“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the 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 28:18-20 NIV)
When I was in college, I was blessed to be part of a vibrant, growing church that was focused on outreach to students. The church was my primary social circle, and I formed many lifelong friendships there. It was also dedicated to evangelism; the very name of the association of churches to which it belonged was “Great Commission Ministries.” But I admit that I found the kind of evangelism they taught to be, well, awkward and uncomfortable.
Imagine how relieved I was when Pastor Doug got up two Sundays ago and said (paraphrasing here), “I think a lot of the evangelism people have experienced is awkward and uncomfortable, probably best suited to people gifted in evangelism or with a personality for sales.” He went on to say that those feelings may very well be caused by the fact that we think evangelism has to be some kind of specific process, and the processes we’ve developed are unnatural compared to how people normally interact in our culture.
Still, I’m leery of anything that promises a quick fix. Get rich quick, get thin quick, get smart quick! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So evangelism that’s “easy”? Fun, natural, uncomplicated? That sounds like a line someone’s trying to sell me. I mean, the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20, above) is a pretty specific, pretty important command, and generally we should be obeying Jesus’ commands even if they make us uncomfortable.
But Doug’s 4-Step Doable Evangelism process relieved my concerns. It doesn’t sound like a make-Christians-quick scheme, but rather like a spiritual discipline, inherently valuable regardless of results (which we should be trusting God for anyway, not grading ourselves on). After all, Jesus’ command was to make disciples, and what are disciples if not those seeking to emulate Jesus’ spiritual discipline? In fact, this kind of evangelism sounds a lot like just loving people you already know, which is also part of the greatest commandment (see Matthew 22:35-40) and, not coincidentally, the very sign that we’re Christ-followers (John 13:34-35). It may be “easy,” but it’s also the “right” way.
Looking back at my college experience, I shouldn’t be so surprised by this kind of “proselytizing.” Two of my best friends were my roommate and another woman who lived in my dorm. The latter came to school during my second semester. An evangelistically gifted friend had found out through her outreach attempts that this new woman was studying computer science and liked writing, just like I did. I may not be gifted in evangelism, but I have extroversion in spades, so I simply sat down at her table in the dining hall (despite her reading a book in a clearly “leave me alone” manner) and talked with her until she became my friend. The friend who introduced us thanked me for following up on her outreach, but I was just making friends! More than a year later, a conversation I had with my new friend in a larger group prompted my roommate, who had been coming to church with me, to ask me how to become a Christian. I never went out of my way to give her an evangelistic spiel, but when the time was right, she knew she could talk to me about it.
I still sometimes feel that “just” living like a Christian is a bit of a cop-out, and while some of that may be artificially guilt-induced, I do want to point out some aspects of Doable Evangelism that are important. The first is so obvious that it almost goes without saying, but you do have to be talking with people who aren’t Christian for your witness to be evangelistic. The second is that there is intentionality in noticing, engaging and befriending people.
It might feel overwhelming to have to add people to your life, though; at least it does for me. I feel like I barely have enough time to hang out with the friends I already have! But the people you notice and engage don’t have to be your best friends, and are probably people you already know; you’re just making a little more brain space for them to show them that you value them. Still, maybe one of them is already on the way to becoming the friend you’ve been waiting for. You’ll never know unless you reach out. It’s just that easy.