Being an Evangelist is everyone’s job

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,“Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said,“Here am I; send me!”
Isaiah 6:8 (NRSV)

While the word evangelism may have its Greek roots in the proclamation and sharing of the Good News, one is more likely to see evangelism listed as a department, committee, or “ministry” in congregations today. Evangelism has become synonymous for marketing—a line in the budget to pay for inclusion in the telephone book’s yellow pages (do those actually still exist?) and for the advertisement in the local newspapers’ Saturday Religion Page (which is only read by church folks!).

But evangelism is supposed to be personal. For years now, surveys and research have shared that marketing and “a visit from the pastor” are not enough to convert unchurched folks into church members, much less vital disciples of Jesus Christ. Through the grace and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, it is disciples who make disciples. And that requires vital congregations focused on disciple-making and disciple-equipping. It requires every one of us, in our own way and through our own giftedness, to answer God by saying,“Here am I; send me.”

However, we currently seem quite squeamish about fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission for us. At the 2016 Grow By One Summit held in Little Rock, keynote speaker Kay Kotan shared that the average United Methodist member invites someone to worship once every 38 years. Note that her statistic refers to the invitation to worship invitation to worship, which is only one step toward the making of a disciple. As Christians, we seem to be under the mistaken impression that evangelism is somebody else’s job. While we debate the applicability the “E-word” to our own lives, the May 18, 2015 issue of the Harvard Business Review contained an article by Apple Computer’s former Chief Evangelist (seriously, that was his title!) Guy Kawasaki who explains his method of “proclaim[ing] the good news that that Macintosh would make everyone more creative and productive.”

In a world of “nones” and “dones” in which our response has been to separate our Sunday identities from our lives in the daily marketplace, the marketplace is claiming the concept of evangelism for its own use. In his HBR article, former Chief Evangelist Kawasaki shares:

Many businesses have embraced the idea that customers are potential evangelists; the most ardent of them will spread the word about your company’s products or services without pay. But it’s important to remember that managers—even those outside the marketing department—can be evangelists too.

If you’re a leader, you should evangelize for your organization and what it has to offer, and you should feel comfortable playing this role both internally—in break rooms, over e-mail, through collaborative platforms—and externally, at industry conferences and via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. In the social age, evangelism is everyone’s job.

This article in a business journal convicts us as a people of faith. The author is correct that, “Evangelism is everyone’s job,” and yet we, as Christ’s evangelists, have gotten out of practice. As I read the Harvard Business Review explain the step by step process of creating a culture of evangelism for tech companies in Silicon Valley, I felt that I myself have not risen to the standards and aspirations of corporate “evangelism,” much less Jesus’ Great Commission.

I believe that today’s world—a secular marketplace filled with the “nones” and those “done” with church—needs individual disciples committed to sharing our stories. We need to be open about our own personal walk with Jesus. Vital disciples share our
faith.

In order to equip us to share our walk with Jesus with the unchurched and nominally religious folks that cross our path, the Center for Vitality has worked with Kay Kotan, a dedicated layperson and keynote speaker at our 2017 VITAL! Annual Conference, to create a faith sharing process and curriculum titled Unpacking Your Faith Stories. The free downloadable curriculum, found at vitaldisciples.org/curriculum/ comes complete with a leader’s guide, videos, participant handouts, and promotional tools.

We invite every church to use this curriculum in a small group to learn and practice faith sharing. Note that I used the word “practice.” This curriculum is not designed for you to simply learn about faith sharing as some theological construct. Unpacking Your Faith Stories is designed as a process for a Christ follower to practice faith sharing with the other group members.

By claiming Christ’s Good News and God’s good work in your own life during class-time, you are being equipped as an instrument of the Holy Spirit to share Christ out in your community. As disciples, we are all evangelists. We have all been given the Good News of Christ. Now it is time for us to say “send me” and to use our witness by making more disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped to transform lives, communities and the world!

  • The Rev. Dr. Blake Bradford serves in the Center for Vitality as the Assistant Director of Clergy Development.
  • Email: blake.bradford@arumc.org.
  • Learn more about the resourcing ministry of the Center at vitality.arumc.org.