Evangelism – articulating the gospel – might not the biggest part of our mission (remember 90% of success is showing up), but it’s certainly a critical part. ‘Reeling in’ may only be one percent of fishing, but it’s a pretty important one percent! Worth getting good at.
Some forms of evangelism focus mainly on the facts – what God has done for us in Christ, and what it means. Such evangelism comes across as a lecture or course, which is both a strength and weakness. People in our culture understand ‘courses’ and how to access information. The downside of laying-down-the-facts evangelism, however, is the risk of the gospel becoming a list of doctrines for people to agree with. The facts are vital, but there’s more to evangelism than the facts.
Other forms of evangelism focus mainly on the challenge. Think of the street-preachers. How awkward when this element is over-emphasized, too in-your-face with “If you were to die tonight” and “You’re under God’s wrath.” But there’s no denying that the personal challenge or invitation is an important part of evangelism. God is calling, appealing, proposing to people he loves, and through us!
But how do we go about informing the facts-resistant and challenging the action-resistant? Talk about daunting! Well, consider the brilliant tool used by Jesus and so many effective evangelists since: Story. Stories are incredibly powerful-yet-subtle carriers of both facts and challenge. The Gospels show Jesus as a master storyteller, and he said that (we) gospel-tellers are “like a rich man who brings out of his storehouse both new treasures as well as old.”
In our culture the most skillful story-tellers are in Hollywood. With semi-interested people, you can do much worse than to watch Les Miserables or The Matrix (or something more recent!) and draw out from them the incredible gospel parallels. I knew a church that had a regular movie afternoon and never failed, off the back of it, to have a great, deep, gospel conversations. They called it “Popcorn Theology.” Love it. What movies would you choose?