I hate to admit it, but the word "evangelism" sends me into a full-body shudder. I hear the word and vivid images scroll through my imagination: fake million-dollar bills with "how to get to heaven" printed on the back. Sandwich boards and billboards that ask questions like "Do you know where you're going?" in ominous, Twilight-Zone font. Little booklets that reduce this huge thing called "faith" to a four-page to-do list. I don't know when the word evangelism was hijacked in my mind, but I want it back.
As much as I might hate my stereotypical "evangelism," I know that I can't ignore the fact that introducing my friends to Jesus is a crucial part of my faith. But the evangelism I remember from my childhood feels more like an obligation than a privilege—more like a program or a prescription and less like . . . well, an introduction. So how can we recapture the Great Commission—God's chosen medium for glorifying his name—without feeling like door-to-door saleswomen for Jesus?
What is evangelism?
People who encountered Jesus in the Bible were changed. They were set free. And when they were changed and freed, they were compelled to talk about it. They couldn't stop talking about him once they encountered him because he was that amazing. In John 9, the blind man can't even explain who Jesus is, but he still can't shut up. He tells the religious leaders who blast him with questions, "I don't know whether he is a sinner," the man replied. "But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!" (John 9:25).1