– An editorial from the Spring 1992 issue of “Equipping The Saints”
By Rory Falower
George Barna, in his book What Americans Believe, reports the findings of a nationwide survey done by his research firm. One of the questions asked was this: “You have a responsibility to explain religious beliefs to others who may believe differently.” Do you agree strongly, agree somewhat, disagree somewhat, or disagree strongly with that statement?
Only 43% of Christians and people attending evangelical churches strongly agreed with the statement. “The challenge to the church,” comments Barna, “is to increase the proportion of believers who accept the sharing of the gospel with others as a task for which they, personally, are responsible. That less than half of the believers in America strongly affirm that they have an obligation to proclaim the gospel on a personal level helps explain why the church is not growing.” (Barna, 221)
I agree more Christians need to take personal responsibility for proclaiming the gospel. Most of the articles in this issue of Equipping are targeted toward that objective. But explaining religious beliefs to others who may believe differently is not the same thing as evangelism. The Barna survey question evokes a confrontational model of evangelism that contributes to the evangelism evasion of the American church.
Hopefully I have more to offer my non-Christian friends than Christian dogma. First Peter 3:15 gives one of my favorite definitions of personal evangelism: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have [emphasis mine]. But do this with gentleness and respect…” (NIV)
I’ve participated in a variety of evangelistic methods: Jesus People-style street witnessing, drama teams, and Evangelism Explosion teams. The most fruitful evangelistic encounters I’ve had were those in which I either already had a bridge of relationship, or I took the time to build one.
Rory began the process of becoming a disciple through contact with the home fellowship (cell group) I attend. Through a relationship he had with another member, he was drawn to the life and ministry of our group. Rory wasn’t “evangelized” in the way we normally think. No one read a tract to him, and he didn’t respond to an altar call. Through exposure to an environment of prayer, acceptance, and the teaching of God’s Word, he chose to submit his life to Christ. He experienced conversion, and continues along the path of discipleship.
Evangelism is most effective when we are:
sensitive to God’s view of the world
sensitive to the relationships we already have in our lives
sensitive to the needs and pain of others, both spiritual and physical
sensitive to the attitudes and values of our culture and community
sensitive to divine appointments
sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s empowerment
Evangelism describes a whole range of activity in which Christians, led and empowered by the Holy Spirit proclaim the good news of eternal life through Jesus Christ. We want to bring people face to face with the living Savior through the word of God. The goal is to identify and gather disciples whom the Father is drawing to himself.
I hope this issue of Equipping (*) will help you see evangelism as a supernatural proclamation and demonstration of God’s love that can become a natural part of your life.
That would mean a true evangelism explosion rather than evasion.
This editorial was originally published in “Equipping The Saints,” the quarterly magazine of Vineyard Ministries International. For a one-year subscription (four issues), send $8.00 to Vineyard Ministries International (VMI), P.O. Box 68025, Anaheim, CA
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