By Summer Stevens
I remember listening to a guest speaker in my evangelism class in seminary talk about the thousands of times through the years he had personally shared the gospel. He drew a line on the board that represented both time and intensity. Basically, with your next-door neighbor, you take your time and let him or her see your lifestyle of kindness and share the Good News when the right opportunity arises. However, if you are trying to share the gospel with someone on a ski lift, you have a high intensity mission to “get it out as quickly as possible,” and then, of course, ask if they are ready to place their faith in Jesus before whisking down the hill.
Perhaps that worked a few decades ago. I certainly was inspired by his boldness and indeed tried a few “airplane seatmate” conversions myself (which resulted in some interesting and rather awkward conversations).
Today’s generation is different. A smooth and polished spiel is not convincing for young people. They want to see that you are legitimate, that your faith means the same to you at home as it does at church on Sunday morning. They are quietly watching the way you talk to your children, if you gossip, what you do when you’re angry—basically, if your faith makes any difference at all in the way you live or how you treat people.
If you want to do effective evangelism, it’s time to stock your fridge and clean your bathroom. Why? Because evangelism today looks like opening your home so people can see the real you. Here are the top 5 places to do evangelism.
1. Your front porch. Brynn Hoffman said that air conditioning ruined American culture. People used to sit outside in the warm evenings and visit with neighbors and people walking by. They built relationships and formed friendships. With the invention of AC, people plugged in their new units and lost their connection with their neighbors. At my house, we are front porch sitters and street basketball players and razor scooter riders. We know the name of the man who walks down our street every evening with four fluffy white dogs, and we know our mailman so well that he helped move furniture into our house. Simply going outside will open the door to relationships in your neighborhood.
2. Your living room. My husband is a pastor, so I’ve been a “pastor’s wife” for over a decade. There is something that happens when people cross your threshold—they relax, they open up, and they tell you their stories. Fifteen minutes inside your house will do exponentially more than the compulsory fifteen minutes of after-Sunday-service chitchat. The church is an avenue for relationships to be built, but we are the church, not the building, and one of the best ways to have an authentic relationship with someone that will lead to sharing your faith is to have him or her in your home. Stop and think about the people in your church (or not) that you really know. Chances are they are people who have been in your home, or you’ve been in theirs. To have a relationship with someone that is significant enough that he’s willing to listen to what you have to say about Jesus, you need to be willing to let him in, literally.
3. Your dining room. Early in our marriage, my husband and I had a funny little conversation where I shared that I didn’t really like chicken. “It has no flavor,” I said. Astounded (because his mother was a gourmet cook), he said, “How can you not like chicken?! You can do everything with chicken.” I responded, “When I was growing up, all my mom ever did with chicken was boil it and add salt and pepper.” He was horrified, but I think it gave him a good lens for my cooking experience, and I learned not to take offense when he added ranch dressing and hot sauce to every dinner I made. If I can come from a salt and pepper boiled chicken background and learn to be a great host, so can you. Because the whole atmosphere in a room changes when people sit down to eat together, especially if it is in someone’s home. Jesus knew this. All throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus eating, drinking, and spending time in homes. The early church seemed to exist primarily in people’s homes, often around a dinner table.
Making a meal for someone is a way to care for him or her. The younger generation wants to see your faith in action. Your words are not enough to convince that person that Jesus actually makes a difference in your life. So make a fancy meal if you want, or microwave some hot dogs and baked beans—it doesn’t really matter. It’s the gathering together around your dining room table that fosters meaningful conversations about life and faith.
4. Your backyard. Despite being the most connected generation in history, Americans are lonelier than they’ve ever been. A 2018 Cigna study reported that 40 percent of adults feel alone, and 47 percent feel left out. One of the ways we can share our faith and love other people is to be a gatherer of people.
Host an Easter egg hunt for young families and their friends; throw a Fourth of July BBQ and invite the outliers in your circle of friends, or host a pumpkin carving party for the junior high youth group. Your home is an integral part of your ministry. If you feel like home is your personal retreat and you don’t like having other people over, I urge you to bring this to the Lord and ask for a new attitude. We are stewards over every single thing God gives us, and a primary part of this is our dwelling. Your home does not need to be large or nicely furnished; it just needs to be available to God for His use.
5. Your garage. Do you like to work on old cars, restore furniture, paint on canvas, or make wreaths? It doesn’t really matter what your hobbies are—invite someone to join you! Young people want to be invited into your life. They crave genuine connection and face-to-face interaction, even if they act like they don’t. Jesus is the most important person in your life. The honest, believable response, then, is that you share Him. Use your garage or craft room as an avenue for relationship building and evangelism. Today’s evangelism takes more effort—it takes more time and personal investment into the lives of people around you. The duty to evangelize will never change, but the method of effective communication will shift with culture. Be willing to go outside of your comfort zone for the sake of sharing Jesus’ promise of everlasting life.
Summer lives outside of Pittsburgh with her husband Nathanael and their five children. She has a Masters in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary and enjoys running (but mostly talking) with friends and reading good books to her kids.