Evangelism in Today’s Society
Christian comment from Steve Jones, Street Pastor
Society today is in many people’s opinion forever changing and is increasingly becoming more about me, me and me. Today’s society could often be described as selfish, secular and post-modern. So how can the church perform effective evangelism in a society that is growing increasingly sceptical and rejecting?
When many Christians think of evangelists and/or the word evangelism, they will often think of big rallies attended by hundreds or thousands of people listening to the words of a preacher. As a result, these people feel convicted and respond by offering their lives to Jesus Christ. Billy Graham was one such evangelist and led many to the Lord. However, why does this kind of evangelism not seem work on the whole or indeed happen in today’s society though?
Unfortunately, society today is very broken with some major issues already obvious and many more now beginning to emerge such as rejection, young people growing up without a father or mother not to mention consumerism, materialism, sexual promiscuity, idolatry, binge drinking, drugs and homelessness. Of course, none of these things are helped by the economic mess the world is in resulting in several generations likely having to pay off Debt for the majority of their lives, largely through no fault of their own
However, despite the negative aspects of society, there are some major positives within society today including extreme hunger for identity, the supernatural and spiritual truth
Ok, so mass rallies are a rarity these days, but they do still happen! One such example was the Lakeland revival in Florida, however on the whole; the typical person today will generally take offence to being preached to; and whilst a minority may step into a church, the majority will not mainly due to fear of being judged or condemned because of the life they have had and/or negative past experience or rejection holding them back
Why it is many non-Christians today are afraid of Church?
Unfortunately, the Church today is on the whole too reliant on tradition and the “tried and tested only” model and disliking the very thought of stepping out from the boat and trying something new when it comes to bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to society
As mentioned earlier, despite being largely secular and sceptical, people in society today are hungrier than ever for spiritual truth and identity…Therefore, it is vitally important that the church reaches out to these people who long for truth. Unfortunately though, it seems that many Christians decide to adopt a passive evangelistic approach where they hope for the lost to come to them. So combining this with the fear that people in society today have of Church would ultimately result in ineffective evangelism
Now as Christians and followers of Jesus Christ, we should all be in agreement that love cannot be passive… well the same can be said of evangelism… passive evangelism is not evangelism much like passive love is not love. To rely on a passive evangelist model of “people will come to a church service on a Sunday” is flawed. Effective evangelism requires reaching out in Faith. Evangelism by faith very often involves taking risks and stepping out of the boat… for example, as a Street Pastor, I will offer practical help to somebody who is vomiting or laying in the street for whatever reason. Faith allows me to do this because by this faith I know it will make a difference to that person and please God, thus empowering me to put aside my feelings of “ugh that’s disgusting, I don’t want to get messed up, or those other people will laugh at me”. I cannot prevent the person saying no, but if they refuse my help, then I will not feel rejected, because a step of Faith was taken to reach out, it sends an indirect message that someone else cares about them…
Remember, the word also says: “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” – (James 2:17)
Now, the word Outreach means to look outwards and reach out… Jesus never told us to remain in the building with the doors open hoping people would come… Jesus said: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them inthe name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
The great commission is not complicated and there certainly is no mention of remaining in Church buildings. However, Jesus is very clear and you do not need to be a scholar or theologian to make sense of what he is saying
In addition to the hunger for spiritual truth and identity society today has, it also greatly values and desires relationship, experience and testimony. Unfortunately, whilst the church has been sitting on pews and focusing on inward focused arguments and issues, the New Age spiritual movements such as Spiritualism have started to fill this spiritual vacuum by getting alongside people, providing genuine experience of the supernatural (albeit in an ungodly way) thus resulting in testimony
As Christians and indeed the Church, we need to really (and hastily) get over any fears of the supernatural and allow the Holy Spirit to move in supernatural ways in us as well as others. A Church which suppresses the work of the Holy Spirit will quickly go spiritually stagnant with only religion and tradition to hold onto thus making it appear very unattractive and appear oppressive to those seeking truth. Whereas a church that embraces the supernatural works of the Holy Spirit will see miracles, growth and ultimately people choosing Jesus Christ declaring Him as their Lord and Saviour due to the loving conviction of the Holy Spirit
So how can Christians be effective evangelists in today’s society?
Well, for starters, when reaching out and taking the Gospel to society, the Holy Spirit is of utmost importance, because any form of evangelism, if done in one’s own strength and not God’s is flawed from the word go… much like anything else done in our own strength or understanding. So it also goes without saying that effective evangelism is also lead, guided and ultimately underpinned by the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who anoints words spoken or actions taken… it is the Holy Spirit who enables and equips us to be effective “fishers of men”
Secondly, the Church must be outward looking when it comes to evangelism being able to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ by being humble through serving and being relational, non-judgmental, and non-condemning. Evangelism is not just about preaching…
Undertaking Godly action in evangelism and thus “being the gospel” Inevitably results in the question from those you reach out to not being able fathom why someone would do this for them when the rest of society hardly cares. As a Street Pastor I am not out there to preach the gospel, but to be the gospel. The words of 1 Peter 3:15 sum this up nicely: “In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give answers to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
Street or door step preaching will in today’s society very often be regarded as aggressive, invasive and unwelcome to many people and would largely result in a perception of the Church being no better than Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, giving an answer to a question asked of you because of your actions is totally different… the biggest problem with preaching in today’s society is the scepticism and the fact that many want to see Christians actually demonstrating what they preach… remember, people want experience, not just “wishy washy words” that sound good
The Street Pastors initiative relies on this approach of bringing the truth and life of Jesus Christ to the streets. Street Pastors do not preach, but will very often engage in deep and meaningful conversations about Jesus with others because they were asked “why?” People in society today are genuinely very surprised see the church “outside of the building” but are even more surprised and blessed when they witness Christians demonstrating love and humbleness through serving others and the community without having to preach or “bible bash”.
So, ultimately effective evangelism today employs the tactic of actions speak much louder than words, we do not necessarily have to preach the gospel (and indeed should refrain if this would offend) on the streets to lead someone to the Lord
Very often today, preaching will drive people further from the Church and like it or not, we are all evangelists in some sorts through our daily actions… therefore it is important that the Holy Spirit is part of our daily lives as Christians. The more we relate with the Holy Spirit, the more like Christ we become… we will love what he loves and be able to bless others for the glory of God, blessing which will also bring pleasure to God
So, is the challenge of how to be effective in evangelism within today’s society meaning that we should aim to be the Gospel through our actions by engaging with people in society on their terms rather than ours or the Church’s?