Now in some circles evangelism is a dirty word associated with force or even colonialism. Conversion for the individual soul and not something richer or deeper. A battle for the mind and not the whole person.
So my first job is to clarify, when I say evangelism I’m referring to what the Quakers would call ‘outreach’ or simply ‘sharing faith’. We do it all the time when someone asks what we did on a Sunday, why we wear a cross or about why we believe what we believe. The problem lies in when it becomes a strategy for Church growth and the ethics surrounding it.
This morning I was in a talk with Steven Hollighurst at a chaplains’ conference. He touched on many points I thought might be helpful to share.
Firstly, there’s been a recent shift from ‘Billy Graham evangelism’ with big events you can invite your friends to, to a gentler form of ‘friend evangelism’. Now there are ethical questions surrounding ‘friend evangelism’ and here’s some tips to avoid the pitfalls:
- Be honest and authentic. Everyone can see if you’re just trying to be friends with them in order to change their mind. Be honest and risk being converted yourself.
- Don’t have all the answers. Everyone thinks they have the answers until something bad happens or something shakes their faith. Uncertainty is the bread and butter of faith.
- Don’t ask people if they’ve ‘turned’ ask them how far they’ve turned towards God and how they can grow. So many young people will be baptised quickly or get caught up in following a particular cult figure and find as an adult that this doesn’t sustain their faith. Discipleship is key. Faith grows slowly and matures over time.
- Be willing to be part of the journey. Engaging people in faith might change you more than the person you’re in conversation with. You never know when you might be entertaining angels.
- Don’t be afraid of being a Christian. Being a Christian is pretty awesome and sharing what you love about faith is great. The litmus test is, would you want someone of another religion to do what you do to others? Is the answers yes, then perhaps you’ve cracked it.
How do you feel about evangelism and outreach? Are the ways SCM can support you in this area? Get in touch!