Over the years, I have seen the word 'evangelism' defined many different ways. I have seen open air workers, people on missions trips, people inviting others to a church outreach, or one on one evangelism. According the the Proclaim Course book, there is a chapter dedicated to helping a person learn what their evangelism style is. I really like this book and if there is ever a way that you can take this course, take it! Here is the url with some resources on it: Proclaim Course
While I understand that people have different personalities and giftings, and God uses all of our talents and strengths to serve Him with, I see some misunderstandings with the whole concept of evangelism. I see groups of people who believe that they should just get right to the point of sharing the Gospel with people. In some ways, this sounds admirable, but if we look closer to this, is this really a good Biblical method that we should employ? Here is an example of what I am talking about; I read on the internet somewhere, about a group of people going to a Third World country to share the Gospel with people there. They boasted that they were not there to bring water bottles to the people, nor were they there to build houses. They believed that their only job was to preach the Gospel, then return home. I wonder what the people thought of them while they were presenting the Gospel? I have also heard some people say something like, 'The best way to show a person love, is to preach the Gospel to them'. Well yes, the Gospel is their most important need, but could we show a person respect and honor by talking with him or her and asking questions? How about showing hospitality to someone or helping them with an immediate need that they might have? What if a person doesn't have a place to stay, or if he is out in the cold, and we share the Gospel with him, yet we don't even offer a blanket to him on a cold night? Does this seem ethical? There are a lot of people, even in our own cities, that don't have much to eat. Wouldn't it go a long way for us to give them a loaf of bread or something to eat while we explain the Gospel to them? James talks about us seeing people who are in need, yet neglecting them, and asks us the question, 'What good is it?'. So we have to ask ourselves if we are really showing love to people when we only preach the Gospel to them, while they could be very hungry or cold. Will they really think that we love them? Wouldn't it be helpful to show them a tangible way of our love and care for them? (Note: I am not saying that we should try to take care of every homeless or hungry person around. The devil will also trick us into feeling guilty for not helping everyone in need).
The other struggle I have is the other extreme of this. I believe that, many times, this one starts off with good intentions, but falters in the end. There is a saying that is attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, but no one really knows who said this quote. It goes something like this; "Preach the Gospel. And when necessary, use words". At first, it sounds like a contradictory statement. How can you preach the Gospel without using words? But what I think a lot of people base their understanding of this phrase upon, is the Bible verse that talks about women who have unbelieving husbands, winning their husbands to the Lord without saying a word. "Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 1 Peter 3:1,2 ESV. While I think it is very effective to live out the word of God, it seems to me that these husbands have heard the word already, and haven't responded to the Gospel yet, and the wives are instructed to live out the word of God before them. This is wisdom. The husbands might respond to the Gospel later on. If the unbelieving husband has already heard the word of God, God is already at work in his heart. As the unbelieving husband sees the grace of God in the life of his wife, he can make the connections better.
I think people intend to share the Gospel with others, but feel an obligation to serve them first. This really in itself is a great idea. But rarely will a Christian ever get to share the Gospel with someone after meeting a new person and befriending or serving. But we say that the unbelievers will watch our lives and could be saved. It really can happen, but most of the time, it doesn't. I know from my own experience that this method is very hard to do. We rarely get to the place where we speak the word of life to them.
I have always wanted to reach my neighbors with the Gospel, so I would bake things for them and try to visit them when I can. But it seems like the more intimate I get with each one, the harder it is to share the Gospel message with them. It seems like a major task to make friends with someone, then to present the Gospel to them. I have yet to sit down and talk with my neighbors about the Gospel. Only one time has the conversation opened up for me to do that, and that was because the other person asked me about what kind of a church I go to. I didn't know right off the bat what to say, so I explained the Gospel and said that that was what our church believed in. But I still do want to serve my neighbors and perhaps one day, I will get the chance to speak to them about the Gospel.
So, one struggle is that we just, upfront, preach the Gospel, without anything extra attached, kind of like a robotic method, and the other is the struggle of believing that people will see how I live my life and they will get the Gospel message from that. The Bible talks a lot about serving people. It can really lend itself to preaching the Gospel, although it doesn't replace the work of actual evangelism. So, let's love people and serve them, and let's make sure they hear the Gospel message using words from our lips as well.