Fear, fishing and evangelism

Fear, fishing and evangelism image

Evangelism. We love the word. If you have the joy of being a Christian you were brought from death to life through being evangelised.  You desire to see God glorified and people saved  and that happens through evangelism. But the word also terrifies us. What if I muck it up? How will I cope if I lose friends? I feel guilty if I don’t engage in evangelism.

Four Evangelistic Fronts

This week at Moore College I had the privilege of hosting a Master’s class with American church consultant Paul Borden. Paul was for many years a leader of the ministry team in a large, evangelistically active church in Denver, Colorado; and later a consultant I helping churches turn around from being inward focused to becoming evangelistic.

Paul helpfully spoke of four areas in which to evangelise. These are

  1. Those with you, but not yet integrated. These people are those who have come to your church but are not yet Christian, or may not be theologically or socially integrated into church life. We need people who will evangelise by integrating these folk to life with Jesus, his people, and the truth.
  2. Those like you but not yet with you. These are friends and acquaintances of congregation members. These people have relationships with church members but have not yet come into the orbit of faith. Evangelism by a group from church to members of this group is a good way to evangelise. Paul Borden makes the obvious point that we often leave the evangelising of such people to a single person who may not have the skills or ability to do it. He suggests groups working together to evangelise. He calls this group work net fishing, as opposed to solo evangelism which he calls rod and reel fishing. An example of net fishing is the friend of the person not yet a Christian inviting the friend and some other church members to dinner so that the gospel can be raised in a friendly setting.
  3. Those not like you and not near you. This is the group who live in other countries. Evangelism is conducted by overseas missionaries. The way we share in this evangelism is considering whether we should go, supporting those who go by prayer and giving and supporting the missionaries when on lave and home service.
  4. Those near us but not like us. These are other groups that are not represented in our church community. These may be unrepresented ethnic groups, socio-economic groups, interest groups, age groups or affinity groups. Here we seek people with experience, interest, passion or knowledge of these groups to make an attachment with them and share the gospel with them. I saw this happen when a tattooist was converted to faith in Jesus. He shared the gospel with his piercings community and many came to a living faith, and were enfolded into church life.

Evangelism and me

Thinking in these four categories makes evangelism possible. It enables pastors to think through who and how the congregation is operating with different groups. It helps congregation members think through where to serve. I think every Christian should think about which one of the four categories they could evangelise in. There are so many different tasks, roles and responsibilities to undertake that there is something we can do. Rather than feeling guilty for our inaction, we can begin to work in one of the fields.



Image: Visit St Pete/Clearwater, Flickr, under Creative Commons license

Archie Poulos is Head of Ministry at Moore Theological College and Director of the Centre for Ministry Development.

Comments (10)

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  • Milica Cook
    August 6, 13 - 5:07pm
    We tend to think evangelism has to be some sort of academically inspired testimony (essay) and it has to be word perfect with all scripture referenced and footnoted for proof. A misconception in the more academic Christian circles that have a variety of evangelical methods and tools. They are handy but not always helpful. There are many Christians that struggle with their own faith and getting to know and understand the Bible. Some are just not academic or methodical and find that they cannot be inspired to evangelise, giving up and saying that is a gift they do not have.

    I have long since closed my University Text Books and I have slipped into an age of stress and often forgetfullness and now I am past my half century marker in life (what did I have for lunch yesterday??). I too am just not capable of being sharp and organised when approaching people with the gospel. My life too often tends to be haphazard and last minute changes to my day really throw me for a loop and my brain is well over taxed I can barely get through my day some times and so evangelism is at the end of my TO DO LIST.

    So how do I evangelise these days with a mind so messed up with all that has been poured into it over the years and those brain cells keep dying off in the mean time?

  • Milica Cook
    August 6, 13 - 5:11pm
    part 3

    These days I just try to worship the Lord every day and in my every day life I hope and pray that I am also testifying to Jesus like this woman did. I know that 30plus years on since I came to Christ on the UNSW Campus I have learned much in my personal time with the Lord. I know I have been challenged to give up my worldly ways and transformed from what I used to be and and become more Christ centered in my life. So much has happened in my life and my relationship with Christ since those early days when I came to Christ (through might I say Campus evagelism and I am really grateful for those who are able to walk up to someone and share the two ways to live or the bridge with a total stranger). I have tried it myself but I could never do it properly and struggled since those Uni days working out how can I tell others about Jesus and salvation??

    I can't hope to wash the feet of Jesus in public (or pour perfume over his body) but I can try with my life to live in obedience to the Lord and not being shy about my faith but sharing it with all who come into my life whenever I can. When I'm sick and in hosiptal the Nurse asks how I am today and I reply "all is well with Jesus by my side". Yep I get really strange looks. I can't preach the gospel or lead Bible studies. Never gaind those skills all these years. I just share what my Saviour did for me in simple ways and what Jesus does for me each day of my life.
  • Milica Cook
    August 6, 13 - 5:12pm
    part 4
    How are you bearing up I am often asked because I have a number of chronic illnesses and am each day in some way in pain or suffering from my various chronic ailments. "Sustained by my Lord according to His promises" is my answer. Why because I can recall what I read in psalms some many years ago.

    PS 41:3 The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed
    and restore him from his bed of illness.

    PS 3:5 I lie down and sleep;
    I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.

