One in five Americans don’t believe in a deity. Less than half of the population attends religious services on a regular basis. Our evangelism isn’t working. People simply find our evangelism unbelievable. Why? While a person’s response to Christ is ultimately a matter that rests in God’s sovereign hands—something we have no control over—a person’s hearing of the gospel is a matter we do have control over and responsibility for.
Here’s Why Evangelism Isn’t Working
The first reason our evangelism isn’t working is because it isn’t done in grace for each person.
Paul isn’t just saying evangelism is our responsibility; he’s telling us to do it “in person.” Unfortunately, a lot of evangelism is an out of body experience, as if there aren’t two persons in a conversation. It’s excarnate, out of the flesh, not incarnate—in the flesh.
I’m reminded of the more passive Christian who looks to get Jesus off his chest at work and into a conversation. “Check!” Or the time in college when I pretended to share the gospel with a friend in Barnes & Noble so others would overhear it! Alternatively, an active evangelist might troll blogs and start conversations to defeat arguments, while losing people in the process. “Aha!” The comment section on a blog is the new street corner.
These approaches are foolish because they treat people like projects to be completed, not persons to be loved. Have you ever been on the other end of an evangelistic project? Perhaps from a Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon at your door. Or a pushy pluralist at work? You don’t feel loved; you feel used, like a pressure sale.
Paul says, “Know how you ought to answer each person.” This means that most of your gospel explanations will be different, not canned. It also implies a listening evangelism. How can we know how to respond to each person if we don’t know each person?
When Francis Schaeffer was asked how he would spend an hour with a non-Christian, he said: “I would listen for 55 minutes, and then in the last five minutes I would have something to say.”