Thursday, January 18, 2007

Is Anybody Listening?

On Monday, I ran into a friend at the gym and we started having a discussion about evangelism & discipleship. He was responsible for a large youth gathering in Peoria, but is now -- to his credit -- asking things like -- "is this the most effective way to reach lost people today?"

I confess that I don't really know the answer. Obviously relationships are crucial, so I tend to downplay things like podcasts/vodcasts/websites/blogs, etc., as an evangelistic or discipleship tools, but how do you communicate to people beyond the scope of the Christian world?

I'm interested to hear your thoughts!

What would reach your lost friends? What would they listen to? What does being an 'evangelist' mean today (we all know how effective Billy Graham was, but does it still work today?)

I have a couple thoughts, but I want to let the conversation happen first. (by the way, my friend will be watching too...we really want to hear what you're thinking -- all of you, not just you "pastor-types.")


jdb said...

This is the focus of our entire meeting in Denver this week, so I'll probably come back and comment ... here are a few thoughts for tonight:

• Evangelism "tools" scare me. There have been several over the years - and many have been temporary fads. This leads me down the path of what "lifestyle" evangelism looks like. So, I don't "do" evangelism, I "live" evangelism. We create a life that is so dependent on the Holy Spirit that we follow his lead and not our plans.

Hybels talks about that a lot in "Just walk across the room"

• 2 Cor 5: Christ's love compels us, for we are convinced ... I like that word "compels" in the spirit of evangelism

• Evangelism begins with me abiding in Christ (John 15). The closer I get to him (discipleship), my intimate connection with Jesus leads me into the work he is already doing to seek and save the lost.

If you're talking about teens and other young people - keep in mind that what they are craving is authenticity and identity. They will connect with someone "living Jesus" because it brings them to a new reality and gives them an opportunity to form an identity.

It's so much easier to tell my friends how much I need Jesus, than it is to tell them how much they need Jesus. If I can be real and admit my need for a savior today, in this moment, and how Jesus meets me where I am today ... then I can truly connect with a young person.

People come to Jesus for different reasons. For some, he fulfills the need for a father. For others, he's constant and doesn't change. For others, it's the dream of eternity in Heaven. There are many more ...

So I start by loving my friend, without an agenda, and letting the holy spirit direct them to their doorway with Christ. I introduce them to the Gospel with gentleness and respect.

More as the thoughts develop in Denver ...

nick said...
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nick said...

It's a good question, because quite frankly preaching on the street corner like Paul would probably only get you a bagel thrown at your face in today's society. (Not unlike Paul getting carted off) All know, is that I grow tired of gimmicks, cool slogans, and alliterations. I just want people to be real. I hate cute group names.

I like the comment jdb said about "lifestyle" evangelism. It's so annoying to hear evangelism spoken of in terms of specific times and places when it should simply be an outpouring of the soul.

For me, I think taking personal interest in someone is my most effective way to reach people. When people realize you genuinely want to know, help, pray for them they start asking questions. Questions that may lead someone to Christ. Find a need, meet a need, and maybe you'll one day get the chance to explain Jesus.

Rallies and alter calls have their place I suppose, but when the euphoria from the event dies away, where is a relationship that the new believer can benefit from? All I know is that my unsaved college friends are mostly put-off by Christianity because they've only ever seen the "I'm gonna get you saved side." Most are aching for somebody to be real with them; to know what a meaningful relationship actually looks like. Maybe that friendship is the greatest "tool" of evangelism.

swishthedish said...

The most effective way to reach the lost is to go where they are. The other stuff is good and helpful, but in the end we just need to go.

Staging Christian events is great, but for lost people (those "beyond the scope of the Christian world")you have to enter in their world and just love on them. Standing from a distance and preaching won't do the trick.

I have the privilege of working at a job where no one looks, thinks, or acts like me. At first I didn't like it, but now I see it differently. There's a lot of Hindus, some Muslims, some people who call themselves Christians because they've been to church and a lot of people that just don't care. And I can without a doubt say that just my being there and working along side them has given me a chance to share Christ with them in ways that a podcast, website, blog, tract, or anything else wouldn't be able to.

You asked what would they listen to. From my experience in my job and as a YoungLife leader, we earn the right to be heard. My coworkers and the high school guys I hang out with know that I love them. I listen to them, ask them questions, hang out with them, joke with them, encourage them, etc and that gives me the right to share with them on a very personal level. I wouldn't be able to do that from a distance.

That's my two cents.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations..."

JGanschow said...

I agree with all of you. Relationships are the key element to evangelism today. However, the question remains, how do you enter those relationships with the unreached? Obviously there are people you come into contact with on a daily basis at work. If you are a "pastor-type," chances are the people you work with are already Christians. Those of us in other professions have a real opportunity to develop personal, loving relationships with co-workers. Real connection with one or a few people that you introduce to Christ can multiply into many when they eventually show that same love to others. So is this more of a personal-level evangelism, or should we still be out on the streets evangelizing with wreckless abandon?

swishthedish said...

"However, the question remains, how do you enter those relationships with the unreached?"

In my opinion, it's not about "I just so happen to work, live, etc right near by these lost people." In the end, as I stated earlier, we need to SEEK OUT these people which sometimes means we have to step out of our comfort zones and go out of our way to reach them.

I was recently watching the NOOMA video Sunday and in it Rob Bell talked about how when we get in our little Christian circles and forget about the people around us (the lost, the poor, the oppressed) that we're like a foul odor to God, like He doesn't even want anything to do with us. That was a big conviction for me, because as much stuff as I'd like to think I do for God and others, I really don't look beyond my own interests that much.

So, I don't claim to be good at it, but it's about going out of our way and living along side the lost.