    I'm not into two ways to live or any other evangelical tool out there. I can barely get up some days and shower and dress. Mind not sharp as it used to be.

    What I can do is testify about Jesus. I am Spirit led and God often gives me the words to speak with boldness so that I can touch the lives of the Lost around me. I hope a seed I have sown will make a person I have testified to about Jesus to enquire more about Him. Maybe they will ask me something about the Jesus I love and adore and lean on to Sustain me? Maybe they will ask another Child of God they meet? Who knows but I just try to let people know I am still in this world and keep going each day by the Grace of my God and His precious Son.
  • Milica Cook
    August 6, 13 - 5:13pm
    part 5

    You don't need to be someone who has a lot of academic smarts or a person who is really healthy and capable of going out and meeting people. God will use you if you are willing to share what God did for you. God's Spirit will teach you from His Word and guide you and give you the words to speak if you are willing.

    Let God use you and He will be able to reach many people with His Truth and Gospel message all you need to be is willing. You don't need to organised or skilled or brainy or an extrovert. Don't let the devil tell you that you are a nobody and that you can't evangelise like others do.

    I'm stuck at home most of the time and I still manage to reach people for the Lord. I felt silly at first but now I don't care. I get the strange looks this silly old woman is spouting off again. Lately I've been singing hymns while watering my front garden and I am on a super busy road with lots of pedestrians walking by and they can hear my croacky old voice but they can't easily walk across the road and have to hear what I am singing as they walk by. I have had one passerby stop and ask me what it was as they didn't know about Hymns they were curious what the song was about. Bingo there was my opportunity.
  • Milica Cook
    August 6, 13 - 5:15pm
    part 6
    1PE 3:13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." 15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

    ....be patient almost done
  • Milica Cook
    August 6, 13 - 5:16pm
    I learned this verse back in the days that I was on campus and now some 30+ years on I have spent that time just reading the Bible daily. Sometimes I would do it with a reading plan and other times I would flip around and read a bit here and there. I have a time when I need to read through the psalms or some specific book. I don't have a regular way I read God's Word. Whatever works that is what I do and especially these days when my health is so bad I don't know from one day to the next how I am going to be so some days I squeeze in a few favourite scriptures I have in a old note book and on other days when things are good I try to read through a specific book of the Bible. Over the years certain things have managed to stick in my head and I have learned quite a few things from God's Word that enables me to do just as this verse suggests BUT it took time to build up in my head and for me to be able to retain that knowledge. I have more to learn but I can now turn to various parts of the New Testiment and at least open it up to where I know there are scriptures about various topics like how to pray or about salvation or about how to live our lives in submission to authority etc... On a good day I can even parapharse scripture and know I can get it pretty spot on so the message or teaching I want to share is clear (btw only with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, I give him all the credit).
  • Milica Cook
    August 6, 13 - 5:16pm
    part 8 (almost done now)

    So I continue to live as best I can in obedience to God's commandments and share Jesus as best I can (getting lots of strange looks and on the odd occassion I get a very rude reply). God has enabled me to put aside my pride and be both seen as silly or reviled.

    2CO 2:14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 15 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.

    So to some we will be received as a beautiful fragrance and to others we will be 'on the nose'. That is how it is we always risk being 'on the nose' to those who hate God are in rebellion against Him. I pray and ask for God to help each day because I know I can be hurt by those who reject me because of the gospel. We can't avoid the attacks we get from people hostile towards God. God can enable you to cope with rejection for His name sake. If you are wounded when witnessing and testifying about Jesus do give it to God for His healing.
  • Milica Cook
    August 6, 13 - 5:18pm
    part 9 (can't help it one more after this)

    The older we get the more we can get away with being dotty and a bit eccentric. I'm certainly taking advantage of that and find people will often give you a bit of their time because they think you are a strange old duck with pretty bad arthritis and they feel sorry for you. While they try to do me a good turn, I try to make sure I get a word in for the Lord. "May God Bless you dear for helping me out. Did you know Jesus died for your sins?"

  • Milica Cook
    August 6, 13 - 5:18pm
    last one.

    Now this is how God has been able to work through me. We are all different and God can use us in various ways to share His gospel message. Just pray about it. Remember I have a long time behind me now but when I first came to the Lord I stumbled and often failed and I think most of my efforts to share God were pretty lame. I did get stopped in the foyer of a place I was working at many years ago to be told by a young man how I brought him to Christ. Well he was a teenager at the time and I said only a few things to his parents at the time. Nothing significant but enough to get him thinking about God and Jesus and later at TAFE he had jumped at an opportunity to go to Bible Lessons because I had said something that inspired him to think about Jesus and the Bible. He didn't come to Christ through me but I was a spiritual seed. My family were friends with his and he knew my face but I had of course not seen him in a long time and didn't recognise him. I was so encouraged by him sharing that with me and still remember today how we can unknowingly encourage someone towards Jesus simply by being a living testimony to him through our every day lives.

    Make Jesus part of your every day life. That is all you have to do. The woman that poured perfume over the Lord that day didn't set out with some well rehearsed testimony but simply had a relationship with Jesus that she could not hide. Let God fill you up and Christ will just shine through you.

    God Bless
  • Milica Cook
    August 6, 13 - 5:31pm
    Right part 2 & 3 & 7 missing?? My apologies.