with someone, we often do it multiple times. Your partner can share his or her story with your help. Be a leader who lives this out in view of those you love.

5. Pray Fervently and Celebrate Wildly Together

Remind your people of the mission by praying for open doors to walk through by faith. Ask for prayer for yourself and pray for them. Be honest about what success looks like. It should resemble faithful loving and an offer of the gospel—an offer that sometimes isn’t accepted. We take the steps. The results are in the hands of God.

As the Lord works among you, celebrate wildly! Know that he is the God, who blesses, loves, reveals himself, and pursues people. Enjoy watching what he’s doing and party like they are in heaven as God draws people to himself. Help others know that you’re in this together—a community who is on mission for Jesus.

6. Acknowledge the Challenge

Talking about Jesus can be hard. It has always been risky. Remember the threats, jailings, and beatings in the book of Acts? Some have always rejected the message, but that does not mean we have done anything wrong. Rejecting the message is not the same as rejecting you, though they may be sequential.

Bodily injury may not be the main challenge of evangelism for those we serve. Often it’s just plain awkwardness. The truth is we’re awkward when we talk about things that important to us. We get nervous; our hearts race. We forget to make eye contact; we overanalyze everything the other person may be thinking. We get sweaty. You get the idea.

The only way I know how to deal with this is what I’ve said a hundred times to those I care about, “Embrace the awkward.” This message is much greater than the fear of awkward. But as leaders, it’s good for us to acknowledge this and remind them that we’re all awkward humans on mission with a mighty God.

You may be reading this post, and guilt or fear are already creeping over you. Maybe you’ve just realized that you haven’t been leading in evangelism at all. Perhaps you haven’t loved the mission of Jesus.

The good news we proclaim also tells us there is grace for us. Grace to forgive our sin. Grace to calm fears with the truth. Gracious provision of the Holy Spirit to empower us to speak the message and trust in Jesus. Ask someone to help you take the first steps in each of these ideas, and remember the gospel for yourself.

As you do, know that people are watching you. You have the opportunity to influence those around you to see evangelism as worth any risk, any cost, and any fear. For the Kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus has brought the best gift, and our lives are conduits for the best news. He is working to bring people to himself. May he send more laborers into the harvest fields.

Reflections

  • Who is watching you as you follow Jesus and live on mission?
  • How does the good news inform how we view our failures?
  • Where can you take a young believer where they can watch you take about Jesus and the gospel?

Taylor Turkington has worked for a church in the Portland area for the last six years, teaching, discipling, and training. She loves being involved in the equipping and encouraging of people for the work God has given them. Before her church life, Taylor worked as a missionary in Eastern Europe and graduated from Western Seminary with an M.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies. Currently, Taylor is a student at Western in the D.Min. program. She loves teaching the Bible and speaks at seminars, retreats, and conferences. Taylor is a co-founder and co-director of the Verity Fellowship.

Originally appeared at The Verity Fellowship, “3 Ways to Influence a Culture of Evangelism.” Used with permission.

3 Ways Not to Share Jesus with Millennials

Over the course of the last six months, I’ve been communicating almost daily with a friend who was my small group leader when I was in middle and high school. We’ll call him Kurt. Kurt was an awesome youth small group leader.

What I never knew was that he also loved making techno music. Now living in Berlin and signed to a record label, Kurt is one of the most popular DJs of house music and plays some of the largest clubs in Europe.

Many in the Christian community ostracized him when he began to pursue his music career, and the people of God have been more of a judge and jury than they have been friends and family.

Since leaving the country and experiencing a myriad of cultures, Kurt’s faith has started to wane. Today, he identifies as a Christian-leaning agnostic. He believes Christianity causes good, but he’s not sold on the inspiration of Scripture and many supernatural events in the Bible, which naturally produces obstacles on the road to true faith in Jesus.

Partner—GCD—450x300As I’ve been discussing world events and sharing the gospel with Kurt over the last six months or so, I realized many of the phrases I was taught to use as apologetic tools while growing up in church simply were not working.

Kurt is a Millennial, barely, but his situation is not unlike many older Millennials. He’s smart, engaged with culture, and open-minded. He is open to Christianity, but when people share the gospel with him and cannot answer any questions that come from their proposals, he starts to wonder if anyone actually believes what they’re saying.

When we share the gospel with Millennials, we have to understand that everything will be called into question. Glittering Christian assumptions, like the ones below, may have been sufficient in our culture when Christianity was king, but they don’t work with Millennials now.

Here are three ways not to share Jesus with Millennials:

1. “The Bible says Jesus is the only way to heaven. That’s all you need.”

If you attempt to share Jesus with a Millennial by appealing to the authority of the Scriptures alone, you’re going to sound like you’re proposing that cats wear hats because Dr. Seuss says so.

Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point: if you try to prove the legitimacy of Jesus as Savior with Scripture, you’re going to immediately have to field the question, “Why should I believe what the Bible says?” and now you’ve just gotten yourself into a much more nuanced conversation that will be difficult to navigate, so be prepared.

Because of the increased secularization of American culture, you’re going to have to go beyond telling people to trust the Bible blindly—you have to explain why the Bible deserves to be trusted.

