A Season of Evangelism

By Neil Earle

In the KJV of the Bible there is this slightly strange statement “redeeming the time.” It’s found in two places, Ephesians 5:16 and Colossians 4:5. It goes something like “Walk in wisdom towards those who are without redeeming the time because the days are evil.”

The NIV reads, “making the most of every opportunity,” and NEB says “use the present opportunity to the full.”

What opportunity? Well, whatever or whoever we see around us that could further our participation in Christ’s mission to call all people to Himself – “You shall be my witnesses,” said the Lord (Acts 1: 8-10).

Recovering Christian Festivals

I’ve always felt that the three seasons of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas give Christians a chance to be a little bolder about their faith, to have a bit of a platform to share the hope they have, or even invite lonely people or even ex-members you see in the busy malls to a church service at this time.

A recent survey shows that 7 out of 10 “un-churched” people would visit a service if a friend invited them. Apparently 6% of former church-goers are looking for a decent church to connect with.

This means that Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons are opportunities to be friendly, inviting faith-sharers. All these three customs are Christian at their core. The witches and goblins conceal that Halloween means “All Hallows Eve.” This was a time when Christians in Europe would gather for a little memorial service at the graves of their daily departed or strong Christian leaders, and reflect. This became corrupted over time (and how!!) but the original story might make interesting telling – maybe with a tract placed among the treats on October 31.

Tract or Treat?

Ditto for Thanksgiving and Christmas cards. Open up a bit. Be inviting.

And why?

You Are My Witnesses

Well for Christians, the question is not “Should I join in the evangelistic mission of Jesus and the Church?” but HOW and WHEN and WHERE. Paul alludes to this in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “For necessity is laid upon me, woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.” Across the centuries several styles of outreach have evolved and worked amazingly well. Perhaps you fit into one of these categories. Or perhaps this review could revive our sagging evangelistic muscles a little.

  1. CENTRIPETAL (drawing toward us) OR PASSIVE EVANGELISM – This is the Queen of Sheba coming up to hear about Solomon’s kingdom OR the Greek festival-goers seeking out Jesus (John 12:20). Today it might be a church quietly putting out a sign or a shingle or setting up a Christian newsstand in a local. It is quiet and unobtrusive. This could also fit the Web, Facebook, etc. The invitation is just sitting there “while men slept” (Mark 4:27). It’s there giving a silent witness.

  2. PUBLIC – The most common. Jesus standing up at the festival and crying out boldly in John 7:28. Paul sharing in the marketplace or agora in Athens in Acts 17:16-19 – what we would call the mall today. We did this at shopping malls, farmer’s markets and the Rancho Cucamonga Grape Fest. We gave public lectures in Loma Linda last year on the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible and three people still attend church.

  3. MEDIA EVANGELISM – very popular since the 1920s with the Lutheran Hour, Back to the Bible, etc. Today it means radio but also TV, flyers, print ads, movies, direct mail letters. Media is associated with graphic arts, visual power, heightened messaging. God uses these special effects to great effect – see Matthew 17:1-8 for a near parallel.

  4. OCCASIONAL – Alluding to the message as you go about your pursuits. See this in Matthew 6:26. This can mean Good Works, Food Banks, Homeless Shelters, etc. Not as planned as Numbers 2 or 3 but more a matter of “as you are going, make disciples” (Matthew 28:19-20). The three seasons mentioned above can fit into this. Sending thoughtful cards at Thanksgiving or Xmas would fit in here as well. Making every chance count.

  5. INVITATIONAL OR SPECIAL EVENT – See Luke 14:15 – the key word here is intentionality. Many churches set aside times in the church year to actively invite people to a special event at our church. We do this with MLK Day, Cinco de Mayo, KJV lectures, etc. (see our Photo section – most churches have them).

  6. PERSONAL/RELATIONAL – This is considered the best strategy by far in a day of cynicism, agnosticism and TV religious scandals. It’s also called “coffee-cup” evangelism. See Acts 18:1-11. One pastor friend in Chicago facing the “empty nest” syndrome decided to hang out at the local McDonalds. Several of his new friends asked him to do their funerals and funerals are time when people open up a little.

  7. PRESTIGE EVANGELISM – This is where extra-special events and publicity have good effect. See Acts 13:4-12 where Paul meets the ruler of Cyprus and helps lead him to Christ. Most of us won’t have that kind of chance (our schedules aren’t that impressive) but there are Christian people who sometimes get a chance to do that. One of my former parishioners is mother-in-law to the Prime Minister of Canada, for example. You never know.

  8. INTERVENTIONIST – God gets involved because nothing else has worked and he cares about the course of events – see Acts 9:1-9 for a classic case, the conversion of Paul. This is a hallmark of the short-term OT prophetic warnings. Jesus mentioned “shaking the dust off your feet.”

Fortunately we don’t have to feel inadequate or inferior in all of this because Jesus promised to give us the words to say at any given time we are out there trying to represent him. He is with at every season. Let’s be glad for that.