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.

Sharing the Gospel . . . at Work?

workplace graceIn Sunday School, we’ve taken a short detour from the Apostle Peter’s first letter to talk about something very practical – how do you share your faith in the real world? Perhaps you’ve “grown up” in churches where evangelism was always a corporate, church activity. Perhaps, when you hear “evangelism,” you immediately think of going door to door in a sub-division. Maybe you think of a bus ministry. Maybe you think of running the other way, and making a hasty retreat through the church foyer for the front door.

I understand.

Did you know there is more to it than that? Let’s get real, for a moment – most Christians will have the most opportunities to share their faith where they spend the majority of their day – at work. I’ll be writing more about this soon, but I’ll leave you with this bit of wisdom from a good book:

The challenge of evangelism in the twenty-first century is not a matter of supply; it is a problem of distribution. The methods used in the past to deliver spiritual aid and assistance are not working. The idea that we can open a distribution center on a street corner and expect those in spiritual need to come to us is not working. In fact, God did not intend for it to work. Instead of a retail business model, He chose one-on-one distribution as the primary method for His followers to dispense His grace.

It is a fascinating and humbling fact: the Creator of the universe could have used any method to spread His grace to the world, yet He chose to use ordinary Christians— not a few handpicked superstars— to take His message of salvation to the human race.

According to a 2013 Barna Group poll, nearly one-third (31 percent) of evangelical Christians (who all believe they should evangelize) have not done so— at least within the past year. 

God calls every Christian to be a witness for Him. So for most of us, our mission field is where we spend the bulk of our time: the workplace. Between Sundays, we can be pipelines of God’s grace to people who would never darken the door of a church.

Walt Larimore and Bill Peel, Workplace Grace: Becoming a Spiritual Influence at Work (Longview, TX: LeTourneau Press, 2014; Kindle ed.), KL 192 – 201.

Teaching the Gospel to Kids

Emmet_minifigThis is a subject near and dear to my own heart. Too many adults remember being walked through a pre-scripted presentation, being told to “pray a prayer,” and being assured “you’re saved!”

Too many of these same adults realized, years later, that they never understood the Gospel, never understood who Jesus is, what He did, and what it means to “repent and believe.” In short, they were lied to. Now, to be sure, they were lied to by well-meaning Christians. But, they were lied to.

We can do better. We must do better.

This is a 90 minute presentation I gave about how to share the Gospel with children (ages K – whatever). This is not a scripted presentation. I think, in order to share the Gospel, you need to have a solid theological foundation in several key areas, so you’re equipped to talk about Jesus and the Gospel in a coherent, orthodox way.

The better you understand these things, the better you’ll be able to explain the Gospel. In this teaching session, I talk about:

  • What the “big story” of the Bible is, and why it matters
  • What “sin” is actually is, and how to explain it
  • What “repentance” actually us, and how to explain it
  • What elements, building blocks and facts make up “the Gospel”
  • How to explain to an unbeliever “how to be saved”

I hope this discussion is encouraging to you. The teaching notes (22 pages) are here.