This paper focuses on church evangelism strategies and the relation of the church and its members to demonstrate compassion to the communities they serve. Towards this end, there is a review on the various methods and strategies that are most common as it relates to evangelism in the church. I will start with a biblical and theoretical literature review related to evangelistic outreach and community connectedness, examine key research closest to the intent of this research, and describe how they inform the basis of this paper.
More notably, I will be drawing a distinct connection between compassion as a chief motivating force for evangelism. Further, in the biblical foundation section, I hope to show that lack of evangelism itself isn’t the issue, lack of compassion for God’s people is. This section will close with a summary of the findings in the literature. The purpose of this paper was to not only discuss the various methods of evangelism but to demonstrate how compassion towards mankind and the community is a vital vehicle for living out the call to evangelize.
The paper will follow with a discussion on the various types of evangelism and then a conclusion.
Compassion Research Foundation
One of the purest motives behind evangelism is the compassion we express towards mankind. After all, what greater reason than compassion for a person’s eternal soul can we have? According to research, demonstrating compassion is good for the brain (Newberg & Waldman, 2009, p. 215). One indication of this is in the recent explosion of interdisciplinary research on the impact of compassionate love through methods such as evangelism (Fetzer Institute, 2009; Underwood & Post, 2004).
Keltner (2004) argued, that compassion is genuinely imbedded in human nature: it has a biological basis in the brain and body‖ citing scientific evidence for increased levels of the hormone oxytocin, when compassionate or loving feelings are aroused (p. 9). Another research study reported that magnetic research imaging shows the altruistic pleasure center of the brain becomes active when a person does compassionate kindness (Brafman & Brafman, 2008, p. 144).
The brain, therefore, is said to respond both to giving and receiving compassion (Newberg & Waldman, 2009, p. 137). Making a connection between health and the demonstration of compassionate love is not a new concept to Christians. The Bible expressly states in Eph 2:10 that humans are made to do good works. Christians are specifically called to ―love our neighbor throughout the Scriptures in Lev 19:18, Matt 19:19, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27, Rom 13:9, Gal 5:14, and Jas 2:8. Further, Isaiah 58 promises that believers will increase in spiritual understanding, health, and the blessings of God to those who obey the injunction to compassionately care for others. I believe the greatest manifestation of compassion is evangelism. After all, where a man spends eternity is of greatest importance. The Bible talks about evangelism throughout also. Scriptures like Psalm 105:1, Proverbs 11:30, Isaiah 12:4, Isaiah 45:22, Ezekiel 3:17-19, Matthew 5:15, and Matthew 28:19 are just a few. All of this is driven by and through compassion for mankind.
So what is compassionate love? The Institute of Research on Unlimited Love (2009) offers the following definition:
The essence of love is to affectively affirm as well as to unselfishly delight in the
well-being of others, and to engage in acts of care and service on their behalf;
unlimited love extends this love to all others without exception, in an enduring
and constant way. Widely considered the highest form of virtue, unlimited love is
often deemed a Creative Presence underlying and integral to all of reality:
participation in unlimited love constitutes the fullest experience of spirituality.
Knight (2008) defined the influences of compassionate love as activities that ―are simple and uncalculating. He adds, ―Neighborliness and mercy have become ordinary for them [God‘s people]. They have internalized the love of God, and it shows up in their daily lives (p. 97). In stressing the basic importance of compassionate connecting,
Adams (2005) states, ―This brand of engagement, constituted of personal responsibility to others and a general interpersonal openness, might be considered the bedrock of strong communities (p. 158). Although Knight suggested that such compassion is uncalculating, engaging others this way unquestionably opens people of to the Gospel message of Jesus. Nevertheless, many Christians do not uphold a lifestyle of dispensing compassionate love to their neighbors. Dixon and Hogue (1979) found that people favor bonding only with themselves, their families, or others that are most like them. They discovered that laity in the Catholic Church perceived uniting with the poor or social reform as neutral or irrelevant; in fact, serving others rated at the bottom of their list of important faith experiences. It’s no wonder that evangelism isn’t a priority to most believers.
Research confirms that Americans are connecting with other people less and less. Putnam (2000), upon amassing a comprehensive collection of data from hundreds of studies, revealed that people are becoming less connected with the world around them. They volunteer less, they attend church less, they eat out less, they invite people to their homes less, they write fewer notes and letters, and they join fewer groups. Adams (2005) corroborated these trends and highlighted the conflicted state of emotions this causes. In one instance, he verifies that research showed how many people possess little desire for sharing with their neighbors (p. 169). In another, his research revealed that Americans long for connectedness (p. 31).
The dichotomy of individuals craving human interaction coupled with seeming apathy toward others is sometimes explained through an absence of compassion and the lens of postmodernism and individuality (Putnam, 2000; Swidler, 2002). Other research suggested that increased rates of individuality and the independence of postmodernism generate aloneness in individuals which can be assuaged through involvement in church activities and church-sponsored social engagement (Adams, 2005; Groot, 2006). Other research emphatically proposes the development of connections through the individual practice of compassionate love in the form of, you guessed it, evangelism or outreach efforts (Brafman & Brafman, 2008; Post, 2009; Underwood & Post, 2004).
