Considering “contact evangelism”

INTRODUCTION. An introductory post about Contact Evangelism (CE).

In the world of evangelism, there are three broad categories to describe an evangelistic encounter: broadcast evangelism, friendship evangelism, and contact evangelism. In this post, I want to extol the advantages of contact evangelism (CE), which is the method of evangelism that simply makes contact with people at random to present the gospel or a related spiritual topic. Make contact, then have a “spiritual conversation.” The contact is made for the sole purpose of discussing the gospel or talking about Jesus Christ. “The sower went out to sow” (Matthew 13:3).

Before we go too far, let’s define terms. I will use the terms “witness” or “evangelist” to describe the person presenting the gospel, and “prospect,” whether stranger or friend, as the person hearing the message from the witness or evangelist. In CE, the context is assumed to be one on one or maybe one on a few.

Also, I am considering CE in contrast to friendship evangelism (FE).

ADVANTAGES OF CONTACT EVANGELISM

Here, in no particular order, are some of the considerations that commend CE:

  • CE is always available. By this, I mean that it is always possible to do CE. There are always new people whom you can contact and to whom you can present the gospel. On the other hand, FE requires that you have “friends” or acquaintances who are consistently available to listen to the gospel.
  • CE is efficient in terms of time, energy, and money. Depending upon the particular witness and their chosen presentation of the gospel, the entire encounter from start to finish will usually be five or ten minutes. This means that 10 or 20 times as many people can be contacted as can be contacted with FE. CE takes little emotional energy, whereas FE consumes a lot of emotional energy, simply because CE is transactional, a task to accomplish an objective, while FE is relational, which means it involves the emotions. CE costs little money, since it can be accomplished by discussing a tract or by getting a prospect to talk with the witness about a gospel-related topic of the witness’s choosing. FE is inherently expensive since it frequently involves meals and possibly events that cost money and takes place over an extended period of time (weeks and months).
  • In CE, the sole purpose of the encounter is to present the gospel message and to seek a favorable response, so there is little risk that either witness or prospect will have a “project” mentality. There is nothing in the CE approach that leads to the feeling that someone is a “project.” By contrast, the FE approach has many opportunities for a “project” mindset. The witness must guard against treating the prospect as a “project,” whatever that means to the witness. It is also entirely possible over time for the prospect to feel like they have become a “project” for the witness and feel that the “friendship” is simply a pretext for the witness to proselytize.
  • Even though we are reluctant to admit it, both CE and FE are “numbers’ games.” The more encounters you have, the more favorable responses you will receive. “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6). I suspect that the “success rate” with FE is about the same as the success rate with CE, but even if the success rate with CE was half that of FE, it would still yield much greater numbers than FE because you can make ten times as many contacts.
  • CE has “the element of surprise,” which is an advantage. The person being approached does not have time to develop a resistance strategy. But in FE there is no element of surprise and the “friend” of the evangelist has a lot of time to develop resistance strategies, since their radar is up from the start.
  • In CE, if the prospect rejects the offer of the gospel, he is rejecting the message, not the messenger (witness), which is easier on the witness’s ego and emotions. But in FE, if the prospect eventually rejects the offer of the gospel, it is harder on the evangelist’s ego and emotions because he has more invested and it is more difficult to separate message from messenger.
  • CE can become a regular part of your weekly schedule because, unlike FE, it is not dependent on another person’s availability or schedule. You simply decide when and where and for how long I am going to engage in CE and put it on my Day Timer. FE is complicated by involving the availability of another person.

THE STRONGEST REASON TO USE CE

The above are good reasons to consider using CE, but the strongest reason to use CE is that the only examples we have of evangelism in the New Testament are broadcast evangelism (BE), where the evangelist addresses a large crowd (Acts 2; 13) and contact evangelism (CE), where the witness speaks to strangers about the gospel. The simple fact is that there are no examples of FE in the Bible. In the evangelism accounts in the New Testament, the apostles are either proclaiming the gospel to crowds of strangers or they are declaring the good news to individual strangers or small groups of strangers. To befriend someone so that you can proclaim the gospel to them is unknown in the Scriptures. Which begs the question, “Why would we use a strategy that is foreign to Scripture (FE) when a strategy that is commonly used by the apostles (CE) is so readily available?”

SUMMARY

In this post I have explored some reasons why contact evangelism should be a part of an evangelist’s toolkit and regular practice.

SDG                 rmb                 5/1/2022                     #524

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