by Matt Helland
As a teenager I remember getting up the nerve to go “do evangelism” at a local mall with a friend, carrying my trusty hundred pound black bible. As you well may imagine my trusty black leather, hundred calibre NIV Study Bible did the job of scaring away anyone who wanted to talk to us. Anything worth doing well is worth doing badly and I have done evangelism many times very badly.
Another great example of ineffective evangelism is when I got a car full of neighborhood kids to take them somewhere. I was so excited, why this was my chance. So in the five minute ride I had, I unloaded all my preaching, teaching and testifying that I could possibly think of. The results were that I never got to take those people on a car ride again.
A third valuable experience I had was when I went with my church youth group to pray and “do evangelism” at a Marilyn Manson concert (OK, outside the concert hall). Upon our arrival we discovered that there were three groups of Christians trying to share the gospel in three very different ways. The first groups of Christians had a large banner with a picture of hell, where people were dissolving into fire and brimstone. These “Christians” had a large bullhorn with which they were so uneloquently condemning all the concert goers to HELL.
Our church youth group was the second group of Christians attempting to reach out to these Marilyn Manson concert-goers. The people waiting in line knew immediately that we were not one of them because we were dressed in “normal” clothes. They picked us out as Christians and thought that we were associated to the first group who was angrily yelling at them that they were doomed to Hell. (How in the world can such an approach be called sharing good news?) Our conversations were short and limited and other than shooting up some prayers, no real personal connections were made with the concert-goers.
There was a third group of Christians who were able to have significant conversations with the concert-goers. This was a group of believers from a Christian University who frequently go to such events but whose methods of evangelism were much more effective that the other two groups. This group went dressed all in black and their approach was a lot less confrontational and much more about getting into a dialogue with people. I was amazed when I saw one woman not only talk to a concert-goer, but actually pray with her. I was seeing effective evangelism taking place outside of a Marilyn Manson concert. It can be done.
Jesus once said to his disciples, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”(Matthew 10:16). This means that we must be wise in order to get a fair hearing of the gospel. This is extra difficult being a missionary in Europe where most people do not necessarily believe in sin, heaven, hell, or God and may have very limited knowledge of the gospel, if any at all. This means that it takes extra patience, prayer and wisdom in how to approach people with the gospel. Let met share with you one way in which I enjoy “doing evangelism.”
Every couple of months I go where few Christians ever think about going: Psychic Fairs. There I rent a table and use the gifts of the spirit to share the love of Jesus with visitors. There I offer such things as healing, spiritual advice, and dream and tattoo interpretation. Before me I set up scripture cards (most people think they are tarot cards) which people can randomly pick to get a word from my source: Jesus Christ.
The experiences I have had at psychic fairs have been FANTASTIC! At some fairs, I have had the opportunity to give a presentation of the gospel with the title: “Demonstrations of Supernatural Love in Action.” The first time I did this two women who could not walk without considerable pain were healed on the spot. A roomful of people watched in amazement and everyone was then open to receive a personal word from Jesus Christ (prayer). Since then, I have seen many more healings and prayed with many people who have been amazed at the power of Jesus Christ to heal them and speak into their lives through a dream or even a tattoo they may have. This is just another method of sharing the gospel with people who may not be interested in Jesus, but are open to Spiritual “things.” We have the Holy Spirit which is the most powerful “spiritual thing” available. Using his gifts is a wonderful way to share his love and power.
You may not find yourself sharing the gospel at a Psychic Fair anytime soon, but here are some tips for making evangelism easier. First of all, when sharing your faith BE YOURSELF. Be honest, genuine, normal, relaxed and interesting when you share what God has done in your life and what you have seen him do. Second, DON’T OVERLOAD PEOPLE WITH TOO MUCH AT ONCE. Evangelism is a process. Use the Engle scale to see where people are at in their knowledge of Christ. Third: LEARN TO LISTEN to God and to people. Earn the right to be heard. People don’t care what you know until they know that you care. Fourth: PRAY. Don’t talk to people about God until you have talked to God about those people. (This can be done simultaneously). Also, if someone is sick or has a need, offer to pray. You will be surprised what God can do. Fifth: LOVE WITH NO STRINGS ATTACHED. Beware of seeing people as your evangelism project and not as the incredibly valuable people they are, regardless of what they believe. Sixth: share the good news with WORDS AND DEEDS. Let us not give people an opportunity to say that they cannot hear the message in our words because our actions proclaim something different. Finally, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP even if you seem to or think that you do evangelism the wrong way. I am an expert on doing evangelism badly, but by the grace of God I have seen and continue to see people get to know Jesus Christ. This is honestly one of the most thrilling experiences in life.
Using the Engel Scale of Evangelism [view below] to see where people are at in their knowledge of Christ helps one to take people just one or two steps further instead of feeling that someone immediately must decide for Jesus. Evangelism is a process.
“Research shows that the more varied ways a person hears the gospel and the more often a person hears the gospel before making a commitment, the better the comprehension, the less likely of ‘reversion’ to the world.” –Timothy Keller