3 Myths About Evangelism (and why they cause so many problems)

kimberly_avatar_1380803870-100x100Today’s guest blog comes to us from Kimberly Reisman, an author, pastor, teacher and theologian serving as Executive Director of World Methodist Evangelism of the World Methodist Council. Kim is also an Adjunct Professor at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and The School of Theology at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, Washington.

One Friday evening while I was doing my doctoral work, John and I were at an art gallery opening when we ran into an acquaintance I had come to know through work in a community organization. As we introduced our spouses, he mentioned to his wife that I was a PhD student but couldn’t remember the exact area of study. I explained that I was studying the theology of evangelism. With the word “evangelism” barely out of my mouth, they looked at each other and recoiled in unified horror. Realizing the obvious negativity of their reaction, my friend launched into damage control: “Evangelism. Wow. I never would have thought. You’ve always struck me as so open minded.”

Hmmm. I suppose my friend isn’t the only one who needs to engage in some damage control.

It seems everybody, including Christians, (still) have a problem with the E-word. People both inside and outside the church are uncomfortable, hesitant, and maybe even hostile when it comes to this emotionally and historically charged issue. There are likely many reasons for this, but I believe three myths in particular have created a whole lot of problems.

Myth #1 – Evangelism is something we do TO someone.

When we come to understand evangelism as sharing with someone in the context of relationship, our horizons are expanded. It’s no longer about a pressured situation of influence or persuasion, but an ongoing journey of exploration and growth. Shared hopes and pain, shared questions and meaning, shared struggle and joy.

Myth #2 – Conversion happens in a single moment.

Yes, conversion can include a wonderful aha moment when things become more clear or when we begin to see things in a new way. But more often than not, conversion consists of many smaller aha moments, each of which occurs because of all that has gone before.

Myth #3 – Conversion is the goal of evangelism.

Conversion is the beginning of the process not the end. That’s why in the early Methodist/Wesleyan movement evangelism often took place in the context of class meetings, those safe spaces of trust and care where people could explore their fledgling faith together – sharing their hopes, struggles, fears, joy, questions, meaning. (See Myths #1 and #2)

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About Nelson Searcy

Nelson Searcy is an experienced church planter, coach and church growth strategist, working with churches in over 45 denominations. Nelson is also the Founding and Lead Pastor of The Journey Church, with locations across New York City and in San Francisco and Boca Raton, FL. He first developed the Assimilation System 10 years ago at the Journey Church and has since implemented and improved these strategies with over 3,000 churches across all sizes and denominations. He started coaching pastors in 2006 and has personally coached over 2100+ senior pastors, helping them break common growth barriers like 125, 250, 500, 1000 and beyond, all while maintaining personal life and ministry balance. As founder of Church Leader Insights and the Renegade Pastors Network, he has trained more than 50,000 church leaders (3,000+ church planters). He is the author of over 85 church growth resources and 17+ books, including Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests Into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church and The Renegade Pastor: Abandoning Average in Your Life and Ministry. His continued mission is to help church leaders around the world cooperate with God in creating healthy, thriving churches. Nelson is married to Kelley and together they have one son, Alexander.

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