i interviewed a veteran campus minister years ago, when i was just a newbie in the field. i was writing an article from the slant of “new guys asks old guy how things in campus ministry have changed.” i asked him to share how he personally had gone about sharing the truth of Jesus with college students over his four decades of campus ministry. this is what he said:
“when i get in an elevator, a student will ask me if i am going down. i always respond, ‘not when i die.'”
that story makes me think of this hilarious SportsCenter commercial:
now, this man led thousands to Christ during his lifetime. and so he was not saying that his preferred method of evangelism is “cute sayings in the elevator evangelism” like one would say “real life evangelism” or “sequential evangelism” or “the celtic way of evangelism” (all titles found at Amazon).
i’ve thought about his answer a lot over the 7 years or so since i wrote that article. if we are called to make disciples, we in college ministry must constantly be thinking about how we ourselves approach evangelism and how we equip our students to fulfill their mission of making disciples.
here are two things we must keep in mind.
1 // it’s all about relationship.
i hate when followers of Jesus use fear tactics to scare people into the Kingdom. the whole “if you died tonight, would you go to heaven?” line of reasoning is very frustrating to me. it communicates that Jesus is nothing more than a “get out of hell free” card and that being a Christian is all about what he can give you and not so much about what you can give him.
this approach undermines the relationship we can have with Jesus. imagine you came to my birthday party bearing gifts for me. i reach out to you when you arrive, but only to snatch the gifts away from you. i don’t really care that you’re at my party or that you desire a relationship with me; i only care about what you brought me.
yeah, it’s kind of like that.
(please don’t hear what i’m not saying. talking about heaven and hell and judgment and eternity are all vitally important. but if Jesus is simply an eternal fire insurance policy, i’m afraid we’ve missed the point.)
we must lead people to Jesus. and we must train those people to lead other people to Jesus. and not just his gifts.
2 // it’s all about relationship.
yeah, you’re reading that right. two main points; the same, but different.
the old adage rings true for college students: they don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. that’s why “elevator evangelism” doesn’t work today. authentic relationship is the incubator where an eventual faith takes root.
people are not projects. and neither is evangelism a task we check off our list. gone are the days, i think, of “large event” evangelism. smaller groups and one-on-one relationships is where the good stuff happens. we must think small; one who comes to faith leads another, who leads another. by thinking small, we impact big.
that’s how Jesus did it.
question for you: what do you think? how did you come to faith? how can we create better environments for healthier relationships in which the gospel can be declared and demonstrated?