An article in USA Today’s “Faith and Reason” section caught my attention recently. The article is entitled “Believers Reluctant to Evangelize Family or Friends.” Writer Cathy Lynn Grossman makes two powerful observations:
- Churches are not creating new believers, they are just attracting more Christians.
- Becoming a parent does not change attitudes towards spirituality–which reverses the assumption that once couples become parents they are more likely to go to church.
Grossman concludes that the “bait and switch” evangelism technique is ineffective, and Christians need to find a new, or better, way to share their faith with friends and family (quick clarification: “bait and switch” tactics are things like inviting your neighbor to a social gathering–without telling him you’re going to pitch the Gospel). A “recovering evangelical” Jim Henderson, discusses an alternative. Are you ready for this?
“…get to know people, become their friends and let the spiritual chips fall where they may.”
Call me crazy, but I don’t think there’s anything new about this kind of evangelism. In fact, it would be more accurate to call it the Old Evangelism. As I look through the Gospels, I see Jesus getting to know people like Zaccheus, the Samaritan Woman, Martha, Mary and Lazarus, not to mention his disciples, and meeting their relational and spiritual needs. On the other side of the coin, Jesus, Peter and Paul preached evangelical messages to large crowds. So, I don’t think there’s one correct way to evangelize. I just don’t want to let friendship become an excuse for not telling someone about Jesus. Likewise, I don’t want any kind of “come-to Jesus” strategies to sabotage a relationship.
What do you think? Do we need a new or old evangelism? Do we just live our beliefs and hope people get it? Or do we lay out the Romans Road for our friends and family? What has experience taught you?