Evangelism has become a negative word both inside and outside the church.
Outsiders get angry when they perceive Christ-followers, or anybody else, trying to push something onto them.
When people inside the church think they need to go to war to “win” someone to Christ, they usually don’t open their mouths. Making war means having apologetics down pat and being ready with answers to every possible question in order I need to win arguments.
For years, believers have been taught to approach evangelistic attempts as battles to win rather than friendships to build. This is futile. It frightens our members and angers the very people we want to reach with good news about God and his love.
D-Day or Diplomacy?
I recently read a book where the author asks if we see sharing faith as D-Day or diplomacy.
On D-Day, the United States, England and the Free French attacked the “Atlantic Wall” built by Hitler and his minions. They did so with the larges naval fleet ever assembled and vast amounts of weaponry. In the recent war between Hamas and Israel, diplomacy won a cease-fire. Hamas attacked Israel with thousands of rockets, only to be targeted with very sophisticated and destructive return fire. The fighting raged until quiet diplomacy by the United States, Egypt, and a couple of other nations ended it. Question: Are we into quiet diplomacy (building on relationships), or are we presenting warfare?
If you’re into warfare, you better have your guns ready. However, you’re just going to anger people, so don’t bother. If you’re a pastor and you teach your people warfare, you only frighten them into silence. They won’t dare open their mouths in a world increasingly hostile to Christianity as it’s currently perceived.
If you want to teach friendship evangelism, teach people to ask questions rather than preach. If you listen to people with faulty logic, you’ll soon spot the cracks in their reasoning. A few simple questions followed by deeper questions help people see the flaws in their own beliefs. The added benefit is that friends tend to ask questions of good listeners, so the relationships flow in both directions.
Trusting the Holy Spirit?
Do you trust yourself and your systems more than you trust God’s Spirit to reveal himself to others? I often do. Putting my schemes first says I trust myself more than I trust the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to my friends.
Scripture teaches that one person sows a seed, another waters it, but God gives the increase. We can content ourselves with seed sowing or occasional watering opportunities while trusting God to complete the work. In another passage, Jesus warns against planting a seed then digging it up to check on it a few days later. We need to learn the art of diplomacy coupled with trust and patience. And, we should teach others the same. A 1907s bumper sticker put it this way, “Make love, not war.” To be sure, we’d read the word, love, differently than whoever printed the sticker, but the sentiment remains loving diplomacy accomplishes more than aggressive warfare.