evangelism: ur doin it wrong

May 11, 2008

We are blowing off church this morning, exhausted from our short trip to SoCal for the memorial service for Kay’s dad. On the drive south, had time to talk about lots of things. She reminded me of the awkward time when I dragged her through the Student Union of Indiana University to do “contact evangelism” — that is, walk up to people cold. My, my. The awkwardness of that experience was one of the first turning points that changed my understanding of evangelism.

The example of Kay’s dad was another turning point. But Mr. Fiske (another missionary from Japan) summarized his example best at the memorial service:

As a young missionary, I went to Ivan because he had more experience, and asked, “What does a missionary do?” He replied, “Live in such a way that they will ask you, ‘Why do you do what you do?’ Then you can give an explanation at the time when they are most likely to actually listen.”

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

2 responses to evangelism: ur doin it wrong

  1. As a missionary, I find this very true. The common question I’m asked is why are you here? Or a variant is “what do you do?” That kind of conversational small talk among strangers.
    It gives me a good opening to talk about our work in this country and region, and about God’s activity in my life. Some of these conversations have moved to a deeper level over a cup of coffee in the local cafe.
    Chris W

  2. Chris, I have found that to be true when I serve as a “professional” missionary (including short-term missions). Your comment has got me thinking about how I might answer “what do you do” differently as a Silicon Valley professional. Maybe I’ll start describing myself with, “I’m a programmer, father, husband, and sometime mystic.”
    But the “why do you do what you do” question is deeper, and requires a deeper commitment on my part to live out the gospel in its fullness, demonstrating its reality before attempting to explain it. This in turn causes me to think more seriously about what the gospel is in the first place.