Different people, different evangelism styles

Different people have different natural evangelism styles

People are sometimes afraid to evangelize because they associate evangelism with door-to-door knocking and talking to complete strangers about Jesus. But this is not all evangelism is about. There are many different ways to evangelize and different people do well with different styles.

What we will study here is how different Biblical characters have different styles of evangelism based on their character. We may identify a style that suits us and stop trying to force ourselves to do something that is not natural.

When evangelism becomes natural, we will start to enjoy it and do more of it. On the other hand, if we try to do something that is not natural for us, the experience may be so traumatic that we conclude evangelism is not for us and we stop doing it altogether.

God, who created us, also knows our style. As we will see later, God called different ones to fulfill different tasks, depending on their style. Many will agree that they tend to meet people that are particularly suited for them to minister to. For example, someone who is the intellectual type meets many people who need that kind of reasoned approach. A person who is good with the Practical Approach often encounters people with needs that he can minister to.

This study is not intended to segregate Christians strictly into several groups. In reality, to reach people for Christ, we will often have to use several approaches. Yet we will find ourselves having one dominant style that suits us and is effective for us. It is fair to say we should concentrate more time and energy on the evangelism style that suits us best.

What are the different evangelism styles?

Confrontational

Peter comes to mind as someone with a confrontational style. When Jesus asked His disciples in Matthew 16:15 who they taught He was, Peter did not mince words. He declared clearly that he thought Jesus was the Messiah. Then a few verses later, he challenged Jesus’ stated mission head on.

(Mat 16:13-22 NIV)  When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" {14} They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." {15} "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" {16} Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." ….{21} From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. {22} Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!"

Peter is the kind of person that dares to confront. When he has something to say, he says it directly.

Another clue to Peter’s confrontational style can be detected when he cut off the ear of one of the man who wanted to arrest Jesus.

(John 18:3-10 NIV)  So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. ….{10} Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear.

Because of his confrontational style, God placed him in positions that require directness and boldness. On the day of Pentecost, it was Peter who became the spokesman for a group of believers (Acts 2). And he did it right in Jerusalem where Jesus had only been crucified weeks ago.

A person with a confrontational style has no problem doing door-to-door evangelism. He has no difficulty confronting strangers and speaking directly about difficult topics such as religion.

This style is not only applicable when done with strangers; a person with a confrontational style can also confront their friends with ease about spiritual and personal things.

Intellectual

Paul is someone with an intellectual style. The hallmark of his approach was a logical and reasoned presentation of the gospel.

(Acts 17:2-4 NIV)  As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, {3} explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ, " he said. {4} Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.

Paul tells us to be ready at all times to defend the gospel. That means that to be fully equipped, we should be able to defend the gospel against attacks of science, other religions, philosophy, etc.

1 Peter 3:15 (NIV) But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

When God wanted to send someone to the highly educated philosophers in Athens, He chose Paul (Acts 17). There Paul presented  an ingenious argument starting from the Athenian idol to an unknown god and moving eventually to the one true God and His Son Jesus who came to die for us. His approach was so effective that some of his listeners became believers.

(Acts 17:22-34 NIV)  Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. {23} For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. {24} "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. ..{31} For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." {32} When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, "We want to hear you again on this subject." {33} At that, Paul left the Council. {34} A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

If you belong to this style, you have a responsibility to build yourself up in the word and in knowledge and God will use you to touch the lives of people who are genuinely seeking God and who needs to have the truth set them free (Rom 8:32).

Invitational

After Jesus called the tax collect Matthew to become one of His followers, Matthew (also known as Levi) invited many of his friends to his house to hear Jesus. This is the invitational style.

(Luke 5:27-29 NIV)  After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, {28} and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. {29} Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.

Matthew relied on the friendship he has built with people as the basis to invite them to events that will expose them to Jesus. We use this approach when we invite our friends to events such as evangelistic rally, Christmas events, etc.

The other person in the Bible who used this approach was the Samaritan woman. After she has found the Messiah, she went out and invited her village people to come to hear Jesus.

(John 4:28-30 NIV)  Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, {29} "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" {30} They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

Friendship is important if we are to talk to people about spiritual things or even invite them for spiritual events. People who are good in this style have an interpersonal approach that allows them to build intimate relationships.

When we use the invitational approach, it will be negative if we only call people when we want to invite them to an event. Very soon, people can sense the superficiality of our friendship. We need to build genuine relationships with them. One practical tool that we can use is a booklet to write down who are the people we want to minister to and have a schedule to do friendship events with them, like calling them, meeting them, sending them a card, etc.

Many people will turn down an invitation to a Christian event if they are invited by strangers. But these same people will go if they are invited by friends. We can use friendship as an asset to win people.

Testimonial

An example of someone who used this approach is the blind man that Jesus healed in John chapter 9.

(John 9:15-25 NIV)  Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. "He put mud on my eyes," the man replied, "and I washed, and now I see." {16} Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath." But others asked, "How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?" So they were divided. …{25} He (i.e. the blind man) replied, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!"

If God had done something miraculous in your life, you can use the testimonial approach very effectively. It may not be a physical healing. It may be an inner transformation that makes you a different person today.

Some people think that they cannot be effective witnesses for God because they don’t know the Bible well and can only share their testimonies. These people should think again.

Jesus even turned down the request of a man (who had been delivered of demon-possession) to become His follower simply because He knew that this man can become an even more effective witness by sharing his testimony.

(Mark 5:18-20 NIV)  As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. {19} Jesus did not let him, but said, "Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." {20} So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

There are many people who will not respond well to a challenge or an argument but will be touched when they hear of how God is working in your life.

A person who used this approach effectively is Joni Erickson Tada, a quadriplegic woman whose account of how God helped her through her tragic accident points people towards Jesus.

Practical

Acts 9:36­39 (NIV) In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died.... All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.

(Acts 2:44-47 NIV) All the believers were together and had everything in common. {45} Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. {46} Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, {47} praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Docas and the early believers practice the Practical Approach to evangelism. No doubt this method was effective as many people were touched and saved because of their kind acts.

This is also the method advocated by people such as Ed Silvoso in his book “That none should perish”

The Institute of American Church Growth polled more than 14,000 Christians and asked them, "What or who was responsible for you coming to Christ?" Ninety percent of the respondants stated that a friend or a relative who cared for them and invested time in them was the primary factor in their decision to accept Christ as their Savior.

Even people who are resistant to the gospel will drop their hostility if Christians are kind to them. The early Christians gained favor among the people through kind acts and unselfish sharing.

God can use our resources to help other people and thereby show kindness. What do you have that can help your friend in need? Maybe you can provide a listening ear or even financial help to someone who has lost a job.

When we help someone during their time of need, we earn their respect and trust. That means that when we share the gospel with them in the future, it is more likely that they will listen to us because we have earned the right to be heard. It does not mean that they will definitely believe. But they will probably hear us out seriously while others who have not ministered to them may not have that opportunity to be heard.

Bibliography

For a more detailed study on this subject, read Becoming a contagious Christian by Bill Hybels.