Redefining Evangelism

The Barna Group recently released a fascinating report on how adults respond to evangelism. Among the findings, adults preferred faith interactions sparked out of sincere engagement rather than depersonalized outreach efforts. The takeaway? Nonbelievers are most receptive to faith conversations when they occur in the context of genuine relationship.

redfining evangelism Disciple! Doug Nuenke The Navigators

This topic is of great importance to us as believers, especially since the way we accomplish the Great Commission to make disciples can sometimes feel awkward or intimidating. In years past, the Church’s evangelism strategy focused more on a “reaping” mentality versus one of “sowing.” But the world is filled with millions of people who are on a spiritual journey. Many are not yet ready to attend church or make a decision to follow Christ, but they are open to relationships and to making small decisions that will move them closer to Christ.

I believe that if we redefine evangelism to mean leading each person we encounter a step closer to Jesus, we would approach outreach with more gentleness and confidence.

Several years ago, my wife, Pam, and I decided to pattern our lives in a way that would cause frequent and organic interactions with people in various stages of their faith journey. Rather than frequenting five different coffee shops, three grocery stores, and seven different restaurants, we brought focus to where we spent time. Now, we are “regulars” at a handful of places where we sow relationships through regular interaction. These small, casual interactions lead to real relationships through which we connect about meaningful matters of the heart.

We’ve also made a concerted effort to be “sowing” through acts of love and hospitality in our neighborhood. This has led to a number of fun relationships that are moving people toward Jesus!

1 Peter 2:12 commissions us to “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” Perhaps the best way to accomplish Peter’s command is to reach out to serve and connect with those in our community. As we naturally befriend those yet to know Jesus Christ, we draw others closer to Him.

What would it look like if our outreach was less agenda-driven and more characterized by love, patience, and confidence that the Spirit knows the right timing? Every encounter we have with another person, believer or not, has purpose. Through patient sowing, we can see people wooed ever closer to the Kingdom of God through the presence of Christ they experience through us.


  1. Some time ago my wife, Jean and I stopped the car and got out to meet a Boy Scout troop that was raising funds for their troop. They had a camp all set up to show what it looked like so on lookers could see how a camp would look with boys having fun and all that.

    We noticed the adults (Husband & wife) were on two different sides of the camp and that gave us the opportunity to each talk with them man to man and woman to woman. After about 30 minutes we both came back to the car and as we drove away I asked Jean how her conversation went and what did she learn from her time with the wife? She said she learned a lot and shared some of it with me.

    Then she said. “So, did you have time to lead him to Christ?”. “No, I replied, but I did get his name address and phone number.” I was able to later to call and meet with him and help him grow in his faith steps.

    About a year later later he drove up to the door of my mother law’s house with her in the back. Unknowingly he ended up being the ambulance driver who brought her home so she could die at home rather than the hospital. He got to see us in the hard times of our life and he said it greatly impacted him as he was considering all that we had been talking about. Only God can work things out like that.

  2. Thanks a close Friend died yesterday. I have been helping her sister and visit her daily to let her know I care about her. During this time with Convid-19 it is difficult by staying at home.

  3. I really like this article and agree with it. I want to print out the whole article to share with friends. We pray together for internationals we know and help with ESL by reading the Bible together. I could print out the first part of the article, but couldn’t find how to print out the section below “read more”. Can anyone help me with this? Thanks!

  4. Since we decided to go back to our family and friends and neighbors of non-Christians background we are witnessing that people in need are being drawn to our believer`s community even in Korea where religious system is prevailing natural networking. thanks for your encouragement in sharing our living Gospel Jesus.

