Why Evangelistic Engagement?

We’ve gotten away with shouting the Gospel for too long. The time has come to integrate engagement into our evangelistic conversations.

The college campus has become more diverse ethnically and religiously. The one-size-fits-all mentality must be shattered and a tool-belt of contextualized, engaging tools must come.

Why evangelistic engagement? Because people no longer listen to one-size-fits-all anything.

  • http://stevelutz.wordpress.com Steve Lutz

    Agreed. And why don’t we move towards contextualized engagement?

    A few reasons:

    1. It’s harder. You have to think a lot more about what you’re saying and how you’re saying it.

    2. You have to listen a lot more.

    3. It takes you out of your comfort zone. We’re used to doing evangelism “our” way, in the way we already know, to the people we already know, in the time and place we already know.

    4. It doesn’t lend itself to results. How will I tell my supporters that some people moved closer to belief, but didn’t make an on-the-spot decision?

    • http://www.brianbarela.com Brian Barela

      good points here steve.

      i’m actually rolling something out during the blogference to speed up the process of generating new tools and tackle some of the obstacles you mention above (esp the comfort zone and the listen a lot more part).

      stay posted!

    • Anonymous

      Some things never get old … like remembering that “Success Witnessing” … is simply taking the initiative to share Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God.

      This provides the freedom to contextualize our message (Spirit-led) while not getting too far off track to the point where we are overly sensitive to the “offense” of the Gospel that we never get to the core message.

      In communicating with supporters it is important to let them know about the realities of cultural changes to receptivity of the gospel. When I ministered primarily to Muslims when living abroad, most of what I had to share was about incremental progression of individuals and their receptivity of the culturally contextualized, yet unchanging, message.

    • Jeff West

      I’m a techno-idiot … that last anonymous comment was from me.

  • http://JaysonWhelpley.com Jayson Whelpley

    I whole-heartedly agree. Ironically, some of the people who I’ve found to be the most weirded out by it are students.

    I remember being a student and thinking that I’d so much rather do this than randoms on campus.

    • http://www.brianbarela.com Brian Barela

      weirded out by internet evangelism?

      i’ve seen that too–most often bc students think they need to all of a sudden be someone else–as you alluded to in your comment on social media and ministry.

      when they understand the integrative philosophy of doing evangelism then it seems like they really enjoy it.

      • http://JaysonWhelpley.com Jayson Whelpley

        I guess I was thinking in terms of “real life” evangelism & student’s reactions to moving away from initiative evangelism. They seem to value it along with relational and wholistic conversational evangelism.

        • http://JaysonWhelpley.com Jayson Whelpley

          “holistic” that is.

        • Jeff West

          I’ve watched a cultural shift over the years in how we approach evangelism that I do not think is necessarily healthy. Is is good to be more relational in holistic in our evangelism methodologies? Absolutely! … but not at the expense of rejecting initiative evangelism.

          Effective initiative evangelism requires a higher skill level of interpersonal communication and relationship skills. Ironically, many who speak of the superiority of relational evangelism to the exclusion of initiative evangelism fail to recognize this reality.

          In a very real sense, due to our position as ambassadors of Christ, we do NOT have to “earn the right to be heard.” Even though we have the God-ordained right and responsibility to initiate with the Good News, this does not exonerate us of the responsibility to do so wisely, with understanding and sensitivity.

  • http://www.hertzlers.com Jerry Hertzler

    I think there is a good place for ‘shouting’ the gospel on a campus – it’s online through advertising. Engaging in discussion on a personal level can follow this with those who want to go there. It’s the same model as ‘random’ on campus, in-person initiative evangelism except that it efficiently finds the spiritually interested students and skips the rest.

    • http://stevelutz.wordpress.com Steve Lutz

      Can you really share the Gospel through advertising? I don’t think so. At best, it’s outreach, which we should distinguish from actual Gospel proclamation/evangelizing.

      • http://www.hearditonthestreet.com Rich Street

        Not sure of the difference between “sharing the Gospel” “outreach” and “proclamation/evangelizing”

        If you are asking whether or not people respond to advertising and come to a saving knowledge of Christ you couldn’t be more wrong. Last year alone CCC alone had millions of indicated decisions for Christ and I’ll bet that 75%-90% of those visits came from advertising.

