Practical Problems: How Do I As A Christian Respond To Street Evangelism?

Was walking through downtown Guelph tonight, and nearly passed a guy who started to say something but cut himself off. I did hear him start to say something though, so slowed down and made eye contact. This then gave him the courage to tell me something to the effect that Jesus died and rose again according to the Scriptures. This wasn’t exactly what I had expected–usually when someone tries to awkwardly ask me something in downtown Guelph it’s to plead for money or a lighter–so all I was able to manage was “Cool.” and then kept walking.

This then prompted some serious self-examination, asking why I wasn’t able to respond in a more support-full manner. Came up with no hard answers but a couple of thoughts. Firstly, coming from a non-religious background, I have heard plenty of stories of evangelism done badly–and have even been on the receiving end of it. When the Gospel that is spread is one of fear, despair, even hatred, then there’s a huge problem for me. So I’ve never been comfortable with forced conversations designed to convince a total stranger to convert. So part of my problem comes from the time before I was Christian.

Yet that’s not the whole story, because I also have reasons springing out of my very faith. One of the main ones is that for me, evangelism isn’t hugely compelling because I don’t believe that one has to be Christian to be saved by God. Everything I see in Scriptures says that God looks at the whole of a person on Judgment Day–if God does that, and if God is love as I believe, then I must believe that God would not hold the lack of Christianity against someone. The fact that C.S. Lewis concedes this in Mere Christianity is also greatly comforting, as I tend to find Lewis a very perceptive thinker. As he points out there, Scriptures tell us we can’t be saved except through Christ–they do not tell us that we must know Christ to be saved by Him. Given everything I believe about Christ, I’m willing to bet that we do not have to know Christ to be saved by Him–or alternatively, that when we stand before the fully revealed Lord on the throne we will realize that we knew Christ all along, we just did not know Him by that name. In either case, I strongly believe that one does not have to be Christian to be saved, and that does rather take the urgency out of traditional evangelisation. I cannot deny, however, that there is a command to spread the Gospel to the ends of the Earth in Scripture. I am willing to grant that there are probably those who are meant to spread it through exactly this sort of street evangelism–approaching strangers and striking up conversation. As long as the Gospel being spread is one of hope, love, and faith, I have no objection to this–though sadly, I often find the Gospel being spread one of fear, despair, or hatred instead. I do believe that evangelism is more wide than this and that we all probably are meant to do it in diverse ways–since I believe in an extremely diverse and inclusive Body of Christ this is unsurprising. Personally, I think the way I’m meant to evangelize is merely to be a living example of Christ’s love (and arguably His Suffering Servant aspect), helped along by the fact that I treat my faith like I treat my disabilities–it’s an intrinsic part of who I am, and will often be dropped in casual conversation because to dance around it is dishonest. So these are all factors that led to my lukewarm reaction to this guy’s attempt at street evangelism. Given his awkwardness, I suspect the guy feels evangelism is something he should work on, and is trying to make an effort to get better at it. So I feel great regret that, due to my own hang-ups, I wasn’t able to be as supportive as I’d like. I did, however, offer a prayer for him–because while I do not know whether this path is one he is meant to walk, I am confident God knows, and God can offer him greater strength and guidance than I ever could.

Published by Devin Hogg

My name is Devin Hogg. I was born and raised in Carnarvon, Ontario, Canada. I moved to Guelph, Ontario, Canada in 2009 for university and lived here ever since. In my free time, I enjoy reading, watching TV and movies, going on long walks, swimming, and practicing Chen style Tai Chi. I love to write poetry and blog regularly about topics such as mental health, sci-fi/fantasy series, faith, sexuality, and politics.

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