I was raised in an environment where I believed if I wasn't sharing the gospel regularly, then something’s wrong. After all, if I’m truly excited about how Jesus has made a way for me to know my heavenly Father, then I’d be telling as many people as possible, right? On the surface that makes total sense. And many of us feel (or felt) a burden of guilt if we weren’t telling the gospel of Jesus to someone outside the faith on the regular.
But here’s another way to think about evangelism that might alleviate some of that guilt, without minimizing the importance of the message that needs to be shared. After all, we never want to change the message of the gospel, but we should always be willing to ask ourselves what the best method is.
For decades, the barometric question to ask regarding evangelism was, “Have I shared the gospel with someone recently?” But maybe a better question is, “Am I making it harder or easier for this person to take a step toward Jesus?”
While we should look for opportunities to talk about our faith, we also need to consider something that might seem obvious: Is this person even interested in what I’m saying? A number of evangelism approaches make the assumption that all the other person needs is the right information in order to know how much God loves them, but it would be wise to consider that the first thing some people need is not information—it’s trusting a Christian. So, step one for some well-meaning churchgoers is to first build a relationship of mutual trust with someone. Things like, “How’s it going?” and “How can I help”? will many times play a more significant part in someone being ready to hear about God more than anything else.
For many people outside the faith, they don’t know a Christian they trust, and some don’t want to build a friendship with a Christian because of a legitimate bad experience they’ve had. For instance, how easy would it be to have Christian friends if your family was torn apart from an affair involving a Christian? Or what if your grandparents lost all of their life savings due to a scam involving something tied to Christianity?
In other words, first building a genuine relationship with someone—one that doesn’t consider the other person inferior or some sort of project—can better lay the groundwork for someone to possibly change their worldview than simply sharing information. Exhibit A: In all likelihood, you became a Christian not primarily because of hearing the gospel, but because someone you trusted and respected was a Christian and you wanted to follow in their footsteps.
Want to learn more about some practical tips surrounding evangelism? Check out this two-week study called Everyday Evangelism.