In a recent Christianity Today article, pastor and author Joshua Ryan Butler spoke with Mark Teasdale about his book Evangelism for Non-Evangelists: Sharing the Gospel Authentically (IVP Academic). Teasdale, a professor at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (a Methodist school on the campus of Northwestern University), teaches a required evangelism course to students who are often wary, if not opposed outright, to the very idea that evangelism is valuable.
They are not alone.
But of particular interest is Teasdale’s response to CT’s last question, a question about the idea of practicing evangelism:
How do we practice evangelism so that our appeals will be beautiful, meaningful, and even prophetic?
We do that in the church. I like to point to the book of Revelation; people are singing songs praising God, but they’re also evangelizing one another—even in Heaven! They’re essentially saying, “God’s really awesome! And because of the Lamb that was slain, there’s salvation and power and all these great things.” Since God is eternal, then even when we come face to face with God, we still won’t fully comprehend him. For all eternity, we will be celebrating with God, and constantly celebrating new things we will learn about Him. We keep evangelizing each other because we keep getting drawn deeper into the wonder of God.
Similarly, in our churches, we can keep speaking the Good News to one another. We can keep sharing our testimonies, saying, “God met me in the most amazing place this week,” or, “I saw God do this incredible thing.”
When we do this, then later, outside the church, we have the vocabulary, we’ve practiced it, and it doesn’t sound weird to say anymore.
The idea of practicing our evangelism is a good one, but is it happening?
Certainly the idea of practicing our evangelism within and among the body of believers is a good one. Every believer has their story to tell and every believer’s life is certainly a testimony of God’s faithfulness again and again. Is there a better place to repeat those stories than in the church? For the purpose of encouraging one another and, as Teasdale suggests, to practice evangelism? It is a good idea to practice sharing our faith stories and God-sightings within and among the body of believers so that when the moment arises to share “outside the church,” we are ready. But unfortunately, the reality is, evangelism is rare. Author Mark Mittelberg asserts that evangelism is “one of the highest values in the church, and one of the least practiced.”
Yes. We talk about from the pulpit, include it in most every church’s mission statement, and write continually about in many books. Almost every believer knows the Matthew 28:18-20 verses, commonly called the Great Commission, where Jesus tells his closest followers—and all disciples since—to go and make disciples of all nations.
Yet Mittelberg continues, “The irony is that while many of us are in churches and denominations that have a rich heritage and strong reputation for evangelism, in many cases, precious little is actually happening. Let’s be honest: in most ministries very few lost people are being reached for Christ.”
So, what can we practice?
Loving God and loving others is the foundation of the Great Commission. To make disciples of people outside our churches, the practice is about love—building authentic friendships based on trust, earning the right to engage in meaningful conversations about God as revealed in the Bible, and eventually, as Teasdale said, being able to share.
Fortunately, there is a way for evangelism to become an easy, regular, normal part of our lives with practices that include:
- Getting Ready for spiritual conversations.
- Getting Started with spiritual conversations.
- Keeping It Going.
Interested in seeing how well you’re doing at practicing evangelism?
Noticing, Praying, Listening, Asking Questions, Loving, Welcoming, Facilitating, Serving Together, and Sharing are all simple practices—or Arts—that build a foundation of relational trust and open the gateway for conversations about God to unfold naturally. To see how well you’re doing as you embark on a new journey of practicing evangelism, take Q Place’s free assessment.