“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only…”
– James 1:22 (ESV)
This month we are looking at evangelism. Evangelism is the active calling of people to respond to the message of grace and commit oneself to God in Jesus Christ. Evangelism is derived from the Greek word euaggelion, meaning “gospel” or “good news” and therefore evangelism has to do with the proclamation of the message of good news. The verbal forms of euaggelizesthai, meaning “to bring” or “to announce good news” occur some 55 times (Acts 8:4, Acts 8:25, Acts 8:35; Acts 11:20) and are normally translated with the appropriate form of the word “preach.” While the word “evangelism” does not occur in the Bible, it is woven into the very fabric of Scripture. The responsibility to evangelize rests upon every believer (Matthew 28:19-20). Believers are most effective when they teach and practice lifestyle evangelism.
What is lifestyle evangelism? Lifestyle Evangelism is proclamation through words and deeds rather than through words only. Lifestyle evangelism is an evangelism strategy that focuses on living a holy, winsome life among unbelievers with the goal of attracting people to the message of Jesus Christ. Many variations of lifestyle evangelism exist, but the definitive resource is the book Lifestyle Evangelism by Joe Aldrich:
“The unbeliever needs to feel the impact of the gospel (good news that Christ loves people), and not merely listen to it. When love is felt the message is heard [p. 83] we need to pause and underscore a crucial fact with a crucial implication. Our world has changed. One major implication is that our presentation of the gospel must adapt itself to a vastly changed target audience [p. 85]. God has good news for the person who needs love and affection, security or esteem [p. 88]. People are more inclined to respond to the gospel when they understand how trusting Christ will satisfy their needs [p. 95] …”
Lifestyle evangelism has been popular since the 1990s, and many Western Christians have sought to share their faith through their lifestyle in addition to their verbal testimony. In contrast with other methods such as tracts, crusades, and media-based outreach, popular in the mid-twentieth century, lifestyle evangelism focuses on building relationships with one person at a time. Through friendship and relationships, opportunities arise to share the gospel.
Critics claim that lifestyle evangelism is insufficient or that it ignores the Bible’s command to share the gospel verbally. Doing good works is not enough; we must speak the truth. However, lifestyle evangelism can and should do both. There are many examples in Scripture of those who both lived out their faith and verbally shared their faith. For example, Peter boldly shared his faith in Christ on the Day of Pentecost in the streets of Jerusalem, and 3,000 people were converted to Christ and baptized as a result (Acts 2:41). Shortly afterwards, he and the other apostles took actions to meet the needs of the people (Acts 2:41-47). Paul exhorted Timothy to “Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16). Paul emphasized that Timothy’s lifestyle and preaching were both important in the effort to evangelize others. So long as lifestyle evangelism does not replace the verbal sharing of the gospel, it is a legitimate ministry tool. Lifestyle evangelism can be a wonderful way to show faith in action in a world that needs to see what true Christianity looks like.
Resources: Lifestyle Evangelism: Crossing Traditional Boundaries to Reach the Unbelieving World by Joe Aldrich and Logos Bible Software
Next Week: Continuation
The writer does not assume responsibility in any way for readers’ efforts to apply or utilize information or recommendations made in these articles, as they may not be necessarily appropriate for every situation to which they may refer. Rather, the objective is strictly informative and educational. If you would like to contact Rev. Lester, write to her c/o P.O. Box 121, Brookfield, WI. 53008.