Do you associate the word “evangelism” with handing out tracts, seeking out strangers with whom to share the plan of salvation, and “formulas” meant to explain or advertise the gospel to others?
Do these methods seem alien, uncomfortable, or cold to you?
If so, Mike Bechtle’s Evangelism For the Rest of Us is a book you absolutely must read. It’s written for those who shy away from “traditional” evangelistic tactics – introverts, certainly (and that is his target audience here) but also those who worry that Christian evangelism in some forms bears more than a passing resemblance to selling Avon door-to-door. If you’ve ever wondered how to share the gospel without having to pull out a pamphlet, offer up an acrostic, or change your entire personality to interact with strangers, you’re not alone, and Bechtle is interested in redefining how we think of “evangelism” generally.
Bechtle isn’t interested in bashing traditional evangelism tactics. He maintains that God can use everything and everyone to achieve His desires, and so it certainly isn’t beyond reason that God might want to use a pamphlet, or a well-placed meeting with a stranger, or even a piece of merchandise to bring His lost children home. What concerns him is that Christians uncomfortable with those sorts of tactics – people who feel awkward handing out tracts or sense that a quick presentation of the Gospel is too impersonal for what they want to accomplish – might begin to feel like failures, like they are sinning, or – most painfully – that there is no point in trying to evangelize at all. He expresses concern too that well-meaning Christians who insist that traditional methods of evangelism are the only way might be essentially pushing away other believers who want to share their faith with others in a different way.
Throughout the book, Bechtle discusses the ways in which the shyer and quieter among us – or at least those of us not predisposed to more “extroverted” evangelism methods – might begin to use our own personalities, skills, and strengths to evangelize in our own way. He points out that a large component of evangelism is simply being aware of our surroundings, listening to the needs around us, and being open to the moment. Moreover, he points out that deep relationship-building, patient listening, and thoughtful care is the domain of the introvert: introverts in some ways are suited particularly to situations in which ‘traditional’ evangelistic methods just won’t do.
Bechtle, an introvert himself, discusses his own struggles and feelings of failure in regards to “traditional” evangelism, but then goes on to offer a lot of intriguing real-life anecdotes that demonstrate how he’s harnessed his own particular strengths and abilities to reach out for Christ. In particular, Bechtle seems comfortable with the idea that, if we are willing, God will use us: there is no need or rush to shoehorn a Gospel presentation into every conversation, or to count the minutes until we can blurt out the story of our own salvation. Sometimes the simple act of caring is enough, and God will present opportunities in His own time that we will recognize and can embrace.
Perhaps most useful to me, though, was the “myth-busting” section of the book, where Bechtle blazes through a lot of common myths about evangelism. He decries the idea that evangelism has to be one particular way, that evangelism is for extroverts alone, and that evangelism must be a particular set of steps followed to a particular conclusion. Insisting that evangelism is a process rather than a moment, Bechtle reminds believers that if we want to get at the heart of evangelism, we must first turn to Christ Himself and follow His example. Successful evangelism is not necessarily evangelism in which one “wins” a conversion, but rather in which one expresses to the utmost the love and care of Christ regardless of the result. Most importantly, he reminds believers that a lot of what we consider “evangelism” rests on man-made concepts rather than Christlike ones, and that to get at the foundation of what evangelism is we must return to the Word rather than our own understanding.
The book is an easy read – I finished it very quickly – but it is both useful and comforting. If you’ve struggled with evangelism in the past, this is a book that will reassure you that you aren’t alone. And it will help you figure out how to harness your unique personality in a way that allows you to make an impact for Christ the way that He intended you to do so all along.