Fear. Fear of man, in particular, is the number one reason cited by Christians for why they do not evangelize. Some say that they are fearful because they do not know enough theology (though I’m inclined to believe that knowing a lot of theology can be a greater hindrance to effective evangelism). Others say that they are fearful of the reaction of their family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers when they talk about their faith. Whatever the specific cause of it, fear tends to paralyze us when we think about evangelism.
Lest you think that your pastors are immune to this fear, let me assure that I, too, experience this fear. Far too many times than I care to admit, I have let an opportunity to testify to the good news of Jesus Christ pass by. I fail to speak up when I know that the time is right to give glory to God.
The root of this fear is a lack of faith. When I fail to speak up, I am actually failing to believe that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). That is Paul’s summary statement after he levels three rhetorical questions at the reader. He says, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” Our family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers need to hear the gospel in order to call upon the name of the Lord. We need to have the faith to evangelize them in spite of our fear of man.
That we should evangelize is plain. How we evangelize is another matter altogether. There is a place for what some have called “confrontational” evangelism. After all, Paul himself reasoned (or argued with) those in the synagogues; he reasoned with the everyday people in the market places; he reasoned with the academics in Athens. This kind of evangelism is still done today with enduring effect, e.g. at the Boardwalk Chapel in Wildwood, NJ.
However, it is not the only method of evangelism. Moreover, it is arguably not the most effective. Some surveys have indicated that “relational” evangelism was the method used in more than 75% of conversions. This kind of evangelism focuses on leveraging personal relationships as the gospel is proclaimed to the world.
Within this kind of evangelism, there are many tools to help believers evangelize the lost in their midst. One of those tools is called Life Explored. This tool, which is produced by Christianity Explored Ministries, provides an occasion to present the gospel and to work through the questions of unbelievers. I have seen this tool used in other churches, and I have heard from more that it has been an effective tool in encouraging congregations to evangelize the lost around them.
What exactly is Life Explored? Before I answer that question, I want to give one important reminder. No tool or method of evangelism is a cause of conversion. God converts the heart of a sinner through his Word. Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Tools and methods are analogous to what time we worship on the Lord’s Day. There is nothing special about 10:35 am. It is a circumstance, a tool, for accomplishing our chief end, glorying God and enjoying him on the Lord’s Day. Nevertheless, setting a time for worship, or settling on one tool or method for evangelism, helps us to keep in mind our goal. We have chosen to introduce Life Explored because we think it will be a helpful way to encourage you to evangelize.
With that said, we can now address what Life Explored actually is. It is an evangelism program based on a series of gatherings of believers and unbelievers for the sake of presenting the gospel message and engaging with the inevitable questions that arise. Church members invite a family member, friend, neighbor, coworker, etc. to a series of evenings during which a meal is shared, a short video is played, a time for discussion is given, and a final short video is played that presents the gospel. Life Explored is a tool, a means to stimulate discussion with the family member, friend, neighbor, or coworker whom you brought along.
Three things need to be highlighted from what has just been said. First, it is most effective in small groups in which honest discussion is encouraged. Second, it is most effective when a meal is shared before digging into the content of the videos. It is much easier to make relational connections with someone with whom you’ve just broken bread. Finally, Life Explored is far more effective if a believer personally invites—and attends with—an unbeliever. It is important to maintain at least an equal ratio between those who know the gospel and those who don’t. Too many believers in a group can stifle conversation.
Over the next couple months, these reflections will take up the topic of evangelism. Our aim is to prepare you to participate in our first Life Explored series by giving you theological and practical underpinnings for why it is important to evangelize. During this time, please pray earnestly about who God desires you to invite to Life Explored. Then invite them.