Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Helpful Suggestions on Evangelistic Outreaches

I received an unrelated question asked of me in the combox of my post titled Gossip: The Plague and a Stench of a Whisperer wherein the commenter wanted some direction on getting an evangelistic outreach started. What follows are a few recommendations. Some of these are short term preparations whereas others will require continual long-term, work and preparation:

1. Completely avoid gimmicky stuff.

In other words, don't try to schnooker people into answering your questions for "The Good Test" by offering them a stuffed animal or some other silly prize simply because they participated in your goofy evangelistic survey. People aren't stupid, and if you use gimmicks and humor to bait and switch them to get to the gospel, don't be surprised if they look at you like you're trying to sell them snake oil. Worse yet, you are using humor and fun to try to hook them into listening to you tell them about the most serious issue in the universe: their eternal destiny. That's worse than arriving at your neighbor's front door and telling them a knock-knock joke to soften them up so that you can tell them why you are really there; which is to inform them of the dreadful news that their 6 year old daughter is laying dead in your driveway because you just unwittingly backed over her with your car while she was playing with some of your child's toys. See the problem?

As a matter of fact, I'd avoid the "survey syndrome" altogether and simply hand out some well crafted postcard sized tracts with a clear, direct gospel message. Here's a an example of some of the ones we use:

We use the first two tracts and avoid the third since a dude with a cig hanging out of his mouth doesn't settle well with most folks, especially Muslims. However, the first two are great conversation starters and I use them every week in my own evangelism. There are no gimmicks involved, no bait-and-switch nonsense, and when people ask you "What is this?" I tell them directly, "This is a tract with the gospel of Jesus Christ on it. I'm out here talking to people about God and asking them following question ______".

Most people appreciate this direct approach because they've encountered the snake oil evangelists before, and the lack of upfront honesty turns them off to further conversation once they find out what you're on to. Coming with dishonest pretenses as a tool to get an audience for the gospel is completely contradictory to the gospel. I'm not saying we shouldn't be strategic at times; we should. However, when it comes to introducing yourself to people; I've found that being completely honest and straightforward about your purpose and mission is most beneficial if you want to continue the encounter in a productive way.

As far as tracts are concerned, I'd get a batch of 2500 of the first and 2500 of the second kind. Be sure to put your church's contact info on the back if your church is doctrinally solid enough to recommend. If not, then put your own contact info on the back instead so that those who want to follow up with you have a way to do so.

Note: If you can't recommend your home church, you will need to eventually leave that church and find another one to attend that is doctrinally solid. This is because eventually, God is going to give you a lost person to take to church and if your home church is loosey-goosey doctrinally or practically speaking; you'll be inconsistent at best and unnecessarily confuse a lost person at worst. Remember, lost people don't need help being more confused about Christianity than they already are. In sum, it is essential that you be attending a doctrinally sound church for the sake of consistency and honesty in your presentation.

2. Be ready to ask people questions like these:

"Do you believe absolute truth exists?"

"In your opinion, what must a person do to be reconciled to God?"

"If you could ask God one question, what would it be?"

"Where do moral standards come from?"

These simple questions allow you to gather data from people concerning what they believe about issues of ultimacy. The answers you receive will tell you where to take the conversation next. Be ready to answer all humanistic and non-Christian answers to these question so as to point people to Christ's word and Christ's gospel. Be ready also to deal with various types of relativism and pluralism, even among professing Christians. I'd recommend the following introductory books to get your feet wet:

Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air by Frank Beckwith and Greg Kokul.

Understanding the Koran by Mateen Elass.

Faith with Reason: Why Christianity is True by Joseph Farinaccio. Get the free .pdf here.

The Illustrated Guide to World Religions by Dean Halverson.

The Ultimate Proof of Creation by Dr. Jason Lisle. The DVD set here covers the same information in more of a summary form and is a worthwhile purchase.

Refuting Evolution 1 by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati. Get free online version here.

Refuting Evolution 2 by " ". Get free online version here.

Misquoting Truth: A guide to the fallacies of Bart Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus" by Paul Timothy Jones.

Scripture Alone by Dr. James White.

The Forgotten Trinity by " ".

Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Greg Kokul.

Tactics in Defending the Faith by " " (CD/DVD series).

My introduction to good apologetical practice came not through formal seminary education, but from witnessing encounters where I had to get answers to questions I couldn't answer. My goal in using apologetics is to stop the mouth of the naysayer and then fill it with the gospel. The goal is the gospel, period.

3. Offer free quality materials

Give out handouts, pamphlets, Bibles, DVDs, and other materials with a clear and consistent gospel presentation. Again, avoid gimmicky literature and handing out poor Bible translations like the NLT, The Message, The Good News Translation, etc. and give out copies of scholarly, committee produced translations such as the ESV, NASB, NKJV, etc. For short doctrinal treatises, I'd personally stick to using Reformed literature and media from guys like this:

Chapel Library Literature Catalog

Lies Students Hear
Alpha and Omega
Are There No Absolutes?
Are You Bad Enough?
Are You Born Again?
Baptism or Christ?
The Bible
Darwin’s Dilemma
God’s Answers to Man’s Excuses
God’s Answers to Man’s Questions
Great Teacher or God Incarnate?
How Would You Feel?
One Way or Many?
Way of Salvation
What Then Shall I Do With Jesus?
The Worth of a Soul
What Every Woman Needs

To Order Tracts, click here. Be sure to get some tracts in Spanish as well.

