Personal evangelism is about engaging the culture with the gospel. Some do so on Twitter, Facebook, and even have their own websites. Not surprisingly, it seems that social media is closing in or has even overtaken the Church to get people’s attention. It use to be that the Church would go out and evangelize the lost where now it is done from home, via a keyboard and screen. It seems desensitized and impersonal. No real physical contact with humans apart from words on a monitor, and relationship building is done at a distance. Between 1996 and 2006, the number of non-Christians viewing Christianity in a favourable light dropped by more than 20 percent, according to the book unChristian by David Kinnaman. Of the 24 million 16 to 29-year-olds in America, only about 500,000 (approximately 2 percent) view Christianity in a favorable light. This represents a radical departure from the Early Church, a Church that garnered praise from even its critics because of its love for outsiders, especially the poor and sick.
To be fair a statistic may be too limited in its scope and does not really identify the reason behind such a poor performance rating by Christians for their compassion for the lost. You cannot entirely rely on the opinion of non-believers due mainly to the natural inclination toward evil and definite alienation toward those who wish to live Godly. So their attitude towards Christianity is already jaded somewhat. Peter points this out in his first letter where he says that they think it strange that you do not with them plunge into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 1 Peter 4:4. No one enjoys being reminded about the need to change their sinful ways. Still the perception is out there that the Christian does not seem to care as much as he once did. So how much Christian love is really being felt in our North American culture is anyone’s guess. You can be sure that Christianity does not operate in a vacuum. Cyber space is not the answer and definitely not meant to replace daily encounters with the lost. Personal contact with the public is much needed today. This does not rule out social media by any means. But Christians were never meant to operate as Nomads, writing up a storm, pressing send buttons and waiting for replies, then calling it a day. Jesus engaged people almost daily, and only went into exile when he sought to be alone with God for a time. Christians need to be more active in personal evangelism, the kind that requires face-to- face encounters.
The other aspect too often neglected is the need of another presence. I am not speaking of our presence where posture and presentation may lead the public to listen to our message, but more important, the presence of God in our lives. God promises to be with us in all that we do. The metaphor of the vine and branches in John fifteen where we remain connected to him not only assures us of His help but of fruit bearing as well. Therefore, we need to examine our lives and see where the breaches are at and ask God for help to obey him so that our lives may be productive. Our union in Christ means divine presence and enablement. Listen to the Psalmist’s desire for God “Whom do I have in heaven but You? And besides You there is nothing I desire on earth” (Psalm 73:25). That is real heady pursuit, the type that is commanded in Luke 10:27 where we are told to love the Lord your God and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbour as yourself. Love is not insubstantial. It is not wistful or fleeting. To adapt the famous line from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43, “How do I love Thee? Let me count the ways.” The Biblical way to show love to God is by doing His commandments. If we truly wish to love God with our whole heart, we will incline our mind and our heart on doing what God wants us to do. The earlier reminder about heart commitment to God can be adjudicated only when we seek to commit every area of our lives to Him. It is a counterfeit proposal to speak of loving God yet to withhold obedience. As a result, our relationship suffers as power is sapped from our lives because of personal sin and disobedience. You must relate everything and everyone to your relationship to God, and like any relationship, as that of a child for instance, where love for your parents would lead you to want to do what they asked you to do—even if it was difficult, the same thing must be said of our duty to God. In every sense of the word love is a commitment not a pastime, which is constantly reinforced through obedience.
Christians would do well to get back to basics. Evangelism begins with our relationship to God. If our lives do not line up to the Scriptures, then our witness may carry little weight and God’s power will be missing from it. We may talk all we want about personal love for Christ but obedience is key. Christ instructed His disciples that if you love me you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)