No More “One Size Fits All” Outreach

No More “One Size Fits All” Outreach
Kevin G. Harney

The New Testament is full of different types of evangelism.

In the 1990s, Mark Mittelberg, Lee Strobel, and Bill Hybels wrote a book and curriculum called Becoming a Contagious Christian. The message in this book is that every follower of Jesus is uniquely gifted with a particular evangelistic style that fits them and can make the work of outreach natural and enjoyable. These leaders sounded the trumpet and told the church that a one-size-fits-all approach to evangelism was not working. Consider these different approaches:

Confrontational Approach
In Acts 2, the apostle Peter stands up and gives us a great example of the confrontational style of evangelism. “With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:40-41).

An Intellectual Approach
Some Christians will discover that the way they evangelize naturally is by using an intellectual style. The apostle Paul is an example of this. In Acts 17, we read of how he reasoned with people in the places of worship as well as in the cultural and intellectual centers of his time. Paul was a student of the Scriptures and of culture. He was comfortable presenting a rational, thoughtful, and compelling case for faith.

A Testimonial Approach
In the Gospel of John, we find a surprising example of a testimonial style of evangelism. A man who has been blind from birth is healed by Jesus and places his faith in the Savior. When he is questioned about what happened, he speaks these words: “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:25). This man did not have a confrontational spirit or intellectual answers. What he had was his story of how Jesus had touched him and changed his life. This is what he communicated to those who asked him about Jesus.

An Interpersonal Approach
Many of Christ’s followers discover that their evangelism style is built on the ability to relate with others, connect people, and extend authentic love. This interpersonal style is modeled by Matthew in the New Testament. When Matthew became a believer, he realized he had two different relational worlds. He had all of his old friends, who were tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners (Matthew clearly had a rough past), but he also had a new group of friends, a bunch of Christians that included Jesus and his disciples. Matthew exercised his interpersonal approach to evangelism by pulling both groups together at a big party in his home (Luke 5:27-32). This made perfect sense to Matthew because his natural style of evangelism was the interpersonal approach.

An Invitational Approach
In every church, there are people who thrive on inviting people to places where they can learn more about Jesus. This could be a dinner party with some believing friends, a church service, a Christian concert, a neighborhood small group, or anyplace where the message of Jesus is lifted up. In the Gospel of John, we meet a woman who had this style of evangelism. She had met Jesus and had been transformed by his message of truth, his grace, and his love. In response to this life-changing encounter, she “went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?'” (John 4:29) and many came to meet Jesus. Her invitation impacted the whole community because she dared to extend an invitation. What is even more shocking is that this woman was a social outcast. Yet her invitation flowed naturally because this was the unique way God had designed her to share her faith.

A Serving Approach
In Acts 9, we meet a woman who had a heart to serve others. Her name was Dorcas. Her servant’s attitude became a bridge to evangelism. Her acts of mercy and kindness opened the door for the gospel. In the same way, many people today love to help others in need. They have compassion and naturally serve their neighbors and even people they have never met.

No matter what your evangelism style, God has a plan to use you to be his light in this world. The experience of outreach does not have to be uncomfortable or fear-filled. It can be natural and joyful. The key is learning that we each have a unique way to reach out. In the same way that our DNA and fingerprints are distinct, so is our evangelism style. We are called to discover our God-given approach and to join the outreach revolution.

Adapted from chapter 17 of Seismic Shifts by Kevin G. Harney (Zondervan, 2009). Used with permission.

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The above article, “No More ‘One Size Fits All’ Outreach” was written by Kevin G. Harney. The article was excerpted from

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”