How Evangelism Works in a Post-Christian Culture

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Editors’ note: 

For more reading on evangelism in a time and place where Christianity is not the dominant worldview, see Evangelism as Exiles: Life on Mission as Strangers in Our Own Land from The Gospel Coalition.

In this video, Joshua Ryan Butler says that as we share the good news in today’s secular culture, we should not neglect hospitality, prayer, and the evangelistic potential of new converts.

The following is a lightly edited transcript provided by a transcription service. Please check video before quoting.

One of the angles I’ve been thinking through evangelism lately has been through the lens of hospitality. So, actually, at our church, we have a lot of, you know, kind of community groups that meet during the week. And one of the things we’re currently trying right now is actually taking one week where we kind of shut down with the normal groups, and we’re kind of training everyone in the groups to . . . that week that we don’t actually have community, that they would actually invite over a friend, someone they know, that we actually spent some time praying the week before, who’s the person that God will put in your heart.

So, we’re thinking about hospitality and extending the hospitality of God like actually creating a welcoming space to receive the life of the other, and being intentional in making that space meaningful whether that’s your home, or whether that’s taking someone out to coffee, or whatever that is, and the act of actually listening and getting to know their lives and having some pointed questions, not so much to put them on the spot but to really ask them deeply, getting to know some of the ways that they think about the world and understand the world.

I think there’s an immense hunger today where people are often isolated and lonely or have conversations that can be very superficial and shallow, and it’s really kind of strange to get invited in by someone to share some of the deepest things about your own life, your story, the way that you understand the world, and, coupled with that, doing a lot of prayer, and so praying in advance.

And, in the following week, as we regather as a community, getting to share the stories of what happened at those meals and then to spend specific time actually praying for those people and seeing what God might do. This is actually . . . I do have a friend of mine, John Crawford. He and I have been working together on this. And when we think about hospitality coupled with the power of prayer, I think often we underestimate the power of prayer when it comes to evangelism.

I remember being new to the faith and I had this one gentleman. He was the father of a friend of mine, and every week it seemed like he had had some new powerful conversation with someone, an evangelistic conversation, introducing them to Jesus. I remember asking him like, “How do you do that? How do you have all these phenomenal conversations with people about Christ?”

And he said, “Oh, it’s easy. I just pray.” He’s like, “Every week I pray, ‘God, would you bring the right person into my life? Would you show me when and where?'” and just being open, and attentive, and sensitive to the Spirit of God both to bring those conversations and to equip him, not so much that he just has it all figured out, but he’s attentive to where Jesus might be leading him through spirit to have those conversations.

And so I think there’s an immense power to prayer that we underestimate. And finally, I think, too, what I would call the power of one where sometimes I think we think evangelism we get, I mean, “How can we reach the masses kind of big picture?” But, I think that often those who will be best to reach the masses, so to speak, are those who are new to the faith.

I think we see this in the story of the Samaritan woman where Jesus in John 4 was talking to the Samaritan woman at the well. And, his time, his conversation, his attentiveness and attention to this one person, but then when she comes to faith, she goes back into the town and tells everyone, “Hey, come and see this person who knows me.Come and see the Lord.”

She becomes a way more effective evangelist to her community in some ways than the disciples probably would have been. And I think often I’ve seen that in my own story and our church as well. Often some of the most effective evangelists have been new believers. We often think, “You’ve got to have all the equipment.” It’s often it’s just the freshness of coming to faith and having all the existing relationships with people who don’t know you, haven’t known you as a Christian.

And when that transformation takes root in your life, people are drawn to it. And so I think when it comes to evangelism that sometimes instead of looking at the masses, that we would underestimate the power of that one person that Jesus might use us to bring to himself and through them he may reach the masses. So, in sum, I think you have those three themes that have been big for me lately: the theme of hospitality, of extending the hospitality of God, and welcoming others; that theme of prayer, intention about praying for people and praying after those conversations take place; and finally that theme of the power of one, of not underestimating the significance that even that one conversation could have.