Instead of simply appealing to the Bible as the ultimate evidence one needs to believe in Jesus, be ready to defend the legitimacy of the Scriptures as reliable, historical documents, because they are!

2. “Jesus is our lover and protector. He makes life awesome.”

Have you paid attention to what happens to the disciples of Jesus? Faithful followers of Jesus rest in joy of eternity amidst the turmoil of the present.

The promises of God do not prevent pain, and pastors, don’t pretend they do.

If Millennial values hold true, and if the secularization of culture persists, the prosperity gospel is going to die a slow, painful, deserved death. Young people have experienced enough economic and institutional instability to know that life is tough, even for those resting in Jesus.

Pastors, pay attention to what your young people are reading and sharing on social media. People know the world is messed up, and they’re not naïve enough to think pledging allegiance to Jesus is going to make everything immediately better. To be sure, followers of Jesus find untouchable peace in the finished work of Christ, but that doesn’t mean life is always peachy.

Even the man who built his house on the rock had to endure the storm.

Don’t pitch prosperity nonsense. Not just because it’s untrue, but because it usually doesn’t work.

Having faith in Christ doesn’t prevent problems, but it gives us a foundation on which to stand when they come, because they will. Even more, if the storms of life leave us in a heap, the foundation of Christ is our only hope for new life.

Instead of pitching a health and wealth gospel, share the comfort found in Christ amidst life’s hardest times.

3. “The Church has been a dominant force for thousands of years, how could that many people be wrong?”

This is precisely the sort of thing you do not want to say to a Millennial to share Christ. Among many unchurched young people, particularly atheists, the Church is seen as an oppressive, money hungry organization built to be the biggest ponzi scheme in the world. We’ve already looked at the fact that Millennials are averse toward institutions, so pitching the authority of the Church because its aged institutionalism is probably not the wisest way to approach an unbelieving Millennial.

I love the Church deeply. I am committed to the establishment of the local church as the greatest force of social and spiritual change the world will ever know, but most young people are not. If you’re going to reach unbelieving Millennials, lead with the love of Jesus.

God sent Jesus (Jn. 3:16), and Jesus sends us (Matt. 28:18-20). The gospel has been missional from the beginning. The love of God fuels our love for others, and the grace of God fuels our pursuit of justice for others. The gospel is the fuel for social justice.

Instead of appealing to the dominant force of the Church, appeal to the life-changing love of Christ.

God Grows Faith in Millennials Hearts

Sharing Christ with others is almost never easy. We’re afraid of people rejecting what is at the core of our being, which makes us understandably timid. Thankfully, the same Jesus that saves sinners equips the saints to share the gospel. If you’re going to share Christ with Millennials, begin by praying and spending time with the Savior you’re sharing.

An unwillingness to share the gospel is ultimately an unwillingness to trust God and pursue the mission given to us by Jesus. The Great Commission is not a solo mission. In 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” God will grow faith in Millenial hearts. He will make disciples by the power of the Spirit in that demographic. The gospel is the power of God for salvation—even among Millenials.

Chris Martin (@ChrisMartin17) is a social media facilitator at LifeWay Christian Resources in, an M.Div. student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and blogger at Millennial Evangelical where he hopes to help pastors and Christians better understand, reach, and serve Millennials. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Susie, and hopes to pastor in the future.

Evangelism After Christendom

Evangelism is something many Christians are trying to recover from. The word stirs up memories of a bygone era—Christendom—where rehearsed presentations, awkward door-to-door witnessing, a steady flow of tracts, and conversions in revival-like settings were commonplace. As American culture becomes increasingly fragmented and secularized, these forms of evangelism create an impediment to the gospel. Wave after wave of rationalistic, rehearsed (and at times coerced and confrontational) evangelism inoculates, if not antagonizes, the broader culture. The gospel is slowly associated with forceful Christians who are information-driven, looking to get Jesus off their chest. As a result, evangelism is viewed as an attempt to recruit converts, not love your neighbor. In response, Hollywood has taken up its own evangelistic message in documentaries like Jesus Camp and Philomena and films like There Will Be Blood, Saved! and Believe Me. The public has been disaffected by our evangelism.

Learning A New Language

What should evangelism look like after Christendom? To answer that question, we must recognize that twentieth-century American evangelism worked because the culture was largely familiar with Christianity. It included many assumptions, such as the brute fact of absolute truth, the existence of heaven and hell (or God for that matter), and a widely held notion that sin keeps us from God. We can no longer assume this understanding. The cultural shift away from Christianity has resulted in a loss of theological vocabulary. People don’t understand what we are saying. It’s as if we are speaking a foreign language.

Many Christian teachings and assumptions are fuzzy, even questionable to those outside the faith. Calling people to “repent and believe in Jesus” is typically misconstrued as “stop doing bad things, start doing good things (like Jesus did), and God will save you.” This, of course, has nothing to do with the gospel and leaves us disconnected from our culture. There is a considerable gap between the gospel communicator and the receptor culture. This gap is filled with all sorts of things that prevent effective gospel witness, including theological misunderstandings, politicized Christianity, bigoted religion, and unbelievable forms of evangelism. How can we cut through the cultural confusion in order to communicate a clear, winsome gospel message? Like missionaries in a foreign country, we inhabit a new mission field. We need to relearn the language, discover redemptive analogies, and reacquaint people with the true Christian story.

