There are evangelism courses. Evangelism books. Evangelism seminars. Sermons on evangelism, lessons on evangelism, and evangelism Bibles. There are large stadiums devoted to evangelistic crusades, and radio and television stations devoted to evangelistic programming. There are websites for evangelism — and bumper stickers and t-shirts and stuff we can hang on our walls. There are evangelism-focused podcasts.
Everyone agrees — evangelism is super important.
But do you remember how Jesus evangelized? There are three methods he employed that are a little befuddling. In some ways, at least, if we want to evangelize like Jesus, we need to do these three things, too:
Tell Parables No One Understands
If you want to evangelize like Jesus, master the art of telling stories no one understands. Drop a truth bomb in the form of some word imagery or a semi-bizarre narrative. For added emphasis, refuse to elaborate. Tell the parable. Drop the mic. Occasionally, just conclude by shouting “He who has ears, let him hear!”
When Jesus did it, it made people scratch their heads in wonder. It made them think. It persuaded some of them to follow. Others were just confused, I think, and jumped ship. It had a way of testing fortitude, I suppose?
That reminds me of a second thing you can try if you want to evangelize like Jesus:
Constantly Try & Thin the Ranks
Every time a sizable crowd gathered around Jesus, he tried to run some of them off. We know this from the Gospel accounts. Luke 14 and John 6 stand as notable examples. I don’t know if Jesus was opposed to the masses or to the motivation of the masses, but I think it must’ve had something to do with people’s motives.
That’s what he always questioned right before a bunch of them abandoned him.
If Jesus got nervous when thunderous applause filled the air around him, I wonder if maybe we should be, too. And if we want to evangelize like Jesus, I wonder if maybe we should be less about growing the crowd and more about thinning it out. You may say that’s counterintuitive to our mission.
All I’m saying is that it was a key part of Jesus’ evangelism repertoire.
One more technique you’ve got to master if you want to evangelize like Jesus.
Ask People to Give Up Everything to Follow Him
The main way Jesus evangelized was by inviting people to give up their comfort, families, and lifestyles in order to follow him. In Luke 5 he invites his first disciples to drop everything and fish for men instead of fishing for fish. In Luke 9 and Luke 14 he talks a lot about denying ourselves and about despising our families–even our own lives–if that’s what it takes to be a disciple. He invited people to take up their cross and follow him.
This cross business wasn’t a figure of speech, you understand. He made it clear he was headed for an execution, and that following Him may lead us to one as well.
In some places in the early church, before someone could be baptized, they had to promise they’d die for Jesus if necessary. These days, we sometimes settle for a confession made with “every head bowed and every eye closed.” I don’t mean to critique your tradition. All I mean to point out is that the Jesus never offered an easy entry point to discipleship. He offered a life of discomfort, persecution, and perhaps even death.
We all agree evangelism is important. And I’ll be the first to say God uses all sorts of ways to draw people to Him. The three listed here are not the only three.
But when you read the Gospels it is tough teaching, sacrificial calling, and a constant testing of one’s motivation that Jesus uses to gather disciples — disciples who changed the world.
May we evangelize like Jesus, and may the results of our efforts be the same.