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.
Come & See
Those who believe in “come and see” find their support in verses like these in the gospels and in Acts when many people came to faith at very large gatherings. Jesus and the apostles invited people to “come and see” the gospel presented in power.
Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick… Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there)… After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” John 6:1, 2, 10, 14
Jesus often spoke to thousands of people at a time. He taught, he healed the sick, he performed other miracles and many people believed in him as a result. No doubt Jesus welcomed these opportunities to reach many people with his life and message. While he knew that there were many who attended that did not truly believe, he also knew that many truly did believe and begin to follow him.
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say…. With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. Act 2:14, 40, 41
The church was birthed in a “come and see” moment. At the temple during the Feast of Pentecost when people from all nations would “come to” the temple, the Holy Spirit enabled the apostles to speak in many languages and it amazed people. So much so that 3000 people believed on the spot!
Truth and Pitfalls
Those who believe in the “come and see” philosophy allocate their time, money, and people to create “come and see” events. These are campus ministries that have special campaigns or series of messages where the graphic design, video, audio, messages, and more are all carefully crafted to mesh together. Congregants are asked primarily to bring their friends and family to these events where they will be able to hear and see the gospel in a clear and compelling way.
There is no doubt that God uses the “come and see” strategy to reach people with the gospel, but there are some inherent flaws to this methodology too. Sometimes the pastor is seen as the only evangelist in the church. There can be a sense that the only job the people have is to try to bring their people to the events. There is little envisioning and equipping the people to share the gospel with their friends and family personally.
Sometimes people are not going to come no matter how well the program is put together. There is a segment of the population that would almost never be compelled to “come to” anything. Within that population there are even some who find such carefully put-together programs inauthentic and offensive.
Go & Tell
Those who believe in “go and tell” find their support in verses like these in the gospels and in Acts when many people came to faith through one-on-one or small group encounters. Jesus and the apostles went to the people to “go and tell” the gospel.
So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”
Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did. So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. John 4:4-7 and 39-41
Jesus often to spoke to people one-on-one or in small groups, like at dinner parties. He taught, he loved people, he met personal needs, and many people believed in him as a result. No doubt Jesus sought out opportunities to share his life and message with individuals, one-on-one. He knew that many of the households he visited would not believe, but he knew many of these households would believe and begin to follow him.
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”).
The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” Acts 8:26,27 and 34-36
The church expanded by many one-on-one moments. Jesus taught his disciples to go from “Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Jesus told them to “go to” people and nations. The book of Acts record the gospel going from one people to the next all the way to Rome.
Truth and Pitfalls
Those who believe in the “go and tell” philosophy allocate their time, money, and people to host events in their communities. These are the campus ministries that focus on equipping their students to live and share the gospel with their friends through missional communities. Congregants are asked to go out to share the gospel, host block parties, go door to door to meet people, and start marketplace Bible studies in order to “go to” the people.
There is no doubt that God uses the “go and tell” strategy to reach people with the gospel, but there are some inherent flaws to this methodology too. Sometimes they become to narrow in their focus. There is a lot to be said for sowing abundantly. Large events allow for much sowing and thus more overall fruit. Focusing on individuals is important but sometimes it narrows the vision to an unnecessary and harmful degree.
Sometimes there is such an emphasis on “going” that they neglect “being” together. There is power in united worship and public proclamation of the gospel. Sometimes “go to” people forget that this is needed too, not just for the lost but for themselves. They forget their need to hear the gospel.
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.