I was asked to be a judge this year for the 2019 Evangelical Press Association Higher Goals Contest for the area of evangelism.
There were around 29 articles written by gifted men and women on various aspects of evangelism. In all honesty, I tend to like almost anything about reaching people, so picking 5 is a challenge. (Can I give everyone a participation trophy?)
While I applaud all those that competed, I want to highlight the top five in descending order. I will also attach the link to the article so that you can go and check them out.
#5 — "Salvation Bracelets in Africa? No, Thanks” by Melanie Clinton
Some people don’t see the need for good contextualization. They believe people need to stick with telling the truth and preaching the word. I’m all for telling the truth and preaching the word. Here’s the problem, though: I can speak the truth and preach the word in English all day long, but if I’m speaking to a group of French-speaking West Africans, it does me no good.
Melanie Clinton’s article gives us a reminder that, while salvation bracelets are an evangelistic hit at the local Vacation Bible School here in America, they aren’t, in West Africa. Based upon how Africans understand color and perceive “beads,” the use of a salvation bracelet is ineffective.
Just as in Africa, we in America need to engage in good contextualization for greater gospel impact. Melanie writes, “In order to share the gospel effectively, we have to forget what feels comfortable and natural in our own culture and embrace what works in the culture we’re serving in.”
In short, engaging in good contextualization leads to greater gospel impact.
#4 — "Four Practices that Characterize Wesleyan Evangelism” by Douglas Powe (This link is to an article that was adapted from the original published in Grace and Peace Magazine.)
Understanding one’s history is like a tree deepening its roots. That’s why it is important for believers, networks, and denominations to link themselves to some kind of orthodox history. Knowing our history deepens our connectivity to our mission and vision. When denominations have either forgotten or ignored their roots they often find themselves tossed in the direction of the cultural winds.
Douglas Powe’s article, “Four Practices that Characterize Wesleyan Evangelism,” helps remind us of some of that history. Douglas not only shares four practices that characterized Wesley—and thus Wesleyans—but he roots these practices in the New Testament. His goal, therefore, is to encourage the Wesleyans to not only remember their denomination’s forefather, but to not forget the four biblical practices that Wesley rooted evangelism in.
Those who embrace such a practice will be like a tree planted by streams of water. They will have deep biblical and historical roots that will allow them to withstand any outside element that threatens both their orthodoxy and orthopraxy.
#3 — "Reaching Gamers with the Gospel” by Aaron Wilson
Whether it was the woman at the well or Zacchaeus perched in a tree, Jesus went to where people were. Gaming today is a modern tree or well that we can use to meet and engage people far from Jesus. In fact, did you know that the average age of a gamer is around 34 years old? (I didn’t!)
More than 150 million Americans play video games. Think about that; that’s almost half the US population! In short, gamers are a significant community within the U.S.
So how can the church engage this community well? In this article, Aaron gives a good baseline in helping people understanding the gaming community. In addition, he provides some ways the church can think about engaging this large demographic for greater gospel impact.
#2 — "A Pizza-Box Sign” by Elizabeth Drummond
The hardest step to take towards evangelism for many is the first step of action. It’s easy to pray for opportunities; it’s hard to execute when that opportunity presents itself. Thoughts of, I’m busy, They aren’t really interested, What if I don’t know the answer to a question they ask?or I’ll come back later fill our minds at the moment of an opportunity.
Elizabeth’s article “The Pizza-box Sign” talks about taking such opportunities.
She had similar thoughts when she saw a homeless man on the sidewalk with his sign that read, “You don’t have to give us money. We ♥breakfast too.”
With the Spirit prodding her to stop, she buys the man breakfast and spends the next several hours with him. Her simple acts of stopping, engaging, and buying a breakfast sandwich and coffee laid the groundwork for great spiritual conversation. Just remember, the hardest first step in evangelism might be the healthiest step for someone’s soul.
#1 — "Real Simple Sharing” by Aaron Myers
We live in a complex world. Political polarization. Division. Diversity. Brokenness. The list could go on and on. The nuances of theology can be complex. Living in the age of techniques can complicate matters as voices vie for which technique (or way) is better.
I get it; life’s complicated!
Maybe that’s part of the issue with evangelism. We’ve simply made it too complicated.
Enter Aaron Myers. In his article “Real Simple Sharing,” Aaron gets to the heart of evangelism. According to Aaron, here are four simple questions we can all ask regarding evangelism: 1) Why share the gospel? 2) Who should I share the gospel with? 3) What should I share with others? and 4) When should I share?
Simple enough? I think so.
In closing, congratulations to all the winners of the EPA. But let me also give a word of encouragement to all those who participate and who also write—books, blogs, and articles.
Keep writing! You may not win an award or writing contest. But that’s not why you write. You write to develop your thoughts on what you’re learning and experiencing. You also write to share those thoughts with others that we all might grow. Writing therefore is a way of exercising Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, serves as Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.
Josh Laxton asssisted with this article.