There is much disagreement on the extent to which churches are connected to their communities. Some research argued that 9 out of 10 congregations offer some sort of outreach engagement to their communities (Baggett, 2002; Cnaan & Boddie, 2002). Ammerman (2001) suggested that any average congregation is already engaged with the community. Carl Dudley (1991) asserted that certain kinds of congregations are more likely to be engaged in the community, while Hugen et al (2006) argued community outreach rates low in comparison to other faith practices (p. 423).
Biblical and Theoretical Rationales
People, not buildings, are the church. Hadaway (2006) argued that congregations are like a ―living organism. They are born, they flourish or stagnate, and some even die (p. 2). In spite of this, the people who comprise the church that ultimately determine the fate of the church. The rationales delivered here discuss both individuals and churches with the understanding that the behaviors, practices, customs, and beliefs of members help shape the church.
Day (2002), who is the Associate Director of Leavell Center for Evangelism and
Church Health at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary criticized the circumstance that there is minimal biblical rationale identified in the literature to encourage church health or involvement in their neighborhoods despite the Bible being clear that believers should be involved in their communities. Illustrations of biblical encouragement for an externally dedicated life are found in Isa 58:10-11, Matt 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47-48; Acts 1:8; John 17:18; 20:21, and Eph 2:10.
Although this list is far from exhaustive, it demonstrates a point. Towards this point, White (2006) argued that the ancient Jews realized that failing to follow God‘s counsel led to confinement and suffering. To refrain from committing sin, they secluded themselves from the heathen nations, developing practices that would maintain their purity. Although appointed as God‘s messengers, they were unwilling to compassionately associate with their non-Jewish neighbors, thus making it impossible to share the good news of a coming Savior (pp. 21-29). During Jesus’ time on earth, He provided the Jews with a very different model for connecting.
To demonstrate this Jesus was often found associating or connecting with people who the world deemed most unlovable, listened to their heartaches, helped them with their problems, won their trust, then invited them to follow Him (White, 1942, p. 143). Towards this end, Christians today have been provided a biblical model through the ministry of Jesus. Knight (2008) described the practice of caring compassion as a necessary element of salvation for God‘s people. Mentioning the judgment scene portrayed in Matt 23:23-24, he argued that the real issue of the judgment is whether individuals have shown tangible love to their neighbors (p. 97). Much similar to the early Jews, Christian churches are encouraged to embrace biblically based values that teach members to demonstrate compassion and love through engaging with their communities. Towards this end scriptures guarantee good returns for both the giver and receiver, consequently it is reasonable that demonstrating unconditional love to everyone without exception would enhance the spiritual and temporal well-being of the congregation, perhaps even resulting in church growth, as suggested by White (1909b, p. 189).
Evangelistic Methods and Strategies
As discussed previously, the impetus for evangelism should be our genuine love and concern for humanity. In all we do we should live and do as Jesus lived and did during His ministry on earth. Compassion is a big part of that. What it is all for, however, is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ through evangelism. This section will present the various methods and strategies for achieving that goal.
Reaching and Preparing
In every evangelistic tactic that we seek to employ, we strive to accomplish one of two things that we believe are vital towards our success. We are either gathering people whom God has previously made ready through their spiritual birthright through friendship with a believer, personal reading, thought process, working of the Holy spirit, etc. (John 4:35-38), or we are assisting in the work to move the unprepared towards faith by providing the person information to process, prototypes to observe, and facts to ponder and act on (planting and watering). The first group of individuals, in many instances, simply needs to understand how they can receive Christ.
The second group of individuals needs to understand and be made aware of who Christ is and why He is the answer for their life. This is in alignment with the biblical models offered in the book of Acts. The two evangelistic examples noted in the book of Acts are found in Peter’s declaration message to “God-fearing Jews” (acts 2:5) and Paul’s persuading message to the “men of Athens” (acts 17:22). The reaction to Peter’s message was the 3,000 men and women who believed. The reaction to Paul’s discourse was mixed, or as scripture put it, “some sneered, while others said, ‘We want to hear you again,’ and a few believed” (Acts 17:32-34). The local churches in America are experts in gathering those made ready but God did not come for the saved, He came for the loss. Our strategy in evangelism, therefore, is to move an increasing number of people into the first group of people by instructing and encouraging them to accept Christ. Consequently, the first two-fold approach we apply is a campus-based strategy.
Reaching the Community (Strategy + Application)
Reaching the Prepared (Evangelism)
Strategies for Filtering and Reaching the Prepared
1. Surveys. Surveys are the most commonly discussed method for having a face-to-face interaction with a non-believer. They are often used prior to team meeting talks; provide more information regarding the beliefs and interests of the audience, and as expected offer a natural opportunity to segue into the gospel. We are also able to manage the flow of our contacts. Surveys are most viably utilized by people who consider them to be an effective method for constructing important compatibility, have a smart discussion with an outsider, and a chance to adequately convey their confidence. We have missed the boat when we relapse to being only survey takers.
