I don’t know about you, but I often feel like a failure when it comes to evangelism.
I’m all too familiar with Paul’s charge to pastors to “do the work as an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). Sometimes I’ve excused myself saying, “I don’t think evangelism is my spiritual gift.” That’s no excuse. I don’t have to be gifted in evangelism to do the work of an evangelist. So one of my goals this year is to become a better evangelist. In order to prime the pump, I’ve been praying everyday for opportunities, reading books and blogs on evangelism, and listening to other evangelists share their wisdom.
One jewel I’ve found is John Leonard’s little book, Get Real: Sharing Your Everyday Faith Everyday. In chapter 10, he shares a struggle that I relate to: a bent towards efficiency can undermine our work in evangelism. He describes his typical day…
“I’m a person who likes to get things done. People get in my way; they slow me down. I often do everything I can to avoid interacting with people so I can get to work being a pastor. I gas up at a pay outside with my credit card. I get cash from an ATM machine. I even go to the self-checkout lane to avoid slow and inefficient clerks. I zip through my to-do lists so I can get to my office, close my door, and begin strategizing how I can reach my community with the gospel” (p. 113).
Living in Peru has given me a new lens to see Americans better. One thing Peruvians have taught me to see is that Americans love efficiency! It’s not that Peruvians dislike efficiency, it’s just not as high on their priority list. Being on time for a meeting is not as important as talking to a friend on the street.
Perhaps our drive for efficiency has narrowed our view on evangelism as a project to be completed. This project-driven evangelism has a memorized presentation that we must get through to feel like we have actually shared the gospel with someone. To this project approach Leonard says, “We consider it a failure if we do not present the entire gospel, or if the person we are witnessing to doesn’t come to faith in Christ. In a real approach to evangelism, we do not have to take the person from A to Z in a single presentation. All we’re looking to do is to help the person take the next step, or just go from A to B” (p. 108).
What a relief! Sometimes all I can do is take people from A to B. An evangelist does not have to be in a hurry to finish his evangelistic task. Like Peruvians we focus on people rather than projects. Jonathan Dodson is exactly right: project evangelism is very efficient, but love-driven evangelism is inefficient (see his podcast, starting around 41 minutes). How do I make the shift from project evangelism to love-driven evangelism? Again, Leonard offers advise on how to be an inefficient evangelist,
Go out of your way to interact with people. Stop paying for gas at the pump; go inside and pay. if you do this, you could have a worldwide ministry! At the gas stations I frequent there are Moroccans, Pakistanis, Sikhs from India, Mexicans, and Guatemalans, just to name a few cultural backgrounds. I don’t have to go halfway around the world to have an international ministry-all I have to do is walk inside to pay for my gas.
I probably won’t be able to get an entire gospel presentation in before I pay for my gas, but I can plant seeds and get to know the clerk. I can ask questions about their family. I can ask how I might pray for them. Isn’t this is part of what it means to be a “fisher of men” by fishing for opportunities?
I guess I’m going to stop paying for gas at the pump. And who knows, maybe the Holy Spirit will lead me to good soil so I can share the good news with my gas-station friend.