This is part 2 in a three-part series. Read part 1 here.
About this series: Evangelism in our increasingly postmodern world is a complex and multifaceted endeavor, as members of churches and Christian outreach ministries strive to proclaim the message of salvation and newness of life in Christ in relevant and effective ways. Becoming familiar with reasons evangelism is significant, approaches to evangelism, and arenas in which it occurs can greatly enhance the effectiveness of outreach and evangelism ministries.
“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'” (The Great Commission, in Matthew 28:18–20)
Evangelism grows out of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18–20). The First Great Commandment, to love God (Mark 12:28–29), is like a bow that gives impetus to the focused arrow of the Great Commission to make disciples of all the nations. It relates to the vertical dimension of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to the horizontal dimension of loving our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:30–31).
Approaching with the Right Motivation
Our love for God gives us the power to love others as he would have us love them. This others-centered love is expressed in evangelism and the teaching of the gospel message.
“Our love for God gives us the power to love others as he would have us love them.” —Ken Boa
Evangelism and discipleship also are concrete expressions of love and purpose. The God-infused love of agape relates to the steady intention of one’s will toward another’s highest good. This divine love chooses to seek the supreme good for both unbelievers and believers. Clearly, the greatest good for those who do not know Christ is to be delivered from the domain of darkness, death, and condemnation, and to be transferred to the kingdom of the light, life, and love of God (Colossians 1:13–14). And the highest good for those who do know Christ is to mature into his likeness through growing conformity to his image (Romans 8:29).
“One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘What commandment is the foremost of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’” (Mark 12: 28–31)
The Evangelism Process
Evangelism is not an event but a process that involves preparation of the soil, planting the seed of the Word, cultivation, and reaping. Since several people are usually involved in this process, it would be a mistake to reduce evangelism to reaping, and thus suppose that those who participated in the earlier stages were less effective than those who actually see a given person come to Christ.
There are also three different approaches to evangelism:
- Proclamational: With this approach, gatherings of people hear the proclamation of the gospel.
- Confrontational: These personal evangelism endeavors often involve a one-time confrontation with the gospel.
- Relational (Lifestyle) Evangelism: In this approach, the truths of the gospel are embedded in the context of developing friendships based on common-ground activities.
All of these approaches are biblically valid and have their strengths and weaknesses. The first two approaches are more programmatic, appear to be more measurable, and are less difficult to fund. The third approach takes much more time, but it produces a greater impact on people in the long run in their depth of commitment. It also has a greater potential for geometric rather than arithmetic growth when accompanied by training.
Those involved in evangelistic ministries (either as a supporter or as the evangelist) should be aware of these varied approaches and the potential logistical issues that can hamper evangelism.