Some of the best advice I’ve heard about how to evangelize comes from an interview I listened to. After being suggested to me for the umpteenth time that I watch Dr. Rosaria Butterfield’s interview with Marvin Olasky, I finally carved an hour out of my afternoon and did it.
Well, the critics were right. It was well worth my time.
Dr. Butterfield is a former lesbian and literature professor at Syracuse University, and is now a Christian mother married to a pastor in the Reformed Presbyterian Church. In the interview, she shares the story of her unlikely conversion and speaks frankly with Christians about how we can be better witnesses.
Lessons on How to Evangelize
Here are some of my favorite quotes, organized into lessons I want to put into practice:
1. How to evangelize: Be patient
Rosaria describes the attitude of the pastor who reached out to her, and her first night having dinner at his house:
They also didn’t do two of the things that are in the standard instructional book—namely, share the gospel and invite someone to church. They didn’t do either of those things. I trusted them because they did not do those things. I did not want a kind of relationship in which I was expected to change and give up things that I dearly believed in and dearly held…
They didn’t treat me as a blank slate: ‘OK, here’s someone who needs the gospel, let’s get her through these points before we get her home.’ They seemed more interested in having a long relationship with me… We started to become friends, genuine friends.
Good evangelists are patient; we’re not trying to rush people into “decisions,” we’re coming alongside them as a genuine friend who cares.
2. How to evangelize: Be polite
Attitude is everything.
Dr. Butterfield describes the letters she received after publishing a critical article regarding ‘Promise Keepers,’ and the one letter that stood out:
The responses tended to be of two kinds. I had a tray for fan-mail and a tray for hate-mail.
And then I had a letter from a pastor, Ken Smith, which wasn’t nasty, it was just questioning. So I didn’t know what tray to put it in. Some of those questions, I had thought we had already dispensed with. But he had written in such a gracious way that I was intrigued by it.
The manner in which we introduce the gospel is at least as important as what we say.