A number of years ago I got very excited about the emergence of something called conversational evangelism. Alongside things like servant evangelism and ordinary people doing ordinary things, it seemed to me that we were on the verge of recapturing the simplicity of evangelism as an act of sharing our lives and stories with others. No complex spiritual laws to apply and no carefully crafted answers to the 7 main objections or whatever it was.
That conversation appears to have moved on given the quick internet search I did this morning. Conversational evangelism seems now to be defined as pre-evangelism and even appears to have drifted into the old area of apologetics. Now I don't have a problem with apologetics as such, I just wonder how you can effectively argue a logic, reasonable case for faith in a post-modern world. does post-modern man or woman really want to be convinced about absolute truth?
Perhaps I'm doing the journey a disservice, but I'm concerned that as evangelicals we still only have a single way of measuring our kingdom effectiveness and we can't see the bigger picture of a person's move towards God in any other terms than those of a prayer of commitment. I'm all for people putting their lives into the hands of God and acknowledging their need, but does that mean that any other conversation, i.e. conversation that doesn't lead to conversion, is nothing more than the preamble to the real thing? I hope that's not where we are headed.
As I continue to struggle to work out what it means for me to live a kingdom life in partnership with God o his mission, I often find myself wondering about the value of the things I do. But do I really want to return to the guilty life of failed attempt to turn the tables in witnessing.
Somewhere along the line there is a place for an intentional conversation, but knowing when and how to do that is never an easy task and ought not to be the determining factor in how good or bad I am at evangelism. At the very least let's acknowledge that there are many links in the chain that leads someone to faith and sometimes we are privileged enough to be there when the final link is added. But often we are just one link in many, and our goal should be to make sure we don't leave behind anything that blocks the next link in the chain.
So, if apologetics has become the defining factor in describing conversational evangelism, then so be it. I will need to look for a new term. On the other hand it might just be that we can rescue a potentially significant thought and recover the idea that reaching others for Christ is a process not an event and all our conversations matter. For me conversational evangelism remains a process of sharing and hearing stories and exploring the kingdom links within them. The truth is that we don't all have all the answers and our evangelism ought not to be passed on any assumption that we do.