The Bible seems to suggest that personal evangelism is more about making yourselves available than it is about manufacturing moments. Believers are encouraged to be prepared to provide an answer for the hope we have in Christ to “anybody who asks”. (1 Peter 3:15) The emphasis in this verse is on being prepared and God will orchestrate opportunities by providing people to ask a question.
Philip and the Ethiopian provides a compelling example. (Acts 8:26-40)
While travelling Phillip made himself available to be used by God. The Lord provided an opportunity by prompting him to meet a man on the road. God’s Word was already working in the man’s heart with the Truth and God provided him with a willing servant who was prepared to answer.
The essence of evangelism is to be prepared to provide a short answer and be available to be used by God. The Lord then orchestrates opportunities to comfortably and confidently provide a gospel message.
People say that friendship evangelism is the most effective form of proclaiming the gospel because a bridge of trust has already been built with that person. They are more willing to receive an invitation to come to church or hear a reason for the hope we have in Christ.
Yet, one of the greatest fears about evangelism is the fear of rejection. Relationship evangelism is perceived as too risky and prompts many to remain quiet. Is relationship evangelism easier than stranger evangelism?
People say that stranger evangelism is effective because a person doesn’t know them. Yet, it is is perceived as too risky for the fear of messing up or saying something wrong. Is stranger evangelism easier than friendship evangelism?
There is not a good answer because evangelism is never easy.
A better question may be, “Which is more comfortable?”
When a believer has prepared themselves to give an answer for the hope they have in Christ, it really doesn’t matter if it is stranger evangelism or relationship evangelism. It’s not about concentrating on what is perceived to be the most effective – or easier – but what is the most comfortable.
Witnessing to strangers
When Praise and Proclaim leads a door-to-door proclaiming experience it’s always impressive to see how surprised church members are when they see the amount of awareness about their congregation. People typically drive by their church every day. They read the signs and message boards. They notice when there are cars in the parking lot. They gauge the amount of activity.
They also discover that most strangers are polite and friendly when they quickly find out that the person knocking on their door is from the church down the street. They usually will come across a person who has been waiting for an invitation to come to church. Sometimes, they are going through a personal or family crisis and the Lord sends the right person at the right time. The Lord provides a window of opportunity to hear some Good News.
God orchestrates opportunities by sending the right person at the right time to deliver Good News to a stranger.
Witnessing to friends
Friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members carefully observe and notice how a friend who confesses their faith in Christ deals with a personal or family crisis. A calm assurance during life’s storms is a powerful testimony to a life in Christ that remains steadfast in Christ’s promises.
Witnessing rarely feels like its manufactured but a natural overflow of a faithful heart that cares about their friend.
Prompted by love, a spiritual conversation can start. Being a light for Christ has set the table to introduce Christ through the power of his Word. A calm conviction opens our lips and eases our nerves to give a reason for the hope we have in Christ to listening ears.
Being prepared to witness to friends or strangers is a powerful form of evangelism. Yet, Jesus is right. The harvest is “plentiful” and the workers are few. Well-intentioned, faithful believers in Christ tend to stand in the shadows and remain silent because they are uncomfortable.
Witnessing to friends and strangers
The most comfortable and effective personal evangelism strategy is proclaiming the gospel to strangers who are friends.
In my experience of partnering with congregations and providing personal evangelism training, the most comfortable witnessing opportunity is with friends of your church. It is low risk because it is stranger evangelism. It is powerful because its friendship evangelism.
Friends of the church are people who have expressed interest in learning more about your church. They are young families who send their children to preschool or a youth outreach event. They may have recently attended a worship service or attended a family event. They are friends of the church who have already expressed a willingness to hear a reason for the hope that you have in Christ.
Witnessing to strangers who are friends of the church is commonly referred to as a follow-up visit. Most of the time, a connection has been formed with the pastor or teacher. And that is good. But the best way to further a relationship is when members become involved. We need not be bashful because they have already given the church permission to build a relationship with them by providing their contact information. And like any relationship, sometimes that takes time.
We don’t manufacture as much as God orchestrates a person’s interest in your church. Comforted by this truth, believers can discover how meaningful these evangelism visits can be.
- Be prepared to give a short succinct answer for the hope we have in Christ.
- Be available to be used by God to provide that answer by being gospel intentional in our daily lives.
- Be willing through Word and sacrament to be used by to God to advance his kingdom – and you will be used.