“Evangelism is a word that makes people feel uncomfortable, something where we feel like it’s only for those people who have that special gift to be an evangelist and who ought to be doing it. Is this right? No, this is wrong! It is bias!” the Rev. Dr. Mark R. Teasdale proclaimed Friday to Great Plains Conference attendees.
Teasdale was the keynote speaker at the 2018 Great Plains Annual Conference session held in Wichita. Under the title “Evangelism for Non-Evangelist,” Teasdale shared techniques for those who feel they have the call to proclaim the gospel even if they see themselves as non-evangelists.
Through a video produced by Southern Baptist Billy Graham Association shown at the start of his presentation, he referred to evangelism as the “elephant in the room” and not an issue affecting Methodists alone. He said this is an issue affecting other religions and Christian denominations alike.
“They all have trouble with evangelism,” Teasdale said. “We are not the only ones. It is good to know that it is something that everybody finds a little bit awkward doing.”
Where do people need to focus their attention? First, “acknowledging what we are all thinking and that is, that awkward moment when you find yourself trying to share your faith.”
The reason why traditional views of evangelism fail, Teasdale referred to, is due to negative experiences that everyone has gone through, some time or another, when being evangelized. Feelings of condemnation, judgement and hurt are too often the negative experiences.
How then, do we proclaim Christ and the Gospel after the effects of these negative experiences?
Avoiding evangelism because we are afraid, Teasdale identified, is not acceptable. He said individuals feel they don’t know the answers or feel unequipped but mainly “because individuals feel they will harm their relationship with others or get into a relationship that is over their heads,” he emphasized.
Teasdale continued saying, the assumption behind this fear is that evangelism is seen as just a technical activity. “It’s something that you just have to learn the best practices, is it? Wrong,” Teasdale said.
While there are some people gifted as evangelists (Ephesians 4:12), any individual can be formed as those who share the good news. This is where congregations are essential, Teasdale said.
“Seeing evangelism as a technical activity based first and foremost on specialist knowledge and practice is wrong,” echoed Teasdale. However, there are best practices for almost anything. Evangelism at the end of the day is just formation and being authentic and not a technical process.
“It is whether there has been formation in one’s life, so as you are formed by the gospel, you are just able to overflow with that formation to others,” Teasdale said.
Evangelism is not about judging other people, Teasdale indicated.
Negativity ought to be overcome with positive alternatives, leading with what is good instead of what is bad. As per the Greek translation of Evangelism, Teasdale said, evangelism means “Good News,” and old ways of evangelism seen as negative inputs of the Gospel, whether still proclaiming faith with good intention, if they make anyone feel bad is not evangelism.”
Evangelism is what calls people to the good news of God’s redemption through Jesus Christ, Teasdale reminded. That is what Wesley called Christian Perfection.
What is the solution to the problem and how do you bring people around through evangelism? Evangelism does not have a set of particular best practices according to Teasdale, but it does have an equation. The equation is simply a way of walking through how you can work towards formation both personally and as a congregation.
“You are formed in that love of God in a way that it’s going to flow out to others that’s both authentic to you and meaningful for them” Teasdale said resuming what the result of the equation ought to be.
For Teasdale, the equation begins with a starting point, “the good thing in peoples’ lives and own experiences by God goodness”.
To do this, Teasdale alluded, the focus must be put in the individuality of each person. “You are going to hold in on to. Go tell people these things about God and convince them, persuade them to believe it, but rather, starting with your own experience of God’s goodness.”
The theological reflection is the next step to tackle, Teasdale said. He asked delegates to reflect on what Christian faith has taught them throughout the years, through the tradition of the Christian faith and apostolic tradition.
Following the mathematical equation, he then calculated that the importance for evangelists to seek meaningfulness through contextual awareness, is to respond to the following question; How would a person evangelizing is going to talk in a way that it can be heard and understood, and ultimately be responded to positively when an invitation is offered. Teasdale said creativity is the essence and the answer ought to be concise by “authentic evangelism.” Therefore, “to be able to get rid of stereotypes to revitalize the work of evangelism,” Teasdale said.
Teasdale advised attendees to creatively find answers to authentically evangelize by pointing out in which experiences Jesus has touch them in a meaningful way, where did they find their personal peace, their sense of purpose, their sense of forgiveness and finally, their sense of acceptance.
By answering these questions, Teasdale said one can find and be self-ware about how one is related to Jesus. He added one ought to see oneself wanting to continue to be related to Jesus publicly. “Am I going to be considered a Christian today or not? Am I going to be publicly identified with Jesus or not? Why am I a Christian?,” Teasdale asked.
Words and deeds
Evangelism is not all about human activity, is about how people will come to faith, Teasdale specified.
If a person wants to become a new member of the church the signs to find are “our words and our deeds,” Teasdale said. It is key to point to people to follow Jesus and attend church to become spiritual discipleship. ”To look to God, to call God, to see God come” through words and deeds will transform people and save them, Teasdale resonated among Great Plains Conference delegates.
In all, Teasdale revealed, the transformation “is the work of the Holy spirit” to create a process that draws people into discipleship by inviting them to your home, make them feel a sense of belonging, equipping them with the tools and resources necessary to be comfortable in their new Christian endeavor and finally and more precisely, project towards them an authentic sense of accountability to the word of God by one own discipleship and spirit transforming the world.
Teasdale thanked all attendees for the gracious hospitality offered by the Great Conference saying how “hospitality is part of evangelism.”
“If you show good hospitality it means you have got some gifts for evangelism.” Here in the Great Plains “you have got some ability to do evangelism well because you know how to welcome people, you know how to invite them in. And that is very critical,” he added.
Teasdale is an ordained elder in the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church and the E. Stanley Jones Associate Professor of Evangelism at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. He has written three books: "Methodist Evangelism," "American Salvation; Evangelism for Non-Evangelists: Sharing the Gospel Authentically" and "Go! Becoming a Great Commission Congregation."
He currently teaches at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and has lectured at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, Southern Methodist University, and Wesley Theological Seminary. In addition, he has been privileged to consult with several local churches and denominational bodies, including the cabinet of the Methodist Church (Lower Myanmar) and the Connectional Table of The United Methodist Church.
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