Archives For Evangelism

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church and a prolific writer on church and culture. His latest book, Meet Generation Z, profiles the largest demographic cohort in North America today.

In a webinar hosted by Wesleyan Investment Foundation on April 25, White talked about the unique characteristics of this up-and-coming generation and what churches must do to reach them.

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Over my nearly 20 years in pastoral ministry, I fielded many questions about other religions. Generally, I preferred to point people to Jesus rather than discuss what others believe.

Yet the growth of Islam in North America combined with rise of radical Islam in many parts of the world has all of us asking questions about Islam.

The silver dome of Our Lady of the Spasm Armenian Catholic Church and the golden Dome of the Rock rise over the Old City of Jerusalem.

As a consultant for Rose Publishing, I have the opportunity to speak about Christianity and Islam in radio interviews all over the country. I encounter some questions so frequently that it seems nearly all Christians wrestle with them.

Here’s how I respond.

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Lifestyle evangelism, aka friendship evangelism, is a strategy for making converts by living an attractive life among non-Christians so they will be drawn to the gospel and want to know more about Jesus.

Photo Courtesy of Hugo Chisholm

This strategy has been popular since the 1990s, and most Evangelicals would probably say that they share their faith primarily by building relationships with nonbelievers.

Of course, lifestyle evangelism works only if your lifestyle is distinctively Christian. Otherwise, it’s just networking.

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Pastors spend a lot of time solving problems, and that means asking questions. Unfortunately, most of those questions are unimportant, even trivial. I know this because I’ve wasted plenty of my own time wondering about these same things.

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In fairness, many of these questions are forced upon pastors by their job description as the leader of an organization and have little to do with their real work as shepherds of God’s flock.

But a pastor has to earn a living somehow, so most spend the majority of their time pondering things like these—

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A basic principle for doing evangelism is that people need to know how much you care before they’ll care how much you know. That’s why missionaries often provide food or medical care along with making converts.

Here at home, churches may provide clothing or school supplies to meet the practical needs of the people in their community. The theory is that when you must demonstrate concern for people by meeting their basic needs before they will be open to hearing your message.

So how do you reach people who don’t need anything?

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In the post-evangelism age people are increasingly resistant to any attempt at proselytism. Young pastors marvel at stories of old-time evangelists like Billy Graham who rallied stadiums full of people then watched them stream forward to receive Christ.

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That just doesn’t happen now.

In post-Christian America, people have grown resistant to mass evangelism and especially confrontational messaging. As a result, churches don’t know how to evangelize, and many are struggling to make converts.

But we still have a good news, and there are still ways to get it to people.

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People need a place to belong before they are willing to believe. For most of my life, I have thought about disciple making in exactly the opposite way.

First, I thought, people must come to accept Jesus as the son of God, their savior. Only then can they really understand who Christians are or feel at home in the church.

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In other words, I believed the church was for insiders only.

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