An article in USA Today’s “Faith & Reason” section caught my eye recently. The article was titled "Believers Reluctant to Evangelize Family or Friends." The article's author, Cathy Lynn Grossman, makes two very challenging observations:
+ Churches are not creating new believers, they are just attracting more Christians.
+ Becoming a parent does not change attitudes toward spirituality– which reverses the assumption that once couples become parents they are more likely to become part of a church.
Grossman concludes that what she calls the "bait and switch" evangelism technique is ineffective, and Christians need to find a new, or better, way to share their faith with friends and family (to clarify, Grossman would describe "bait and switch" tactics as things like inviting your neighbor to a social gathering–without telling her you’re going to present the Gospel).
A self-described "recovering evangelical" Jim Henderson, shares an alternative. Are you ready for this?
"…get to know people, become their friends and let the spiritual chips fall where they may."
Call me crazy, but I don't think there’s anything new about this kind of evangelism. In fact, it would be more accurate to call it the Old Evangelism. As I look through the Gospels, I see Jesus getting to know people like Zacchaeus, the Samaritan woman, Martha, Mary and Lazarus... not to mention his disciples, and meeting their relational and spiritual needs.
On the other side of the coin, Jesus, Peter and Paul preached evangelical messages to large crowds. So, I don’t think we can say there’s only one right way to evangelize. I just don’t want to let friendship become an excuse for not telling someone about Jesus. Likewise, I don’t want any kind of "come-to Jesus" strategies to sabotage a relationship.
What do you think? Do we need a new or old evangelism? Do we just live our beliefs and hope people get it? Or do we lay out the "Five Finger Plan of Salvation" for our friends and family? What has experience taught you?