The English word, “evangelism,” comes from the Greek word euaggelion. Most literally translated in the noun form, euaggelion means: “gospel” or “good news.” In the verb form (euaggelizesthai), the meaning of the word changes slightly to “announce” or “bring good news.” The Greek word in its various forms appears fifty-five times in the New Testament. In addition to the before-mentioned translations, the Greek word is also translated as “preach.”*
"The message of the Gospel is something worth sharing and telling others about. In fact, we are commanded in the Bible to do the work of evangelism. ".. and he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:15 ESV).
But what happens when people think we are harassing them? Sometimes, they see us and they try to avoid us. Why would they do this? I think, many times, they have either had an encounter with a Jehovah's Witness or Mormon. But they may have had a pushy relative or friend who was trying to share the true Gospel with them. Or, they may have seen an open air worker spouting out hatred toward sinners. Who knows?
When do we violate the boundaries of others when it comes to doing evangelism? I remember a time when we were out as a group with some in the church who wanted to branch out and talk to people about the Gospel message. One young man from our group offered a tract to a lady sitting on a bench. She was irate and accused the young man of harassing her. She informed us that he was the fourth person who tried to give her a tract that morning. Was she truly being harassed or was this just a simple oversight by someone who was trying to kindly share the Gospel with her should she have been open to listening?
We have to keep a couple of things in mind when we are doing the work of evangelism, whether it be just giving out tracts or trying to talk to people about the Gospel message.
First, we have to set a new standard. God does not force Himself on people. That is how the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons operate. They us pressure to try to get people into their churches. Sadly, many Christians do the same thing. Sometimes, new believers are excited about their new relationship with the Lord, and haven't grown enough to bear the fruit of self-control, so they, in their zeal and genuine love for God try to pressure family members and friends to respond to the Gospel. We have to learn that salvation is a work of God, and God is the one Who makes the meaning of the Gospel real to people. We are to proclaim it, whenever we can, but we cannot pressure people into making a decision to follow the Lord. We will scare people off if we come at them making them feel pressure to respond to God. On the other hand, people can be under God's conviction and misunderstand by reacting to us in irritation and falsely accusing us of pressuring them to be 'religious'. It takes a skill to know when we are doing the pressuring or when God is doing the convicting.
Second, if a person indicates that they do not want a tract, I don't pressure them to take one. If a person knows that I am going to share the Gospel with them, and they turn away, I do not try to make them listen. What I want to do is leave them with something to let them know that I care and that their eternity is at stake, but I haven't yet come up with a good way to do this without sounding like I have to be the one to have the last word in this disagreement we are having. I have to learn to let them spew their anger and walk away, knowing that God can still do His work without my having to be there to share the Gospel with them. Many already know that they are running away from God, but I do not have to re-emphasize what they are doing wrong.
So, when do I cross a person's boundaries? I would guess that if he or she says 'no' to taking a tract, if I keep trying to get him or her to take it. Or if I keep pressing to have a conversation with someone who wants to have the final say in our discussion about eternity. Having said this, I will say that there are people who will walk away or indicate that they do no want to talk about the Gospel, only to come back and ask questions or even try to argue. That is ok, and it is ok to follow up with that. They are probably curious but not sure they can trust the evangelist at this point. Possibly they want to hear more, but are making it clear that they have boundaries that they do not want others to cross over. We should respect their boundaries. God never forces us to respond to Him. We have to represent God accurately to people. When we properly do this, they will listen. They might not come to Christ, and they might still argue or try to harm us, but if we are not crossing their boundaries, they are the ones responsible for their own actions.
May God give us words to say to people, and may He give us the grace as we interact with people, as well as wisdom to know when to press in and when to back off. May God fill our hearts with His love for the lost.