Moreover, it is entirely conceivable to plan your study to enable you to get data you need in regards to your intended interest group. Every month of the year you could concentrate on an alternate review theme (home life, desires, dating, push, and so forth.) and have an evangelistic talk toward the month’s end identified with that point.
2. Team Meetings, Open Forums and Community Talks
3. Harvest Events are what we call ‘works of art’ with the understanding that they are perfect opportunities to double as evangelistic retreats. They give a chance to each person being trained to bring a non-believing friend to hear a sound presentation of the gospel. Upon the rare chance that a person is utilizing ‘kinship evangelism,’ Harvest events are an unquestionable requirement. They give something to bring a companion to. In both group gatherings, classroom talks, and Harvest occasions, adequacy in follow-up from these occasions is said to increase if talks were pursued with a book, tape, or writing offer.
4. Relational Evangelism. It’s intriguing to note that a prepared, soul filled Christian will dependably impart Christ to his/her non-Christian companion. To be compelling at that point, one needs preparing, a filling of the spirit and companions. Companionships can fill in as incredible extensions through which individuals come to Christ. Social evangelism isn’t the inverse to or a substitute for initiative evangelism; it is just another feature of evangelism. Both are required. A ‘Ten Most Wanted’ list is a useful device for friendship evangelism. (You will likely not have the capacity to construct a service on companionship evangelism alone.
Preparing the Unreached (Education)
Strategies for Preparing the Unreached
1. Insightful methodologies are intended to instruct and proselytize the unbeliever in a non-compromising environment of inquiry and cooperation. Insightful Bible examinations, Focus Groups, Investigative examination Breaks, and so forth are all approaches to teach and communicate with understudies. In the US, the normal individual has heard the gospel multiple times previously getting Christ.
2. Writing Strategies are superb approaches to teach the ill-equipped. Holidays are great chances to saturate the campus with articles applicable to the season—revival, connections, and so forth. Applicable topical articles that address main problems can be composed and prodigally given away. They give data to process and react to. In the event that some sort of ‘reaction component’ could be incorporated, so much the better. Themes could incorporate ‘achievement,’ ‘Helps,’ ‘safe sex,’ ‘Overseeing pressure and Pressure in school,’ ‘Connections,’ ‘Settling Conflict,’ ‘Better Grades,’ and so on. We require tracts that don’t look like tracts, despite the fact that it’s difficult to beat a decent Chick distribution. We can utilize these articles related to different reviews. As we do evangelism, we generally have something to leave behind that is fascinating and significant. We sow as we go. Leaving pieces, instruct without confronting. Tape or videotapes can be utilized with equivalent adequacy.
3. Media Strategies. Week by week or quarterly daily paper spots support the believability of the gospel. Wouldn’t it be amazing for the student population to read student and instructor testimonies from those on your campus? Moreover, you could also feature excerpts from relevant writings. Articles such as these not only instruct the non-believer, but also reinforce the faith and confidence of the Christian. Each article could serve as a catalyst for evangelism that week in the community you serve. You could also have people in your church write a weekly or regular column for the newsletter. It is not intentional that we group individuals into those we evangelize, and those we educate. We engage with everyone, but presume that individuals who presently don’t answer need more information. Our belief is that presenting the gospel in and of itself is educational.
There are numerous implications of evangelism efforts discussed above. Following, is a discussion of some of the most significant benefits.
1. Evangelism helps keep the gospel dominant in our lives and churches.
The gospel fashions the church (Col. 1:5, 6), is the principal message (1 Cor. 15:1-3), and influences our development in Christ (Phil 1:6). Consequently, we should do everything in our ability to keep it essential. We also know that the world, our flesh, and the enemy will do all that is possible to move it out of view.
2. Evangelism intensifies our appreciation of the most central truths of Scripture.
Gospel discussions with non-believers force us to grasp the essential, supporting truths of God’s Word. We have to consider describing important conceptions to dissimilar people in various environments. In doing so we discover how these truths tie together all of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. One of the strongest verses on discipleship in relation to evangelism is Philemon 1:6: “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” Failing to do what we know is failure.
3. Correctly inspired evangelism cultivates our love for God and neighbor.
Everyone is called to passionately love God and other people (Mark 12:28-31). Sharing our faith because we love God and people deepens the flames of this love all the more. Therefore, when we share the gospel with others, Christ promises us that oftentimes they will reject it and perhaps reject us as well (Jn. 15:18-20). When that occurs it is our duty to remember that it is ultimately God who draws men to Himself and not us.
Although we can have the best laid out plans it is ultimately, God who can do the work of drawing and saving. It is our responsibility however to be faithful to what God has told us to do first by having compassion for God’s people and secondly by applying specific strategies to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives. Our churches, communities and the world depends on it.