Farmers, Not Salesmen

workplace graceIf you’re a Christian, I predict one of these two scenarios probably describes your experience with evangelism:

Scenario #1: You’ve never been taught evangelism at all. Your Pastor talks about it sometimes, you know it’s important, but nobody in church leadership has ever taught you how to do it, what it’s about, what it entails, what it means, and what “success” actually is.

Scenario #2: You’ve been taught a pre-scripted, rote, memorized way to share the Gospel. You know, deep down, that you sound like a cheesy salesman, so you don’t usually bother to do it.

Scenario #1 is unacceptable, and your church leadership should put some energy and effort into fixing this – now. Scenario #2 is unhelpful, and very bad. Pre-scripted approaches are unhelpful because you cannot script a conversation. It’s more important you actually understand doctrine, so you can better explain it to people with the time you have. For more on this, see my lesson entitled “Teaching the Gospel to Kids” (audio and handout are at the link).

The truth is, Christians are not salesmen – we’re farmers. I’ll let a good book explain the rest:

Many Christians learned a mechanical, aggressive approach to evangelism. We attended workshops and read books based on techniques developed by people who have the gift of evangelism. That is the problem. When those of us who are not gifted evangelists muster up the courage to try these techniques, the results are usually disappointing— which makes us feel guilty and often offends others. We begin to think of ourselves as substandard disciples who are simply not able to share our faith. Although we want to see friends and colleagues come to Christ, we stop trying out of fear and frustration.

According to a 2009 Barna Group survey, since 1995, the proportion of born again adults claiming the gift of evangelism dropped from four percent to one percent. The problem is one of perspective, not inability. We tend to think of evangelism as an event, a point in time when we explain the gospel message and individuals put their faith in Jesus on the spot. Done!

However, according to the Bible, evangelism is an organic process, more like farming than selling. A person’s decision to trust Christ is the climactic step, following a series of smaller steps God orchestrates to draw a person to Himself. He typically enlists a number of people with a variety of gifts. Each person plays a different but vital role to help a nonbeliever take one step closer to Jesus.

Bill Kraftson of Search Ministries observes that each Christian in a nonbeliever’s journey to faith is like a link in a chain. “It’s great to be the last link in the chain,” Kraftson says, “but it’s not more important than any other link. We just need to make sure we’re not the missing link.”

Walt Larimore and Bill Peel, Workplace Grace: Becoming a Spiritual Influence at Work (Longview, TX: LeTourneau Press, 2014; Kindle ed.), KL 203 – 224.

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