Review: Evangelism More Caught than Taught
I teach Evangelism & Discipleship I & II online for a Christian University in Ohio. I was looking over an assignment that really threw me for a curve because the exercise goes against what the course is teaching.
The course uses as one of its textbooks, Becoming a Contagious Christian: Communicating Your Faith in a Style that Fits You, which teaches that there are several ways of evangelizing referred to as "styles" and that there isn't only one acceptable way. Those styles are: Direct style, Intellectual style, Invitational style, and Serving style.
Then the course has students read an article that emphasizes one style (Direct, or perhaps Intellectual) and asks them to attempt to do so. The article gives the following statement for its rationale:
"We are dedicated to equipping people for evangelism, not because large numbers follow us, but because it is the command Jesus gave to His followers. We don’t take others with us for OJT because it’s convenient, comfortable or easy, but because it is the Biblically mandated, time-tested, and historically proven means of producing disciples."
This runs counter to the teaching in the course that was previously laid down as foundational.
This article pulls from Dr. D. James Kenedy's Evangelism Explosion material which is hung on four principles:
1) Every Christian is to be a witness, 2) It is the responsibility of the Pastor to equip the saints, 3) Equipping is best done by on-the-job training, 4) Training soul winners is spiritual multiplication--and Scripture verses are given in support for each of these.
OJT is one method. EE states it is the best method, which means it may not be the only one, but (in Kennedy's debateable opinion) it is the best method. I am not saying I disagree. I am just seeking to establish consistencies.
I agree that everyone who comes in contact with Jesus Christ and has a conversion experience where they are forgiven of sins and receive the Holy Spirit, will be Christ's witness (Acts 1:8-9). Therefore, every Christian is a witness (I speak about the difference between a religious Christian and a true disciple here). Paul writes the Ephesians that God has given the people of Christ, his body, the Church, people to equip them for ministry: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers (4:11-13). Jesus sends out his Jewish disciples into a Jewish area with specific instructions to preach the kingdom to only Jewish people in the way he has modeled but also with specific instructions on how: preach the kingdom, heal the sick, and cast out demons in my name.
A walk through the book of Acts will show different methods are initiated when the disciples evangelize. There is Peter preaching, Peter with Cornelius, Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch, Saul/Paul and Jesus and later Ananias, Paul with Lydia and the Philippian jailer, Paul on Mars Hill, and a few more. None of these are exactly alike; there are principles that can be gleaned from each that are similar across the board. However, Paul changed his method, or his style, to meet the challenge of the people on Mars Hill he was speaking to so that "by some means I might save some."
Maybe I am wrong in thinking that asking students to try a style that isn't there own or comfortable with runs counter to the training they are receiving. Maybe not.