  5. Evangelism has been lost. The mormons and LDS puts our outreach to shame. I’ve struggled my entire re-birth trying to find a way to effectively share Christ with others. I prayed earnestly and in a couple month’s time God answered my prayers. He pointed me to Ray Comfort on notable author of dozens of books, highlighted sermons are: Hells Best Kept Secret, the way of the Master, and I am enrolled in his online university-the Biblical School of Evangelism. After watching a dozen of his videos, I immediately employed his tactics which are modeled after how Jesus shared the gospel, and have shared the good news to half of all my friends and family already! I have also spoken to many complete strangers and can do so inside a 5-7 minute window. The deal is: you just have to be willing to His call and our responsibility as Bible believing Christian’s. You can have the basic outline, but the Holy Spirit does the work. And you dont have to work towards “sealing the deal” to get a confession out of them and the sinners prayer, just point to the cross. 90% Law, 10% Grace. It doesnt matter where you’re at in the assembly line, whether your sewing, planting, nurturing, or harvesting; our goal is to be seed scattered, and in so fulfilling His commission in our lives. This is a tried and true method and I highly recommend the Navigators and other evangelism outposts investigate and think about partnering to equip and train up disciples. Amen.

  6. Hm. I have been functioning this way my whole life, ever since I was a junior high student. I am now in my seventies. Yet I have never considered myself a member of The Navigators, nor have I ever had a one-on-one mentor, like The Navigators promote. Did have numerous family members who loved the Lord and knew their Scriptures, though. That works, too.

  7. Amen … especially in a senior community filled with “Christians” who don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus .. Please pray for us.

  8. We have the Holy Spirit, our helper and our enabler to do all that God has called us to do – Share the good news, the gospel. We are to continually seek God through prayer and His word on how and when to share or evangelize. We are not left on our own to do this! The gospel is the greatest love story ever told! We should share it as a love story. For God so loved the world…John 3:16-18 The love story – The Cross – Death and resurrection – New life in Jesus Christ – Repentance and the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior – Born again – Assurance of eternal life – With God forever in heaven, in paradise!

  9. Sharing His story or sharing our story either way implies an audience someone wanting to hear which means we do need to be ever building relationships by living our life among those we are praying for. It is both and…

  10. While I do not disagree with the concept of “relational” evangelism, what I see by those around me that “practice” it is they seem to never get around to leading someone to faith in Christ. They have great “relationships” with people. As Christians, we should. But eventually, you must ask that all important question, “What will you do with Jesus?”

    1. Exactly on point. Thank you for saying it. For anyone who could use help with witnessing and testimony, a basic program I like is called, Two Ways To Live. It’s available online. There’s also one called Alpha. That one is more about preparing you and changing the way you think about evangelism.

  11. Right on point. As the saying goes, people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. Relationship matters. A life characterised by love and genuine concern for others will open great doors for soul winning.

  12. Exactly! I just shared your article with my friend who was distressed that she hadn’t led anyone to the Lord. She got teary when I told her that she IS bearing the fruit of love, joy, peace and patience with her neighbor who wants to read the Bible with her, and also with the mother of a foster baby in her home. She is bearing fruit through her relationships every day.

  13. But do we ever get around to telling the gospel story? Too often we don’t or at best we water it down to make the message more appealing. Evidence of this is easily seen in the church’s widespread failure to bring the next generation forward. In many cases it needs to begin in our own households where we witness to our children, through daily Bible reading, discussion and family prayer.

    1. I agree that we need to be intentional to share the gospel. I find the best way is to tell my story and back it up with scripture. Ephesians 2:1-10 is a great place to go. We also need to pray for our friends.

  14. I believe the most important thing is to listen to The Spirit of the King and be ready always to share a caring word of truth both in deepening relationships and in moments when the father of lies is leading others openly to think in his ways. Spiritual discernment is needed.

  15. More and more, I’m using another word in place of evangelism: practice. I practice living as a follower of Christ everywhere I go.

    1. Hey, Chris…were you at the DC conference at Massanetta when Jim Peterson preached on friendship evangelism from what he learned in Brazil? This was particularly eye opening to me back then, but I’ve never forgotten that series…and I enjoyed his book as well!

  16. Doug, thanks for your ministry to the Springs and especially to my son. We appreciate the work of Navigators all over the world. Phil 1:6

Leave a Reply

By commenting, you agree to our Code of Conduct.