        • http://stevelutz.wordpress.com Steve Lutz

          Distinction I made is between “outreach” and “sharing the Gospel/evangelizing.”

          Outreach is what leads up to the evangelizing: the invitation from a friend, the free food, the advertising, etc.

          I’m simply stating that a flyer stating “Free Pizza at CCC on Thursday” is not a Gospel presentation.

          Advertising not same thing as evangelism. Can advertising help get people there to hear it? Yeah, but it’s overrated, imo.

          • http://www.hearditonthestreet.com Rich Street

            Totally agree with you Steve. Thanks for making that clarification! :)

            I have handed out many a flyer back in the day only to see it get dropped on the ground 3 seconds later. However, there is that small (very small) percentage of people that God tugs on their heart via a goofy flyer and they come and give their life to Christ.

            The beauty of the internet is that I can do the same thing (small response as well potentially) but at least I’m green and don’t tick off the campus custodians as there is no “cyber trash”!

            Saw your website and appreciate what you do for the Kingdom.

            • http://stevelutz.wordpress.com Steve Lutz

              Thanks Rich!
              Not wanting to discount advertising–just be realistic about its impact, which you are. Every year I meet students who connected through that goofy flyer. :)

              And thanks for what you do for the Kingdom through sites like everystudent.com. I’m an outsider to Cru, but have appreciated that resource for years.

  • http://www.hearditonthestreet.com Rich Street

    I must agree with my good friend Jerry. “Shouting” is what can bring those that are ready to say yes to Jesus right away as well as help with those who are actually searching for God on the internet. I think that is not a majority of students on campus anymore, but there are certainly those that if they just heard a clear presentation of the Gospel they would come to faith.

    I also think we need to pioneer and experiment with ways to evangelistically engage students (and others) on the internet as well as face to face as well as integrate both so that my engagement happens face to face as well as online and that can be with the same person! How do we do a better job of listening online? I think truthmedia in Canada does a great job of this.

    • http://www.brianbarela.com Brian Barela

      thanks for commenting in rich and jerry.

      what would be an example of shouting today online?

      the main channel for shouting is friend to friend–firefox can block all fb adds (a lot of students have this set up), and the campus fan pages are usually filled w spammers: http://www.facebook.com/chicostate –we’ve shouted on there a few times and have literally seen a zero rate of return.

      not saying we shouldn’t shout–just wondering where…

      • http://hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

        In our advertising-saturated world “shouting” is not as effective as before. I’m sure you are all aware of companies that stopped doing traditional media advertising to put their resources into social networking and found that with a fraction of the investment they could outperform the traditional media campaigns.

        Just think about how prevalent they are – from sponsorship on sports clothing, banner-ads on TV programs, etc it seems that creativity for developing new advertising space is not at a low. And with this proliferation of advertising messages consumers (ie us and our students) can choose between either filtering out these messages or going crazy!

        So how do we filter? I think one of the main filters is personal connection. If we have a personal connection with the source of a message we will be receptive to it. So people will click on links that friends post on FB, but not FB ads. I think that the greatest potential we have for expanding our evangelism is through our and our students’ friends.

        And I am not saying to do this instead of initiative evangelism. I am saying that this should be the focus and target of our initiative evangelism.

        We also need to be aware that people are becoming much better at “smelling” disguised advertising as advertisers use these relationship channels more and more. We need our message to be genuine or we will be doing little more than splashing in a puddle.

        • http://www.brianbarela.com Brian Barela

          hey karl glad you’re commenting!

          really liked a lot of your thoughts here:
          “So how do we filter? I think one of the main filters is personal connection.”i’m seeing that over and again prove true on campus.

          “I am saying that this should be the focus and target of our initiative evangelism.”have had this thought many times after evaluating my local ministry’s effectiveness.

