Evangelism is scary for many people, including myself.  Many Christians find it difficult to start a discussion on spiritual things.  Others fear that they’ll be pummeled with objections to the faith that they don’t know how to answer.  Many fear rejection.  As a result, we’ve invented new methods of “evangelism” that don’t require us to actually talk to anyone.  I’m thinking of “friendship evangelism” and “love evangelism” in particular.

The premise of friendship evangelism (also known as relationship evangelism or lifestyle evangelism) is that people will be attracted to your way of living (your holy behavior, your happiness, how you treat others, etc.), prompting them to ask you what your secret is, and predisposing them to become a Christian.  At that point, you share the gospel with them.

While Scripture does teach that the way we live can have an attractional impact on non-Christians (Acts 5:13; 1 Pet 3:1-5,15-17), and while a prior friendship with someone may increase their openness to Jesus, this should not be our only form of evangelism. First, it’s not always true that non-Christians will seek to know more about your faith based solely on your lifestyle (Acts 5:13).  And yet, they still need the gospel preached to them.  Second, if we limited ourselves to friendship evangelism, we will severely limit the number of people who will become Christians. Even the most social of people have a relatively small circle of friends.  Third, the abundance of examples from the gospels and Acts make it clear that Jesus and the early church evangelized the crowds.  The vast majority of people they shared the gospel with were complete strangers.

What about “love evangelism?”  To be honest, I’ve never heard it called this, but the premise of love evangelism (similar to friendship evangelism) is that non-Christians will want to become Christians as a result of observing Christians’ love for each other, or being the recipient of a Christian’s love.  We often express this by saying we “love people into the kingdom.”  This view is largely based on Jesus’ statement in John 13:35: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Notice, however, that this verse says nothing about love as an evangelism strategy/tool.  It doesn’t say people will want to become Christians when they see how much love Christians have for one another.  It says non-Christians will be able to identify Christians by the love they have for one another.  Will some people be attracted to Christianity based on the love Christians have for one another?  Sure, some will, but that’s not the point of Jesus’ statement, and that is not promised anywhere in Scripture.  Even those who are attracted to Christianity based on Christian love may not inquire more about the Christian faith.  We still need to orally preach the gospel to them.  Nothing can replace this.  Non-Christians may or may not witness Christian love, but all need to hear the gospel nonetheless.