How to — Not — Evangelize

I don’t pretend to be anything other than I am — a middle aged Christian woman who drives a Honda Fit (and I generally leave the Bible at home, next to the sofa). Photo credit Steve Henderson Fine Art

I drive a Honda Fit.

It’s a great little car, and more than once random strangers have approached me and asked about gas mileage, maneuverability, and cost; I show them how the back seats go up and down to create amazing space in a compact car. We part on friendly terms, with both sides having enjoyed the conversation.

Not once have I accosted an SUV or double-cab pickup driver in the parking lot and said,

“Hey! You! Yeah, you with the gas guzzling vehicle that is wasting your money and the planet’s resources — you need to be driving one of these things!”

And then, after they snarl back at the intrusive middle aged lady inappropriately butting into their business, I would say to myself,

“It’s their fault if they spend too much money on gas. I told them about the Fit.”

Suffice it to say that the likelihood of their looking twice at a Fit now is low, since they associate the car with the intrusive middle aged lady.

Obviously, if I truly wanted people to see the advantage of the Honda Fit, hammerfisted tactics would not be the way to go about it. And just as obviously, if a person isn’t remotely interested in a small car, he is not going to be open to hearing about it. Although my product is good, I won’t sell it by making people feel stupid, and I won’t get anywhere, fast, with someone who is uninterested. They need to see the need, and when they do, they’ll take a second look at my wild orange miracle car.

Being still, and quiet, isn’t such a bad thing. It’s not an easy thing, but it’s a good thing. Be Still poster by Steve Henderson

Many people sell Christianity — they call it witnessing — the way you don’t want to tell others about the Honda Fit:

“Hey! You! Yeah, you the sinner who is going to burn in hell unless you accept Jesus Christ, right NOW, as your Lord and Savior — say these words and you’ll have eternal life with the God who loves you, but walk away and you’re damned forever!”

And then, when the listeners walk away, because this approach isn’t particularly engaging, we say,

“Well, their damned soul isn’t on my hands. I TOLD them, and they chose not to believe.”

This isn’t witnessing, it’s hocus pocus, the belief that simply saying the words — no matter how badly and how insensitively — is enough, because we have been given the Great Commission to “go out and tell the world.” We don’t do anything else this way, and when we are truly concerned about the result — the sale of the car, the firmly getting it across to the toddler that he can’t cross the street by himself, the potentially dicey confrontation with our immediate boss — we choose our actions, our words, our place of interaction, carefully, because we want the person listening to be receptive to our message.

Our actions, when they involve listening, compassion, and love, speak louder than our words. Beachside Diversions, original oil painting and signed limited edition print at Steve Henderson Fine Art; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

Jesus knew this, and the example He set is one we can be free to follow. He took time to get to know people — not just so that He could add another notch to his rope belt — but because He truly cared about their thoughts, their fears, their ideas, their experiences, their hopes, and their lives. When He could help them He did, and while admittedly He was more adept at this than most of us are — I can’t put mud in a man’s eyes and heal him from blindness, can you? — all of us can take time to see what we can do, and do it.

Actions. Words. Motivation. Like the Trinity itself, these three elements work in tandem to bring about results.

In order to tell people about your hope in Jesus Christ, live your life, first, walking closely with the Master. Talk to Him. Lean on Him. Love Him. Let Him love you. Experience the joy and trust and hope that you want to tell others about, and you may find that you don’t have to use words.

Join me Wednesdays for my articles on Contempo Christianity, a look at life, as an ordinary Christian, in the 21st century.

All of the Fine Art on my website is by my Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson.

Find Steve’s work at the following online venues:

Manufacturers and retailers — license Steve’s work through Art Licensing

This article is linked to The Chicken Chick, Alderberry HillMop the FloorMemories by the MileGrowing HomeA Wise WomanWholehearted HomeDeep Roots at HomeHope in Every Season, We Are That FamilyGraced SimplicityKatherine’s Corner, Hearts for Home,

 

 

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10 Responses to “How to — Not — Evangelize”

  1. Great post! I would love for you to link up to my Thriving Thursdays link up tomorrow :)

    • Thank you, Crystal — and I have linked up to Thriving Thursdays. Thank you for inviting me, thank you for visiting and reading the post, and please feel free to come back, read awhile, and comment. I love visitors, and the longer we visit, the more potential we have to become friends — even across cyberspace. — Carolyn

  2. Jen says:

    I’m visiting from the Hearts at Home bloghop. I love the car story you started with – it’s much like the parable-telling technique Jesus used! :)

    • Thank you, Jan, for visiting, and I do encourage you to come back and regularly read and comment. I love telling stories — I began as a young child by READING them all the time — Grimm’s fairy tales were my earliest companion, and then as I became a parent, I just got into telling stories to my kids. Many hours in the car when we were driving to get groceries or whatever, I would tell them stories, and it became something that I just really like to do. — Carolyn

  3. From the Favorite Things Hop. I so love this post. It is so really the way I feel too. Actions speak louder than words and seeing how someone lives their life is 1,000% more meaningful than what they say. And,I really love the art. Art is important in my life.

