What images come to mind when you hear the word “evangelism”? Most in our fellowship would immediately have thoughts of Saturday morning cold contact door knocking, caned religious speeches and neighborhood canvassing. There is nothing inherently wrong with these methods, but are they the most effective? In our current society, these methods may not always be best, in fact they may even prove to be detrimental in some cases. The challenge in evangelism is not usually what to teach when they are ready to listen, but instead, how do you find the people who are ready to hear the message? This article seeks to propose a different idea to our traditional approaches to evangelism. This idea being presented can be described as “Unintentional Evangelism Done Intentionally”.
Case Study: The Woman at the Well (John 4:7-14)
The conversation between Jesus in the Samaritan Woman is a prime example of the idea this article is proposing. The interaction between Jesus and the Woman at the Well took place during what could be described as a “normal” or “every-day” type situation. Jesus was at the well and in need of some refreshment. This could be compared to us going to a store or restaurant as part of our everyday activities. This was not an organized “well outreach program”, instead, it “just happened”.
Jesus did not begin the conversation with some kind of canned speech, instead it could be seen as a casual request, “Give me a drink”. Jesus, however, took this unintentional interaction and intentionally steered it toward a spiritual conversation. We have numerous unintentional interactions with people on a daily basis, every single one of these interactions is an opportunity for us to get “intentional” and thus evangelistic!
What is “Unintentional Evangelism Done Intentionally”?
This idea can be summed up as intentionally making unintentional interactions into opportunities for evangelism.
How to Make Everyday Activities Evangelistic
Create a Persona
Persona is defined as “the aspect of someone’s character that is presented to or perceived by others”. In every situation you find yourself, you need to make it very obvious early on that you are a Christian. Most every conversation begins with a question along the lines of “What did you do this weekend?”, “How are you?”, “What are you doing later?”. Every single one of these questions is an opportunity to share that you are Christian. You can mention that this Sunday you are going to the new Bible class your church is offering, you are “tired” from your week at Bible Camp, or excited about this new outreach program you are involved in with the Youth Group.
This persona is very important, you want to become to go to “religious person” in every situation. Your friends, co-workers and neighbors will at some moment have a spiritual need, or maybe a Bible question, and you want them to approach you with it!
It makes it easier for evangelism when you are the “Christian” of the group. (People will expect it from you). Everyone has that one mechanic friend that when your car is having trouble you ask him or her for advice. Be the religious person of the group, when they have a spiritual question or need, they will come to you and expect you to have some sort of an answer (1 Peter 3:15). Make sure, however, that this is really who you are, people can spot a fake from mile away. Your Christian persona needs to be genuine.
This author is very much an introvert who would rather lock himself in his house, draw the blinds and watch Netflix all day. My natural inclination is to avoid eye contact with people in public so I don’t have to strike up a conversation. I always have to remind myself “you can’t teach people you don’t talk to!” It is very important to develop relationships with people. Talk to people! Learn about their family, their work and religious background…and actually care what they have to say. Be their friend online (there are some people who will only reach out to you for help on Facebook, but never in person). When the person you have developed a relationship with is having some difficulties, be there for them. If they have a need, meet that need, if they need encouragement, give it, if they could use prayer, say one with them or for them. Let them know you care.
Go Outside of Your “Comfort Zone”
It is normal to feel uncomfortable around groups of people you do not normally associate with,...but all groups need Jesus. At times, it is unlikely relationships that create the best opportunities for evangelism. A homosexual, an atheist, a gang member or a drug user all assume that a Christian “hates them”. If you show them you actually care about them and value them as a person you will find lots of opportunities to impact them with the gospel. Be a friend to those whom most would avoid. Be an unexpected friend to everyone who needs Jesus.
Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:1-2)
Don’t Start a Fight When Not Necessary
We all have opinions about politics and policies. We all have different preferences from sports teams to restaurants. It is usually wise to keep a lot of these opinions to ourselves. We have all been witness to very heated arguments on social media that end in hurt feelings. The Word of God can cause people to be upset with us enough as it is…why create barriers to evangelism by picking fights over subjects that do not matter in eternity? Unnecessary arguments can prevent deep friendships from forming.
Have an Intentional Plan In Place
As you work toward creating evangelistic opportunities, have an intentional plan on what you will offer if one has a spiritual need. Keep tracts, business cards, DVDs, Bibles and other materials with you. Always be ready to drop everything and offer your time to listen and talk to one who is struggling. Have a regular Bible study group meeting at your house that you can invite one too. Be well acquainted with the church calendar so if your friend says “I really need to get back into church”, you can say “here is an opportunity”.
Involve Yourself in Potentially Evangelistic Activities
This last point is especially important to those who are in full-time ministry. Many times our interactions are only with Christians. It is important for the church to leave the building and get out into the world. Volunteer, join a sports league or social club, take a part time job, do something that allows you to develop relationships with non-christians.
Don't give up and don’t get discouraged. As you develop relationships with people you will find that everyday unintentional interactions will become great opportunities for intentional evangelism. As you bring people to Christ, allow these new converts to help you get connected to even more people in other social circles. Have bringing souls to Christ as your primary goal throughout the day and you will find that all of a sudden you will be evangelistic.
By Cliff Sabroe