Entering a new age of Evangelism

 

The title “evangelist” brings with it a set of powerful preconceptions.  For some, it brings to mind thoughts of John Wesley going from town to town on horseback, George Whitfield preaching in large fields in England or Dwight Moody in halls and on stages around the world.  For others, the evangelist brings to mind massive gatherings with Billy Graham or Greg Laurie calling down streams of people to the front to receive Jesus.  And still, for others, the evangelist is a slick, money hungry media production that combines a message of intolerance and hate with a plea for finances.

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Dr. James Flynn in his lecture on the Evangelist describes the role as one who is gifted with strong communication skills and a passion for the lost.  The Evangelist is burdened with a desire to see the person he or she comes into contact with come to a relationship with Jesus.[1]  Dr. Flynn also reviewed the varieties of evangelistic arenas in the book of Acts.  Prayer (2:17), evening fellowships (21:7), communion (2:46), whole night services (20:7), and impromptu gatherings (16:32) were all a part of the evangelistic movement in the early church.[2]  What is evident is the multiple ways the church engaged the culture to bring the message of Jesus.

The modern-day evangelist has a mission field that is ripe.  The materialism of American culture, combined with the empty longing for significance through social media has driven many people to the edge of despair.  Transcendent concepts have been driven from our public discussions, and this has left a vast vacuum of empty spirituality.  But our culture is also skeptical of institutions and is wary of manipulation.  This why evangelism has been taken out of the auditoriums and stadiums and is now based on relationship.

Yes, there are some evangelists who are still gifted for the mass gathering crusades, but to be useful in creating disciples (as opposed to converts) the evangelist has to develop relationships that focus on friendship and love as opposed to conversion.  In their book, Conversational Evangelism: Connecting People to Share Jesus, Dr. David Geisler, and his father Dr. Norman Geisler discuss the methodology of conversation.  Drs. Geisler focus on four metaphors for the process of conversational evangelism.  The musician engages in listening conversations, the artist holds illuminating conversations, the archeologist digs up barriers to the faith, and the builder builds bridges to the gospel.[3]  Conversations with active listening treat people as people and accept them for who they are.

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Remembering how Jesus interacted with people is vital to the evangelist.  Whether it was the woman at the well in John 4 or the healing of the paralyzed man in Mark 2, Jesus approached each encounter with love.  If the evangelist approaches people with a desire to convert them, he or she will fail.  The evangelist must approach each person as a dearly loved child of God whom Jesus died for.  By loving the nonbeliever without any precondition, the sweet aroma of the Gospel will permeate the conversations.  Love will give an open highway for the Holy Spirit to do His work in drawing the unbeliever into a relationship.  As Dr. Flynn stated in his lecture on the Evangelist, it is the work of the Holy Spirit that is central, and the evangelist’s job is to be the conduit of The Holy Spirit’s work.

[1] Dr. James Flynn and Dr. Joseph Umidi “Lesson Six: Office of Evangelist” (Power Point Slide Deck), Slide 2.

[2] Ibid, Slide 7.

[3]David Geisler and Norman L. Geisler, Conversational Evangelism (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Pub, 2014), 41.

 

Devotional The Church

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