I have talked about problems that I have with a lot of the Evangelism methods out there… the Romans Road, Bridge Illustration, Four Spiritual Laws, and such. My big problem with them is that they primarily don’t seek the reach unbelievers. They are designed to reach people that:
- Already believe in the Bible, and take what it says seriously
- Already believe in God
- Already believe in Jesus, or at least takes Jesus very seriously
As such, these methods are for people who probably already are Christians, or at least are cultural Christians. So most of these methods are “Contextually Limited.”
However, another problem is that these methods are disconnected from behavior. They are cognitive approaches to try to wrangle a decision out of someone a person one doesn’t really know.
At the other extreme is “Lifestyle Evangelism.” There is something commendable about this since it links one’s message to one’s behavior. However, there are problems too. First, often this boils down to the idea that being nice and generally pretty good will lead people to Christ. However, many other faiths and non-faiths are full of people who are nice and generally pretty good. Second, Christianity is pretty full of boorish, immoral, and hurtful people in the neighborhoods, workplaces, and social media of unbelievers. There is a big hurdle to overcome. Third, some who embrace lifestyle evangelism never really get to the point of proclamation of God’s message of hope. Talk may be “cheap” but it is still necessary.
So what is Evangelism 315? It looks at evangelism in a multireligious multicultural society from the perspective of I Peter 3:15.
15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
How might this work?
- Moral preparation. Live a life that is exemplary, God honoring, holy.
- Cognitive preparation. Know what you believe, and why you believe it. Be able to explain it in ways that would make sense to those who are not Christian… including those with little background with Christianity.
- Attitudinal preparation. Practice thinking of others different or even hostile to you in terms of gentleness and respect.
- Practice interacting with those of other faiths and cultures in positive, dialogic, and respectful ways.
- Pray for ways to express your faith in action and in word. This should also include integrating one’s faith with one’s actions and words.
- Share one’s faith in a practiced but non-formulaic way… linked especially to one’s own testimony. Don’t just talk… but also listen. Respectful people listen.
You may feel this is still lifestyle evangelism… and perhaps that is true, but I Peter establishes pretty high standards for how one honors Christ:
Consider reading all of I Peter (it’s not that long), but not here for a moment the language of I Peter 2:9-12.
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
I believe this goes beyond simply being nice. It is not being weird for the sake of being weird. But it is a radical alignment with Christ in a new individual and social identity.