Ask people about the last time they shared the gospel, and you’ll often be met with silence. In a 2012 Lifeway Research study on evangelism, eighty percent of people who attend church more than once a month believe that sharing the Gospel is an important part of their faith. But of those eighty percent, sixty-one percent haven’t shared their faith in the last six months.
People are nervous to share the Gospel—they don’t want to mess it up or embarrass themselves. I’ve seen Christians intentionally avoid the discussion when asked by people who are generally curious.
To deal with the cognitive dissonance of knowing it’s important to share but being afraid to, we’ve come up with all sorts of evangelism substitutes. Here are five things that are not evangelism—even if we wish they were:
1. Jesus t-shirts:
Although great for picking out other Christians in a crowd, religious t-shirts don’t have have a lot of evangelistic value. I have not heard (m)any testimonies which make Christian t-shirts the centerpiece.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a christianese parody of famous secular branding or a graphic representation of the crucifixion with a witty tagline—wearing the Gospel is not sharing the Gospel.
2. Christian bumper stickers:
Maybe you think “This car is ‘prayer conditioned’” is witty enough to display proudly on your car. That’s great, but don’t think of it as evangelism.
Reducing the Gospel message to a pithy saying to read at a stoplight does more to diminish the Gospel’s beauty and depth than it does to make it accessible.
This should be a no-brainer, but somehow it isn’t. I’ve been a lot of places where someone’s scrawled or carved “Jesus loves you” or “Jesus saves” into the wall. That isn’t evangelism—it’s evandalism. Don’t do it.
4. Inviting people to church:
Love your church? Invite people! Just don’t do it as evangelism. There’s a lot of stuff that goes on at church that the uninitiated simply will not completely understand. Invest the time to take them out and talk through what they’ve experienced.
Don’t invite people to church and make it your pastor’s job to share Jesus with them. Pray for them and be ready for your opportunity to share.
Peter encourages believers to be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15) This isn’t a call to debate and argue people into the kingdom.
At some point, being reasonable is more important than being right. You might win an argument and lose out on growing an influential relationship.
When push comes to shove, faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17). It’s important to step outside our comfort zones and share the amazing message of reconciliation. Heaven depends on it, and the world is waiting . . .
What are some other bad substitutes? Leave a comment below!