Friday, January 04, 2013

Should We Train People to Share Jesus?

A few days ago, I responded to the following tweet by @seventy8prod...

“If your church was putting together a digital evangelism training (sharing God online), what would need to be part of the "rules" to do it?”

Here is my response...

“Rule 1 Listen to Jesus & repeat what He says (Eph. 6:19-20).The more we train in evang. the less people evang.” @edwaken

My tweet was retweeted and a conversation began between myself and two guys I’ve never met in person.  I love social media.  Much can be lost in translation when you only have 140 characters to communicate profound ideas.  I’m certain I totally missed what @seventy8prod was asking.  In our 140 character conversations, I committed myself to writing a blog post to explain my understanding of the role of training in evangelism.

Defining Evangelism
Evangelism: simply stated, evangelism is sharing good news.  Most Christians would say that they do not have the gift of evangelism or that they are not evangelists.  When I hear this I strongly disagree with them.  Everyone does evangelism for many things in their life.  When we get excited about a good restaurant, we begin to tell people we know about the food, the service, the menu and the staff of this new restaurant.  We might even write a short a review or rate this restaurant on various restaurant review sites.  In essence, we become an evangelist (sharing the good news) about our new restaurant find.  Evangelism is nothing more than telling people about the good news of life in Jesus.  Every believer is to be an evangelizer for the good news of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:19-20, John 20:21, Acts 1:8, Col. 4:5-6 etc).

Everyone has methods when it comes to evangelism.  The question is should we be teaching methods and/or training people in evangelistic methodologies?  I would say that it is fine to teach or train people in evangelistic methods...BUT...only if they first understand Jesus’ methods.  Once this is understood, you may find you don’t need or want to teach other methods.  Let me as briefly as possible unpack what I mean.

Paul had a method of going into synagogues to preach but that doesn’t mean that this method should be imitated or transferred.  In today’s world, imitating Paul’s method would be equivalent to going into Kingdom Halls or Mormon Stakes upon entering a city to begin a dialogue.  It may work for some, but it should not be prescribed as the ‘must use’ method or the method endorsed by the apostle Paul.

The world's systems needs methods to produce products or to perfect techniques.  Spiritual tasks take on a different set of needs that have more to do with dependence, trust and weakness rather than control, consistency and production.  When the disciples or a church try to apply enterprising techniques, we lose the flavor and excitement of the adventure and mystery that is meant to be experienced by following the Holy Spirit.

Jesus went about proclaiming the Kingdom of God (Luke 4:18) but he seemed to do it differently all the time.  His approach with his disciples was different than he used with Nicodemus (John 3) or with the rich young ruler (Matt. 19), the woman at the well (John 4) or even the man born blind (John 9). 

Here is what I believe Jesus’ secret was.  He adjusted the message (the approach) to every person based upon what He heard from the Father (John 5:19-20).  We then learn from the pen of Paul, that this is exactly what we are to be doing as well (1 Cor. 2:10-16, Eph. 6:18-19).  In fact, Jesus taught his disciples that when we find ourselves in situations where the good news of Jesus can be shared, that God will actually give us the exact right words at the exact right time to have God’s exact right response for that interaction (Matt 10:18-20, Mark 13:9-11, Luke 21:12-15, Eph. 6:18-19).

No one has to train people how to share positive news about their good restaurant experience.  It flows from their mouth naturally when the opportunity presents itself.  Imagine actually engineering a course on how to tell people about good restaurant experiences.  We really don’t need such a course.

As people begin to understand the Biblical promises about sharing faith in Jesus (see verses cited above), I believe there is less need to train people.  As people believe that Jesus will actually give them the right words at the right time to meet the need of the hearer, it will bring freedom to their souls and cause their ear to be more in tune with what Jesus will be saying to them.  When this basic principle is embraced, training people with the right order of truths to get a person to make a decision (training how to share your faith) begins to pale.

Training Often Equals Less Sharing
While I am not against training people with methods to share truth about Jesus, when we begin with this sort of training we often handcuff them (unintentionally) to the method(s) we present.  These methods will always be artificial for most people.  While most methods offer solid truth of the Gospel and are well intended to get people motivated and equipped to share Jesus with others, they are simply too complicated.  Experience teaches us that most will abandon the method at some point.  Even evangelistic systems that claim to be simple are often too complicated for many.  When we train people in the or a ‘way’ to share their faith it can communicate that if you don’t do it right it won’t work or may lead people astray.  When you lay the foundation of freedom to listen and follow Jesus’ whispers in your heart, then methods can be added and viewed as a tools to be used when lead by the Spirit.

This is getting long for a blog post so I’ll end it here.  We have not even touched on what success in evangelism looks like or what our role and God’s role are in evangelism or even how to know we are hearing from God.  Let’s tackle those topics another day.

You can listen to a bit more about my thoughts on evangelism by clicking HERE.

I would love to hear what you think.  Leave a comment below and let's have a dialogue.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Has it Been That Long?

Wow, I can't believe the last time I posted was in July...amazing.  Well I will have a post up later today or tomorrow at the latest.  I'm working on it now and pray it will be of some benefit to you.  Until my next 'real' post :-)...