I recommend using Calvinistic literature because typically it is low on marketing gimmicks and high on Biblical truth.

4. Be nice - act like a Christian

Don't get into emotionally charged disagreements with people that cause you to get all bent out of shape. Sooner or later you'll get people who will want to argue with you up one side and down another. If naysayers can stay calm and engage you in a charitable way, then use Biblical apologetics to reason with them. If not, then leave them alone and let them go their heathen way.

5. Have at least one or two people work with you

Have one person do open-air preaching while the other two pray for you and try to engage people who are listening or walking by. If you are walking around doing street witnessing, have the more confident and experienced person initiate conversations with people while your partner stands by and listens and learns. If you have a booth set-up then one or two of you can man the booth while one of you talks to people and hands out literature as they pass by.

6. Regularly go to the same "Fishing Hole".

Be a regular presence somewhere in your city for the purposes of evangelism. It may be the library, a coffee shop, a university campus, or a flea market. "Fishing in the same pond" on a regular basis shows the world that you aren't a fly by night kind of person who is operating off a whim. Consistency in your time and place of evangelism shows the unbeliever that you are genuinely committed to what you are doing and that you mean business. It also shows that you truly care about reaching people with your message. Regularly being in the same place at about the same time will allow you to develop loose friendly relationships with the "regulars" and they will come to expect your presence and your message. This will have a more powerful and long-lasting impact on them versus going to different places at different times from week-to-week.

7. Pray

God may be pleased to bring the not yet converted elect your way and your efforts will be useful in planting seeds in their hearts. Pray that God will make you a most efficient tool in the hands of the Holy Spirit in your demeanor and conversation.

8. Memorize Large Passages of Scripture

I would suggest working toward memorizing Isaiah 52:13-53:12; John 3:1-36; Romans 3-5:1; Galatians 1:6-9, 2 Corinthians 5:21 and other pertinent evangelistic passages. Knowing your Bible well will take care of most apologetic/evangelistic questions that arise in your conversations with people. Most people's objections to Christianity are a result of their misunderstanding of it. Be able to share the gospel in 60 seconds, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, and 10 minutes and be able to correct people's misapprehensions about basic Christian doctrine.

9. Be Faithful

Seek to measure success by your faithfulness in clearly proclaiming the gospel of God. Avoid trying to exactly replicate the efforts of other modern evangelists like Ray Comfort, Todd Friel, or myself. You are not them and they are not you. Learn from them; but eat the meat and spit out the bones and recognize that God has given you a different personality, different characteristics, and a different disposition. Let the Bible be your ultimate evangelistic guidebook as to determining how things "ought be done". Eventually, after engaging people a lot, you'll develop your own comfortable style and evangelism will become as natural to you as any other daily activity. Also, whatever you do, avoid the temptation to measure success by man's standards. God converts people in His time, not yours (1 Corinthians 3:6). You go and tell; after that, it is up to God to regenerate and convert.

Conclusion: Be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove. Learn from the example of the apostles and be ready to engage your culture with the truth in a loving fashion. Make evangelism a priority instead of a sideline activity. Make it part of your normal, daily conversation, and eventually, God will bless your obedient and faithful seed-planting with eventual fruit-bearing that brings glory to Him and good to you!



    Much Deep Thanks Dusman!!

  2. Invaluable recommendations. Thank you!

  3. 4. Be nice - act like a Christian

    Don't get into emotionally charged disagreements with people that cause you to get all bent out of shape. Sooner or later you'll get people who will want to argue with you up one side and down another. If naysayers can stay calm and engage you in a charitable way, then use Biblical apologetics to reason with them. If not, then leave them alone and let them go their heathen way.

    Is this blog under new management?

  4. Is this blog under new management?

    There's a difference between dealing with hardened apostates in a public forum and personal evangelism in private settings.

  5. What difference is that?

  6. "What difference is that?"

    Here's a big difference:

    Mark 2:17 "And hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

    Jesus made a difference between those who *knew* they were spiritually sick vs. those who thought they were spiritually good to go yet were actually spiritually dead. Those who thought they were good to go but really weren't were castigated, mocked, and called names by the Lord of glory Himself after they had been exposed to the truth time and time again (cf. Matthew 23).

    The others who were weary and heavy laden were ministered to by the Lord of glory Himself. The treatment of the one is not the same as the other because of the different responses of both parties to the truth of the gospel and the repeated exposure thereto or lack thereof. So goes it with out and out heretics today and so goes it with those who realize their sin and want eternal life.

    There are clear examples of direct, aggressive confrontation of committed heretics and false teachers in Scripture and there are clear examples of dealing with lost people who realize their sin sickness as well.

    In general, with public evangelism, be a nice guy and try to be at peace with all people.

    However, if you have been hitting the same fishing hole for years and you deal with the same committed false teacher that is actively opposing your ministry efforts, then you are fully justified in marking that person out as a heretic in a public fashion and rebuking them (if necessary) and avoid that person and warn others to do the same (Acts 13:8ff; Rom. 16:17).

    The Bible teaches both, and we are responsible to learn the difference between the two.