    • Thank you, Sandra, for your good, kind comments. Although I use words all the time, as a writer, I recognize their limitations — and those limitations are firmly in place when the actions don’t match. What we do — and even more so, what and how we THINK — are so much more impacting in our daily walk on our path with Christ.

      I’m glad that you love the art, and that you see the significance of it in daily life. Too many people these days are so absorbed with technology and daily stress that they don’t take time to see the importance of art. It would be good if everyone had at least one art piece, of any sort, on their wall that they could look at each day and draw inspiration and beauty from. The art is by my Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson, and clicking on any image will take you to his site or to a site where his art is sold. — Carolyn

  4. Jane Smith says:

    This is my first visit into your website…really into it, I mean….and my first major blessing for this day. And it’s only 7:55 AM! I am forever struggling for words to come quickly in witnessing to someone I hardly even know before they get away. If I don’t tell them the “good news” I have not done my job.

    The first and most impressive witnessing I ever heard/saw was when I was 6 or 7. I am 84 now. That witnessing did not speak of Jesus Christ, it was manifested in providing me a loving home when mine was broken by divorce.

    When I was 35,I made a call to my substitute mom, to tell her I had met Christ. “I always regretted not telling you about Him when you lived with us, but I felt I couldn’t as I wasn’t your mother” she explained. Her love, her life with God’s intervention was more than enough and thus prepared me to ask a Sunday School bus driver, “How did you get that faith to believe God?”

    Don pulled out his Four Spiritual Laws tract and I was born again that day.

    • Jane: Thank you for your good, kind comments, and for so thoughtfully reading what I wrote. I hope that you will make me a part of your day or week, and pass me on to others. As a Christian who is frustrated by the ineffectuality of the mainstream church, I seek to find and connect with people like you, who walk your path each day and listen to His voice. I am guessing that you are not satisfied with weekly church attendance and participation in a small group as the sum total of your work for Christ on this planet.

      Your substitute mom was a wise woman, and she spoke the gospel of Christ in the most effective way it can be spoken — through actions of love and compassion. Only then, do the words make sense.

      I encourage you not to worry about the person “getting away” without hearing the gospel — none of us can know what pain or rejection another person has already experienced in being “told” the good news, but I don’t think we ever fail by listening, sincerely listening to someone, and taking an interest in their life and in their soul. God does not expect you to save people; He wants you to interact with them, with love and compassion, as they come your way. If you only see them once, He knows this. You may see them again — you may form a bond or a friendship or a relationship with them, and they will continuously see Christ in your life. But there is no need to drop words, magic words, so that they don’t get away without hearing. If you live in America, most people are vaguely aware of the gospel, somehow, and many of them are not impressed by what they’ve heard, because the actions accompanying the words hasn’t always been the best. We are fighting a misconception of our own making.

      Continue to listen to His voice, and walk the path set before you. He will tell you what to say, and when, and how to say it. I wish rich, rich blessings on you, my friend. — Carolyn

  5. Brandon says:

    I know this is an old post, but it’s a great message. Though I’m not sure there is an appropriate way to witness. Every believer is different, every unbeliever is different. Ultimately, I think each believer needs to find the manner they are best suited to witness and try to find the people their style is meant to reach. The only way I believe one can know they are witnessing appropriately is if their heart is broken when the message isn’t accepted.

    • Brandon: wise words. We tend, as a people, to seek a one-size-fits-all method of doing things, and “witnessing” is one of these areas that has fallen into that. How many church goers have returned to their Sunday roast, chagrined, because they’ve been scolded about “being in their comfort zone” and “not getting out there aggressively with the word of God”?

      A little circumspection and thought would not be amiss, and before believers go out with the message, they might think twice how it would be received. If people went into a job interview, or a first date, with the attitude that they frequently use in witnessing, there would be more unemployed people than they are, and more people not attending a movie with someone else.

      Many times, we plant seeds – a simple statement here, a compassionate action there, a listening ear to someone’s troubles and biting our tongue when we try to answer them, point by point. Recognizing who Christ is, and coming to His feet, is a process, not something most people arrive at after being told one time, or two times, or multiple times.

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