Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Can we take this evangelism discussion to a deeper level?

I just finished reading this blog post -- 7 tips for talking with your neighbors about Jesus.  The tips are actually fairly close to a list I might make myself, but they barely scrape the surface of what each of those things might look like in real life.

And as I was reading the overall story, I've got to be honest... I was really frustrated.  What frustrated me was that I don't think that this pastor's experience with his neighbor is really normal for the regular Christian on the street.  Is it normal that you'd have a couple of conversations around the building, then go hang out watching a ballgame, and then invite someone to church, and then find that the person has suddenly decided to follow Jesus?

Really?  Because it hasn't been normal in my world.  Maybe once out of 100 people--or maybe once out of 1000.  But what do you do when you invite someone to church and they say no?  What happens if you bring up spiritual things and the guy looks at you like you're crazy?  How do you handle it if the guy starts avoiding you every time he sees you in the hallway?

And what if he goes to church with you, hears the gospel preached powerfully, and still has questions about God and about faith?  What if he says, "I just don't see how God could send people to hell," or something about how all Christians are hypocrites?  Do you send the guy to your pastor?  Or is there something that you should be doing or saying yourself?

And what if you're not a pastor, you haven't had all that training about how to talk about Jesus or answer a person's questions about Jesus or put the whole big story together?  What do you do then?  How do you direct a conversation to Jesus?

I don't want to make evangelism more complicated than it is, because really I do believe that it is all about building relationships with people and walking through life with them.  I believe it's listening and story-telling in natural and strategic ways.  But I really think we do a disservice to followers of Jesus and to those who don't follow Jesus by just giving church people a simple seven-step list and sending them off to figure out how to put it into practice.

If we want people within our churches to be thoughtfully and carefully and effectively talking with others about Jesus, then we need to walk beside them as they figure out what that looks like in their own life situations.  We need to provide resources and training.  We need to challenge them to befriend others for the long haul.  We need to be talking about barriers to faith--rational, spiritual, and emotional.  We need to be equipping people to do the work of evangelism, even if it takes 3 years instead of a couple of months.

At least, that's what I think...  so that's what we're doing here, on this blog, and in my community.  I'd be thrilled if we could take this discussion to a broader community.

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