9 Debatable Thoughts about Contemporary Evangelism

Anyone interested in reaching people for Jesus has to face the reality that culture is changing dramatically – and we have to respond by considering our methods and approaches to evangelism. I understand that reality, but some of the current thoughts about evangelism are worthy of debate. Let me know your thoughts about these positions:

  1. Cold-call evangelism no longer works. I’ve seldom seen this method to be overwhelmingly effective, but I still learn about people who come to Christ after hearing the gospel from someone they just met. 
  2. Attraction/invitation evangelism is poor evangelism. I don’t think it should be the only way a church does evangelism, but I do want believers to so love being with God’s people in worship that they naturally invite others to hear the gospel. 
  3. Gospel presentations must always begin with creation. I agree that theologically we must lead people to see they are accountable to a creator God. I’m not convinced, though, that every presentation of the gospel must begin there. Some people may be more immediately open to hearing about Jesus’ life-transforming power.
  4. Having an “altar call” is an unhealthy way to call people to a response. This method can certainly be abused, but it can also be a sound way to guide people to repentance and faith.
  5. Most people who are good evangelists have the gift of evangelism. I’m a professor of evangelism, but I’m not even sure there is a gift of evangelism. The role of the evangelist in Ephesians 4:11 does not automatically indicate there is a gift of evangelism.
  6. Doing social ministry is evangelism. My generation failed to do biblical social ministry, so I deeply appreciate the renewed commitment to these tasks. Until we get to the message of the gospel, though, I don’t think we’ve done evangelism.
  7. A “no” response is an indication to move on. Perhaps it is, or perhaps it’s an invitation to try to address the obstacles that hinder someone from believing. It may become an open door to apologetic discussions.
  8. Hell has no place in the evangelistic message. I don’t think it has to be part of every gospel presentation, but to ignore it is to ignore a teaching of the Scriptures. 
  9. The “sinner’s prayer” is a problem. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. I land where Wayne Grudem lands: “Such a spoken prayer does not in itself save us, but the attitude of heart that it represents does constitute true conversion, and the decision to speak that prayer can often be the point at which a person truly comes to faith in Christ.”* 

What are your thoughts? Let me hear from you.

*Wayne Grudem (2009-05-18). Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (p. 717). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. 


  • In 38 years of pastoral ministry and even more in intensive church work, the overall teaching of today has proven true. You do not use the same bait or method or tackle for every fish. Therefore, be sensitive to the Spirit and preach Christ “to every creature”. Have many tools in your tool box because if all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

  • Jim Duggan says:

    Chuck, this is one of the best and most balanced treatments of the topic of evangelism I’ve ever read. And I agree with Stewart. We should never limit the ways we communicate the Gospel. Thank you for the insight.

  • Ron Plocinski says:

    Love this! Found it helpful and certainly agree all of them should be open for on-going discussion and that, with balance many/all might give some spiritual productivity that could bring glory to God.
    Since we are in the core group development stage of a new church plant in New England, being an effective evangelist is definitely a burden right now. Trying to figure the best way to be regularly sharing my faith in a no-Bible belt context.

  • Steven Chambers says:

    Thank you for pushing back on several fronts of assumed evangelical methods. It seems like people write and talk convinced that “this way” or “that way” must be “the way” to evangelize. I am afraid, though, that we can too quickly and easily make an idol of the best method of evangelism over and against the message of evangelism, which is Jesus Christ. Thanks for helping me reconsider different methods and approaches. May God use this post to lead us to persuasively and urgently proclaim Christ!

  • Bruce MCBEE says:

    The gift of Evangelism in Ephesians is an “equipping” gift. To equip the saints for the ministry…

  • Daniel says:

    Have struggled for decades with “evangelism” and have a tremendous aversion to the word. I am an introvert who does not find it at all easy to talk to total strangers. I heard a sermon when I was a brand new believer where the pastor mentioned tapping people on the shoulder in line at a grocery store and talking to them about Jesus.

    The idea of just walking up to someone I do not know, whether in the street, in a store or door-to-door, and start a conversation about Jesus horrified me – and still does. Such an approach has no relational context of the person to whom you’re talking. And I just cannot start talking about something so intense and important without knowing the person a little bit first.

    But just this past year, I have started to be more deliberate in getting to know atheists, trying to start relationships with them. It has not been easy. Yet tonight and tomorrow I’m attending a few events where I hope to make some new skeptic friends. So for anyone reading this, please pray for Daniel in Dallas this weekend. It has been a twenty-four year struggle to get to this point. I hope all works out for the glory of God in Christ. Thank you.

  • Clinton Sweatman (Sonny) says:

    Praying for Daniel! I struggled with being an introvert for years! I’ve finally gotten to the point where I’m comfortable sharing Jesus in most circumstances. However, still get nervous at times. One thought on Social Ministry. I’ve struggled for years in seeing how this leads to Evangelism and have come to the conclusion that evangelism has to be intentional and has to be the focus of social ministry. For that matter, it needs to be the focus of every ministry. Just my thought!!!

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