Jumping back into our “Get Real” series, John Leonard likes to give us new images of things—squashing stereotypes. This week it’s a common view of evangelism and whether you have “the gift:”
“Many of us don’t even want to evangelize because of the stereotypes surrounding the traditional evangelist. We don’t see ourselves standing on a corner carrying a sandwich-board sign that reads “THE END IS NEAR!” We can’t imagine ringing doorbells and imposing ourselves on complete strangers, or passing out tracts on a sidewalk somewhere. Others feel as if they don’t have the personality of an evangelist. They’re not good at sales, or they’re shy, or they’re not quick at coming up with a response.
Good news! You don’t have to do any of those things to have the gift of evangelism because there is no one method of sharing our faith. The way you do it should be as unique as you are, and as unique as the person you are speaking with. And just as there is not one method of evangelism, there is not any particular personality type that makes one an evangelist.
Instead of believing you were not made for evangelism, believe that you are the perfect person to share your faith with many people—because your personality, your experiences, your knowledge, and the way you say things is the best way for many people to hear the gospel. Some people are attracted to the flamboyant, smiling, charismatic, and witty types, but there are more people who are put off by them. Many people are in fact drawn to the quiet, shy, soft-spoken, and unsure people. One of the reasons you were made just as you are is so that you could communicate God’s truth to particular people.”
With that refreshing picture, let’s deal with another stereotype that can overwhelm us:
“What’s more, in traditional evangelism we consider it a failure if we do not present the entire gospel, or if the person we are witnessing to doesn’t come to faith in Christ. In a real approach to evangelism, we do not have to take the person from A to Z in a single presentation. All we’re looking to do is help the person take the next step, or just go from A to B. Remember, we are discipling people to Christ and downplaying the “big decision.” To follow Christ is not a one-time decision, but a daily one. It is not a decision to give him all of our lives, but to give him all that is before us at this moment.
It is helpful to see our witness as a part, even a very small part, of a long set of circumstances and events in one’s life that God uses to bring a person to Christ. We are just one of many influences in a person’s life that the Lord may use.
Maybe we don’t share because we’re afraid of what others will think of us. We don’t want to be labeled as “one of those evangelicals.” So instead, avoid the typical labels of evangelical or born again. Don’t behave in a way that makes people want to put you in that box. Instead, leave people scratching their heads because you act and talk about your faith in ways that are unorthodox (while being completely orthodox); they are not really sure what you are because you avoid stereotypes. All they know is that they either like you or they don’t.”
And now the new pictures of evangelism that “sows widely”…
For all the reasons above and more, evangelism has become a rare event in our lives. We do just enough evangelism to keep the guilt away. But a better approach is to let the opportunities come to us, at all times expecting God to bring someone into our lives. Instead of occasionally planting a seed, we sow widely. Instead of narrowing our efforts, we expand them as our Lord taught us in the parable of the sower.
Would you hire the sower in Luke 8 to work for you? He doesn’t seem to have any particular skills at sowing. He’s throwing the seed everywhere. But why? Because he realizes that the power of the seed to grow is not in him, but in the ground upon which he is throwing it and in the seed itself. If he throws it on the good soil, it will produce fruit. Our sower is wildly optimistic about the possibilities of finding good soil because he throws the seed everywhere. I can see him saying, “Let’s throw some over there in the weeds—or how about in that pile of stones? And let’s not forget the path!”
You might want to say to him, “Wait a minute, don’t you know that only one out of every three seeds you plant will produce fruit? Why bother at all, if your return is so small?” His response would be, “I’d better plant a lot more seeds, then!” In other words, if few people respond, increase the number of people you’re sharing the gospel with!
In the traditional approach, evangelism is like a tiny window box in which we keep planting seed after seed, hoping that this time the seed will grow. But we don’t know where the good soil is. All we know is that we have a God who has told us that he is calling men, women, and children to himself from every tribe, tongue, and nation. In traditional evangelism, you try hard with fewer and fewer people. A real approach involves generously casting the seed of the gospel among more and more people. Let God surprise you with the people he brings into your life, sometimes in the strangest of ways.
We sow widely by putting more people into our life. You may say, “I don’t have time for more people!” You only don’t have enough time if you’re thinking of traditional friendship evangelism. A better approach is being friendly and interested in everyone you come across during the day; you’ll come across dozens of people each day you naturally have interaction with. It isn’t about putting more people into your life; it’s about genuinely seeing more of the people that are part of your everyday routine—who are, for most of us, no more than scenery and sometimes intrusions into our daily lives.
Questions for Thought or Discussion:
1. What do you think of Leonard’s 2 pictures of evangelism…what he calls “traditional” – standing on the street corner declaring the end is near or cornering a person and telling them every facet of the gospel until they believe….versus the picture of “sowing widely” where you live your life and engage with people in a way that is natural to you and your life and simply seek to help them take the ‘next step’ in their journey? Do these pictures help you crystalize a better picture of evangelism for your life?
2. This is a noteworthy quote: “Instead of believing you were not made for evangelism, believe that you are the perfect person to share your faith with many people—because your personality, your experiences, your knowledge, and the way you say things is the best way for many people to hear the gospel.”
How do you think about “the gift of evangelism”…..do you think evangelism is better done and more effective for those that are better with people, more natural, likable, etc? How does this quote from Leonard challenge your views of evangelism in your life?
3. What is 1 specific step you could take to sow more widely in the next week?