What does 9Marks think about “contact evangelism”?
Contact evangelism is often dismissed as pushy and ineffective, particularly in our postmodern era. It’s said that evangelism should always occur in the context of a relationship. What do we say?
- Contact evangelism has biblical roots. In Acts 8 Philip runs up alongside a chariot, hops in, and explains the gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch who was riding inside. There was no relationship, no three month waiting period. Also, Paul in Athens “reasoned…in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there” (Acts 17:17). It seems he shared the gospel with whoever happened to come by. When he got called to speak in front of the Areopagus, he stood up and shared the gospel with a whole group of cultural leaders he’d presumably never even met (Acts 17:19-34).
- Contact evangelism works. Evangelism is simply telling people the message about Jesus. If someone we’ve just met is willing to hear the message, then “it works.” Only God can save, and he can save whether we’re sharing the message in the context of a relationship or on an airplane seat. The point is, our preaching of the gospel doesn’t depend on a relationship. Conversion doesn’t depend on a relationship either—we can get to know someone as well as we possibly can, show them the quality of lives as much as we can, and still only the Holy Spirit, working through the gospel itself, can give new life.
- Any method of sharing the gospel can be done well or poorly. A person can share the gospel abrasively, obnoxiously, or manipulatively in the context of a relationship just like someone can do so with a stranger.
- Bottom line: always look for opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Remember, the news is good! So tell it! To strangers. To new friends. To old friends. And always do so politely, respectively, urgently, joyfully, and lovingly.