In the western world, we are pretty good at assigning categories to specific philosophies, groups, world views, etc. It’s not a bad thing if the motive is purely to make distinctions in order to establish definitions within a conversation/debate. But oftentimes, certain labels are assigned, not for the sake of understanding and clarity, but self-righteous segregation. That is, one might call such and such a person a “Calvinist” not because they seek to understand the position, but in order to ascribe more credence to their misunderstanding, and ultimately use that label as a reason to separate from that person, or pejoratively rail upon them because of their ill-conceived ideas about their beliefs. This is the most common case. However, there is a most subtle kind of over-categorization within our theology. One that, like food on our dinner plate, doesn’t want certain practices to touch in other areas of our christian walk. Specifically, in the area of evangelism.
Different Modes of Evangelism
Ever since I was born again in 2004, God has give me the desire to make disciples of all nations. Every person who has been truly born again will also be implanted with this desire. But as I grew, I learned that there were different “strategies” which were in competition with one another. And often, in opposition to each other depending on who was advocating for which evangelistic practice. For instance, Lifestyle/Friendship evangelism practitioners would often malign or harshly judge those that would have the boldness to talk to strangers about Christ, let alone even hand out a gospel tract. Because of this, different titles have been given to such individuals. “Street” preachers being the more popular among them all. Meanwhile, others, who would have a more “tolerant” approach to the differing modes by which someone can proclaim the gospel, would just chalk it up to “whatever floats your boat.” Different strokes for different folks I guess. Who cares about the means, as long as it wins souls to Christ! This is clearly pragmatism, of course. And such thinking should not have a prominent part in our decision making when it comes to being a witness for Christ. Because, “what works” is often a recipe for false conversion and other man-centered means which God has not commanded in order to make disciples.
But above all this, there is a sinister approach to handling such categories among us who might even have a biblical view of what it means to be a regular, constant, and purposeful witness for Christ. This particular approach makes the differing modes of gospel proclamation a “calling.” In other words, there are some that will say something along the lines that ministering and reaching a certain demographic, teenagers for instance, is a separate calling of God. Some would call it “Youth” Ministry. Or perhaps your niche is to preach at retirement homes. And proclaiming the gospel to the seasoned and silver haired is where you feel “called.” Even better, maybe it is just blacks, hispanics, asians, urban areas, suburban areas, high schools, universities, just your kids or your co-workers…and the list goes on! But hopefully by now you’ve sensed a bit of my sarcastic bite when it comes to making such detrimental over-categorizations. Because after all, I haven’t even included T-shirt evangelism, hospitality evangelism, church evangelism (Easter/Christmas), homeless ministry, and most of all, street ministry. But what if I told you there are no such distinctions in Christian theology? Sure, there are contextual differences you have to take into consideration when attempting to explain the gospel to children versus the elderly, or Chicago teens versus Californian college students. But, at its foundation, should there be a “calling” or niche to certain demographics? Is there a separate calling to witness to strangers?
No Such Thing as Street Evangelism
I am always told how “different” I am in my approach when it comes to preaching the gospel. My zeal to be a faithful witness in every context has often made others in Western Christianity feel, well, uncomfortable. I don’t know why honestly. I am just doing what I hope is walking worthy of my calling as a Christian (Colossians 1:10). I just periodically take the time to witness to strangers every where I go and not just to people I know. Sometimes, I will find an event and go out with other believers to pass out tracts and engage the lost. But because of this, more often than not, I am told that street ministry is my “calling,” but that it is not for everyone. I have even been told that giving out a gospel tract is “not their niche.” And when I probe further concerning why that is, I am constantly grieved to discover the unbiblical thinking that sharing our faith to strangers is somehow so distinct in practice, that it requires a special calling of some kind. Whether you believe this kind of thing or not, I will say this. Street preaching/witnessing is not a separate calling or title of ministry. I may be labeled a “street” evangelist for many reasons, but I don’t even believe such a title or calling exists. That’s right! You read correctly. There is no such thing as a street preacher or ministry. At least not in the sense where one wants to make it a separate category or calling of making disciples. There is also no such thing as lifestyle/friendship evangelism (for theological reasons), T-shirt evangelism, youth ministry, urban ministry, or Islamic, Catholic, Mormon, and so on. It is just evangelism! It is simply making disciples of all nations! And If our desire is to be a faithful witness for Christ in our homes, at our workplace, AND in our local area, there is no category, demographic, or location that is off limits!