Evangelism That Works

Evangelism That Works

Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, made a habit of going back to the basics with his football players. Winning football games, he contended, was the product of knowing and executing the fundamentals. His record would indicate that he was right.

And so it is with the enterprise of evangelism. In his recently released book, Evangelism That Works (Regal Books, 1995), George Barna observes that there are five dominant approaches to personal evangelism that are being used today. Notably the most common form (his research indicates that it is used by 79% of all laity involved in evangelism) is lifestyle or friendship evangelism.

In Search we believe there are certain lifestyle evangelism “fundamentals” that every believer must understand. Our basic strategy is summed up in what we call the…


Two Principles

There are two key principles that undergird lifestyle evangelism:

1) Evangelism (and the discipleship that flows out of it) is a process.
2) God is responsible for the results. The process consists of overcoming three major barriers seekers have regarding Christ.

Three Barriers

The Emotional Barrier:

The emotional barrier is a set of negative feelings that a seeker has based on bad experiences with believer or with organized religion. For example, we are confronted with the emotional barrier when a friend rejects Christ because he feels put down or pressured and assumes that all Christians are pushy and hypocritical.

The Intellectual Barrier:

The intellectual barrier is a tendency to disregard Christ based on bad information or misconceptions. We face an intellectual barrier, for instance, when a friend rejects Christ because he assumes the Bible is full of mistakes, or because he just cannot understand how a loving God could allow suffering in the world.

The Volitional Barrier:

The volitional barrier is a natural predisposition to resist examining spiritual issues, or to reject Christ outright based upon independence, pride, or stubborness. The Bible says this independence is rooted in
the sinful nature. We encounter a volitional barrier when a friend refuses to examine the evidence for Christianity because he is afraid of what he might have to give up. others may see the truth of Christianity but simply will not take the next step and receive Christ.

One Person

In Luke 15, Jesus tells us that when one person comes to Christ, there is a great celebration in heaven. Every lost person matters infinitely to God, and the place to begin in sharing God’s love is with one neighbor, one coworker, one classmate, one friend. This is a back to basics look at lifestyle evangelism and an effective strategy to reach a changing generation with the unchanging gospel.

Love is the key

When a person comes to Christ, it is usually because a believing friend lovingly sought to overcome these barriers. The following is a simple plan to encourage you in the process of building redemptive relationships that will enable you to not only overcome these barriers, but also to share the message of God’s redemptive plan.

Overcoming Emotional Barriers: What positive view of Christianity can I provide for my friend?

A. Identifying the Barrier
1. Look for caricatured expressions of religion and religious people.
2. Ask about past or present negative religious experiences.

B. Brainstorming through the Barrier
1. Try and think of areas of commonality that you might have with that person.
2. Think of other Christians who might provide a positive influence for that person.

C. Planning a Bridge
1. Set a target date and schedule it on your calendar.
2. Invite your friend to join you in the common ground activity with an alternative date available.
For more help: Living Proof by Jim Petersen, NavPress, 1989.

Overcoming Intellectual Barriers: What helpful answers can I give to my friend?

A. Identifying the Barrier
1. Look for recurring questions that indicate an intellectual struggle.
2. Ask them directly what primary objection they have to placing their faith in Christ.

B. Brainstorming through the Barrier
1. Search for books, tapes, or tracts that others have found helpful when facing the same questions.
2. Look for other Christians who have unique gifts and training in helping others overcome questions.

C. Planning a Bridge
1. Ask a Christian friend to role play with you as you practice your response.
2. Set a goal date to share your answer, remembering that the goal is to provide an opportunity for the Gospel, not to win an argument.

Overcoming The Volitional Barrier: What faithfulness am I exhibiting in praying for my friend?

A. Identifying the Barrier
1. Look for excuses that a person repeats, even after you have dealt with them.
2. Ask about the specifics involved in a nebulous excuse (“I’m not ready yet” or “I’m not sure”).

B. Brainstorming through the Barrier
1. Think of ways that you can multiply the number of people praying for your friend.
2. Remember that there is nothing directly we can (or should) do to force a decision.

C. Planning a Bridge
1. Commit to pray daily for this person and enlist a core group of committed Christians to join you.
2. Expect that God will provide an open door and be ready to sensitively invite them to trust Christ.

For more help: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard J. Foster,
HarperCollins, 1992.

The above material was published in Common Ground, Volume 13 No.9., and exerpted from the book Evangelism That Works: by George Barna. This material is copyrighted and may be used for research and study purposes only.