Clear the Bench - Doable Evangelism for the Ordinary Christian
Clear the Bench - Doable Evangelism for the
By Randy Siever
I’m not what anyone would have called a gifted athlete in high school. I played football and I was on the wrestling team, but I was only average on my best day. Most of my coaches made me feel inadequate, stupid, or invisible. They were former natural athletes who loved their respective sports. They could recognize the gifted athlete, and rewarded them with starting time and admiration and most of their coaching time. Those were the producers, the kids who made us champions. The worst coaches in the world are those who used to be natural, gifted athletes. They can’t tell you how to throw a curve ball, but they can still show you by throwing one. They never had to think about what they did, they just did it. Therefore, they have no idea how to explain to us ordinary people how we can make the ball move that way. Just do it. The naturally gifted respond well to such admonitions. The ordinary simply stand to the side, or go sit on the bench. This happens in church as well, particularly when the game is evangelism. Barbara is one of those ordinary Christians at my church. She is probably in her late sixties and has followed Jesus most of her life. She is what a saint should look like, and is outgoing and friendly and kind to others. She has also felt like a total failure in this part of her relationship with Jesus over the past 40 years because, as she told me, “I’m no good at speaking”. Evangelism was something she just felt was impossible for her, and she felt guilty and like she had failed Jesus because of it.Dave is a 50-something grocery store manager. He’s not very articulate, but he’s very passionate about his faith in Christ and really wants others to know Him, too. Dave has only been following Jesus for a few years, but he has read enough and heard enough to know that he’s supposed to help others find Jesus like he did. He just wasn’t very good at presenting information, and he had to be careful on the job about “selling Jesus”. He had tried a few methods, but was very anxious and frustrated by them all. He basically ended up sitting on the bench when it came to evangelism.Barbara and Dave are ordinary Christians who make up about 85-90 percent of any given church population. They are not particularly gifted, or naturally talented when it comes to the practice of evangelism. They know they’re supposed to share their faith, they love Jesus and they serve and study their bible and pray and tithe and do everything else they’re supposed to do. But they have felt like miserable failures when it comes to reaching out to those far from God. We evangelists are usually asked to train people to evangelize. We are the gifted ones, the star players who lead others to Christ as naturally as we eat and breathe. It isn’t hard, really. It’s fun, challenging and unbelievably rewarding work. Most of us simply can’t imagine why everyone else isn’t doing what we do. We’re the worst possible candidates to coach others on how to reach out to their friends. We really don’t know how it happens for us, mechanically speaking, and when we try to explain it, we make it so complicated and difficult that most people just give up. Memorize your story, His story, the bridge illustration, the Romans Road, the Four Spiritual Laws, the ten objections (and their corresponding refutations), do versus done, and how to steer any conversation toward spiritual things. Oh…and don’t forget to bbq first. The problem is that despite all this (and spending quite literally billions of dollars on training and materials over the past 50 years) we have not successfully gotten 85-90 percent of our team onto the field. Now, if we thought we could actually win with ten percent of our team, we’d probably suggest that the others sit quietly, watch and write checks so that those of us who are called to go can be served by those who are called to send. (Sound familiar?)If we can agree that it is the duty and privilege of EVERY follower of Christ to help connect others to Jesus, how can we begin to engage the ordinary, non-evangelistically gifted Christian in the game? And what would happen if as little as half of that 90 percent actually got into the game in some significant way? Can you even begin to imagine?
We dream about that all the time at Off the Map. We’re committed to helping people see and think about evangelism as a spiritual practice (like reading your bible or praying) rather than a program (like a diet…which you dump two weeks after you start). We want people to practice what we call ordinary attempts at connecting with others. Simple, doable practices that most people are already doing, but now they will do intentionally. Some of them don’t even require speaking. It’s doable evangelism.The power of ordinary is that it can be done by anyone, not just the gifted or naturally talented. The power of ordinary Christians is that they represent 90 percent of our workforce. We (not Jesus) have made evangelism the realm of the gifted few, the naturals. We (not Jesus) have made it so hard and complicated that the ordinary Christian just can’t do it. And then we (not Jesus) make these ordinary Christians feel guilty for their neglect and feeling like failures in this part of their relationship with Christ. It doesn’t have to be more of the same. We can turn this thing around. Lower the bar. Let everyone play. Celebrate the ordinary attempts, and the small stuff. Let’s get everyday Christians onto the field. It’s time to clear the bench.
Randy Siever, Director of Doable Evangelism, is an experienced leader and gifted evangelist. He served twenty years on the Young Life staff and nine years as Pastor of Outreach at Sparks Christian Fellowship near Reno, Nevada. Randy has a B.A. from San Jose State and an M.A. from Fuller Seminary. He joined Off the Map as Director of Doable Evangelism in 2007.