Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Oh, sure – every knows dirty words. Words that we all know but make people REALLY uncomfortable when you start using them. Comedian Tim Hawkins even has a bit making fun of the 101 most common “Christian swear words”

But one of the dirtiest Christian words you’ll ever hear is…wait for it…

Evangelism.

Yup. A dirty word. Maybe the worst. It’s so bad because it makes Christians and non-Christians squirm. That’s a powerful word that can do that!

~ It makes Christians squirm because the word is always used in conjunction with someone telling us that we’re going to have to talk about our beliefs with someone else. Dang. Don’t get me wrong – we KNOW that it’s not a bad thing. Really, we do. But not all of us are hard-wired to be the up-front, let me tell you what I think kind of person.

And yet, to some degree, that is something we are all called to be part of in some way. It’s a crucial component to making disciples. One of the last things Jesus said was that his disciples were to go out and create more disciples (replication), teaching people to observe everything he commanded. So there’s that. The Apostle Paul goes on to state:

How can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? (Romans 10:14-15a)

No, the Bible makes it pretty clear that Christians are not supposed to be silent about our beliefs. Rather, we’re supposed to be actively engaging the world around us and helping to develop more disciples who follow Jesus. But again – it makes us squirm. We don’t want to have to talk about it. What if people think we’re…odd?

This is often the push-back Christians give when this dirty word comes up. What will people think? It shows the unfortunate trend that we care more about how the world perceives us than we care about carrying out what Jesus told us we’re supposed to be all about. Part of our problem is that we view evangelism as an unnatural event – like door-to-door sales. We freeze when we think about door knocking. But evangelism doesn’t have to be like that. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that evangelism normally SHOULDN’T be like that.

Evangelism SHOULD take place within the context of natural friendship and conversation. Nothing strange or unnatural about it. It’s about looking for windows of opportunity in everyday life into which you can direct spiritual conversation.

I was in seminary when I learned that evangelism was supposed to flow naturally from relationships rather than the door-to-door model. I was taking a class on evangelism and one of the assignments was to – GASP – go talk to people about Jesus. The introvert within me froze. I was discussing the class with my wife one night as we were on our way out to dinner for a Valentine’s Day date (this was before we had young kids and never went out again). She mentioned that anyone can do it if it’s a natural extension of conversation. I didn’t buy it.

As we were sitting at the front of the restaurant waiting to be given a table, a young couple came in and sat next to us. They were roughly our age and were our exact same racial profile (brown woman/white man). My wife immediately turned to them and struck up a conversation.

“NO!” I thought. “I know what you’re doing! You’re trying to show me this evangelism stuff first-hand.” She was, and she was a natural at it. I couldn’t let her show me up, so I decided to engage in the conversation as well. It turns out that natural conversation is a much better place to bring up spiritual issues than a “bashyouovertheheadwithmybeliefs” confrontation. We ended up making friends and a couple weeks later had the couple over to our place for games and dessert!

Evangelism doesn’t have to be a dirty word for Christians if we don’t let it be one. Stop thinking of it as confrontation and start thinking of it as natural sharing within the context of your already established contacts (co-workers, neighbors, friends, family, etc.).

~ Evangelism makes non-Christians squirm for a different reason. Those outside the church don’t want to hear about faith because they don’t want to feel judged. Many people in our world have a live-and-let-live attitude. You believe your thing and I’ll believe mine. Just don’t ask me to believe your thing. Talking to an evangelizing Christian makes non-Christians squirm because Christianity makes people choose: Your way or God’s Way.

This is what the world dislikes about Christianity – it is an exclusive faith. The Bible is clear that all roads DO NOT lead to heaven. The Apostle Peter once preached:

“There is salvation in no one else [than Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

You can’t be good enough and work your way to heaven. You can’t follow some other religious beliefs and still find the One True God. No – Christianity is exclusive. One Way – Jesus. This concept makes many modern non-Christians uncomfortable. Actually, it makes many Christians uncomfortable as well – we don’t want to “rock the boat” and make people feel bad. So we don’t say anything.

But we cannot afford to be quiet. The noted atheist magician Penn (from Penn & Teller) relates a story about being confronted by a Christian man who gave him a Bible and shared about Jesus. While the magician was not converted he did appreciate the fact that this Christian man kindly sought to have a conversation about Jesus. The atheists’ perspective: If you really believe that your way is the right way and that other ways are wrong why WOULDN’T you tell everyone?

That’s the question. What do you believe? Do you believe what the Bible says about the only way to the Father is through Jesus? Do you believe it when it says that salvation is a gift of God’s grace through our faith in Christ? If we do believe it then why aren’t we telling people?

We don’t have to tell people in an obnoxious way. Too many Christians forget tact and graciousness when talking about faith. Why can’t we be winsome while we talk about Jesus? Sure, some people will always be offended at the truth of the Gospel, but we can’t help that. But we can make sure that we are looking for every open window to talk about Jesus to a world that’s lost without Him.

How about you? Do you find it easy or difficult to converse with people about what you believe?

Related Posts:
~ The Effective Gospel is the Simple Gospel
~ Fallen From Grace
~ Sharing the Gospel
~ Do Your Friends REALLY Care?