Evangelism has become a dirty word. This is probably because of situations like what my wife and I ran into in San Fransisco a couple years ago. We spent a few days traveling up and down the Pacific Coast Highway before working at the Oracle Conference, a technology conference attended by more than 30,000 business people from all over the world. As we walked the convention center from our hotel one day, I noticed a short, stalky gentlemen on the street corner in the midst of all the hustle and bustle.
Suddenly, the man on the street corner began to scream. It was not your average yip or yell. It was a high pitched, throaty kind of scream, one that would cause you to lose your voice within a few minutes of unleashing it. He began to wave his Bible back and forth in the air. Between his gasps for breath, I could tell he was saying something about Jesus, repentance and God. The crowds quickly skirted around him, crossing the street as fast as they could, adding one more reason to their dislike of the "E-word."
As I've gone back over his experience in my mind, my main deduction is that this stalky street preacher was using the wrong bait.
Jesus talked to his first followers about "fishing for men." Im not much of a fisherman myself, aside from the occasional sunny day in Minnesota (we have 10,00 lakes in here, so it's almost a sin not to do all that fun lake stuff). If fishing has anything to do with the "E-word," we can easily assume that "different strokes work for different folks." It doesn't take a brain surgeon to discover that screaming at a businessman (or 30,000 of them) is among the most unsuccessful sales pitches in history.
I get it. I understand why evangelism has become a dirty word, but I want to believe God can do something different with it through my life.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO?
We have to put ourselves in the apostles' shoes. When they traveled with Jesus, what did they say? What did they do?
The first followers of Jesus did not witness to every person they met on the street. In my mind, I had somehow come to the conclusion that the more we witness to strangers, the holier we become. I used to think that if I could just witness to literally every person I came into contact with throughout my day, I would have made it into Kingdom greatness. (I seriously thought this.)
It took sometime and some years to understand Acts 17:2:
As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures.
What did Paul do on the days in between? We don't exactly know but we see on every church day, he took opportunities to speak of christ, proclaim Christ, and call men and women to Christ. Paul wasn't rapidly evangelizing to every single person he met throughout the week (although he clearly did personal evangelism at times), yet in the power of the Spirit, the speed of the gospel was the driving force of his life.
The gospel frees us from the notion that the evangelization of the world falls on our shoulders alone.