On my recent trip to Scotland I participated in an Ask Me Anything event at a local bookstore, and was asked two related questions: What is the best way to reach people with the Gospel in the modern world, and what is your preferred method of evangelism? Here are my answers to those questions.
What is the best way to reach people with the Gospel today?
People are always reached in the same way, which is through the telling, the preaching, the sharing of the Gospel, right. So, one way or another, people have to hear the Gospel and respond to it. The means through which people hear the Gospel can vary a lot and it does seem that over time that shifts back and forth. So, you go back to the great awakening and you would have thousands of unbelievers coming out to hear sermons. That’s almost unthinkable today, or even back in the days of Billy Graham filling whole stadiums and people would go and hear him preach. That’s an odd thing. There’s that whole culture of revival and revivalism and it was used very well and very poorly at different times in different ways. But there was an expectation then that people would go out and preach and they would hear preaching. I think that’s shifted now, people aren’t interested in preaching in that same way. I mean, that was before television, that was before radio, that was before a lot of the entertainment which we got in our homes.
So one of the big shifts over the last century or so, even less really, is that people used to be entertained outside their homes, today they tend to be entertained within their homes. So people used to go out to community centers, go out to churches, to these community hubs and that’s where the entertainment would be. If that was preaching then so be it, you’d go out and hear preaching or debating or other things. Today we’ve got all the entertainment, more than we could possibly ever take advantage of pouring into our homes. In fact, we’re doing what we can to hold back some of it, right. There’s just so much of it. So, that’s where I think a big shift has happened so now people are in their homes and that’s where things like podcasting and putting sermons online and all of these things has been so helpful. People can access that on their own.
At the end of the day though, I think the reality is people are still primarily converted through, I think conversation. You can hear sermons and hear the Gospel in sermons and that’s effective obviously, but it still seems the majority of people are brought to faith through personal conversation, possibly following up on a sermon. Possibly, hey, you were in church with me today, now let’s talk about what we heard or something. But still that hard work of us speaking truth to other people. That’s how the Lord seems to work the greatest. That’s how He seems to do His greatest work today and probably always has.
What is your preferred method of evangelism?
Uber. I have found the best evangelistic opportunities I get are in Uber and I’ll tell you why. Because I’m always in for about 25 minutes, that’s my house to the airport. It’s in Toronto, traffic’s a nightmare, anything takes at least 25 minutes. Almost everybody who drives an Uber is from, in Canada, is from a different country and usually from a Muslim or a Sikh background. In fact, every single Uber driver I’ve ever had, except for the one Dutch Reformed guy, was Sikh or Muslim and all have been very very willing to talk religion. And so within two or three minutes, I can bring up the subject, very eager to talk about it and then I can go straight to grace. Right, because both religions very much founded on, I’m a good person being the best I can and living a good life and hoping that at the end, the scales of justice have been balanced. So I just found over the last maybe six months or so, since I’ve been using Uber or taxi’s a lot, it’s been just great opportunities. And I still have a perfect Uber, five star Uber rating, so it’s not like they’ve been… It’s not like people have been holding those conversations against me. So, it’s been great.
Other than that, I just really believe in the value of conversation, and maybe that’s especially true as Christians are being painted one way by the culture. Right, and so the pop media presentation of Christians is that we’re haters, we’re bigoted, we’re awful. But you get with people and you spend time with people, they see you, they hear from you. I think that really, I think that lowers people’s guard. I think maybe it surprises them that you’re not the way you’ve been portrayed. And then I think the door is open to speak truth to people and I think a lot of it is just the same as it always has been, which is inviting people to see and experience Christian community. And so, Toronto, a massively multi-cultural society, but not a ton of places where people come together across those barriers voluntarily and form societies or groups or associations or congregations that include all nations, tribes, and languages. And yet, here we are in the church. And so I think, inviting people in, seeing people love one another, seeing people doing something completely counter-cultural.
I spoke at my son’s school recently. He went to, until very recently, a public school, a government school, and I was able to speak to his class about being a pastor, in his class about vocation. And, I don’t know that there was a kid in that class who had ever been in church before. In fact, when I mentioned Jesus there was like this nervous kind of giggle that went over the room, like, that’s off topic, you just don’t talk about that kind of stuff. But to be able to be there, my son be there, just be normal people who, you know, are living in this neighborhood and loving people, I think that was, I think it just, people were surprised. I don’t think they had a good context for religious people who are normal. So, just being able to engage with people and invite them into our world, see Christian community, I think that’s… And of course, never missing an opportunity to speak truth, to speak the Gospel and call people to put their faith in Jesus Christ.