Skip to content ↓

Should We Kiss Evangelism Goodbye? A Post by Jonathan K. Dodson

Sponsored Collection cover image

Jonathan K. Dodson is the founding pastor of City Life church in Austin, Texas. His new book is The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing (resource website here).

In the Huffington Post, writer Cindy Brandt recently declared she “kissed evangelism goodbye.” Many have joined her in the break up. According to one survey, two out of every three active Christians today have all but abandoned evangelism. In slight contrast, another study noted marginal rises in evangelism but concluded, “we need a lot more evangelizing going on…” Regardless of how the statistics shake out, many people find evangelism hard.

Good Reasons Not to Witness

The typical evangelical response to an ebb in evangelism is to beat the evangelistic drum louder. Leaders preach the Great Commission more, tell us to value comfort less, and ask us to consider the cost by “considering people’s eternal destiny.” But appeals to guilt, sacrifice, and an “eternal perspective,” even if biblical, often fall on deaf ears. These responses are superficial.

The fact is people often have really good reasons for not evangelizing. Some of those reasons include the evangelists. The popular impression of evangelism isn’t positive—impersonal and uncaring, preachy and self-righteous, bigoted and hateful. None of those impressions would stick with Jesus.

If we are going to experience a renaissance of evangelism, we must treat people less like projects and more like persons, distinguish evangelism from proselytizing, and value others’ perspectives instead of rejecting them out of hand.

An upside down triangle symbolizes the downward pull of the defeaters and the urgency of addressing them.

Defeating Defeaters

However, evangelistic concerns can quickly turn into evangelistic defeaters. Good concerns to not come across as impersonal, preachy, intolerant, or shallow can defeat us from sharing good news. As a result, people don’t get to hear about the victorious work of Christ to defeat sin, death, and evil to make all things new.

There is a defeater underneath the defeaters—fear of what others think of us. “The fear of man is a snare but the one who trusts in the Lord is safe” (Proverbs 18:25). We can avoid all the evangelistic pitfalls and still refuse to speak about Christ because we are afraid of what people will think about us. Instead, we can preach a fresh gospel by using gospel metaphors—personally discerning and culturally sensitive ways to communicate grace.

Seeking Intimacy, Tolerance, Approval

Our search for intimacy in relationships seems to never end. Even the best friendship or marriage isn’t enough for our insatiable demand to be noticed, loved, and cared for. We all want a place where we can be ourselves and know that we are accepted. When we begin to discern that a person is seeking intimacy, we can explain that, through union with Christ, people can enter into the most intimate, loving, unbreakable, fulfilling relationship known to humanity, which can bring deep healing and joy.

Many people are seeking tolerance. Classical tolerance says every belief has a right to exist. New tolerance says every belief is equally true. Classical tolerance is spot on. New tolerance is inconsistent. This discussion alone can be an illuminating conversation that deepens mutual respect and admiration between people.

Others will simply not like the exclusive claims that Christianity makes. However, before scoffing at their perspective or trying to crush their worldview, ask questions to get on the inside of their perspective and appreciate their views. Build bridges not walls.

What my dad and mom thought about me as I was growing up meant a lot. Their thoughts and opinions could crush or lift me in a moment. The truth is that we seek approval from others all the time. As you get to know someone, you might pick up that they need to hear the gospel of adoption, that God the Father offers an undying approval in his Son Jesus. This can radically change people’s view of God, and thrill them with the hope of a Father’s love.

Don’t kiss your evangelism goodbye; just give it a facelift.

Get Jonathan’s free ebook “Four Reasons Not to Share Your Faith.”


  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (July 11)

    A La Carte: The Disney princess whose heart isn’t worth following / Words of mercy and grace when we disagree / Ten reasons why the Bible is the greatest of great books / Why balance is bad for pastors / The earliest record of Jesus’s childhood / and more.

  • Cognitive Decline and Common Faults

    Cognitive Decline and Common Faults

    When visiting a far-off church, I met a man who, with sadness, told me about his father’s final sermon. A lifelong pastor and preacher, his father had withdrawn from full-time ministry several years prior, but still preached from time to time. On this Sunday he took to the pulpit, read his text, and gave his…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (July 10)

    A La Carte: How the GOP became pro-choice / Forgive, and be forgiven / 10 non-cringy faith-based movies / The practice of arranged marriages / Do I share the gospel now? / How to show Mormon missionaries that the Bible contradicts their gospel / and more.

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (July 9)

    A La Carte: A prayer for my children’s walk with Christ / What really happened and Nicea / The secular creed / The Bible is not boring / It’s okay to fail / How can I read my Bible correctly? / Kindle deals / and more.

  • Together We Pray 2024

    This week the blog is sponsored by The Master’s Academy International. They invite you to join them for an important week of prayer beginning July 22. Our Lord’s Final Command The final command our Lord Jesus gave to all who would follow Him was the command known as the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19–20). The Great…

  • The Three Greatest Enemies of Marriage

    The Three Greatest Enemies of Marriage

    Marriage brings us many joys. But since it exists in this world and not some other, it also brings its share of sorrows. It is like everything else in that way—there are times we marvel at its beauties and times we lament its difficulties. A divine gift that was meant to be only good is…