There is a lot of debate when it comes to methods of evangelism. Individuals and campus ministries each have their preferred way of sharing the gospel. Their convictions on such matter is deeply formed by their theology and their ministry philosophy. Sometimes these deep rooted beliefs cause us to be too narrow minded in our approach.
This semester I would like to compare and contrast the different styles of evangelism. In so doing, I hope you can learn to understand and respect those who think and act differently than you and, more importantly, be challenged to broaden your style of evangelism. I hope to move you from “either/or” thinking to “both/and” thinking.
Actions vs. Words
Some think that the best evangelism is done without words. Others think evangelism cannot be done without words. Some think you need to wait for the right to be heard or if people want to hear about your faith, they will ask. Others think you need not wait at all, that you should initiate spiritual conversations all the time
Ministries who believe in “actions” tend to focus more on service projects as a means of outreach. They organize mission trips around building homes, caring for orphans, planting community gardens, and the like. Ministries who believe in “words” tend to focus more on spiritual conversations as a means of outreach. They tend to organize mission trips around Bible studies, public speaking, one-on-one evangelism, and the like.
Come and See vs. Go and Tell
Some think that the best way to reach people is to put on programs that draw people in where they can then hear the gospel. Others think the best way to reach people is to go to them to meet them where they are. Ministries that believe in “come and see” spend the bulk of their time, money, and energy creating programs and hosting events. They place more importance on their weekly worship gathering.
Ministries that believe in “go and tell” spend the bulk of their time, money, and energy sending their people into the communities. They place more importance on smaller gatherings in homes and neighborhoods.
Relational vs. Contact
Some think the best evangelism takes place in the context of personal relationships. Others think that they should sow more broadly and share the gospel in a more systematic way. Ministries that focus on relational evangelism equip their people to share the gospel and encourage them to make friends with others in their communities. Ministries that focus on contact evangelism have regular times and days set aside to go do evangelism.
Conversational vs. Scripted
Some people believe that the gospel can be shared many different ways depending on the nature of the conversation, that even should be shared this way. Others have memorized a specific way to share the gospel and believe that the gospel is more clearly presented when it is presented in that way.
Ministries that emphasize conversational evangelism believe the gospel can be found in all of scripture and applies to every area of life so they teach their students how to share the gospel in any situation from any scripture. Ministries that emphasize scripted evangelism believe that the script can keep the conversation more centered on the gospel itself.
People vs. Projects
Honestly, this is harder to describe in terms of one camp sees things one way and the other camp sees it the other way. Instead, this is just a tension in all evangelism that I wanted to touch up. Sometime evangelism can make people feel like projects instead of people, like we do not really love them but only want to convert them.
I agree. There is this tension for sure, but is not an either/or situation. People are projects, God’s projects. So I would like to write my last post of the year about this tension.
Justin Christopher is the National Campus Director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.