Does Street Evangelism Work?

A few weeks ago I read an amazing article from Salon.com written by a non Christian college student who went undercover as a believer on a missions trip with Liberty University, reaching out to the “lost” people partying during spring break at Daytona Beach, FL . This guy actually enrolled at Liberty (as in “Jerry Falwell’s” Liberty) to learn the inside scoop about evangelicals first hand.

After a few paragraphs I was hooked. I read every word of the lengthy testimonial. This amazing article not only provided amazing insight into the mind of an unbeliever, it proposed glaring questions about the success of this kind of evangelism methodology.

Here’s just a snippet of the article:

When we get to Daytona, Scott guides us through an all-morning training session on the whys and hows of evangelism. We sit on folding chairs in the Sunday School room of First Baptist Church of Daytona Beach, our makeshift headquarters, and eat snack-size bags of pretzels while Scott recites the “Great Commission,” the verse that serves as the architectural frame for all missionary work. It’s found in Matthew 28:19, when Jesus says to his disciples, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

“The first thing you should think when you meet anyone,” Scott says, “is ‘Are they saved?'” It’s safe to assume that almost everyone coming to Daytona for Spring Break is unsaved, he says, adding, “It’s a very dark place out there.”

Before we take our evangelical Delta Force to the beach, though, we need to learn how to witness.

There are several words for what, exactly, will be transpiring here. “Spreading the gospel,” “sharing the faith,” and “evangelizing” are all common terms for the act of attempting to convert non-believers, but “witnessing” seems to be the most all-purpose. (I should say, also, that what we’re doing would strike many Christians as odd. Proselytizing to strangers, which one Christian I know calls “cold-turkey evangelism,” is a dying art, and many evangelicals prefer less confrontational methods of proselytizing. But on this trip, it’s all strangers, all confrontation, all day.)

Fascinating stuff! Well worth the 10 to 15 minutes it could take you to read the whole thing.

When I finished the article, I immediately sent it to my friend Greg Stier from Dare2Share, calling him a few minutes later. Greg is passionate about evangelism and I respect his opinion on the subject (many of you have heard our recent podcast together where we talked about evangelism vs. social justice). After a short conversation about the article I told Greg, “You have to write an article responding to this article, because this article demands answers.”

A few days later I had an 8-page response from Greg in my inbox.

I’ll post Greg’s response next week. But I wanted to give you a head start with the Salon article linked above… I encourage you to read it.

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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4 Responses to Does Street Evangelism Work?

  1. SueO says:

    What would Jesus do on spring break?
    I can sum up my reaction in one word…ouch

    “I was encouraged by this observation:
    Then again, maybe this trip was never all about the Spring Breakers. Battleground evangelism, it turns out, can be just as useful for the evangelists as for the non-believers. For these Liberty students, going to Daytona is a tool for self-anaesthetization, a way to get used to the feeling of being an outcast in the secular world. The first 40 times someone blows you off, it feels awful. The second 40 times, you start reassuring yourself that all of this must serve a higher purpose. By the end of the week, you get the point — you are going to be mocked and scorned for your faith, and this is the way it’s supposed to be.”

    I look forward to reading your friends reply

  2. jon forrest says:

    don’t keep a brother hanging. we want greg. we want greg. we want greg. btw i would love to hear you talk about the day of silence set up by GLSEN. http://www.dayofsilence.org/index.cfm

  3. Daniel says:

    Definitely a fascinating article. Thanks for the info. I’m looking forward to hearing what Greg has to say concerning this article. Probably the most valid point that he exposed is that it seemed as if none of the planners of the trip or any of those traveling with him (even when he obviously indicated that he did not believe exactly what they were espousing) ever asked him personally if he had a relationship with Jesus Christ. OUCH!
    Assumptions will allow many, many, people a direct trip to an eternity in Hell.
    “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

  4. Gordon Gathright says:

    HI Jonathan. I can hardly wait for Greg’s response. This article
    represents what is wrong with us as Christians at times. This kind of
    evangelism is not about people but seems to be more about putting
    notches on our gun and keeping score.

    Everything Jesus was relational. He wanted to know the person
    and meet their most immediate need and them bring to a relationship
    in God’s kingdom. Vacuum cleaner evangelism often does more
    harm than good and often leaves a bad taste in the mouth of those
    who experience it.

    Thanks for sharing this important article. It is powerful to say the
    least.

    Now bring on Greg Stier!!!