Faith-sharing Evangelism Library

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Faith-Sharing:
How to Win Friends and Influence People for Jesus
: Six Messages teach others how to witness. Based on Faith-sharing, by Eddie Fox and George Morris

Messages in this series:
1: The Incredible Seeking God
2: Gambler for Love
3: Share; Do; Name!
4: Getting on the Same Frequency
5: Up On the Handlebar!
6: $50K in 90 Days or Less!

Beyond Faith-sharing:
Digests of lectures and texts that demonstrate
quick ways to improve and increase your ministry's outreach.

Lessons in this Series:
1:   The Outward-focused Church
2:   Discerning the Needs of People
3:   The Incarnational Ministry
4:   Engaging Secular People
5:   Living Debt-free Biblically
6:   Youth Ministry Leadership
7:   Growing a New Church 1:
      The Price Tag, the Target
8:   Growing a New Church 2:
      The Pastor, People, Program
9:   Spiritual and Motivational Gifts
10: Envisioning, Friendliness and Authority
11: Making the Case
12: How Do We Get Them to Come?

 

 

KEY WORDS

unreached undiscipled people group groups, secular secularize secularized worldly captialist people worldliness shame shameful, incarnational enfleshed ministry missionary mission apostle evangelism evangelistic mission, witnessing church growth method methods program programs ideas, growing enlarging outreach getting them to church assembly religious services ministry, envisioning outward-focus inward-focus stewardship, volunteering volunteerism volunteer outreach

Engaging Secular People

with Good News[1]

Matthew 13:19. "When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is what was sown along the path. ... 22. As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful."

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People Resistant to the Good News

  There exists “resistant” people -- those seemingly not open to the Good News, attendance at meetings or spiritual things.  Such folks must not be written off nor must the faith-sharer wait for the “perfect method.”  Neither should resistant people be swamped with missionaries, teaching tapes or books.  Instead, they should be offered the “mission of presence”: serving them in any way possible, building bridges, plowing and planting for later harvest.  The faith-sharer must be credible for secular people -- then perhaps they will eventually be receptive.

   The faith-sharer's approach must not be theological, but basic, in context with the person's experience, culture and language.  Most of all, the testimony must engage human needs.  Thus no single method is universal but every method used must be geared to the audience: secular people need to hear the Good News on their own terms.

 

The Secular Age

   Secularity (worldliness) is the result of a process known sociologically as “secularization”: “the withdrawal of whole areas of life and thought from control or influence of the institution.”  The term originated in the Middle Ages, when monarchs such as Henry VIII succeeded in stealing the church's property.  The contemporaneous legal term was “to secularize” the property.

   More recently, since the rise of capitalism, the perception of the “money ethic” has been so radically transformed that nobody can pretend any longer that institutional religion has any influence in economic matters at all.  For the dynamic of capitalism is not thrift but greed, “and greedy people now exhaust the earth's resources faster than the earth can replenish them.”  Areas of life that have been secularized include science, literature, education, government, art, architecture, community life, morality, holy days and seasons and the Sabbath.  As an example: Does the reader recall studying the religious aspects of any of these subjects in school?

   Europe has experienced “utter secularity” -- God, church, religion and religious institution are utterly ignored in the daily routine and public policy.  The United States has a “controlled secularity,” also known as civil religion.  The symbols of spirituality have been maintained but now have pagan meanings and are used for pagan ends.  The United States is not a spiritual nation and as long as faith-sharers speak to a nation that no longer exists, they will fail in their efforts to enlarge Messiah’s Kingdom.

 

Secular People

   are generally not influenced by Spirituality but by a combination of religious thought, philosophies, paganism, life-styles, and unfounded assumptions.  This is known as the “secularization of influence.”  Additionally, secular people thus do not know the meaning of such basic spiritual “technical terms” as sin, justification, heaven, kingdom – much less Yahweh, synagogue, Elohim and Ruach haQodesh.  This lack is known as the “secularization of vocabulary.”

