What Evangelism Is Not – Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog
Let’s say you’re in. You agree with the apostle Paul when he wrote:
“Because we understand our awesome responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others…. And God gave us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, counting no more the sins of people against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. We are therefore the ambassadors of Christ; God calls out through us. We speak for Christ when we cry out: ‘Return to God!’ (II Corinthians 5:11, 18-20 NLT)
How then do you answer this question, also posed by Paul?
“But how can they call on him to save them if they don’t believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they’ve never heard of him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? (Romans 10:14 NLT)
Obviously, the Bible asks these questions rhetorically. No one’s life will be impacted for Christ unless someone impacts it for Christ.
So how do you do this? How does someone who is a follower of Christ have a positive spiritual impact on someone who is not a follower of Christ?
I can tell you what will not reach those who are far from God. They won’t read a leaflet you leave in a bathroom stall. They will not listen to Christian radio or podcasts, or watch Christian television or movies. They won’t read a bumper sticker that says “Jesus loves you” and feel like pulling their car to the side of the road and reorienting the whole trajectory of their lives.
So how do you impact a life for Christ? The answer is that you become an evangelist. I know this immediately brings up images of someone pushy, obnoxious, loud, opinionated and annoying – everything you hate. You probably don’t even like the word evangelism himself. The first thing that probably comes to mind is probably going out and knocking on people’s doors or standing on a street corner with a megaphone.
Believe me, I understand.
But that is not the goal of evangelism. The central dynamic of evangelism is to invest and to invite.
Let’s start with the invest part. Investing in someone is simply building a relationship. Get to know them, spend time with them, enter into community with them.
Only within the confines of a relationship will there be the confidence to be authentic and have conversations about what matters most in life. You already have these relationships built into your life. You have friends, family members, neighbors, colleagues. You have people you interact with through your children at school or with sports teams.
But if you want to impact them for the cause of Christ, you have to be intentional about those relationships. You must serve these relationships. You must invest in them as someone who is on a mission for them and their life.
You will pray like crazy for them.
You will pray to spend time with them.
You will pray for openings to talk about spiritual things, opportunities to let them know you, and how Christ has intersected with the deepest needs in your life.
And those openings will come. And I hope that the fact that you are a follower of Christ will come out. You will have the opportunity to peel back the layers and tell your story – what you were like before Christ and what life was like after.
The way you ran from God and chased everything and everything else, and then how it was when you finally came home.
You can tell them the difference your relationship with Christ has made in your marriage. The difference it makes in the lives of your children and your parents.
Then comes the invite part. Along the way, they will have good, fair, honest, and reasonable questions. They may want to explore and they may be intrigued by your life. They can see something in your life (and hopefully they see) that they themselves don’t.
This is where the invitation part comes in. Invite them to come see, come hear, come explore. If you have a online campus to your church, it’s so easy to do it. Nothing forced, nothing grand, just an invitation.
This tandem of investment and invitation is at the heart of the mission. It always has been.
I mean, just ask yourself: did you come to Christ because of a television ad or a newspaper ad? Did you come to Christ because someone you didn’t know gave you a tract or knocked on your door?
Or did you come to Christ because you were invited to a church service or event by someone you knew, either a friend, relative, or someone you worked with?
I think I know your answer.
Don’t let evangelism scare or discourage you. It is one of the most important and rewarding investments you can make, not just in your own spirituality…
… but for the spiritual life of others in our world.
James Emery White
Excerpt from James Emery White After “I Believe”: Daily Practices for Vibrant Faith, order on Amazon.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founder and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a former assistant professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His last book After “I believe” is now available on Amazon or your favorite bookseller. To take advantage of a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, go to churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest news on church and culture from around the world, and listen to the Church and Culture podcast. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and instagram to @JamesEmeryWhite.