Yes I know we've been doing this for less than two weeks, but we have learnt some important lessons already. As I reflect on the past ten days, I am deeply sorry for buying in to some of the myths about New Zealand as a context for evangelism. So today we are going to do a little myth-busting.
Myth 1 - "New Zealand is a very hard ground for evangelists." I frequently ask church leaders about recent converts, and receive a response of embarrassed silence more often than not. But our experience knocking on doors, with no previous contact, has been quite different. Many people are not only interested, they are desperate to hear the good news of Jesus.
Myth 2 - "Nobody takes the Bible seriously, so we need a different starting point." One of the keys for us has been to open the Bible as soon as we can, and invite people to read it for themselves. Rarely, if ever, have people suggested that the Bible is irrelevant.
Myth 3 - "Effective evangelism can only take place after a long period of building friendships." But the reality is that even when friendships have been built, we are ill-equipped and unprepared to share the Gospel. In any case, we have learnt that door-knocking can be relational, as many people have commented on how we listen to their opinions, and are genuinely interested in them.
Myth 4 - "We have to invest time 'earning the right to witness' before we can share Jesus." But Jesus repeatedly modelled just the opposite, engaging total strangers in deeply personal and spiritual conversations. We have found time and time again that God has already prepared hearts and minds, so that by the time we meet people they are more than ready to respond.
Myth 5 - "Door-knocking is outdated and ineffective." I would probably have agreed two weeks ago, but we have seen numerous people respond positively, who would otherwise have had little or no opportunity to hear and respond to the Good News. If anyone knows a better way of meeting these folk, please let me know.
Myth 6 - "The streets are hostile and dangerous." We haven't had any serious abuse, let alone felt threatened.
Myth 7 - "Evangelism is for experts only." I think all our team members have been involved in someone coming to faith, many for the first time. The whole point is that the process is simple enough for new Christians to immediately be able to share their faith with friends.
Myth 8 - "People are not willing to commit to anything." One of the things we ask is that people commit to meeting with a trainer every week, so they can learn how to tell their story, share the Gospel, and learn more from the Bible. As a consequence we already have a number of groups established, and new believers are keen to invite friends, and become trainers themselves.
Myth 9 - "Faith is considered to be a private matter." Absolute nonsense. By far the majority of people are willing to tell us what they believe, even when they know are Christians and they aren't! We have found many people to be spiritually hungry, and keen to engage with us.
Myth 10 - "Don't mention sin." People out there do know the concept of sin, and the majority are aware of their own sinfulness and need for forgiveness. By avoiding the issue, we are denying them the opportunity to experience the freedom from sin which only a relationship with Christ can bring. (On the other hand, many Christians need to understand the depth and absolute nature of the forgiveness which God extends to us, and stop harking back to past sins and failures. We are not "sinners saved by grace," but "saints who sometimes sin.")
We need to thoroughly reconsider our approach to evangelism, and for me, that includes repenting of taking on wrong opinions and attitudes uncritically, because they have relieved me of the responsibility of telling people about Jesus. The Great Commission still applies!
13 hours ago