      • http://www.hearditonthestreet.com Rich Street

        Maybe we are getting our terms confused. By “shouting” I mean not apologizing for the Gospel or trying to make it relevant and findable. There are students who are searching for God out there and we need to make sure that they have access to a clear presentation of the Gospel and not apologize for the Gospel by directing students to an article/blog/video/whatever that dances around the Gospel instead of being direct. I think one of the most successful examples of this (obviously) is everystudent.com. Concept is simple, student searches “Who is Jesus” and they are directed to an article that discusses this. No need to send them to an article about men’s health that recommends you develop your physical and spiritual aspects of your life. The contrary is true as well, we don’t want to bait and switch people either. Everystudent doesn’t pull any punches, but at the same time I don’t think is too pushy or in your face.

        Still there can be an argument made for shouting. I don’t know the latest stats, but I think people decide within the first 3-5 seconds whether or not they like your site. Some of that is design, but some of that is content driven as well. Make sure your message is clear, direct and concise and I think we can do that without being offensive.

  • Jeff West

    Being informed about the different religions and worldview one encounters requires hard work. We have to KNOW, BE, and DO Christianity to have authenticity and credibility in our walks and witness. That is difficult in and of itself. Now add the “burden” of knowing enough about orthodoxy and orthopraxy of others belief systems to build a communications bridge can be a daunting task.

    25 years ago there was a great level or spiritual homogeneity in the US providing a common presuppositional foundation for spiritual communication. With the exponential growth of information and communication via the Internet and Google, that loss commonality has made our task, as communicators, one which the non-diligent cannot undertake very easily.

    • http://stevelutz.wordpress.com Steve Lutz

      Well said Jeff. You articulate my concerns about why inherently reductionistic tools are ineffective in this highly diverse, complex context.

      • Jeff West

        And yet I remain positive toward “reductionistic tools” :-)

  • http://www.forerunner.org.sg Patrick Ng

    Why EV Engagement? I’m inclined to think, “cos Jesus did it”.
    Eg. Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), with Nicodimus, just to name a couple.

    While there were times that Jesus ‘proclaimed’ the Kingdom to the multitudes, He often chose to get into the lives of people He came across. In the process of speaking with them, listening to their stories, asking them great questions, He opened up their hearts to see their own need for Him. He literally let them come to their conclusions thru these encounters with Him.

    Though there’s a time and place for proclamation type ministries (as i noticed performing in various Asian countries, where people are still open to have the gospel preached to them), shoving anything down anyone’s throat isn’t gonna go down well for most people today.

    It’s been helpful for me to realize that people i meet as not a believer-or-unbeliever, in-or-out cases, but fellow pilgrims on a spiritual journey (a continuum beginning with being agnostic towards God to becoming a true follower of His), and conversion is just one point in that continuum (not even necessary THE point; cos becoming like Him is THE end point), and so heloing anyone move anywhere closer to that end point in that continuum IS meaningful ministry. What that does is it frees me up to have to ‘bring it home’ at the first meeting with someone. it helps me take my time to be interested in their stories, before sharing mine, as the HS opens up doors.

  • Doug Leppard

    Combine Brian’s “one-size-fits-all mentality must be shattered and a tool-belt of contextualized” and his “50 prototype gospel presentations” and you get 50 prototype tool-belt contextualizations approaches. The two prototypes I will hopefully do are reaching out to special segments where one size would not have worked as well.

  • http://stevelutz.wordpress.com Steve Lutz

    Can I push this a bit further and suggest that we need to move on from the idea of a prototype, period?

    At the end of the day, is there much difference between one size and fifty sizes?

    While the core of the Gospel does not change, does any “pre-fab” expression of it really work?

    Don’t we always have to be contextualizing, so that every instance of proclaiming the Gospel is unique?

    • Jeff West

      Yes, unless we read an unaltered message without any interaction or feedback, every instance of proclaiming the Gospel is unique. That, however, does not mean that every “Gospel instance” is the same because individual receptivity is unique as a finger print.

      There are, however, principles that can guide gospel proclamations that facilitate transferability like DNA transmission via reproduction. In this sense “pre-fab” can work because core content is transferred and the intangible factor of Holy Spirit conviction works in conjunction with whatever we do.

      Having said this, we should not be sloppy or lazying in presenting the Gospel. Even if we are well prepared, sensitive in our presentation, and contextualized in our form, our presentations will most like never be perfect and even at times disastrous due to a number of other factors.

