Evangelism in the 21st Century Needs A Paradigm Shift

A Look at Kent Hunter’s “The Future Is Now: How God Is Moving In The 21st Century Church

I came across an ebook by Kent R. Hunter of Church Doctor Ministries entitled “The Future Is Now: How God Is Moving In The 21st Century Church.”  I would like to quote from this source since it is so good, and then add a few of my analysis to it. 

From Chapter 12 – All About Story; All About Networking, Hunter says:  “As mentioned earlier, evangelism, as we have come to know it, is no longer effective. Not too long ago, I heard a sermon from a modern-aged pastor who has not yet learned to think and speak postmodern. It was all about how to give your testimony. The focus was on telling people what life was like before you knew Christ, how you met Christ, and, in the “three-part sermon,” how your life is different after you met Christ. This is ancient history . It is not the way to reach people today.

Most do not know what it means to “meet Christ” in the postmodern 21st century. The audience is, most often, not lapsed Christians. Increasingly, they are second generation non-Christians: they have never been to church, their parents never went to church, but, perhaps, their grandparents went to church. The postmodern approach is focused on reaching people with whom you have a relationship — your social networks. In the context of a relationship, the most effective scenario is connecting in their life with a parallel in your life. This works best when you can honestly share how you believe God helped you. Telling your story is witnessing. This is a radical change in the way many churches have operated in the past. Many have focused on evangelistic programs, memorizing outlines, sharing Bible passages, and answering a lot of questions Post moderns do not ask: “Are you ready for heaven?” What?

Witnessing is sharing your story. It works best unrehearsed, unpolished, from the heart, spontaneous, and REAL.”

I remember taking a Lay Speaker Course through the United Methodist Church where we were taught Billy Graham, the great 20th Century Evangelist’s, three-point sermon format for evangelist sermons.  I have personally met the creator of the original “Four Spiritual Laws” famously used by Campus Crusade for Christ.  I have been part of York, PA’s only united city wide crusade in 1974.  I remember an evangelist came to our local church in the 1990’s for a week to teach us local believers how to evangelize. This person claimed they never went to a city without success, seeing souls won for the kingdom of God.  At the end of that week the evangelist/teacher left shaking his head; not one lost person had been saved that week!  Methods of evangelism have changed.  Hunter shares how the current use of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and texting can be effective tools for “social networking” relationships, no matter how shallow. These can be the tools to establish friendships before evangelizing.  In the past, the evangelist hardly ever established relationships, he/she just charged like a bull in a china closet handing out tracks, leaflets, or even shouting through a bullhorn.  The message was more important than either the messenger or any relationship the messenger could establish.  That has all changed in the 21st Century.

Rather than the 20th Centuries evangelist questioning you, “If you die tonight, do you know where you would go?” or “Are you ready for heaven?”, Rob Bell in his book Love Wins challenges the 21st Century reader to examine the Lord’s prayer of “Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” to see if there is some heaven on earth after conceding to the fact that there is hell on earth.  What happens here on earth is of more concern to the 21st Century evangelist than of his predecessor who exposed only the calamities that were happening on the earth as a sign of the end times and the need to repent and recognize that you need a savior.  Setting up networking of relationships, then working out your salvation through the day to day experiences in the now through telling your story is more of the thrust for the 21st Century evangelist. Being “unrehearsed, unpolished, from the heart, spontaneous and real” is felt to be a more genuine approach to evangelism today.

Also I believe that the passion of a five fold evangelist is “birthing”, so the 21st Century evangelist will do more than spread the gospel message of salvation, he will be “released” to “birth” things.   Birthing, naturally, is all about the product of a relationship between a man and a woman, so why wouldn’t an evangelist think relationally today?  If the Church is relational, then why wouldn’t the 21st Century evangelist be effective in birthing relationships within and without the Church?  This is definitely a different mindset in the way the Church must look at the role of the evangelist. The 21st Century evangelist would not have to be a clergy, or a professional, but any believer with the passion to birth, yet allowing others to develop (the passion of the pastoral shepherd).  Throughout history the evangelist birthed, then dropped the new believer to win more of those “lost’.  Today, the evangelist still majors in birthing, ready to drop the birthed project for others to develop, teach, spiritually guide, and oversee.  That is what five fold evangelist faces in this 21st Century.