The Biggest Misconceptions About Evangelism

The Biggest Misconceptions About Evangelism

A discussion with Gloria Furman, Becky Pippert, and Shar Walker


The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy. 

Furman: There are a lot of ideas out there about evangelism, some helpful and true, some not so helpful and untrue. What are some misconceptions that you’ve heard about evangelism, maybe some that you might have even believed at one point?

Pippert: Well, I’ve done evangelism training globally, and I think the thing… And the last seven years we were in the UK, my husband and I, and Europe doing ministry there, the most secular place on the planet. And then we did about eight years of traveling around the world. What amazed me is the misconceptions were always the same. You would think there’d be a little variety…

Walker: They’re universal.

Pippert: …but it was universal. It was always the same. And one was, if they…on the personal level, I don’t have the gift. I’d always hear that. I’m sorry, I don’t have the gift. And so, obviously, the correction is we are called to be witnesses. You know, the command is not just to evangelize. You know, we’re called to be witnesses. Another is… Well, I wouldn’t be able to answer all…Yeah. The biggest one, and this is what I hear after every single conference globally, “Becky, I’d really like to share the gospel, but I’m so inadequate.” And I went, “Of course, you’re inadequate. That’s the whole point.” Is that we’ve been created to be God-dependent, not self-sufficient, and we have the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells in us. We have the power of the word of God. We have the power of the love of Christ to reach out, and so we lean on what we don’t have.

We are inadequate, and we need to celebrate it. I really think recognizing our inadequacy is the first step to really being effective in…as a Christian but effective in witness. So, I’m inadequate. I don’t have the gift. I won’t be able to answer all their questions, and I go, “I’ve never been able to answer everybody’s question.” They go, “What do you say if you don’t know the answer?” I go, “That is a fantastic question. And I haven’t a clue what the answer is, but I can’t wait to find out.” One secrecy we’re honest and that we’re not trying to be somebody we’re not. We’re just being ourselves, but our faith isn’t intimidated by a question we can’t answer. It sets a very healthy tone. Now that’s on the personal level.

The other thing I would say about misconceptions is that you say the word “evangelism,” and we’ll just talk about the West now, particularly in post-Christian West. You say the word “evangelism,” and they think you mean memorizing a formula that you impose on a victim. And so, of course, they don’t wanna do it, but that’s not what evangelism is. It is God’s mission to God’s world using God’s people. We’re not memorizing a technique. And look at Jesus. The way He related to people, He never gave the gospel the same way twice. The essence of the gospel is the same, but the way He interacted with people depended on where they were. Living water with the woman at the well. You’ve got to be born again to Nicodemus. So I think once people see that it’s much more a lifestyle and that we have to follow Jesus model, not a kind of mechanistic memorized approach that sets people for it, I think.

Walker: Yeah. I think similar to your common misconception I’ve heard is just, “I don’t know enough.” And even kind of with that the work of evangelism maybe is for people on vocational ministry or pastors…

Pippert: Yeah, right. Professionals.

Walker: Or, yeah, the professional Christians to which, you know, my response is often I think of… I think it was Peter and John in Acts were proclaiming the gospel. And the watching leaders were surprised, and it says, “Because they were uneducated and common men.” And so I’m like…

Pippert: What a [crosstalk 00:04:15]

Walker: Yeah. The early church and the gospel began to spread through uneducated and common men. There’s hope for us.

Pippert: Exactly.

Walker: Yeah. That makes me very happy and, you know, the seminary degrees, and learning apologetics are great, and I think they have their place, to proclaim the gospel in a way that’s clear and understandable as those aren’t necessary. Exactly. So that is definitely a common one I hear. Another one you’ve also kind of also touched on is that its… Evangelism, in one sense, is the event of sharing the gospel message with someone in terms of word proclamation. It seems like, especially in the States these days, I work with college students. It’s also a process.

So there are pre-evangelistic things you do in building relationships with people and learning them. What do they care about? What are their concerns? And for me, it’s been almost like an art. Like, you’re saying of connecting, what does the gospel have to do with you? Like, how does it connect to your life story, your personal cares, and your concerns? And also the bigger issue of sin, and the ways you’ve seen it, like, the ways that you’ve seen it and the ways we see in our world so yeah, again, it’s…I love what you said it’s not like just it…it is the same message but contextualized depending on our audience for sure.

Pippert: Shar, I just love what you’re saying because when…one of the things we do in training is we really look at Jesus. And what you see as you watch the way that he interacted with people, if you’re talking about pre-evangelism, he was just a master at what investigating who is this person I’m speaking to, and what did he do? We always ask fabulous questions and they all did, I mean, you can look, you know, and God always ask questions. When we think about the Old Testament it asks questions, tell stories, and we think it is only just giving a sermon, you know, so he investigated. Secondly, Jesus stimulated. He knew how to rouse curiosity and when you see the way that he will get nonbelievers fascinated with what he was saying and wanting to know more and then would relate the gospel, investigate it, stimulate, relate.

That is what we need to learn, is how do we do this. Then when we get to relate the gospel then exactly what you’re saying in Shar too. How does the gospel…how can I help explain the gospel in a way that is biblically faithful but culturally relevant as well to them.

Furman: So, a lot of our misconceptions it sounds like could be addressed just by looking at what the Bible says about what evangelism actually is and looking to our Savior to see how it is that he did it.

Pippert: Yeah, that’s right.

Furman: Thanks for sharing.

Editors’ note: 

Hear Becky Pippert on “A Fresh Approach to Holistic Evangelism for the 21st Century” at our 2019 National Conference, April 1 to 3 in Indianapolis. Browse the complete list of 74 speakers and 58 talks. We hope you will join us.

Becky Pippert has traveled all over the world to talk about evangelism. She’s been surprised to find that, in every part of the world, the misconceptions people have about evangelism are always the same. Pippert, Gloria Furman, and Shar Walker (contributors to the new book Joyfully Spreading the Word) sat down to discuss misconceptions—and the truth—about evangelism.

Most commonly, people say they can’t evangelize because they feel inadequate. They think they don’t know enough or won’t be able to answer hard questions. Pippert dispels fears of inadequacy by pointing out that none of us is adequate to bring someone else to faith: “Recognizing our inadequacy is the first step to really being effective in witness.”

Some think that only a select few or only those “in ministry” have the gift of evangelism. But all of us are called to share the good news of salvation. Furman remarks, “A lot of our misconceptions could be addressed just by looking at what the Bible says about what evangelism actually is, and by looking at our Savior to see how he did it.”

You can listen to the episode here or watch the video.