There are few words in Christianity that make us more uncomfortable than “evangelism.” For some, the word might conjure up images of hypocritical TV “evangelists” who have partaken in any number of illicit and immoral activities. Or when we hear “evangelism,” we may remember times when we were asked by church leaders to canvass neighborhoods, knocking on doors and inviting people to church. Or perhaps we think of the times when our own doorbell has been rung on early Saturday mornings by those trying to “evangelize” us into believing their own brand of religion. It’s without a doubt that “evangelism” can be something of a dirty word in many Christian circles. The thought of it makes many of us uncomfortable, so we simply choose to ignore it altogether.
But here’s what we know. Many people have the gift of evangelism given to them by God. And what we may often think of as “evangelism” probably isn’t at all what this spiritual gift is about. Those who possess the gift of evangelism have a unique ability to share their faith in Christ with others. Being a gifted “evangelist” does not necessarily mean that one must stand in front of large groups to preach the message of Christ. In fact, the most effective evangelism is most always achieved in one-on-one and small group relationships: and the key word there is “relationships.” Gifted evangelists never force their faith upon others, but focus upon building relationships with people in order to tell the story of Christ in their own lives; with the ultimate goal of leading their friends to make a decision for Christ themselves. In other words, an evangelist is really just a good friend; one who listens and cares about the well-being of others – but is also keenly aware of the opportunities to share their love of God.
It’s unfortunate that “evangelism” has a bad reputation among many Christians. Indeed, studies consistently show that Christians believe “evangelism” to be their least-prominent spiritual gift. However, other research also shows that the reason we feel this way is simply because we have talked ourselves into believing that we’re not good at it. This is what I believe: once we understand what “evangelism” truly is, we won’t be so afraid of it. Evangelism shouldn’t be understood simply as knocking on doors or asking strangers if they’re saved. Evangelism, rightly understood, is about building relationships with others (which often takes a long time), in order to bring Christ’s love to them. Do you have this spiritual gift?
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