Some thoughts...


Evangelism should be really easy, and really natural. As someone said, it's just one beggar telling another where they've found some food.


What's gone wrong? As Rick Warren says in one of the 40 Days of Purpose videos: Christians and non-Christians agree on one thing: They hate evangelism.


The problem within


One thing that has gone wrong inside the church is that there's been a lot of really bad teaching on evangelism. People have been made to feel guilty if they didn't assault their fellow bus passengers with Two Ways To Live or something similar, and guiltier still if they didn't want to.


Two Ways To Live is a brilliant tool for the contexts and situations for which it was written. But that isn't one of them. The main reason that your whole body rebelled against the idea of using it with a completely cold contact is that it's a really stupid idea, and if you can't see that then please don't consider a calling to mobilise or train people for evangelism.


How do you approach a cold contact in a bus? My favourite way is to be reading something interesting. The Bible is good, provided you are finding it fascinating. A detective novel that you do find fascinating is a lot better than a Bible that you don't. Look interruptible, but don't try too hard at it. You'll be surprised how many people strike up a conversation. Make the Bible a cheap paperback that you're happy to give away, in a modern and approachable translation, I think Good News is still best overall but the CEV also has its merits. And wait for them to ask how they can get one. They will. Have your name and contact details (email and telephone preferably) already written in it, but not your address. You don't want it back. Tell them you're available to talk more if they call, and you can invite them to give you their contact details but if in any doubt don't, just accept them if they offer, don't hound them, if they don't want to give their details that's fine, and if you're not totally comfortable in trusting God to do the follow-up then pray for this peace and don't even think of intentional evangelism unless and until you receive it.


(That's not what you've heard at all, is it? There are times for getting out of your comfort zone, and evangelism is one of them, but only under strict conditions.)  


Be very careful if you're a female and he's a male. Have a card from your pastor or evangelism mentor ready in case you don't want to give your own contact details, and obviously (if you're going to talk to strange men at all... you don't have to, there are plenty of women to talk to) you need to carry an unpersonalised spare so you give yourself the choice, and maybe if this happens a lot, make the Bible you read an unmarked copy... you can always write in it as you hand it over. But generally it's more natural to read from the marked copy and hand over the spare... and if they ask why you are carrying two, say "I was praying that I'd meet someone who would like it". And smile. And so will they by this stage.


If you're not 100% happy giving your pastor or mentor's details, then be honest with yourself about this and find one you are. God has a better church experience in mind for you than that.


Be reading a passage that you are happy to discuss. Be you. Don't pretend to know all the answers. Your enquirer is a seeker and will empathise best with a fellow seeker, and that's what you are. Be pleased if they tell you something that you didn't know, especially if you find it challenging. Be confident in your faith, and that means unafraid to explore its problems and mysteries.


And let me know how you get on.


If you decide to read something other than a Bible, then mentally relate it to your Christian walk as you read (a good spiritual exercise in any case, as is all good evangelism). Choose to read something you do find fascinating, not something spiritual that you think you should find fascinating but don't.


When you do get into a conversation, don't force your enquirer or yourself to talk about God. If it comes up naturally, that's fine. Become a person who naturally talks about God by becoming one who is always thinking about God. And don't steer the conversation to the positives of Christianity, instead become a person who is so aware of God's love and providence that they just come up naturally in your conversation.


Pray for everyone you meet, whether you talk to them or not. If you find this difficult, perhaps evangelism is not your main thing. And that's OK too. We are all called to be ready with an explanation of the hope we have. We are not all called to convert everyone we meet.


And again, let me know how you get on.


The problem without


But the problem is not just the bad teaching, and lack of teaching, in many churches. There is also a problem in the world.


Evangelism has a bad name. Christian evangelism is typecast as being pushy, bigoted, and undesirable. And this has been true of some evangelism certainly. But:


In particular, it's a far greater problem with the critics of evangelism than with evangelism itself. Atheism and agnosticism pretend not to be religions (despite Thomas Huxley having explicitly invented the word agnostic to describe his own professed religion), so let's not argue about words. Let's just call them belief systems, or maybe (with care) use my term whatchamathink.


These belief systems, like all others, assume that they are true in an exclusive sense. They can't prove that they are, that would be a circular argument.


My experience of agnosticism and atheism is that they are far pushier and far more bigoted than the worst Christian evangelism (and that's pretty bad). Their followers insist that their methods are true (which actually I think is right) and that they have no need of proof (which is surely a matter of opinion).


The time has come to call the bluff of these belief systems. I'm quite happy for their followers to promote them in an appropriate and respectful way. But I want equal time.




See also Running Scared and whatchamathink