I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea of street evangelism. Part of that discomfort is the fact that I am just shy and insecure and unconfident about things like that, but there was something else that was always nagging at me too. So like we tend to do with all things to which we haven’t given enough thought, I just stayed away from anything to do with the idea of going out and going up to random people to talk about Jesus. The problem is, part of me knew that I should be out there, because that’s what God commanded us to do, right?Make disciples of all nations…
So I finally realized what had always bugged me about that sort of approach. I realized that I have no qualms about preparing to go out into the streets to evangelize. We should always be preparing ourselves to talk to people about God.
“…in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” – 1 Peter 3:15
That, I agree with. What I don’t agree with, which I unfortunately lumped in together with the act of going out with the prepared mindset of talking to people about God, is people saying “Okay, we’re going out there, and you have to talk to people” or even worse, setting a quota of sorts. In my experience, something of the sort has always accompanied the street evangelism approach. I really disagree with that, because there is so much potential for abuse: personal agendas, self-righteousness, etc.
That’s not to say that we can ever eliminate that, but I think how things like street evangelism should be approached is to say okay, yes, we’re gonna get trained and prepare ourselves to talk about Jesus, but then when we get out there, really just praying and talking to God the whole time and only approaching someone if you feel like God is leading you to him/her. That may seem obvious, but I think a lot of people take and preach the first approach. Even if it isn’t said explicitly, making someone who maybe didn’t talk to anyone feel like they failed somehow is basically pushing that approach.
I don’t deny that God can work through people going out with a fixed agenda of talking to someone about Jesus, but I do think that it leaves God out of the process, very ironically so. The idea of going out to evangelize may have been God-given, but we must be careful not to stop listening to Him once we’ve received that idea. Typical Abraham and Isaac story. Gotta follow through with God. If Abraham had stopped listening after the initial idea of sacrificing Isaac, he might have ended up killing Isaac, and history would have unfolded so differently. We have to continue to follow God out on the street, allowing Him to lead us to the people He wants us to speak to, and being okay if He leads us to no one at all.