How the term ordinary ever came to be associated with being uninvolved in evangelism I’ll never know. However as this link evolved, it certainly felt natural to me at the time. And, looking around, it seems to be natural to most Christians in most churches. Together we’re going to have to help believers get a new view of “ordinary.”
I suspect that the problem stems in large part to a misconception of what evangelism really is and what it can look like in your life. It’s what I call the “problem of perceptions.” Even though most Christians have never spent a summer with a church team knocking on doors and talking to strangers, they have similar pictures in their minds of the kinds of things they’d have to do if they really became outreach-oriented. They have determined in advance that these approaches don’t fit them.
In fact, I think most of us tend to have widely polarized stereotypes of what evangelism is — ones that are either very positive or very negative. We view it as an activity for superstar Christians who are outgoing, articulate, equipped, and effective. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, it’s for pushy, manipulative, out-of-touch, and out-of-style individuals who cram the gospel down people’s throats.
The result is that the “average” Christian concludes, “I know what evangelism is. It’s an activity for someone who’s extraordinary enough to do it really well — or who’s just obnoxious enough to do it anyway!” But either way they’re sure it’s not for them, because they view themselves as neither extraordinary nor obnoxious! “Whatever evangelism is,” they muse, “I’ll leave it to somebody else who’s better suited for that kind of activity.”
If we’re going to solve the math problem, change the ratios, and enroll the Christian masses in the adventure of relational evangelism, we’re going to have to adopt — and spread — a new view of what it can look like, a view that includes every believer. I believe the key idea to be taught is that there are a variety of legitimate approaches to evangelism. In other words, you don’t have to squeeze yourself into a specific personality mold in order to be used by God to reach others. In fact you’ll be much more effective if you work within your God-given personality.
What’s interesting is that even though many Christians are repelled by the idea of being involved in evangelism, they really to want to make a difference with their lives. They want to be players on the field and not just spectators in the stands. They want to make investments that will bear fruit and have an impact on eternity. I think the Holy Spirit has inbred these desires in every believer. As Joe Stowell, president of Moody Bible Institute, once said in a leadership talk at our church, some people are “just waiting for permission to change — like stallions held back in the corral … just hoping, dreaming that someone [will] say ?sic ?em … go!'”
From Building a Contagious Church: Revolutionizing the Way We View and Do Evangelism by Mark Mittelberg
Copyright © 2006 by Mark Mittelberg, published by Zondervan, used with permission.