   Furthermore, secular people do not contemplate spiritual things, but television personalities, movie and music stars, video games, and romance novels.  This is known as the “secularization of consciousness.”  The extent to which people in the United States and Europe are secularized tends to be shocking and unbelievable to the serious, contemplative spiritual soul.

   Yet secular people are still religious people who have an inherent need for religion “to help explain the meaning of life in ultimate terms,” including those experiences that their secular influence cannot define (such as death, suffering, ecstasy).  People need to be “right with reality,” whatever that means: There are so many options today, including secular and social religions, mysticism, agnosticism, personal definition of religion, nazism, etc.  There is a need for some supernatural explanation to life's edgy experiences, and a sense of cosmic backing for peoples' actions.  The objects upon which secular people confer such authority are idols.

 

Secularization Causes Changes in People

   1) Secular people are completely ignorant of spiritual matters.  At best, a believer is thought to be “a good person” or a non-smoker, non-drinker, homeschooler.  At worst, a believer is an other-worldly deviant fraught with hallucinations and other mental problems (á la Hollywood).

  2) Secular people are life-oriented (materialistic) rather than after-life-oriented (spiritual). Until recent times, the life expectancy was only about 35 years. Every sickness was possibly unto death.  Today, people live a long time, and expect the medical trade to insure longevity.  Sickness no longer equals crisis.  When death comes, it is disguised by the skill of the mortician.  So people want to know how to cope with life; they are not much interested in “going to heaven.”

  3)  Secular people who do believe in a god do not believe in a forgiving god because they have moved from feeling guilty to feeling doubtful.  One day this era may be known as “the age of doubtfulness.”  “Guilt is the tinder that blazes when the spark of emotion is applied.”[2]  If people do not feel a sense of guilt then evangelization takes longer: it must often consist of a chipping away rather than a simple, one-time transaction.

  4)  Although secular people are ignorant of spirituality, they are curious about it.  They perceive the need for a real god, but society no longer provides the seed to the need, therefore secular people are seeking as Yahweh is seeking.  Their curiosity includes questions such as, “Do spiritual people really live by what they believe?”  “Does religion make a difference in their lives?”  “Could spirituality really change the world somehow?”

  5)  Secular people feel no belonging – they are alienated from a) nature – separated from the soil, rhythm of life, non-human beings, b) political power – most are powerless living in a quasi welfare state with no legal representation, c) neighbors – children are taught never to converse with strangers, but to run or “just say no.”

 

Strategies for Communicating the Good News to Secular People

  1)  Life-oriented people are asking, “What does it mean to be human and what is the purpose for life?”  The answer might be, in various terms, In Yahshua and his mission through human organization one may find greater personal meaning in living.  The Savior is the clue to finding purpose in life.

  2)  People alienated from spiritual things need to know that the Savior and his organizations not only provide fellowship and unity, but the assurance that each person is special and is known and loved by Yahweh.  As Augustine wrote, “The Savior loves each one of us as though there was only one to love.”

  3)  People alienated from power need to know that there are causes to which they can give their lives that will make a difference in the world – such causes are the essence of the eternal realm.

   Indeed, the Savior has a special purpose for each human being, and that purpose is to be played out in conjunction with other persons of like mind.  People united in the Savior yet diverse in talents and gifts can do more to improve the world than the sum total of their abilities, for Yahshua is alive and energizes the process.  Secular people may find such needs as described above fulfilled in great measure by taking part in Kingdom-style activities and fellowships.  This is the basis of the “inductive missions model” of evangelism described in a previous chapter.

 

The Grand Strategy of Evangelism: Discover Receptive People

  1) Receptive people are people who are now open and ready to really consider the spiritual possibilities for their lives.  Yahweh prepares certain “harvests” of people and desires to send faith-sharers into these harvests. In Luke 10:2, Yahshua said his emissaries, “The harvest is plentiful, hut the laborers are few; so ask the Harvest-master to send out laborers into his harvest.” Some of the soil is promised to be receptive to the seed, having ears to hear the message. In Mark 4:95, Yahshua again says, “Let anyone with ears listen.” Some will not be receptive at the time of their visitation. Luke 9:4,5 has “Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

  Why are some receptive?  Because events or circumstances for a person (or a people) opens doors for previously screened-out messages, and the Spirit works through events or circumstances of peoples’ lives to “warm hearts.” John 6:44: “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up.”  The major strategy the faith-sharer must employ is to locate those whom the Father is drawing to himself.