      By illustration, I am not a designer, thus I am VERY thankful for templates that give me a springboard for customization when making a brochure or writing a news letter.

    • http://www.brianbarela.com Brian Barela

      i don’t think we can move on from prototypes for two major reasons:



      the more complicated anything is, the harder it is to scale–the ccc gospel tool the 4 Spiritual Laws is a perfect example. it’s been able to literally scale to the world because of its simplicity.

      same principle applies to transferability–if we’re doing our job as campus ministers we are raising up new and untrained/unskilled believers. trying to teach a new believer how to share their faith the way i do is completely frustrating for both parties–they do not have my experience, training, insight, and maturity.

      however spending an hour training them in the basics of the 4 spiritual laws can literally get them out sharing right afterward.

      prototypes for me are essential because we need multiple/simple tools. the 4 laws works great sometimes, but it works terribly other times.

      whether or not they are actually “produced” i believe every person has multiple tools they are using when engaging evangelistically.

      for me when i’m sharing my faith on campus, or hearing from other students who are sharing their faith, a lot of times frustration is the word that describes their experience.

      i believe a huge source of that frustration is an abundance of out-dated tools and a scarcity of current tools. and for me developing prototypes could significantly relieve that frustration.

      • http://OverflowToday.com Joe Hanford

        Yes, new tools bring refreshment. A tool like SOULARIUM allows quick jumps over contextual lines, like parachuting in, because it invites the person to share their life, to be known a little, and in a way that is fun for the non-Christian and for our student who uses it. But then, it’s just the starting point.

        • http://stevelutz.wordpress.com Steve Lutz

          Sorry to be the contrarian here guys. :) I’m all for thoughtful, intentional evangelism, and I’m liking this dialogue.

          I think part of what I’m wrestling with is HOW these tools get used. That’s probably a bigger issue than the tools themselves. (Though I have issues with them as inherently reductionistic, whether that be 4 Laws or Soularium).

          Think of it like this, and I apologize if you’re not a sports fan. Let’s say you’re a pitcher, and you have 3 solid pitches that you’re confident in (you might occasionally mix in a 4th, depending on the situation). These pitches are your tools. They are what you use in every situation–but that doesn’t mean you treat every situation the same. Every at-bat will have the same elements, but will be different.

          I’m not objecting to having certain elements of a gospel presentation that we always go back to–I have those, and use them as well.

          What I fear with the use (or abuse?) of a tool is that we begin to treat every at-bat with the same approach: Fastball, curve, slider, fastball, curve, slider. We do this without accounting for location, the hitter’s tendencies, which side he’s batting from, the game situation, the wind, the team behind me, and any other number of factors. When the hitter knows what’s coming (which they inevitably do with tools), it’s not hard for them to knock you around.

          My concern is that the minute we take a tool and institutionalize it by putting it down on paper or a script, we become the pitcher who everyone knows is throwing fastball, curve, slider.

          We tell ourselves this can work, because we celebrate the young fireballer who can have success even if he has just one pitch.

          But what we really need is the savvy and creativity to know how to adjust to every unique situation, to treat every at-bat as both familiar but completely new.

  • Phillip Baron

    I wonder if the issue is not so much should we use the 4SL, but when do we use it. For many students today, they are several steps away from being ready to respond to the gospel. The question is how do we engage with students at their point on the process of becoming a Christian. Too often we are internally pushed to get to the presentation and prayer to validate ministry.

    Which brings me to a deeper issue. We find that students in our movement in Southeast Asia many times will do randoms and evangelism as an activity, but rarely share with their friends and classmates. It appears that instead of seeing evangelism as loving my neighbor, its something I do as a faithful student leader. There is a pressure to get a “win” instead of coming along side those who I know and reaching out to them. And reaching out to them is finding out where they are and bringing them closer to making a decision as the Spirit works in their heart.