How the News is Good

A fundamental question in evangelism is often overlooked: “How is the gospel good news to those we evangelize?

9780310516699_image Not what is the good news, but how is our news good for others? Christians are often proficient at rehearsing the information of the gospel, but we often lack the ability to relate the gospel to the lives of others. If we are to overcome obstacles to evangelism, we must be able to answer this question: “What does the death and resurrection of a first-century Jewish messiah have to do with twenty-first-century people?”

How does the gospel transform the self-righteous do-gooder, the skeptical urbanite, the distant spouse, the successful professional, and the strung-out addict?

Getting to a Believable Gospel

We need to recover a believable evangelism, one that moves beyond the cultural and personal barriers we have erected in contemporary evangelism to rediscover the power of the biblical gospel. What makes the gospel believable? Rather than a one-size-fits-all message, we need to hold the gospel up to the light and see its various gospel metaphors—justification, union with Christ, redemption, adoption, and new creation—in light of various cultural identities and longings. These metaphors can function like redemptive analogies. If we listen to people long enough, we will uncover deep gospel longings, that manifest uniquely in secular culture, and call people to turn and put their faith in only one who can fulfill those longings. Here are a few examples.

1. Seekers of Acceptance

One of the greatest needs people have today is to be accepted, to know they are welcome and won’t be rejected. This is particularly true in entrepreneurial or honor and shame cultures. People who are driven to perform well in school, work, and family life are often seeking acceptance from themselves or others. Though they may try to deny or hide it, these kinds of people often carry a sense of shame, a fear that they will be found out, rejected, and judged when they fall short. Urban professionals worship in the temple of the city, students bow before the almighty “A,” and families strive to live up to a cultural dream. Eventually people fail to find acceptance through these things, no matter how successful they become.

To those seeking acceptance, justification promises perfect acceptance before a holy God through his unique Son, Jesus Christ. Justification can bring tremendous relief and joy to those seeking acceptance.

2. Seekers of Hope

The metaphor of new creation can be especially compelling for people who are longing for a new start in life. People whose lives have been littered with failure, scarred by abuse, humbled through suffering, darkened by depression, or ruined by addiction need the hope of becoming a new creation.

To those seeking hope, new creation exiles the old life and welcomes a new life through faith in Christ, shedding a bright ray of hope into the heart of the hopeless.

3. Seekers of Intimacy

Our search for intimacy in relationships never ends. Even the best friendship or marriage isn’t enough for our insatiable demand to be noticed, loved, and cared for. We all want a place where we can be ourselves and know that we are accepted. We want relationships that are secure, where we feel safe to share our innermost thoughts and darkest struggles. This is especially true of the person practicing serial monogamy, stuck in a broken marriage, or the celibate, lonely single.

To those seeking intimacy, union with Christ promises entrance into the most intimate, loving, unbreakable, fulfilling relationship known to humanity, bringing deep healing and joy to those seeking intimacy.

4. Seekers of Tolerance

Many people seek tolerance. Some don’t know the difference between classical and new tolerance.1 That alone can be an illuminating conversation that deepens mutual respect and admiration between people. Others will not like the exclusive claims that Christianity makes. However, before scoffing at their perspective or trying to crush their worldview, ask questions to get on the inside of their perspective and appreciate their views. They often have good reasons or difficult stories attached to their objections. Respectful dialogue can go a long way in over-turning bigoted impressions of Christianity. In fact, it will open doors that would otherwise remain closed.

To those seeking tolerance, the atonement offers a redemptive tolerance that gives progressive people an opportunity to experience grace and forgiveness in a way that doesn’t demean other faiths, which can be very liberating.

Different Perspectives, Same Eternal Gospel

These gospel metaphors offer different perspectives on the eternal gospel, which when applied to the deep longings of people, awaken belief, hope, faith, and love. Gospel metaphors account for the depth, complexity, and power of the gospel, helping us answer not just the “what” of the gospel, but the “how.”

In order for our evangelism to be believable, it must be biblical. So when we communicate the gospel of grace, we must necessarily draw on biblical truths, stories, and images. If we stop there, however, we will fail to communicate effectively how the gospel is good news for others. Like good counselors, we must listen to others well to know how to effectively communicate the unsearchable riches of Christ in a way that speaks to their unique life story.

1. Old or “classical” tolerance holds the belief that other opinions have a right to exist. The new tolerance is the belief that all opinions are equally valid or true.

Jonathan K. Dodson (MDiv; ThM) serves as a pastor of City Life Church in Austin, Texas. He is the author of Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Unbelievable Gospel, and Raised? He has discipled men and women abroad and at home for almost two decades, taking great delight in communicating the gospel and seeing Christ formed in others. Twitter: @Jonathan_Dodson

Jonathan’s new book is The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing (resource website here). You can also get his free ebook “Four Reasons Not to Share Your Faith.”