  2)  There is an urgency!  Donald McGavran believes that the world and each society is a mosaic of peoples, cultures, and subcultures.  At any one time, some tiles in the colored mosaic are “warm” to some facet of the Good News, others are resistant or “cool.”  Others are degrees of one or the other.  The tiles do not remain the same color forever, but fluctuate.  Receptivity waxes and wanes, is in and out like the tide, yet no one can guarantee any piece will again become warm after cooling.  Faith-sharers must identify warm tiles!

  3)  And the method employed in sharing the Good News must fit the audience, for “responsiveness is related to approach.”  If your society is friendly, it will find responsive people.  If it is cold and indifferent, the people in its ministry area will also be cold.  Factors that inform the right approach include a) genuine friendliness that is interested and affirming, b) assimilation of persons into worship, group life, leadership, c) preaching and teaching at the appropriate level and in the vernacular -- that faith in The Savior is good news, not propaganda, d) the message and ministry engage the deep needs of the people, e) there must be no class or socioeconomic intimidation -- one's economic or political philosophy must not be important to fellowship, f) who reaches out in important – best results are obtained from friends, relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors (F.R.A.N. plan), and g) the more receptivity is revealed, the more one should visit and reinforce it.

  4)  Some are intentionally placed by our Heavenly Father among the resistant.  If so, the faith-sharer's ministry must be a one of presence, service, seed-sowing.  Never swamp or badger.  Presence is important, for if and when one does become receptive, it must be discerned as quickly as possible.

  5)  Indicators of people turning to faith and spirituality include, a) dissatisfaction with selves; one's needs are unmet or some new satisfaction is desired, b) when culture is changing, people look for new foundations -- currently, marriage and family, politics, and general American culture is changing rapidly, c) individual stress forces new ways to cope, d) “the masses are responsive to the classes,” e) when people look to non-Spiritual or pagan religions, they are “warm” to the Good News.

  6)  Guidelines to discovering receptive Americans include: a) The leading of the Spirit through prayer.  One never “coincidentally” discovers receptive persons, but those receptive to the Good News are drawn by the favor of YHWH as a moth is drawn to a candle, b) People who attend church or religious meetings are receptive, or they wouldn't be there.  But they are often overlooked.  “One may not see the trees for the forest.” c) People who have lost faith in something (those who are “between idols”) are usually receptive. d) If any church, philosophy, or religion is growing, the church should reach out and make discipleship an option.  Hunter recounts a dialog with a young Hare Krishna devotee at an airport.

 

Devotee: All the handsome gentlemen are wearing carnations today.  May I give you one?

Hunter: Yes, you may.  But look - you're into this now – but it will leave you hollow later.  When that happens, call me collect any time.  (He gives her a business card.)

Devotee: (trembling) Thank you, Mr. Hunter.  I just might do that.

 

Hunter sensed that the girl was already aware of that “hollowness,” but had no alternative at the time.

  e) Likes attract likes -- the “homogenous units” in the church will attract others of similar homogenous units.  People who have the same basic backgrounds, lifestyles, and economic and social status will draw similar types of receptive people through the cumulative effect of repeated contacts, f) Receptive people have needs.  Identify needs your group can fulfill.  People who perceive that a religious institute is fulfilling needs better than other organizations will be attracted to it.  People who are helped should be incorporated into ministries that help. g) Identify target areas for new ministries. Most groups develop a “specialty” in ministry; they find a need and fill it.  

  h) Reach out within the social network of active faith-sharers and new converts - make bridges to the Kingdom Non-spiritual people are more receptive to kin and friends than strangers.  Institutional growth begins by reaching cross-culturally into previously unreached territory then accelerates as new believers reach out to friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and relatives.  i) Reach out to persons in transition.  Transitions include adolescence, college attendance, armed forces, first or new job, marriage, new child, empty nest syndrome, moving, termination at work, job advancement, separation, divorce, remarriage, bereavement.  The strategy behind reaching the receptive is to “reach out in proportion to relative receptivity.”

