Mark Teasdale began life in a “maverick” United Methodist church that emphasized evangelism more than most mainline brethren. When he grew up and moved away, he was shocked to find that many fellow Methodists thought of verbally sharing their faith as a foreign experience. Now, as a professor at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (a Methodist school on the campus of Northwestern University), Teasdale teaches a required evangelism course to students who are often wary, if not opposed outright, to the very idea that evangelism is valuable. Pastor and author Joshua Ryan Butler spoke with Teasdale about his book Evangelism for Non-Evangelists: Sharing the Gospel Authentically (IVP Academic).
What are some key stereotypes about evangelism that make some Christians uncomfortable sharing their faith?
Stephen Gunter, who teaches at Duke Divinity School, likes to joke that “for most Methodists, evangelism is that which we did not like having done unto us, which we feel obliged to do unto others.”
I start all my classes asking, “What was your worst experience with evangelism?” I’ve never had anyone say, “It’s always been great!” The negative experience has almost always been somebody preaching at them with a set of propositions, causing an awkward situation where they have to accept or reject the message. We give the impression that evangelism is only about verbal proclamation in monologue form.
You write that evangelism “trades in stories more than propositions.” What do you mean?
I’m not against truth propositions. But stories are important for a couple reasons. First, Christian faith is a story: the work of God through creation, the fall of humanity, ...1