How I’ve Changed My Evangelism Strategy

Chuck Lawless is Dean and Vice-President of Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, where he also serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions. In addition, he is Global Theological Education Consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.


I realize this approach isn’t always easy to do (and in some parts of the world, it’s not the best one), but I’ve changed my approach to most of my evangelism. I still most often try to evangelize in the context of relationships, and I do think relationships provide credibility to evangelize. In the past, though, I typically tried to find open doors or create “bridges” to share the gospel – and it increasingly felt like I was trying to sneak in a side door. Sometimes I caught myself not listening well because I was looking for that door.

More often now, I simply ask for permission to tell my story. It’s as simple as this: “You know I’m a follower of Jesus, and one of our commitments is to tell others why He’s so important to us. May I take a few minutes to tell you my story?” Here are some reasons that approach works for me:

  1. I’m upfront in my request. That’s not to say that finding bridges is wrong, however; it’s just to say that I don’t have to spend as much time trying to find that bridge.
  2. If the person says, “yes,” I have a green light to press on. I don’t wonder if the listener is involved in the conversation. He or she gave me permission to speak, so I move forward.
  3. If the person says, “no,” I’ve at least started the conversation. That immediate time is apparently not the best time to talk more, but I’ve taken the first step in the direction of evangelism. Perhaps another time will present itself in the future.
  4. It forces me to evangelize concisely and clearly. I’ve asked for a few minutes. If I’m granted that time, I need to keep my word and present the gospel story with focus and passion.
  5. It often gives me opportunity to talk about Jesus. It’s not always the case that others want to listen, but often they’re willing to do so – perhaps out of politeness to me, or perhaps out of a genuine interest to hear. Either way, I have a wide-open door to talk about Jesus in my life.
  6. It helps me in evangelizing people I don’t know well. I’ve already said that relationships are important, but I don’t think we should evangelize only if a relationship is already in place. This method helps me to talk to people I don’t know, too.
  7. It helps guide me in praying for others. How I pray for the person who hears the story is different from how I pray for someone who isn’t ready to hear it. I can pray with intentionality after these conversations.

I make no claim that this method is the best one or the only one. I’m still learning, and I’d love to learn from you. What’s working in your evangelistic efforts?

Publisher’s Note: Chuck Lawless is a very smart guy. After all, he’s dean of a theological seminary. He’s also very practical. Note particularly how he’s now using more of the Chicken Evangelism approach.