   There are 5 classes of the unreached in the community: 1) receptive, 2) interested, 3) indifferent, 4) resistant and 5) hostile.  Classify each prospect, then visit 1) the receptive every 2 weeks, 2) the interested every 4 weeks, 3) the indifferent every 6 weeks, 4) the resistant every 2 months and 5) the hostile every season. As peoples' receptivity changes, reclassify them.

 

Pulling It All Together – For the Serious Evangelist

   Effective continuing outreach and growth can only take place through organizing the congregation for that purpose.  Criteria for effectiveness must include at least the following three: 1) All essential tasks in the total outreach enterprise must be defined, 2) Members must be matched according to perceived gifts and graces, c) the result must be growth of new disciples joining the church from the world.  Any system that “ought to work” but doesn't must be discarded.

   Wait to Receive Power; then, if you dare: 1) Make a discipleship survey, going door-to-door in target areas -- “Are you currently attending any congregation or group in this community?”  If the answer is no, file name and address in “prospects file.”  Such canvassing is the first step in getting new evangelists involved in further evangelism.  If this kind of work is too intimidating, then canvass people you meet from day to day and consider all your family members, friends, acquaintances and neighbors. 2) Begin record-keeping using a card file and database.  Add receptivity index later, as well as geographic target area.

  3) Begin a training session for evangelism: a) Use scripture and theological principles, b) model a local congregation engaged in the same process, c) the method of evangelism to be employed must be consistent with the theological tradition of the congregation, and must continue only if it is effective. d) Practice and use role-playing techniques and observation.  The object is to make as many new friends as possible.

  4) Establish evangelism support groups, because evangelism is threatening and risky work: meet as a group before going out then again immediately after.  5) Pray for empowerment. Evangelism is primarily the work of the Holy Spirit and is only secondarily the work of the church. 6) Do not neglect social media and electronic ministry.

   Go Into Your World to achieve presence – the purpose is to get to know people, be known by people, identify with people, demonstrate care, build friendships and bridges to the Kingdom. This is much easier for certain temperaments than others.  Those too intimidated may be plugged in to less threatening avenues of the work, such as in record-keeping, web-site creation, or prayer.  6) Telephone ministry is the least threatening form of head-to-head “going.”  Telephone people who have birthdays; those who have been visitors; those who have given in the past.  Phone shut-ins, both to minister and to be ministered unto.

   7) Door-to-door friendly visits establish credibility, trust and friendship, and help the evangelist to discover needs.  8) Offering the services of the congregation to people will sow seeds to needs.  Start new ministries as needed -- day care, mother's night out, meals-on-wheels, parent effectiveness programs, special groups, or as, “how can we help you?”  9) Visit those who have visited -- such are the most receptive of people. Telephone them the afternoon of the visit, visit their homes during the week, then regularly afterward.  10) Call on inactive members -- they are worth re-activating, although they may be the most resistant because they often feel “the church left them. . . . “

    Note 2007:  Since writing this chapter, I have learned that emailing new "warm" acquaintances or passing along a website is very effective, too.  If electronic resources are engaging to a secular person (even if religion is not), then there is a chance that the stone will become warmer.


 

Note 2007:  Since writing this chapter, I have learned that emailing new "warm" acquaintances or passing along a website is very effective, too.  If electronic resources are engaging to a secular person (even if religion is not), then there is a chance that the stone will become warmer.

 


[1] George Hunter, The Contagious Congregation, Abingdon Press, 1982.

[2] Soper.

©2007 Jackson H. Snyder II.  (jackson @ jacksonsnyder.com)  This information may be reprinted in whole or part if author and copyright information is left intact.