Having the opportunity to participate in an evening of witnessing at the Bible School I attended recently set me to thinking about the subject once again, and on a more practical level. My thinking is currently geared more towards street evangelism than white-collar apologetics, so my comments will reflect that.
The central thing I keep coming back to is this: underneath all the stereotypes and sarcasm and sin, we need to see a person. For me, a large part of evangelism consists in establishing that human connection. This is why I prefer to actually talk to people one-on-one, without any predetermined programme, instead of holding signs or passing out literature. Unless a person is directly under the conviction of the Spirit, someone holding a strongly worded sign may just as well be an alien from outer space to the average streetwalker. Their worlds just do not overlap.*
When I'm talking to someone, I want to communicate that I am very much a person, and not a very good one at that. That is something people can relate to. (Most can also relate to ice cream, and we should not be above taking advantage of these simple expressions of good will.) People are much more willing to talk if you avoid giving the impression that you have all the answers. Worldly people are sinful, but they are not stupid. They know perfectly well that nobody has all the answers.
The saturation of our society in postmodernism has had the positive side-effect of making most people willing to talk and open to new ideas. However, like the men of Athens, they are often a bit too willing to talk and open to a preposterous overabundance of new ideas. The challenge, then, is not acquiring a hearing: the challenge is awaking the shapeless mush that is the modern mind. Postmodernism and Christianity may overlap on certain points, but they are fundamentally incompatible because of their polarized opinions on the question of objective truth.
One of the disturbing complications we face in our time is the problem of drugs. When someone's mind is full of nonsense and butterflies, it's very difficult to carry on a meaningful conversation. But if God can get past demons, He can surely get past drugs. Sometimes we may need to be content to be Balaam's donkey, faithfully sharing the truth and preparing the way for the Angel of God and the Sword of the Spirit.
Because evangelism can be so difficult, I tend to indulge in a little sub-conscious self-congratulation following a witnessing stint. I swap war stories with friends, and make myself out to be manning the front lines of the faith. This is dangerous. Evangelism ought to excite us, but it ought to excite us about the power of God, not about our own supposed spirituality. It is a weighty responsibility, and we must not be satisfied to merely check a box.
But it doesn't need to be complicated. (As an old sage has said, “It is easy to those who do it.”) The logical thing to do with Good News is to tell somebody.
*This is not to deny that such signs could themselves produce conviction. They can and they do. I am merely observing that on the whole, they seem to provoke more anger, confusion, and defensiveness in people. Of course, this in itself does not unilaterally invalidate the method. But it deserves to be thought about.
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