    Which leads to a deeper issue on the way we disciple people in how they view ministry. Usually we will go through some type of Follow Up or Bible Study and after a few months begin to introduce evangelism and discipling others as an add on to what is do a Christian (It almost like we create a dichotomy between our spiritual life and ministry). Instead, even in our first encounter we begin to ask them if what they are learning is something they would want their friends to know and experience. Then we ask them what could they do? The burden is on them, but we will help them with what they want to do. It’s not forced, but getting them to right away see that Christianity is loving God and our neighbor.

    As they begin to grow spiritually, then we introduce the idea of how could we reach out to more people then just the ones we know. Which eventually leads to how do we reach “our generation”. We are not recruiting them to join us, but it becomes what they want and we are there to help them accomplish it. I would also say that we help them understand that their social network is just as valid as their face to fade network.

    As for contextualization, we first train them how to use the 4SL so they have a basic foundation. (I would love to have the theology of the 4SL as a part of our LTC curriculum at the advance level. Then we help them figure out how would they “modify” it so that their friends here the message without being distracted by the form. Then we discuss with our students where are their friends/classmates at in their readiness to respond to the gospel and what else is needed before you present the 4SL. Usually this process would not be longer than a month, from when you begin the discussion to where you share the 4SL.

    Finally we are wanting to do this in preparation for when the students graduate. We develop the skills necessary for them to be able to build movements in the workplace by not just training the how toos for the material, but working through the principles and creatively figuring out what it takes to reach out effectively.

  • http://hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

    Philip. I want to say a big “Amen” to what you are saying. What we need to do with our evangelism goes beyond getting a new tool or training package (not saying these are not needed, but they alone will not fix most of the problems we are facing), but actually goes deep into how we see evangelism fitting into our ministry and spiritual development.

  • Pingback: Should We Use Evangelistic “Tools”? « the SENTinel()

  • Vicky Chiew

    Great discussion!

    Thanks Phillip for your examples from ministry in SE Asia! And Karl, your point re: seeing how evangelism fits into our broader ministry and spiritual development is an important one. Often times, I’ve felt that CCC discussions around evangelism/tools have been removed from the larger context of ministry, life, and spiritual development. Pete Scazzero’s summary of the different phases in spiritual development helped me understand the waxing and waning of ministry, such as evangelism/service, in my own experience, as well as in the students’ experiences. Human development, and different life phases ppl go through have also helped me adjust my expectations of evangelism at different times of my own life.

    It saddens me that many of our graduates (including myself!) have felt guilt and worthlessness after college (and often in their workplaces!) over not doing (enough) evangelism, the way we did in college w/ CCC. I think that we need to let our students (and staff!) know that the ways and the rate we do gospel proclamation on campus now WILL NOT be reflective of how we’ll do/live evangelism when we graduate or start working or marry/start a family, and raise children, etc. AND THAT’S TOTALLY OK. I think that when we don’t, we could be contributing to graduates’ disillusionment and/or discouragement in this area of their life/ministry, and more significantly to how they may negatively view and relate to God.

    I think it’s important to note too that everyone is built and gifted differently. Even though I have been well-trained in and have done a lot of Gospel-proclamation (10 years w/ CCC, 6 years as International Campus Staff), I don’t prefer to evangelize like Bill Bright and other evangelists (direct/”confrontational” approach, talking to anyone and everyone, predominantly verbal). The ways I most enjoy evangelism is through service, and more relational conversations. I can sit with a weeping mother for hours, holding her, comforting her, AND speaking God’s words of hope to her. This is one way I “share the Gospel.” And it’s just as wonderful and acceptable to God as the more direct approach evangelists use. We’re different, and we need each other to be different to be the people God desires us to be.

    So, in short:
    1.) It’s good to provide resources and training for students who desire to share their faith.
    2.) It’s good to help ppl contextualize the HOW in sharing their faith, as they interact with different ppl/communities.
    3.) But, it’s utterly crucial to emphasize that the best evangelism resource/training is the Holy Spirit working in each of us, at different times of our lives, in different situations/contexts, through our different giftings, etc. – as we grow in loving God and our neighbor. In this light, effective evangelism for the long haul is critically linked to learning and/or teaching others how to hear God’s voice.

    I believe as people grow in loving God and their neighbor, a million prototypes of evangelism will result – as is the case across cultures, and through the ages (and in this Blogference!)

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